What do you get when you join together a battery powered utility vehicle, a high efficiency rugged solar panel, an electrically operated sports field groomer, and a sky full of sunshine? How about one lean, green, solar-powered field machine – capable of maintaining the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s softball, football, and soccer fields using nothing more than the freely available energy of the sun.
Through a unique collaboration between NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC), John Deere, Windsor’s own Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies Inc., and the Heying Company, the NASA Marshall Exchange and its intramural sports clubs created what’s believed to be the world’s first Solar Gator Groomer. This collaboration – led by the NASA Marshall Exchange – sought to integrate several elements that support renewable energy into a unique and novel utility vehicle capable of both versatility and function. “We read and hear a lot about renewable resources – going green”, said Edwin Jones, Operations Manager of the Marshall Exchange. “So when faced with problems, like the demise of our Softball Club’s old garden tractor used to pull a drag mat to maintain our sports fields, we asked ourselves – is there a green solution? You’d be surprised by how many different, innovative ideas people offer, and then at how many people, organizations, and companies there are that are willing to help make green solutions happen.”
“Getting a call from N.A.S.A to design and build a Electric Vehicle Solar Roof solution for them… tailored for use with John Deere products….. I don’t believe there is a better validation of the engineering acumen the people of Windsor and Essex County possess, and the green, high-tech products we are capable of building here.” Sean Moore – Founder and CEO Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies Inc.
The Solar Gator Groomer has widespread commercial potential. The rugged high efficiency solar panel recharges eight six-volt batteries that power the Gator’s 48 volt DC power train. The in-field groomer is an accessory pulled behind the Solar Gator that receives its power to lower and raise its rakes and chisels from the batteries in the Gator through a 48 to 12 volt power converter. Any application requiring an intermittent use utility vehicle, such as found in many agricultural, landscaping, and Sports Park uses, is a perfect fit for the Solar Gator, since a few hours of sunshine easily replenish the power used by the Gator each day. The components for the Solar Gator Groomer (or a Solar Gator) are readily available from the companies contributing to this project.
Contributors to this effort include the John Deere Corporation (supplier of the Gator TE, www.deere.com); Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies Inc. (supplier of the high efficiency, lightweight Electric Vehicle Solar Roof system and custom mounting support, www.unconqueredsun.com); the Heying Company (suppliers of in-field and turf maintenance equipment, www.Infield-Drag.com); the Office of MSFC Center Chief Technologist; the MSFC Environmental Engineering and Occupational Health Office; NASA Recycling, the NASA Marshall Exchange, and the MARS Softball Club (www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall).