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Solar Array at Arizona Western College

 

“We wanted everyone in the world to watch what we’re doing. We needed something online – something that was easy to use, but gave you complete control…I can send an email or call, and you quickly respond. We really feel like we’ve established a partnership with you.” – Paul Neuman, Vice President Information Technology Services, Arizona Western College

Background

Arizona Western College is located in Yuma, Arizona – a place the Guinness Book of World Records has named “sunniest place on earth.” The college decided to install a 5 megawatt solar array that would cover 100% of the school’s daytime energy needs. Rather than use one massive array, AWC decided to use 5 separate solar technologies at 1 megawatt each. The technologies would be integrated into the learning process in the school’s curriculum to learn about each system and to train installers.

The technologies will also be made available to companies around the world, to provide testing and demonstration sites. Manufacturers will be able to conduct side-by-side tests comparing the AWC systems to their own new products. This provides a neutral testing ground to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of new technologies.

Challenge

AWC needed the ability to share its multi-million dollar project with the world, capture useful information for its curriculum, and attract companies to use its incubator sites. The college wanted an easy way to show what was happening at the project, live, via the web. Static pictures were not enough – being able to view specific areas of the site at any given time was crucial. Images of the project also needed to be captured and saved at high resolution for use in professional presentations. Any technology used to accomplish this must be able to withstand extreme heat, as average monthly temperatures had been approaching 110˚F.

Solution

AWC decided to use TrueLook interactive webcams to make its project readily viewable online. Two PTZ (pan-tilt-zoom) cameras were installed and time-lapse videos were scheduled to collect images for multiple areas at different time intervals.

The cameras operate within protective enclosures that allow for operation in extreme heat, up to 155˚F.

Results

AWC has been able to showcase its project within its curriculum and across the globe using the TrueLook cameras – with over 140,000 page views on the webcam in its first few months.

The pan-tilt-zoom cameras give viewers the ability to aim and zoom to specific areas of interest. The patented LiveCard feature lets users send hi-res pictures from the camera via email. Camera images can also be saved locally or shared via social media from within the interface. Users have also saved hundreds of camera images with detailed comments to the webcam’s built-in photo album.

AWC also uses TrueLook’s time-lapse feature to create multiple time-lapse archives of the construction. These videos will be used to demonstrate the construction of the solar arrays, and how quickly they can be constructed.

Once the college installed the cameras, other uses for them became apparent. The construction companies responsible for the installation of the arrays regularly used the cameras as well, in order to monitor their projects remotely. The campus police also used the cameras to check on incidents that were reported within this area of campus.

The college will continue using the cameras after all construction has been completed to promote its technology and to demonstrate its capabilities as a testing ground for other companies.