Smithsonian solar

QBotix gets exposure in eminent media outlet, PV powers Hollywood movie production, iconic Las Vegas sign to get solarized

Two Curator’s favorites–one from the realm of new PV technology, the other a quality general-interest media outlet—converge in Ucilia Wang’s article about QBotix and solar robots in the field as part of Smithsonian’s ongoing “Energy Innovation” special report. Ms. Wang should be familiar to solar and cleantech community members for her steady reporting over the years for Greentech Media, Renewable Energy World, Forbes, PV-magazine, and other venues, so it’s great to see someone with her industry knowledge get a chance to contribute to a leading scientific-historical-cultural publication. QBotix and its ultraclever dual-axis robotic tracking scheme should also be familiar to readers of this space, as well as just about any other website and magazine covering photovoltaics. “It’s an aerodynamic design for ruggedness and speed—as if you marry a Hummer with a Lamborghini,” company head Wasiq Bokhari told Ucilia. The feature also mentions other robotic innovations for solar power plants, such as Alion Energy’s and Greenbotics’ automated module installation and panel-cleaning systems, and offers a glimpse of what’s coming next in QBotix’s labs. Nice one.

Socially engaged Hollywood types often back green causes, yet the use of solar power during movie and TV production has not been embraced to the extent one would hope. There are exceptions, such as the 960KW rooftop system at James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment complex in Southern California, but by and large the entertainment industry has not stepped up to the PV plate. In a sign that the sun may be ready for a recurring role, Jason Bateman deployed a group of mobile PV generators during the filming of his directorial movie debut, “Bad Words,” according to Melissa Womack on the SMA Inverted blog.

“Solar was used during production to provide power to the base camp, production trailers, craft services, telecommunications, and light towers,” she writes. “DC Solar Distribution supplied four 20KW Solar Eclipse SCT20 mobile solar generators, a solar-powered light tower, and cell tower. Each Solar Eclipse includes 10 PV panels, two SMA Sunny Island US inverters and a battery bank–all mounted on an easily portable trailer.” As Melissa alludes to in the headline, “quiet on the set!” takes on a new meaning with solar.

That other sun-saturated entertainment capital, Las Vegas, will soon have solar powering one of its iconic landmarks: the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign on the south end of the legendary Strip. The Clark County Commission gave the go-ahead earlier this week to a plan that will install a trio of “solar trees” near—but not blocking the view of–the symbolic triangle festooned with neon and incandescent lights.

“We are excited, not just about the project itself, which will produce all the power the sign needs to operate, but about what this symbolizes in Southern Nevada,” said Lydia Ball, executive director of the Clean Energy Project, in a press release from the organization. “By lighting up this sign every night with the power of the solar energy, we are providing a great example of just what solar can do and why it’s worth support.” The project should be completed by early 2014; details on which modules, inverter, and BOS elements will be deployed, let alone the installation company, have yet to be reported.