Advanced Technology & Research has been a specialist in robotics, motion control, and automation for over 30 years. In 2009, while looking for ways to keep the company relevant in the changing world of technology development, Rob Lundahl, Vice President for Automation and Systems at ATR, was inspired to get to work on a new product that could utilize existing infrastructure to create solar power.
"Driving to and from work every day," Lundahl says, "I saw light and utility poles all along the highway and in malls and shopping centers and thought, 'These are unused assets. Why not develop tracking mounts for solar panels that can be easily installed on light poles and produce grid-tied power to the local utility network accessible at the base of the pole?'"
The products that ATR developed on this theme include a one-panel, pole-mounted solar tracker that uses GPS to track the sun for optimal power output; a two-panel, ground-mounted tracker; a solar car charger; and a hybrid wind/solar power system. The ground-mounted, two-panel array was recently displayed at the Maryland Solar and Wind Expo.
"So far, we've seen lots of interest from consumers, businesses, and government agencies," Lundahl says. "We installed our first pole-mounted tracker for a very low cost at the ENVIRO CENTER, in Jessup, where it is generating energy as well as serving as an educational tool, including by displaying its power output online in real-time."
ATR produces the tracking mechanism and assembles the tracker at its Columbia facility. Triton Metals in Solomon's Island fabricates the tracking mount. ATR will be installing solar panels on a wind turbine on Tilghman Island in late June and will install its first solar-assisted car charger in Bethesda in late July.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Rob Lundahl, Alan Cohen, Advanced Research & Technology