Give Glendon Good an idea and he’ll come up with a design to make it work.
Good is a self-taught designer, engineer and craftsman. He started when he made a skateboard at the age of 8. In college he designed and built his own furniture. He found his niche and his career began.
His focus is aluminum. Some of his sleek pieces made with brushed aluminum and solid bamboo are on display at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City and at the Smithsonian Institution’s museum of design.
Good’s latest creation is a photovoltaic solar panel device that will draw more of the sun’s energy for use on earth.
“I’ve been working on a lot of alternative energy projects with others. I’m the kind of guy who does the nuts and bolts work. I find out how to put something together to make it work,” Good said as he laid out his drawings, pointed to the different parts and explained how they work, which he said could get approximately 27 percent more power out of the solar panels.
“The solar panels cost a bundle, so if you can make them more efficient that’s a big payoff,” Good said.
Another bonus with the tracking device is fewer panels are needed to generate the same amount of power so they take up less space. Instead of eight panels, maybe only six are needed.
Good strives for efficiency. His studio, where he designs and builds, is meticulously clean. Each piece, down to real nuts and bolts, are in separate bins, and sheets and tubes of aluminum are organized on shelves. His welding hood sits on a table next to his tungsten inert gas tanks and torch. On the wall behind Good’s desk hangs a six-foot diameter yin and yang he created out of aluminum. It is built to manually rotate depending on a person’s mood. It’s a fun piece, Good said as he moved it around.
The concept for the tracking device is simple: Have the panels move with the sun to capture its direct rays much the same as a sunflower does. The flower’s face pivots to always face the sun. Not only does Good’s design follow the sun dawn to dusk, it also pivots as the level of the sun changes with the seasons.
“A Flagstaff solar company came to see me about how homeowners can get more energy out of what they have,” Good said. “Tracking systems have been around for years. The problem is to put these units on a house. Most roofs aren’t strong enough.”
The device, with the panels, also needed to withstand 90 mph winds. With the weight of the panels and the frame, a roof can lift off, Good said.
“There are a lot of factors to consider, such as wind load, electrical grounding and how to move all the panels together without damaging them,” he said.
Good worked with a variety of specialists such as a structural engineer to assure the system could withstand 90 mph winds, which is required by building codes. A Rimrock company provided precision waterjet cutting for the intricate parts. To bring down the weight, the device is made with aluminum, and most of the components are recyclable.
Good built the prototypes in his studio on Upper Red Rock Loop Road. He started in January and built four prototypes.
“Figuring out all the little details takes time,” Good said in his quiet, laid-back manner.
His fourth prototype came close to being roof-mounted, his original and ongoing goal. It is a nine-panel, two-car carport that measures 12 feet by 20 feet. The panels are mounted on a grounded frame. During the day they track the sun and gather energy. At night they go flat and cover the cars. It produced enough energy to supply the needs of an average-sized house.
“It takes advantage of space by providing the dual benefits of covered parking and solar electricity production,” Good said. “It’s now at the Northern Arizona Center for Emerging Technology in Flagstaff. It’s being tested up there.”
A few yards down the hill from where Good lives is a 12-panel solar unit equipped with Good’s invention. While standing near the panels, a slight noise came from them.
“They just made a little adjustment,” Good said.
The solar tracking device works when a small photo sensor that follows the sun tells the linear actuator it needs to shorten or lengthen its rod, which is connected to another aluminum rod that the panels are mounted on. All 12 move together in unison.
“Throughout the day, little by little they shift,” Good said. “It’s electrical, but it runs off its own juice.”
Underneath the panels is a lower actuator that tilts the panel north to south, according to the azimuth, or angle, of the sun. The sun is lower in the sky during the winter than it is in the summer.
The panels, with final approval from the Yavapai County building department and APS was connected to the electrical grid Aug. 17.
In addition to designing and building the prototypes, Good prepared the schematic documents and instruction to ship to a manufacturer so they can be mass produced.
“As with a lot of my projects I actually design myself out of a job,” Good said and smiled.
Good has not abandoned his original goal and hopes to soon develop a solar tracking unit that will work on a house roof, noting the roof is a great place for them to be.