Working with the next generation of talent is a must for companies in the technology space, and it’s especially enjoyable when that talent has literally wanted to be a part of your industry since their childhood.
Deko Ricketts, a recent graduate of Washington University St. Louis and a Project Engineer for Azimuth Energy, shared, “From a very young age I expressed to my mom that I wanted to find a way to change the world. While in school I considered nuclear engineering, but didn’t feel it was going in direction that would retain my interest. Solar on the other hand, was exploring many new and exciting areas and I decided to concentrate my studies there.”
And we are happy he did.
While interning at Azimuth, Deko started his senior engineering design project, and he came to us to brainstorm some ideas. We shared that there was a need in the field resulting from recent code changes and safety requirements that had not been addressed by industry, and he took it on as his senior design project!
In the case of any sort of emergency in a building, a solar array on the roof may need to be shut down to ensure safety for emergency responders. As an example, let’s say that a fireman needs to ventilate a building by cutting through the roof. An active solar array and wiring nearby would make an already dangerous situation even more hazardous. Ideally, there would be a quick way to shut down the solar panels, and to do it remotely.
Until recently, rapid shutdown requirements did not exist in the code. But code revisions in the last several years have been moving toward requiring the ability to de-energize a rooftop solar array at the array, and most recently, at each solar panel. Manufacturers have responded with a variety of new equipment solutions to satisfy these safety requirements.
For Deko’s senior design project, he developed a retrofit for older systems that don’t comply with today’s more stringent code requirements. He designed it and built it; it worked well and he got an A in the class!
“Deko is a rock star on our team, and we are lucky and happy to have him on board. This is a real problem now with an affordable solution, and he did this work before I even had time to ask him a few weeks later how it was going!”, said Marc Lopata, President of Azimuth Energy and Solar Island Energy. “We intend to conduct a pilot-scale test of Deko’s project on one of our larger rooftop arrays and see how it works in the real world.”
Deko will continue working and perfecting his device. In the meantime, he remains optimistic about the solar industry. “I’m excited about what solar can do for advancing economies and aiding developing countries. Our partners in the Caribbean with Solar Island Energy are working with countries like Haiti to provide more affordable and reliable energy solutions in the island nations. These are projects that motivate me to be a part of the ever evolving solar industry.”