A photovoltaic parking lot canopy

When you vis­it the UTC Daniel Thomas Inno­va­tion Cen­tre, you will notice some new pho­to­volta­ic pan­el (PV) canopies over the park­ing places. They rep­re­sent a first stage set-up of the STELLA plat­form (Smart Trans­port and Ener­gy Liv­ing Lab) of the UTC-AVENUES Lab­o­ra­to­ry, a project fini­cal­ly sup­port­ed inter alia sources by the FEDER (EU region­al fund) and by the French Hauts-de-France Region. The objec­tive is to test solar-pow­ered pho­to­volta­ic canopies for elec­tric vehi­cle recharges. 

A photovoltaic parking lot canopy

Recharg­ing a grow­ing num­ber of all-elec­tric vehi­cles presents a chal­lenge for the cur­rent nation­al grid, i.e., to pro­vide for this extra demand, espe­cial­ly at peak hours. To meet such inter­mit­tent increas­es in demand, we need today to bring ther­mal pow­er sta­tions on line, know­ing that these are high CO2 emit­ters. Widen­ing the scope of pos­si­ble ener­gy sources there­fore becomes a major pri­or­i­ty and chal­lenge. Gen­er­at­ing PV-sourced elec­tric­i­ty for local con­sump­tion can thus be an attrac­tive solu­tion for urban loca­tions. Since 2010, Fab­rice Loc­ment, a UTC research sci­en­tist and lec­tur­er in elec­tri­cal engi­neer­ing, head of the STELLA plat­form has been work­ing with Manuela Sechi­lar­iu, Direc­tor of the UTC-AVENUES Lab­o­ra­to­ry on the top­ic of ‘smart’ micro-grids that can han­dle the elec­tric­i­ty gen­er­at­ed by PV canopies over park­ing lots. Thanks to smart algo­rithms cou­pled to pow­er elec­tron­ics devices, the sys­tem reg­u­lates gen­er­a­tion to bal­ance con­sump­tion. If no vehi­cle is being charged, or if there an excess pro­duc­tion, the excess can be stored chem­i­cal­ly in bat­ter­ies (exter­nal to the vehi­cles) or can be used to com­ple­ment elec­tric con­sump­tion of near­by build­ings. If, in con­tradis­tinc­tion, the con­sump­tion exceeds gen­er­a­tion, pow­er can be tak­en from the nation­al grid. STELLA exem­pli­fies con­crete exper­i­men­ta­tion of the con­cept. “The first PV canopy set-ups of this kind were installed and test­ed on park­ing lots out­side super­mar­ket shop­ping malls but with the aim only to sell back elec­tric­i­ty to the grid author­i­ties. But with STELLA, the pro­duc­tion will be con­sumed on the spot and more­over in a direct (DC) use mode of cur­rent”, details Fab­rice Loc­ment. Local “self-con­sump­tion” low­ers the over­load fac­tor and risk of insta­bil­i­ty in the nation­al grid and also allows oper­a­tors to avoid pow­er loss­es due to trans­mis­sion and DC/AC conversion. 

A full-scale experiment

The UTC-AVENUES Lab­o­ra­to­ry has among its objec­tives to entire­ly cov­er the hun­dred or so park­ing places in front of the UTC Daniel Thomas Inno­va­tion Cen­tre. With a nom­i­nal total pow­er of 30 kW, the canopy set-up today can already recharge a Renault ZOE very rapid­ly. This cam­pus instal­la­tion serves to rein­force the rel­e­vance of UTC hav­ing a fleet of elec­tric vehi­cles to inter­con­nect its 4 sites for logis­tic pur­pos­es as well as elec­tric bikes (or oth­er elec­tric vehi­cles) for stu­dents and staff. Any excess pro­duc­tion can be used in the Inno­va­tion Cen­tre or for­ward­ed to the nation­al grid. UTC-AVENUES as an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary lab­o­ra­to­ry will be led to study­ing numer­ous asso­ciate top­ics thanks to a smart micro-grid, such as bat­tery age­ing fac­tors, auto­mat­ic out­let hook-ups for dri­ver­less vehi­cles, archi­tec­tur­al and urban­is­tic inte­gra­tion of the PV pan­els, reg­u­la­tions, social accept­abil­i­ty and behav­iours of and with these new forms of equip­ment, in liai­son with the UTC Costech Lab­o­ra­to­ry. Part­ner­ships with sev­er­al car-man­u­fac­tur­ing com­pa­nies are being final­ized cur­rent­ly. Par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Insti­tute for Car­bon-free, Com­mu­ni­cat­ing vehi­cles and Mobil­i­ty (VEDCOM) which already enjoys col­lab­o­ra­tions with UTC-Heudi­asyc and UTC LEC Lab­o­ra­to­ries, would also rep­re­sent an excel­lent opportunity. 

Le magazine

Avril 2024 - N°62

Faire face aux enjeux environnementaux

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