Their first project was to provide thermal technologies for a dairy in Waterloo, Quebec, that uses pasteurizing and washing processes, which were heavily dependent on electricity powered by natural gas.
While photovoltaic panels convert sunlight to supplement or replace the electricity supplied by a utility grid, thermal solar collectors do not convert sunlight to electricity but transfer the energy directly to the water.
Rackam’s parabolic troughs can stretch as far as 120 feet along the roof of a building and are generally about four feet wide, and these technologies don’t compete with local grid systems because they are integrated into the facility’s operations.
The thermal solution seemed appropriate for the dairy but the engineers had to develop 11 versions of collectors and a large number of innovative plumbing equipment and fixtures to begin operations.
Without abandoning its electric capacities, the dairy now can transfer its operations to thermal power when the sunlight has been sufficient to provide the necessary energy to adequately heat the water needed for the cleaning process.
The result was successful in achieving the three goals the company set for the project: reduction of the dairy’s natural gas bill and its carbon footprint while providing a positive cash flow for reinvestment.
Mr. Chagnon is enthusiastic about the technology because he says it can be suited to a highly diverse set of applications including warehouses, food processing and papermills.
Last summer the company outfitted a potato chip factory in Valencia, Spain, and it recently announced a joint venture with a company that sells desalinization equipment in Morocco.
The University of Sherbrooke also is a client, which is in keeping with the university’s model of linking academia with companies and playing a positive civic role.
Mr. Chagnon is approaching Canadian as well as Georgia companies operating in the state and said that he would like to find a local partner.