Utility Scale Solar Inc. (USS) is successfully using Autodesk Inventorsoftware to accelerate development of its sun-tracking systems, whilesaving millions of dollars in capital investment.
USS creditsAutodesk Inc.’s Clean Tech Partner Program, which provides softwaregrants for emerging clean tech companies in North America, and Autodeskreseller KETIV Technologies for introducing the company to DigitalPrototyping with Inventor and helping it reach its product developmentmilestones so efficiently.
“The ability to use digital prototypes has significantly streamlined design and engineering here at UtilityScale Solar,” said Peter Childers, president and CEO of USS. “With justone or two engineers using Inventor, we can accomplish the same amountof work in three months that it would have taken 10 engineers twice aslong to accomplish.
While most solar companies have focused ondesigning better surfaces to collect solar energy, USS has focused onoptimizing the performance of the sun-tracking equipment itself. Thiseffort has resulted in the development of the company’s Megaheliontrackers and heliostats based on this new type of solar drive system.USS’ drive system, whether in single-axis or dual-axis configuration,allows any type of solar application — whether it’s a photovoltaicarray, thin film modules or a mirror reflector — to smoothly andaccurately follow the sun or reflect the sun onto a receiver, at lowercost and with better performance than existing mechanisms.
Sinceheliostat costs represent 30–50 percent of the initial capitalinvestment for solar projects, cost-effective heliostats like theMegahelion are essential to making solar power scalable and economically competitive with other forms of power, such as coal or nuclear.
USS estimates that the efficiencies it has derived from Inventor software — specifically, being able to go from initial product development phasesto ready-to-manufacture in such a short time — has allowed it tomaintain business momentum and conserve two to three million dollars incapital. For example, the company uses Inventor to perform finiteelement analysis (FEA) simulation to test product performance and helpprevent part failure, and has taken advantage of the sheet metalanalysis capabilities to reduce component waste.
USS usesAutodesk Vault Manufacturing data management software to securelycontrol and distribute information among its engineers. USS also usesAutodesk Showcase software to more effectively communicate and marketits solar energy collection products with photorealistic visuals.
“The result of our team using Inventor and its suite of tools,” saidChilders, “is that our core product has been fully designed and FEAtest-driven under multiple operating stress scenarios, and is now readyto be manufactured.”
“Time and money are precious commodities for emerging clean tech companies,” said Robert “Buzz” Kross, senior vicepresident, Autodesk Manufacturing Industry Group. “We’re proud to helpcompanies like USS embrace Digital Prototyping so that they can reducecosts and bring their innovations to market sooner.”