LevelTen’s Q2 PPA Pricing Index shows solar prices decreasing

solar wind

Renewable PPA prices have been a closely-guarded secret for years, only available to those willing to fork over thousands for the data. In their mission to make renewable energy procurement more transparent, LevelTen Energy is bucking the trend. This week, LevelTen Energy released its Q2 PPA Pricing Index. What does this mean? Buyers can finally look at the price of wholesale energy compared to what developers are charging for a better sense of what type of investment and return they are likely to see.

National Overview PPA

“PPA Prices in the LevelTen Marketplace dropped consistently across all ISOs for active projects as compared to 3 months ago. Median prices were down $1.5 per MWh across all projects,” according to Bryce Smith, CEO and founder of LevelTen. Here is a blog post where you can download the report.

Examining an even blend of wind and solar in each ISO shows prices dropped most significantly in ERCOT with median prices down $3.1 per MWh. The smallest price change was in SPP with prices down $0.55 per MWh. The largest price change for a single ISO/technology combination occurred in ERCOT wind with median prices down $5.5 per MWh to $18 and the top quartile benchmark price down $3 per MWh.

MISO solar experienced the second largest drop, coming in at $34.1 per MWh with a drop of $4.9. Solar prices are seen decreasing through 2021 COD across all ISOs.

The report contains:

• PPA pricing averages for wind and solar broken down nationally and across four key ISOs (SPP, ERCOT, PJM and MISO)

• Average project size and forward shape scalers across these geographies and energy types

• Key pricing changes between Q1 and Q2 2018

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar monitoring giants AlsoEnergy, skytron form strategic global partnership

alsoenergy

AlsoEnergy, a leading provider of solar monitoring solutions in North America, and skytron energy, a European leader in the monitoring and control of utility-scale solar energy assets, have formed a strategic partnership to strengthen global sales and support for the companies’ combined 14 GW of solar PV assets under management.

Providing complete monitoring, management, and control solutions for PV power plants, AlsoEnergy has built a strong presence in North America while skytron has established international presence in Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

“This strategic relationship creates a global partnership, enabling sales and support coverage to surpass customer expectations for commercial, industrial, and utility-scale solutions. Increased global demand for solar PV monitoring and control and the industry’s requirement for the reduction of O&M costs have brought AlsoEnergy and skytron energy together to deliver this industry-leading integrated solution,” said Robert Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer of AlsoEnergy. “This partnership demonstrates AlsoEnergy’s focus on strengthening our global portfolio of best-in-class performance management products, services, and support.”

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Global PV installations are expected to top 100 GW for the first time in 2018, with numerous gigawatt-scale markets throughout the APAC region, North America, and Europe. To help companies manage increasingly diversified portfolios, this partnership enables AlsoEnergy and skytron energy to drive down solar O&M costs and streamline operations on a global scale.

“Together, skytron energy and AlsoEnergy bring extensive experience, expertise, and innovation, positioning both companies as global market leaders in a rapidly changing energy sector. We look forward to pioneering further growth while continuing to safeguard our customers’ renewable energy investments,” said skytron energy CEO Francisco Baraona.

— Solar Builder magazine

Soltec 2x solar tracker testing reveals notable bifacial gains

SF7 Soltec Bluxome party

As we reported a few weeks ago, Soltec, a manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers, is performing field tests at BiTEC, world’s first evaluation center specialized in bifacial trackers. Among those tests, the company is comparing bifacial production of 1x configuration solar trackers versus Soltec’s SF7 Bifacial, a 2x configuration tracker.

Early results

Soltec’s SF7 trackers have a standard height of 7.71 ft (2.35 m), while 1x-configuration trackers have a height of 4.43 ft (1.35 m). Preliminary electric performance measures over bifacial modules reveal a short-circuit current difference of over 2.3 percent between 1x and 2x trackers, meaning that height has a significant influence over the energy output of bifacial panels. The capture of diffuse irradiance below and around the tracker is increased with height, while the shadow casted on the ground is softened.

RELATED: Podcast: How NEXTracker ‘decapitated the duck’ with its new solar-plus-storage tracker design

In addition, SF7 includes an intentional gap between modules at the torque tube location that avoids shadowing on the backside of the module. With 1x trackers, on the contrary, the torque tube casts a shadow regardless of whether it has a round shape or quadrangular. Preliminary measurements have shown that up to 38 percent of reflected light does not reach the center of the bifacial modules compared to the edge due to the torque tube shadow of the 1x configuration.

BiTEC will be officially inaugurated on July 9 in Livermore, California. This center counts on the collaboration of the main of bifacial modules manufacturers and American organizations specialized in renewable energy such as NREL or RETC.

— Solar Builder magazine

We shift you not: A ground-mount solar system without piles

nuance energy

On the Osprey platform, load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions.

At Intersolar North America 2017, we caught wind of a new fixed tilt ground-mount system developed by Nuance Energy, but at the booth there was no physical system on display. Instead, Founder and CEO Brian C. Boguess handed me VR goggles to look through, which now feels appropriate because it was a glimpse into the future of modular ground-mount solar.

Nuance isn’t trying to play in the cut-throat utility-scale space, where an extra half penny per watt will cause a riot. Instead, the Nuance approach is about nimbly deploying smaller systems much quicker and to the benefit of small- to mid-size contractors and EPCs, increasing their revenue by enabling them to sell more solar quicker and cultivating a more robust, widespread solar industry.

“Where do you find savings? Always in the downstream,” Boguess says. “The upstream value chain has been beating itself up over technology to drive price down but no one paid attention to the downstream value chain.”

It all starts here: Nuance’s Osprey PowerPlatform is a ground-mount system that doesn’t require piles but is strong enough to withstand any load. Instead of piles and foundations, this new system borrows from the super old concept of anchors (5 in.) and cables (stainless steel, 60-in. long) that has been mounting utility poles and holding up retainer walls for a century. Those load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions (Nuance requires 1.5 times the worst case scenario for its design load test) and attached to the racking — a unit of four to six adjustable legs that is fully assembled with PV and wiring at ground-level. And yes, this means the entire system, if needed, can be disengaged and moved. We’ll explore those implications at the end.

With that as our starting point, grab a paddle and let’s head downstream.

Good bye geotech

Geotechnical reports are often done months in advance of the installation so a structural engineer can design the ground-mount system per the requirements of the geotech report. All in, this is a couple thousand dollars and a six- to eight-week process. What if you wanted to perform a geotech investigation in the fall? You might not even get the calculations back until the New Year, at a time when delays are equal to death.

As mentioned, the Osprey’s anchors are pull tested on site with a safety factor of 1.5 the worst case design load. This real-time condition test gives engineers the best knowledge of the soil at that time, eliminating the need for the geotech report ordering, process and price. That is just the start of how using the Osprey saves EPCs time and money.

Nuance Energy

Master of your domain

Larger projects are often the realm of larger companies or require a smaller company to rent equipment and wait for a larger company to deliver it. This is a perfectly fine system, but removing piles and removing the large equipment needed to drive them opens up the market even more for a wider variety of contractors, defragmenting the market.

“The small guy gets beat up over concrete and relying on outsourced teams to drive the product in the ground with heavy equipment they rent or lease, which means the equipment is on that company’s time, not the EPC’s,” Boguess says.

Even in the most efficient outcome from order placement to equipment delivery to pile driving, the mere fact of being on another company’s timeline adds extra time to project development and introduces the possibility of delays. The possibility of the delay has its own subtle chilling effect on a contractor’s project pipeline. If a larger project is delayed because equipment is held up at another site, the contractor’s delicate summer and fall project window will be shattered and accounts payable left in the lurch. A system that is fully installed by the contractor using only hand tools gives full control of scheduling back to the contractor.

“If you can’t control your installation schedule, you can’t control your revenues and accounts receivables,” Boguess says. “For small- to mid-size EPCs, a lot of these guys live project to project. If they can’t control cash flow, they are stuck.”

Obviously a larger company working to please investors with timely commissioning and quicker returns on investment would also benefit from the extra control over scheduling, but the savings go deeper, both in actual cost savings and costs avoided. Large developers have slush funds available to cover for unforeseen obstacles under the ground. For example, a developer putting a project in the ground in Florida has to account for the threat of running into limestone — both accidentally cracking it and then working to avoid it if found. Those threats don’t change the installation of an anchor system, which can go in the ground at any angle and avoid any such obstacles, keeping slush funds put and improving profit margins.

Nuance Energy procures its steel from both U.S. and foreign suppliers. This has not affected its model of packaging Osprey units at its regional warehouses and shipping them out with up to 40 units on a truck. Freight costs can be reduced by up to 60 percent.

RELATED: Solar carport developers find low-cost opportunity despite the tariffs

Labor savings

An all-handtool installation for a 5-MW project might sound laborious, but Boguess has compelling evidence of overall labor savings achieved, in less time, with the Osprey vs. a conventional large-scale ground-mount installation.

“One of our first projects with Brad Thomas, senior director of project management [formerly of NEXTracker], was only a 75-kW job. He had forecast three weeks for the installation. The job was finished in five days. He had overcalculated by two weeks, saving $14,000. That’s 18.6 cents a watt on a 75-kW job.”

With minimal training, any local labor crew can be employed to install the Osprey system. The adjustable legs also reduce the amount of site prep and grading needed.

nuance energy

New market: Lift and Shift

The niche for Nuance thus far has been projects in the 10 kW to 5 MW range, but applications within that range extend beyond the conventional. For starters, Boguess has seen a lot of activity in rural residential and small agriculture in the Midwest, less sexy solar locations like Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

“The smaller customer is anybody ordering one to 10 units from us, and each unit holds 5 to 6 kW,” Boguess says. “Residential contractors have a cash flow business with three to four install teams out on roofs, and initially they are afraid to take on 20-kW ground-mounts because they think it means taking two crews off a roof. But we can keep them on the roof and get 20 kW installed in four hours.”

Boguess even believes they’ve created a completely new (and catchy!) application category for solar called “Lift and Shift,” born from the fact that the Osprey anchors can be disengaged and the complete PV system above ground can be literally lifted as is and shifted to another location. This opens up totally new areas for PV, such as temporary farm land and mining.

“We had the idea of financing modular ground-mount systems with a PPA in the mining industry,” Boguess says. “This is unheard of because how will you finance a mobile microgrid hybrid solution when you want to move the asset every two years? We enable mining operations or those EPCs in this space to mitigate that risk because when that dig doesn’t find what they want after two or three years, they can lift and shift to redeploy the asset, not leaving it stranded. A stranded asset is what is holding up PPAs.”

Underneath power lines is also a brave new world that’s now possible in California. Just recently Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) awarded Nuance Energy 40 50-kWac systems to be installed using the Osprey PowerPlatform.

“Our strategy for keeping costs low is to deploy solar arrays along existing transmission lines, where we already have rights of way, and to handle the installations entirely ourselves with our own crews,” says Francisco Fernandez, the lead electrical engineer in LADWP’s Solar Power Engineering Department. This strategy imposed two special requirements: easy removal when necessary to affect repairs or upgrades to the overhead transmission lines and ease of installation by small crews. “The solution from Nuance Energy met these two requirements.”

With LADWP’s system providing more than 26 million MHh of electricity annually to 1.5 million residential and business customers in the city of Los Angeles’ 472 square miles, the potential for solar energy deployments is substantial.

Added together, the Nuance Energy value proposition is a compelling one, offering several new opportunities for a wide variety of solar contractors and EPCs to grow and solidify their business.

— Solar Builder magazine

Four energy dense solar mounting systems for C&I rooftops

SunModo SunBeam

sunmodo

As a permanent part of the building and roof structure, the SunBeam system eliminates any abrasions, moss build up and need of system removal for roof repair or re-roofing. In addition, it provides shading of HVAC equipment, increasing efficiency and faster temperature response. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: High-grade aluminum and 304 stainless steel hardware. Anchor-only attachment.

How it maximizes energy density: The SunBeam system elevates above obstructions such as HVAC, pipes and vents. By spanning over roof obstructions such as HVAC, pipes and vents, the system takes full advantage of the available roof surface thereby maximizing the PV system size. The system can be easily adjusted to account for the multiple roof pitches on site.

Everest Solar D Dome R²

everest

The D Dome R² system is an east/west commercial flat roof solution. The third generation of this product is now rail-less with only five major components and minimal hardware. It sits at a fixed 10-degree pitch and allows for 3.5-in. inter-row spacing. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: Aluminum, ballast with attachment optional. The ballast blocks sit under the panels.

How it maximizes energy density: Everest Solar Systems believes east/west systems are more efficient south of the tropic of cancer. First, an east/west system practically eliminates inter-row spacing which allows more modules on the roof, thus increasing module density. On one internal study, Everest compared a the production of a 10-degree south-facing system with its east/west system in southern California at different azimuths. The south-facing fit 88 modules and had a 14 percent decrease in at the 225-degree azimuth. The D Dome R² system reached 108 modules in the same space and had less than 0.1 percent change between all azimuth angles.

Solar Mounting Solutions

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SMS Racking consists of only three major parts that arrive with all hardware pre-inserted allowing for quick single tool installation. The THRU-ITT integrated wire management system allows wiring to remain organized and protected by running wires east-west and north-south internally. Since this racking design does not rely on the panel for integrity, installers can complete racking and wire installation independent of the panel. Twenty-year warranty.

Material: G90 coated steel and optional galvanized steel, aluminum, powder-coated. Ballast only.

How it maximizes energy density: SMS developed an Excel spreadsheet that determines the optimum row-to-row spacing based on the selected solar module, optimum tilt angle, solar azimuth angle, and the altitude angle all specific to install location. By optimizing the length of row-to-row spacers, the SMS system can greatly reduce the amount of redundant material, which in turn will reduce racking cost and avoid installing the modules in a high shadow region. The racks are designed with minimal distance between modules in the east/west direction to eliminate unused area.

Ecolibrium EcoFoot5D and EcoFoot2+

ecolibrium

EcoFoot5D 5-Degree and EcoFoot2+ 10-Degree speed installation and simplify logistics for flat-roof installs. Main components are: a base, pre-assembled clamps (integrated bonding without washers) and a wind deflector. The system is black, ASA-PC, UL Listed Resin with a 25-year warranty mounted with ballast, attachments or a mix.

How it maximizes energy density: EcoFoot5D 5-Degree delivers 18.4 percent more power than the 10-degree system and lowers cost per watt. The system maximizes roof density while maintaining the ease and simplicity of EcoFoot. The modular base is small at 7 in. x 16.7 in., and inter-row spacing is a dense 9.9 in., creating a tightly packed array. Stackable bases enable up to 290 kW per pallet, resulting in fewer pallets and minimized shipping, storage and onsite crane use.

— Solar Builder magazine