A local man who’s upgrading his education is part of a team that is one of seven finalists named by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta (ASET) for the Capstone Project of the Year Award.
While continuing his education to update credentials, the solar energy team project of Dean Lunde and three other final-term students created safer, easier, and cost-effective solar panels.
Lunde, 53, said, “We are excited because it is an honour to be nominated with so many great projects coming out of our graduating class and from all the other graduating classes of colleges in polytechnic across the province.” He added, “It was great to see my team’s hard work get recognized as we put in a lot of hours in this project, while still completing our regular studies.”
Lunde has been a Sylvan Laker for over two decades. He returned to school for Mechanical Engineering Technology at Red Deer Polytechnic, graduating in 2021.
With climate issues heating up and the need to reduce carbon footprints more pressing than ever, Lunde, along with Alex Morrison, Ethan Fisher, and Ken Wright developed an idea to make solar panel installation safer, easier, and less expensive.
Lunde explained, “The target audience for this particular design would be residential consumers. Right now, the cost of installation is almost the same as the cost of the solar panels themselves. So, we can’t change the price of solar panels, but we could address why it takes so many technicians with specialized skills who charge high hourly rates.
“The low cost of installation is user-friendly with our design. We give consumers a better return on investment. To install solar panels, consumers will be able to do most of the work themselves and easily assemble the structure if repairs in the roof need to be done or the structure can be moved to a new location without costing labor.
“The process of installation is safer because you spend less time on the roof.”
Instead of having solar panels which harness energy from the sun and convert it into clean electricity, attached to rooftops, the team of four introduced a clip-type support structure for the solar panels and components, shared ASET’s news release. The clip-type method does not require roof-penetrating anchors and minimizes the time and tools involved while on the roof of the house.
“It only takes a couple of common tools to assemble it - a screwdriver and wrench - and it can be done easily by two people in 15 minutes,” said Lunde.
According to Solar Alberta, the province has an excellent, largely untapped solar resource that currently provides less than one percent of the province’s electrical grid make-up. It also has the second-highest potential to produce solar energy in all of Canada, ranking closely behind Saskatchewan.
“It’s refreshing to see these engineering technology students develop a new take on green technology by making it more affordable and user-friendly,” said ASET CEO Barry Cavanaugh.
Lunde said, “It was really really interesting. We had to dig into it and do a lot of research on our own to come up with what the solution would be. Our academic advisor had given us the suggestion to look at the labor component of solar panel installation in particular, and all other concepts, and all the work after that was done by the team members.”
Currently working as geomatics (survey) assistant with a background in oil and gas project management, Lunde looks forward to his future endeavors. He said, “I’m interested in doing mechanical engineering technology and project management for small, mid, to large-scale projects. If I can do that in renewable energy, that would be awesome.”