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Harnessing the Sun

September 10, 2021
group of people with two solar panels
Clockwise from left: Lucas Morrissette, Alex Jansen, Justin Keller, Rhett Cook, Chase Bancroft, Ben Wimpenny. (Photo by Ali Grossman)

Senior design project featuring mechanical and/or energy systems engineering students Chase Bancroft (Jackson, Wyo.), Rhett Cook (Laramie, Wyo.), Alex Jansen (Kansas City, Mo.), Justin Keller (Casper, Wyo.), Lucas Morrissette (Calgary, Canada) and Ben Wimpenny (Saratoga, Wyo.). 

“With the decline of oil, gas and coal around the world, Wyoming must look toward the future of energy production to diversify its economy. Wyoming is known for wind energy, with thousands of turbines towering over vast prairies. However, solar energy is often overlooked, despite Wyoming being in the unique position to receive similar irradiance levels experienced near the equator.

“In collaboration with 9H Energy, we were asked to perform a techno-economic analysis and design a utility-scale 3-megawatt solar farm in Laramie. Additionally, we were asked to design and build a functional prototype that could be used at the 9H property to gather crucial data for future expansion. We presented 9H Energy with our design of ground-mount fixed bifacial panels. This design would allow for energy production year-round with little to no risk. Since bifacials can collect reflected light from the backside and frontside of the panel, we are able to take advantage of unfavorable conditions such as the slope of the land and low production rates in winter and fall.

“This design allowed us to win the 9H Energy Design Competition and inspired our prototype to test bifacial panels against standard panels at the 9H property. With the completion of our prototype, we have gathered the data necessary to determine the advantages of bifacial panels. We are incredibly proud of what we have achieved throughout this project and are excited to see how students will expand upon our project in the future.” 

Read more about the UW-9H partnership at bit.ly/uwyosolar.


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