Antanas Juknevičius: We will use 100% of the sun in Dakar 2019

In Dakar 2019, Antanas Juknevičius with an experienced team of engineers is taking a new, perhaps historic step in the history of renewable energy and sports: by installing a new solar panels system with ABB’s energy storage solution on the servicing truck, he will try to compete in the race autonomously, without external power sources.

After winning the 12th place in the overall ranking in Dakar 2018 with the CRAFT Bearings team, A. Juknevičius also won the exclusive Eco-Label Award instituted by the race organizers.

Lithuanians managed to win the most ecological team title due to the solar panel system was installed on the roof of the servicing truck. Last year, 80% of CRAFT Bearings’ electric power requirements at bivouacs overnight were satisfied with the use of solar energy accumulated per day, with the inclusion of diesel generators only in the case of a very large number of appliances connected to the workshop.

«Last year there were conditions for the installation of a solar panel system at the very end of our preparations, and we had to do it very quickly — within 2 weeks. We also learned that Dakar started organizing the Eco-Label contest. We immediately approached SoliTek, whose engineers agreed to help without hesitation.

Then, after mounting the solar panels on the truck, we did not expect that during the race we would almost never need to turn on the electric generators and use them only in exceptional cases – by welding the parts of the car. We worked in total silence, we did not burn fuel, we did not pollute the air,» says Antanas.

He also remembers that before the last Dakar, chief engineer of the CRAFT Bearings team, Marius Bernotas, felt sceptical about the newly installed SoliTek solar panels. He did not think that it is worthwhile to waste time by «putting all kinds of nonsense on the truck».

At the end of Dakar, Marius admitted to being wrong and began to actively engage in a wider use of solar panels, even putting them on the roof of his house.

Convinced of the power of solar energy in the last Dakar, this year, Antanas and his team took another step – they put a 10 sq. m new generation double-sided (bifacial) glass-glass solar panel system on the roof of the truck, which was re-fitted for extreme needs by the PV manufacturer SoliTek, in close cooperation with the ABB group.

The innovative hybrid energy management system introduced by the latter will allow Antanas’ team to get enough electricity every day from the climatic conditions of the South America to meet the needs of the team for up to two days.

«This year we have the task of not switching on the generator at all. We will put a seal on the generator, and if SoliTek and ABB engineers have been able to calculate and install everything according to the plan, in Dakar 2019, we will never turn on the generator; when we come back, that seal will have to be untouched,» says A. Juknevičius.

The new system of bifacial, ultra-durable, exterior-toughened solar panels is special because it absorbs light energy not only through the top but also on the lower side of the panels, thus extracting up to 10% more energy from the sun. The panels are mounted leaving a 5 cm gap from the white painted truck roof to absorb as much solar energy reflected from the truck as possible.

The capacity of the lithium-ion battery installed in the truck is 8 kWh, the maximum capacity of the system is 3 kW. And the ABB variable-frequency drive integrated in the system will allow the three-phase units, especially the air compressor, to work as needed.

«By fully charging the new batteries from the sun, we can work full-time for two days without using any external power supplies. Whoever participates in Dakar is well aware of what each diesel generator in the bivouac means – after a hard day’s journey, the last thing you want is to be caught up with all the noise all night long.

In Dakar 2018, we already noticed that other teams in the evenings were willing to join us. We were both the brightest and the quietest crew in all Dakar camps,» says A. Juknevičius.

«It’s really a miracle if it’s possible to work with this truck for three weeks without connecting to external power sources, and getting everything from the sun alone and with such a small area as the truck’s roof – to have enough power and be independent. And all of this works!» Antanas Juknevičius cheers, who is ready for the new Dakar.

Dakar organizers annually distinguish projects with the Eco-Label award that carry out eco-projects in Dakar. In such a way the car sport (comparatively polluting) representatives are encouraged to take a fresh look at the sustainability of natural resources and contribute to new ways of promoting nature and energy conservation.

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