MRES Solar Boat Regatta Provides Students With Lessons In Engineering And Environment
Faris Elhassan, 12, and his dad Khalid of Maple Grove readied their boat for the endurance competition
Image courtesy of Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune and MRES
Students get lessons in engineering and the environment through Solar Boat Regatta Students learn thrill of competition and engineering in annual regatta  By Gulam Jeelani Star Tribune   JUNE 1, 2018 — 5:13PM     JEFF WHEELER, STAR TRIBUNE Faris Elhassan, 12, and his dad Khalid of Maple Grove readied their boat for the endurance competition. The overcast sky and cold winds stirring up waves on Lake Riley didn’t deter the sailors. One boat slid smoothly along a designated path on the Eden Prairie lake. Another hit a yellow buoy along the route. The next zoomed past. They all gathered, despite the dreary weather on a recent Saturday, to compete in the Solar Boat Regatta, an annual race organized by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES) to raise awareness about alternative energy and highlight careers in engineering for middle and high school students. The challenge is to build or adapt a boat to run on solar power, and the reward is that most Minnesotan of summer pastimes — getting out on the lake. “By racing the solar-powered boats that they built, students experience the thrill of competition and the pride of accomplishment that comes with creating something useful and fun,” said Doug Shoemaker, an MRES board member who retired from Xcel Energy. The MRES has run the regatta for 26 years, with competition for student teams and adult teams from across the state. Before they launched on race day, they had to learn about solar electricity, wiring, motors, fluid dynamics, boat design, construction and team work. Over time, the MRES has made a point of reaching out to more diverse contestants and girls, who are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and math careers. This year’s event included a Sudanese-American crew from a St. Paul church and an 18-member team of Somali students — 11 girls and seven boys — who drove two hours from Rochester STEM Academy. “We wanted to include diverse teams as we were having almost similar people every year,” said Mark Weber, MRES chairman.   JEFF WHEELER, STAR TRIBUNE For most students, preparations for the regatta started months ago. Above, Chase Eriksson tested Orono’s solar-powered entry around Long Lake. More Sagal Yusuf, a junior at Rochester STEM Academy, said solar power was “tricky” in the beginning. She didn’t know much about boating or solar power, but her instructor Bryan Rossi encouraged the students. “Thanks to Google and Mr. Bryan Rossi, we started enjoying it,” Yusuf said. Months of preparation By midmorning on race day, with hundreds of spectators gathered on shore, the announcer sounded the beginning of the first contest — the speed race. Each boat took its turn navigating from the starting buoy on the right toward the finish on the left. Tanner Novack, a 10th-grader at Glencoe Silver Lake High School drove “The Unsinkable II” to the finish line. “Sea Dragon” from Avalon Charter School in St. Paul followed. Then came Orono Middle School’s “Pink Panther.” “I was anxious to start the race,” said Novack, wrapped in a towel to ward off the cold, as his teammates welcomed him back to shore. Not everyone was as lucky. The “Interceptor” boat from Orono High School capsized moments after taking off, prompting a rescue from a lifeguard. (Everyone was OK.) “We had high hopes on this boat,” said Weber of MRES. Preparations for the regatta started months ago, with most of the students putting in hours of work after school. Some built a boat from scratch while others modified an existing boat to produce one powered by solar energy. It costs about $500 for the teams to build a new boat. The cost goes down the next year, however, as teams only have to modify the existing watercraft. Sponsors and regatta organizers help cover the expenses. The two teams from Orono Middle School started working toward the race in February by building boats with insulation and foam board before connecting them to a battery powered by a solar panel. Technology and engineering teacher Brad Jans coached the two teams as they built the boats and finally tested them once the ice cleared off Long Lake near their school. “There was camaraderie, disagreements and compromise among the students,” said Jans during a practice session mid-May. Eighth-grader Isabel Holz­schuh and her seventh-grade teammate Sam Jackson said the after-school exercise was an extension of what Jans taught them in the classes. “More than the fun of building the boats, we learned how solar power gets converted into electrical energy,” said Jackson, who wants to be a mechanical or chemical engineer — a career choice she settled on after participating in the Solar Boat Regatta for two years. Racing for the environment As the regatta continued on Riley Lake, there were slalom races with teams navigating figure eights among the buoys, and finally, the endurance race. Teachers, parents, visitors and the event organizers cheered on shore while the teams took to the water to see how many laps they could make in one hour, switching the boat’s captain every 15 minutes. There were plenty of antics. Steve Moe, an instructor at Friends School of Minnesota in St. Paul, lifted 7th-grader Cecelia Bauer on his shoulders and waded in the water so that she didn’t waste time getting to the boat when it was her turn as captain. Ahmed Ibrahim from Rochester STEM Academy lost a hat into the lake, thanks to a gust of wind. “I had borrowed it from my classmate Hashim so I couldn’t afford losing it,” he said. The teams made 11-24 laps in the designated time. In the end, there was a tie: the Sudanese-American team’s boat “Kandake” and the “Lil Johnny” from Wrenshall High School in northern Minnesota bested all the rest. But for the participants and the organizers, the occasion is as much about the environment as it is about the competition and engineering exercises. “It’s cool to learn about how little changes, like using the energy of sun, can affect the environment,” said TJ Demuse, a team member from Academy of Holy Angels in Richfield. Shoemaker, of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society, said that message is what matters. The all-volunteer nonprofit, which also does a sustainable home tour each year and runs the Eco Experience at the State Fair, among other things, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “The larger aim is to make alternative sources mainstream,” Shoemaker said.
Solar Farm, LLC To Serve Minneapolis Solar Co-op Group
Solar Farm's James Darabi standing in solar array
Image courtesy of James Darabi
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE May 31, 2018   Contact: Ben Delman 202-888-3602     First Minnesota Solar Co-op chooses installer to serve group   Minneapolis – The Minneapolis Solar Co-op has selected Solar Farm to install solar panels for the 27-participant group. Solar co-op participants selected Solar Farm through a competitive bidding process over five other firms. The group will hold its final public information session June 20, 7 p.m. at Clare Apartments (929 Central Avenue, NE, Minneapolis) to educate the community about solar and the solar co-op process.   “It is an honor to be selected because we know how thoroughly they reviewed each bid,” said James Darabi, Solar Farm owner. “We are eager to help more people go solar by providing quality panels at a good price.”   Solar United Neighbors expands access to solar by educating Minnesota residents about the benefits of distributed solar energy, helping them organize group solar installations, and strengthening Minnesota’s solar policies and its community of solar supporters.   The Minneapolis group is the first solar co-op to get to the state of choosing an installer. Solar United Neighbors is also working with communities in Apple Valley, Bemidji, Kandiyohi, Mahtomedi, and Rochester to develop solar co-ops.   Solar co-op participants selected Solar Farm for their high quality equipment, product warranties, and competitive prices.   “I was on the committee that evaluated the proposals from the various companies,” said Larry Etkin, a Minneapolis Solar Co-op participant. “I think the evaluation process was thorough and effective. I'm convinced that we selected a solid provider at a good price, and that our co-op participants will get the bang for their bucks that they've hoped for.”   The solar co-op is open to new participants until July 31. Minneapolis and St. Louis Park homeowners interested in joining the solar co-op can sign up at:   The solar co-op is free to join. Joining the solar co-op is not a commitment to purchase panels. Solar Farm will provide each solar co-op participant with an individualized proposal based on the group rate. By going solar as a group and choosing a single installer, participants can save off the cost of going solar and have the support of fellow group members and solar experts at Solar United Neighbors.   Solar United Neighbors supports solar co-ops across the country. These co-ops are a part of the organization’s mission to create a new energy system with rooftop solar as the cornerstone. Solar United Neighbors holds events and education programs to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment and advocate for fair solar policies. Those interested in supporting the organizations’ work and becoming a member can do so at their website.     Information session details   June 20 7 p.m. Clare Apartments 929 Central Avenue NE Minneapolis, MN 55413    
GP JOULE'S Single-Axis Tracker Successfully Completes Independent 20-Year Reliability Testing
PHLEGON Tracker(covered in ice) withstands the rigors of 20-year cold climate testing
Image courtesy of GP Joule
GP JOULE’s Single-Axis Solar Tracker Successfully Completes Independent 20-year Reliability Testing Southern Alberta Institute of Technology’s accelerated life-cycle protocols confirm performance of PHLEGON® PV tracker TORONTO, ON, Canada – May 29th, 2018. GP JOULE Canada Corp., a subsidiary of GP JOULE GmbH, announced today that the PHLEGON® single-axis tracker has passed a series of accelerated life-cycle tests conducted by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) in Calgary. The Institute’s Green Building Technology Lab and Demonstration Centre confirmed PHLEGON®’s long-term reliability within a wide range of environmental conditions and proved its performance in extreme northern climates. SAIT’s Accelerated Life Test Report shows that GP JOULE’s active tracking technology provides proven results in the Northern Canadian and U.S. markets where fixed-tilt PV has been dominant. “Our tracking technology underwent on-going rigorous testing and qualification regimens, from the earliest stages of its deployment in 2010”, said David Pichard, CEO of GP JOULE NA EPC business. “We are pleased to share these latest results from SAIT confirming PHLEGON®’s 20-year proven quality and performance. This gives developers and EPCs clear evidence that our tracking technology does not pose additional O&M risks compared to fixed systems or other tracking technologies developed primarily for southern markets.” SAIT cycled PHLEGON®’s mechanical components continuously 7,305 times over a 19-day period to simulate two decades of functionality. PHLEGON® initially underwent the tests without environmental factors, and then went through another round that simulated extreme conditions including grit, freezing rain, and sleet. The test included a deep freeze below -20C, confirming sensitive components function under extreme temperatures. “Freeze-thaw” tests mimicked the effects of spring and fall on the tracker, flooding moving parts with water before immediately exposing them to below-zero temperatures. The actuator, responsible for controlling and rotating the solar panels, completed both the mechanical and environmental rounds of testing -- essentially 40 years without failure. “GP JOULE wanted SAIT to test two things: First, how the system will operate in Alberta’s climate and second, what the cost of operating and maintaining the PHLEGON® over a 20-year lifespan will be,” said Tom Jackman, SAIT’s principal investigator. “Our testing protocol introduced freezing conditions that were not considered in their original test plan, resulting in substantial ice build-up and additional weight. All components tested without failure.” The PHLEGON® tracker will be on display at Solar Canada’s Summer Solstice BBQ on June 19th from 7:00-10:00pm hosted by SAIT. Registration required. About GP JOULE GP JOULE is a global renewable energy company with an extensive track record developing, engineering, constructing, operating, and financing commercial and utility-scale renewable projects. In the North American market, GP JOULE provides a full range of PV products and services focused on delivering the lowest production cost per kWh. The company’s complete in-house and local execution team includes civil, mechanical, and electrical expertise.  Globally, GP JOULE has installed over 500 MWs of PV projects and manages 600 MWs of assets across Germany, France, Italy, Canada, and the United States. Find out more about how we execute profitable turnkey PV projects at