Solar Roadways Feasibility Study

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Q-Cell Solar Panel
Sponsors Dr. Herbert Hess
Team Name Solar Rollers
Duration Fall 2018 - Spring 2019
Faculty Adviser Dr. Feng Li
Mentor Hussain Beleed
Client Dr. Herbert Hess
Team Members
  • Tavara Freeman
  • Violet Gomm
  • Jesse Strange

Problem Definition[edit]

Demonstrate the feasibility of various solar panel options available for installation on campus.


The University of Idaho is currently preparing to expand on campus next to the Kibbie Dome. The building that will be erected is the Idaho Central Credit Union Arena, which will occupy the current gravel lot adjacent to the enclosed football field on the northern side. While the project will begin groundbreaking following its secured funding for construction, time remains where additions may be suggested to those directing the project. The senior design team would like to investigate the solar panel options available for installation on campus. The team reviewed unique solar panel features to combine into a more versatile prototype. The final product will generate power at increased efficiencies compared to its counterparts and house an original LED display capable of representing a range of possible demonstrations.


  • Understanding and implementing detailed controls which allow for the manipulation of the LED displays for each panel
  • Design of a custom angle adjusting frame to house the Q-Cell 305W Mono Module solar panel
  • Validating the efficiency of the PV panels to that of other PV panels located on campus


Project Specifications
Design Area Specification
  • Q-Cell 305W Mono Module
    Load Conditions: 32.62V (max power)
    Load Conditions: 9.35A (max power)
  • Rover 40A Maximum Power Point Tracking Charge Controller
    Battery Voltage: 12V
    Solar Voltage (max power): 17V-75V
    Maximum Charging Current: 40A
  • Renogy 12V 50Ah LIP Battery
    Float Voltage: 14.4 ± 0.2V
  • ATtiny85
  • BlinkStick Pro LED Adapter
  • Arduino Uno
  • WS2812B LED Strips
  • 5V 10A Power Supply
  • Dash Python framework
    The user interface should allow selection of individual LEDS and their RGB values
    The UI should have a set of custom patterns loadable by the user
    The UI should be user friendly
  • Custom Frame
    Made to test power generation between 0-60° in increments of 15°
    Be portable for relatively flat locations across campus
    Removable LED display
Feasibility Analysis and Validation
  • Generate PV data from Q-Cell 305W Mono Module panel
  • Compare with generation of Solar Roadways and Paradise Walk data
  • Evaluate efficiency of Q-Cell panel with and without LED display
  • Determine ROI of each panel

Design Considerations[edit]

Design Considerations
Design Area Test
ATtiny85 Application
  • Using the microcontroller, create a program to light a single LED, then multiple
LED Display with Custom Software
  • Design a web application that allows for the control of LEDs selected by the user to create a pattern
  • Design various patterns for the user to select including the Idaho "I" logo on the LED display
Angle Efficiency
  • Use the custom built frame to test the power generation of the Q-Cell panel at 15 degree angles
Panel Interference
  • Determine the PV generation of the panel based off of LED display inclusion or separation
Feasibility Analysis
  • Compare the efficiency of the SR™, Paradise Walk, and Q-Cell panels

Project Learning[edit]

Overall Project Learning Goals

  • Gain a better understanding of solar panel integration on an already existing grid
  • Gain a better understanding of semiconductor physics within a solar panel
  • Gain a better understanding of how the angle of a install solar panel effects efficiency
  • Gain a better understanding of implementing time division multiplexing to transmit multiple digital signals over a common channel split into segments with a short time duration

Photovoltaic Cells

Photovoltaic Cell

Semiconductor with a pn junction is exposed to light. The photons of the light can energize the electrons in the valence band. If the electron gains enough energy to cross the band gap, then it creates an electron hole pair, with the electron going to the conduction band. There is an electric field being created from the electrons and holes combining, which the free electrons increase the electric field, increasing the voltage and creates a current to produce power. The Antireflection coating is so photons aren’t reflected off the semiconductor’s surface. The front contacts are to allow current to flow, because shocker semiconductors aren’t the best conductors. The glass is there to protect the cell.

Time Division Multiplexing

Time Division Multiplexing

Time division multiplexing is a communications process that transmits two or more streaming digital signals over a common channel. In Time division multiplexing, incoming signals are divided into equal fixed-length time slots. After multiplexing, these signals are transmitted over a shared medium and reassembled into their original format after de-multiplexing. Time slot selection is directly proportional to overall system efficiency.

Temperature and Efficiency

As temperature increases, the power decreases. An increase in temperature decreases the band gap of the semiconductor, or another way to think of it is the electrons gain more energy. For solar cells, the open circuit voltage is affected most by the temperature increase. There’s a lot of device physics and equations behind the concepts.

Final Design[edit]

Adjustable Frame Design[edit]


The final design of the solar panel with the adjustable frame to house the LED display. The team designed two rectangular frames, one for the base support and the other for supporting the frame when adjusted at different angles. These frames worked in tandem with the supporting sidebar which had holes for the dowels used to lock the frame into a desired configuration. The LED display was created with an acrylic sheet that was reduced to the necessary size in order to fit on top of the inner frame while still allowing for angle adjustments to be made. The LEDs were then mounted onto the acrylic sheet through adhesive, with connections between each strip of LEDs being soldered in a series resulting in a final result that allowed for manipulation through one overall access point.

Led Display Design[edit]

Screen Shot 2019-04-18 at 6.21.15 PM.png

For the control of the LEDs, two different methods were used along with a different microcontroller for each. The first method consisted of an Arduino uno programmed in C with the Arduino IDE. This was used to create the I logo shown above. The second method used the Blinkstick (ATtiny85) programmed in python with the dash framework to create a GUI. The design of the GUI was still a work in progress and requires further development for full operation.

Power Generation Graphs[edit]

All Power Vs Time.png
Pyro 45 data.png

Initial data captures demonstrating the panels potency at different angles and weather conditions. Follow-up data captures showing trends from a pyranometer’s theoretical generation versus actual generation that occur before and after the display was added. The power generation created by the system is able to support the LED display even when an acrylic sheet was placed over the panel. The system is capable of being placed as a permanent unit within the UofI electrical grid.

Return on Investment[edit]

Solar Panel Results
Backwoods Solar
  • Q-Cell 305 W Mono Module: $235
  • MPPT 40A Charge Controller: $169.99
  • Frame $188.29
  • Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery: $530
  • Fuses: $49.75
  • Total: $1,173.03
  • Generated Wattage (Hour): 202.31 W
  • Annual Generation (410.285 kWh): $34.96
  • ROI (Generation Only): 35.55 years
  • RFS Performance 150: $4000
  • B118CA Smaller Battery Pack: $284
  • Total: $4,284
  • Generated Wattage (Hour): 150 W
  • Annual Generation (304.2 kWh): $25.92
  • ROI (Generation Only): 165.29 years
Solar Roadways
  • Mk. III Panel (Installation + Supporting Hardware): $2000
  • Annual Generation (484.76kW): $41.32
  • ROI (Generation Only): 48.4 years

From each respective panel option, the Annual Generation and ROI were found. While through the differences in cost to that of generation alone, the ROI values reflect the various periods required to completely pay off each possible installation. Of the three, the hybrid model is shown to be the most cost effective.


Mechanical Validation[edit]

60deg frame.PNG
45deg frame.PNG
30Deg frame.PNG
15Deg frame.PNG
Backside frame.PNG
LED Display.PNG

Software Validation[edit]


Team Members[edit]


Major: Computer Engineering
Hometown: Mountain Home, ID
Responsibility: Software Development


Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Boise, ID
Responsibility: Solar Panel Heating Element Efficiency


Major: Electrical Engineering
Hometown: Priest River, ID
Responsibility: Solar Panel Energy Capture Efficiency

Additional Documentation[edit]

Project Schedule

Gantt chart

Meeting Minutes

9/11 Meeting Minutes
9/18 Meeting Minutes
9/25 Meeting Minutes
10/2 Meeting Minutes
10/9 Meeting Minutes
10/16 Meeting Minutes
10/23 Meeting Minutes
10/30 Meeting Minutes
11/13 Meeting Minutes
11/27 Meeting Minutes
12/4 Meeting Minutes
1/16 Meeting Minutes
1/23 Meeting Minutes
1/30 Meeting Minutes
2/6 Meeting Minutes
2/13 Meeting Minutes
2/20 Meeting Minutes
2/27 Meeting Minutes
3/6 Meeting Minutes
3/20 Meeting Minutes
3/27 Meeting Minutes
4/3 Meeting Minutes
4/17 Meeting Minutes


Concept Design Review
Critical Design Review
Engineering Expo

Client Interview

Client Interview