We say it every year: When it comes to solar projects, we are all winners. We already announced the winners of our 2016 Project of the Year vote, but we at Solar Builder liked a bunch of the other submissions too. Here is the third in our series of Editor’s Choice winners. These are projects that didn’t garner the most votes from readers but we felt were still pretty darn cool too.
Due to the flat terrain, low regional labor costs, high irradiance levels of the sun and support from local jurisdictions, this is an exceptional area for solar production. The Calipatria solar power plant reaps the advantages of the area and contributes to local economies through employment, tax revenues and local business services support. But, even cooler, San Diego Gas and Electric recognized Solar Frontier Americas for exceeding their supplier diversity goals while working on Calipatria. The California Public Utility Commission has set a goal for the state’s investor-owned utilities to procure at least 21.5 percent of their expenses, including electric and fuel costs, with Diverse Business Enterprises (DBEs). DBEs include women-, minority-, service-disabled veteran- and LGBT-owned businesses. San Diego Gas and Electric encourages power project developers to subcontract with DBEs during development and construction as well.
Location: Calipatria, Calif.
Size: 21.99 MW DC
Completed: February 2016
Developer: Solar Frontier Americas Development LLC
Contractor: DEPCOM Power
Modules: Solar Frontier
Mounting: Clavijo Single-Axis Tracker
Pahrump Solar Project
This project required collaboration by Valley Electric Association, Bombard Renewable Energy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Mojave Desert tortoises discovered at the project site. Key to this was the project’s racking system from Solar FlexRack. Because of the versatility of the racking system, all the special onsite requirements to protect the tortoises’ habitat were able to be met. The project is a milestone example of balancing the construction of a renewable energy project and protecting the indigenous wildlife, particularly in this case — the desert tortoise. It demonstrates how development, construction and wildlife conservation can work together to achieve mutual environmental goals.
Challenges: Building this PV system on a rocky, steep terrain required special drillers just to install the piles. Some boulders pulled out were bigger than a pickup truck. Developer Standard Solar did a formal study and used innovative smart inverter capabilities to integrate to the grid according to ES’s requirements. The landfill part of the project was unique in that all electrical wiring/conduit and racking foundations had to remain above grade so as to not penetrate or disturb the cap layer. Standard had to run the inverter output feeders in conduit down a very steep (approximately 40 percent grade) section of the cap in order to reach the equipment pad. Innovation: This is one of the first virtual net metered projects approved in Connecticut, and it offsets 100 percent of the town’s load, making the whole town net zero. It supports mostly schools and other community loads.
Location: Stafford, Conn.
Size: 3.45 MW
Developer: Standard Solar
Contractor: Electrical Contractors and Maine Drilling and Blasting
Modules: Hyundai Heavy Industries
Inverters: Chint Power Systems
Mounting: GameChange Solar and DCE Solar
Cedar Falls Utilities “Simple Solar” Initiative
Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) launched its “Simple Solar” community initiative to meet a growing demand for clean energy, while offering flexibility around participation in the project. CFU gave its customers the opportunity to pre-subscribe for the solar energy by making an upfront payment. These payments gave customers access to a portion of the energy that the array will produce — an amount by which their energy bills will be reduced — and the more customers who participated, the lower their cost to participate. This approach proved demand and interest among customers, drove the size of array built and created a mechanism where a customer could apply their energy savings to another home if they decide to move. Interest drove the solar unit price from $399 to $270. This became the largest community solar project in the state.
Comprised of nearly 2,500 solar panels, the 812-kW system designed and installed by Freedom Solar Power includes two solar canopy structures on the parking garages, a roof-mounted solar array on the building and an in-lobby monitoring system that shows the energy savings in real-time. The limited space on the building’s rooftop was covered with panels during phase one, but phase two is where the real innovation took place — Freedom Solar Power designed and installed a custom solar canopy to shade the top floors of the parking garages while providing a significant amount of the building’s energy needs. The solar installation is expected to offset 50 percent of Strictly Pediatrics’ energy needs and generate more than 1.2 million kWh of electricity per year. The solar project will pay for itself in less than seven years. and save Strictly Pediatrics more than $3 million over the next 25 years.
Location: Austin, Texas
Size: 812 kW
Completed: May 2016
Developer: Freedom Solar Power
Contractor: Freedom Solar Power
Mounting: Schletter (for rails and clamps)
Mashpee Commons is an open-air shopping center that is the physical and social center of the quaint Cape Cod town of Mashpee. SunBug Solar was ultimately selected to carry out the project and was careful to address several key requirements of the client. At Mashpee Commons, where the visitor experience is paramount, SunBug Solar made sure not to impinge on the enjoyment of the guests. The use of heavy equipment was limited; all panels, racking and ballast was lifted onto the roof using cranes in the early morning to avoid interfering with shopping hours. Street trenching and overhead wires were also not allowed. To further complicate the project, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires a formal waiver from the Department of Public Utilities to install more than one net meter on a single parcel of land, so the seven rooftop solar arrays had to be tied into one main Point of Interconnection — without cutting pavement. SunBug Solar decided to use horizontal underground drilling to connect the arrays to the main panel (2,000 ft of underground conduit and wiring). In order to connect inverters on seven separate roofs to a single cluster controller, SunBug Solar installed NanoBeam wireless devices on each roof to wirelessly connect to the local area network.