Installing solar panels on a shipping container
A team of student engineers at the University of Liverpool have been working on a project with a farming collective in Zanzibar called M'tule Amcos to provide them with a solar powered cold storage facility to help them stabilise prices for produce and reduce food waste.
The team are using Domino Clamps as the interface between the Unistrut frame for mounting the solar panels on the roof of the container and the insulated shipping container itself that will house the fridge. They will be building the prototype this summer here in the UK.
The power grid in Zanzibar is often unreliable due to being supplied by old submarine power cables, so the island is prone to frequent blackouts. For farmers, this translates to a situation whereby they have an abundance of crops during harvest season that must be sold in a narrow time window before they go off. This results in reduced and very unstable prices for that produce as well as a large amount of wastage.
When we spoke to Greg, one of the members of the team, he told us that:
Domino Clamps are a very helpful component in our system, and it really helps increase the sustainability of a project like this. Basically the Domino Clamps make our system a bit more modular in design, a bit like adult Lego in a sense that anyone can, with access to our installation guide, build the system, regardless of experience or access to power, which would be needed if we were welding onto the container.
The team created their own L shaped bracket, following guidance from the how to make your own brackets blog on the website. They attached this to the Domino Clamps, and then built a subframe for the solar panels over the top of the container. With this in place they were able to add more angled frames for the solar panels, six in total, which occupy the majority of the space on the roof of the container. All the above can be assembled and disassembled using just hand tools.
Since then, we have released our Unistrut starter kits for attaching a Unistrut frame to a shipping container using Domino Clamps, so the angle bracket step needn’t be necessary next time.
The team know there are already a lot of other potential applications for similar systems using solar powered containerised units. For example, the production of clean water, medical refrigeration and providing electricity for the schools as well. The aim is to have a deployment stage by 2026, when some of these systems could then be installed in Zanzibar and throughout Africa.
Great to hear from you Greg, thanks for your feedback! We can’t wait to see the project up and running!
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