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Data key part of new Utah solar project

Data key part of new Utah solar project

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LOGAN, Utah (AP) -- A major solar power project going up outside Campbell Scientifics offices could eventually provide valuable data on alternative energy, its developers say.

The array of 64 solar panels will be mounted on a single pole that will turn with the sun, increasing the amount of power it can produce.

It may be the largest project of its kind in the region, according to Wayne Bishop, systems designer for Intermountain Wind & Solar, a Woods Cross-based company that assembled the solar panels for Campbell Scientific.

"I dont think there is a tracker (system) this big west of the Mississippi," he said. "Most trackers are usually eight to 12 panels, so were talking a tracker that is eight times the size of most."

When the development is operational in a few weeks it will provide 94 kilowatt hours of power per day, Bishop said.

In addition, personnel in Campbell Scientifics renewable energy division will use the project to assess whether it is worthwhile to have a solar array track the suns position. The work will involve comparing the tracking systems output to stationary solar panels.

Bishop explained that the turning mechanism is "another part that can break," so it is important to know how much energy it contributes.

A second area of research will look at how Cache Valleys winter inversions affect the panels and their ability to generate energy.

In general, the Logan area has good conditions for solar energy, Bishop said, explaining that the panels work well in cold, sunny weather.

Jared Campbell, a mechanical engineer at Campbell Scientific, said he is excited by the possibilities.

Factoring in government incentives, he imagines the $100,000 project will pay for itself within 15 to 20 years. He estimates that the 94 kilowatt hours of power equates to less than 5 percent of Campbell Scientifics total energy use.

But the data is just as valuable as the lower power bill for Campbell, Bishop and Guy Jardine, designer of the turning part of the system.

Jardine, who works with local roller coaster impresario Stan Checketts, said his company Jardines Alternative Energy/Boomerang Systems is broadening into renewable energy because it is a growing field.

On a recent trip to Italy, Jardine saw 500 pole-mounted solar arrays comparable to Campbell Scientifics all in one development.

Bishop said in the near future it will be common to see homes with six to eight solar panels, particularly if the cost of power spikes the way it has in California.

"Were trying to be ahead of that curve because its coming here," he added.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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