As a pilot project, the solar sidewalk was designed and built to provide experience and data prior to building the full Solar Compass on campus at Thompson Rivers University.
It was intentionally placed in a challenging location to test the limits of the technology with respect to shading from trees, buildings, and parked cars. If it can work in this location, solar sidewalks and perhaps even solar roads can work almost anywhere.
Each of the 16 modules making up the solar sidewalk is composed of 20 solar cells, and each solar cell is individually optimized with a shunting diode to bypass cells that are shaded or otherwise obstructed.
To build the solar sidewalk we connected together 4 sets of 4 modules in series with each set going to its own dedicated micro-inverter.
Since the Sun's path creates shadows at different times of the days on the sidewalk we are able to assess using an online monitoring interface just how these impairments influence power production.
Below is an example of the shadowing that is common on the solar sidewalk. When this happens, the group of 4 modules in that series drops off significantly in power production while the other modules outside of that shaded zone make power.
As the angle of the Sun changes throughout the day relative to the solar sidewalk, the shadow pattern shifts. By the end of the day, all of the module sets produce relatively the same amount of power. The screenshot below is from our monitoring equipment and it shows how things begin to balance out throughout the day. Cell level and micro-inverter level optimization is what makes this project truly special.