Fifth largest public transit system in the country signs 45-MW power purchase agreement

recurrent

Recurrent Energy LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar, signed a 20-year power purchase agreement  for 45 MWac of solar power with Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), the fifth largest public transit network in the country and one of the largest consumers of electric power in Northern California. The BART Board of Directors approved the PPA on December 7, 2017.

This contract, BART’s first-ever PPA for utility-scale solar power, resulted from a renewable energy procurement process that BART launched in May 2017 as part of the organization’s Wholesale Electricity Portfolio Policy. The Policy requires 100 percent of BART’s power to come from renewable resources by 2045 while maintaining low and stable BART operating costs.

“Utility-scale solar power is a vital part of cost-effectively meeting our sustainability commitments,” said BART Sustainability Director Holly Gordon. “It is very important to us to work with an experienced development partner like Recurrent Energy who will help us achieve our goals.”

Beyond the rooftop: How offsite PPAs change the game for solar professionals

Power will be supplied to BART from Recurrent Energy’s 45 MWac Gaskell West 2 solar photovoltaic project located in southern California. The project is scheduled to reach commercial operation in 2020.

“Solar power is a perfect match for BART’s commitment to using cost-effective and clean energy,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, chairman and chief executive officer of Canadian Solar. “We are proud to support BART’s progress towards 100 percent renewable energy while also diversifying Recurrent Energy’s customer base.”

BART is the first U.S. metro-rail entity to sign a utility-scale solar PPA this year.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on an optimized 343-kW PV system completed at a California sports facility

HelioPower completed two commercial PV systems at a state-of-the-art Southern California sports center in Ladera Ranch. The 63,000 sq-ft gym now sports a 343 kW system optimized with SolarEdge’s DC optimized inverter solution, coupled with the PredictEnergy Commercial Energy Management System. This represents a significant milestone in Ladera’s sustainability program and their ability to reduce their electricity costs. Canadian Solar’s high-performing PV modules and HelioPower’s distributed generation strategies work together to maximally reduce the levelized cost of energy for Ladera Sports Center.

Heliopower pv

System details

The system was split into two meters, consisting of two points of connections: the sports center and the office. The installation consists of 1,100 Canadian Solar 310 PV modules with 8 SolarEdge SE33.3KUS Three Phase inverters and 550 SolarEdge P700 power optimizers. By utilizing SolarEdge’s DC optimized inverter solution, Ladera Sports Center’s energy output increases from the PV System, constantly tracking the maximum power point at the module level. The power optimizers provide performance reporting through the SolarEdge monitoring portal for enhanced, cost-effective, module-level maintenance. SolarEdge technology meets advanced safety requirements, including NEC2017, and is designed to de-energize the DC voltage in the PV wires whenever the PV system is disconnected from the grid or the inverter is turned off for increased safety during installation, maintenance, and emergencies.

heliopower installation

“As a leading global PV inverter company, SolarEdge is committed to delivering innovative and cost-effective commercial solutions,” said Peter Mathews, North America General Manager for SolarEdge. “Offering value added products and services, we see ourselves as a partner to installers and EPCs and as such offer support throughout the entire PV system lifetime.”

“HelioPower’s mission is to work with our clients to find the most cost-effective solution to all of their energy needs,” said Mike Murray, Director of Commercial Operations, HelioPower, “PredictEnergyTM identified demand-side energy reduction opportunities that enabled Ladera Sports Center to complete the initial phase of their clean energy initiative on time, on budget with on-going energy savings.”

Ladera Sports Center is LEED Certified. LEED is a process framework that project teams apply to create highly efficient, economical and sustainable buildings. Ladera Sports Center will deliver at least 35% of the building’s electricity from renewable sources. Together, HelioPower’s integrated energy solutions and energy analytics profiling tools work to deliver a financially viable project, reducing Ladera’s energy costs and supporting their sustainability strategy.

— Solar Builder magazine

Investor outlook: Four solar companies to watch as the industry matures

The following perspective was shared with us via Financialbuzz.com

Over the course of the last several years the solar industry has finally gone mainstream. A recent research published on December 12, 2016 by The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) shows how much progress has been made. The U.S. installed 4,143 megawatts (MW) of solar PV in the third quarter of 2016 to reach 35.8 gigawatts (GW) of total installed capacity, enough to power 6.5 million American homes. With more than 1 million residential solar installations nationwide and record-breaking growth in the utility-scale sector, the industry is projected to nearly double year-over-year.

Despite the encouraging numbers however, the industry still faces the challenges that are so familiar to businesses reaching maturity – improving efficiency and cutting costs. Thanks to technological innovations, the solar market is combating these challenges. Solarwindow Technologies, Corning Incorporated, Tesla, Canadian Solar, First Solar.

The innovations ahead

Nevada solar utility

Most solar companies today manufacture solar panels using large portions of silicon, called ingots, and cut it into small rectangular shapes. These silicon components account for approximately 40% of the cost of production for solar panels. While some companies have been finding ways to manufacture panels for cheaper using the same materials, the expectations are now somewhat different.

According to a report by Fortune, “today as the industry matures, much more of the expected lowered production costs will come from new components that plug into traditional silicon solar panels, new ways to manage the electrons from panels, or new ways to finance and sell the panels.” In addition, some innovative companies are coming up with entire new techniques to salvage the sun’s energy.

Solarwindow Technologies creates transparent electricity-generating liquid coatings. When applied to glass or plastics, these coatings convert passive windows and other materials into electricity generators under natural, artificial, low, shaded, and even reflected light conditions. Earlier this week, Solarwindow Technologies announced that, “it has been named a winner in the 2017 BIG Innovation Awards presented by the Business Intelligence Group.

Unlike conventional solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, the company’s coatings can be applied to all sides of tall towers, generating electricity using natural and artificial light, as well from diffused and reflected light, and in shaded areas.

RELATED: How the cell-optimizer, string inverter combo could change PV systems 

When applied to a 50-story building, SolarWindow could avoid more than two million miles of equivalent carbon dioxide emitted by vehicles on the road, reduce electricity costs by as much as 50 percent per year, provide 15-times the environmental benefits over other roof-top solar PV systems, and according to independently-validated engineering modeling, could achieve a one-year financial payback.”

On Jan. 18, Solarwindow Technologies revealed that the company’s “scientists and engineers recently applied layers of the company’s liquid coatings on to Corning Willow Glass and laminated them under conditions that simulate the high pressure and temperatures of the manufacturing processes used by commercial glass and window producers. The result is a bendable glass ‘veneer’, as thin as a business card, which generates electricity.” The Corning Willow Glass is developed by Corning Incorporated (NYSE: GLW), a company with expertise in specialty glass, ceramics, and optical physics.

American automaker and energy storage company, Tesla Inc., showcased it’s at-home battery, the Powerwall 2, for homes and small businesses that stores the sun’s energy and delivers clean, reliable electricity when the sun isn’t shining. Chief Executive Officer, Elon Musk, emphasizes that homes can capture this free, abundant energy source through rooftop solar tiles, turning sunlight into electricity for immediate use or storage in a Powerwall battery. The new Tesla Powerwall 2 will cost around $5,500, which consist of a built-in inverter and twice the storage capacity of the first ever Powerwall battery. The product is not yet available out in the market.

Canadian Solar Inc. announced that it has completed the sale of the outstanding shares of 3 utility-scale solar farm holding companies, SSM 1 Solar ULC, SSM 2 Solar ULC, and SSM 3 Solar ULC, totaling 59.8 MW AC to Fengate SSM Holdco LP, an affiliate of Fengate Real Asset Investments for over $195.32 Million. Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar, commented, “We are delighted to announce the successful sale of 3 additional solar power plants. To this point, we have sold all of our operating plants of 100 MWdc in Canada, including the BeamLight and Alfred projects sold in December 2016. We value our partnership with Fengate and look forward to deepening our cooperation while we continue to monetize our solar power plants in other countries.”

First Solar Inc. has been awarded the module supply contract for the 140-megawatt Sun Metals Solar Farm in North Queensland, Australia. The project marks the largest solar initiative by the country and, once constructed, is set to utilize more than 1.16 million First Solar advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules to produce approximately 270,000 megawatt-hours of energy in its first year of operation.

“Large-scale solar is fast becoming one of the most cost-effective sources of energy generation in Australia. This project represents the viability of the commercial and industrial solar market in Australia, and the growing trend of major energy consumers owning and operating renewable energy assets,” said Jack Curtis, First Solar’s regional manager for Asia Pacific.

— Solar Builder magazine

Canadian Solar’s new solar module production facility is ready to go

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar announced that its new solar module manufacturing in Sorocaba, Brazil, is ready to go. The new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility will be Brazil’s largest, with 380 MW annual capacity of made in Brazil solar modules.

The official inauguration of this state-of-the-art new solar module facility was attended by the distinguished Mr. Geraldo Alckmin, Governor for the State of Sao Paulo, Mr. Eduardo Azevedo, Secretary from the Ministry of Mines and Energy, Mr. Antonio Carlos Pannunzio, Mayor of Sorocaba and Mr. Rick Savone, Canadian Ambassador to Brazil.

RELATED: PERC Up: Boviet Solar tells us how it will provide high efficiency modules at a low cost 

“Our new state-of-the-art facility is already having a positive impact on Brazil’seconomy through the jobs created, investment made in the local economy, and our help in the promotion and further development of the country’s renewable energy industry,” says Shawn Qu, chairman and CEO of Canadian Solar . “Our current solar project portfolio in Brazil has reached 390 MWp, of which EDF EN do Brazil, the local subsidiary of EDF Energies Nouvelles, bought 80% of the equity interest of our 191 MW Pirapora I project (expected to come online in 3Q17). We now gain a powerful competitive advantage with our new local content facility, which we will leverage in Brazil, one of the world’s most attractive and fastest growing solar markets.”

As of September 30, 2016, Canadian Solar’s late-stage pipeline totaled 2.0 GWp of utility-scale solar project pipeline worldwide, along with a portfolio of operating solar power plants totaling 948 MWp. In Brazil, the Company’s current utility-scale solar project pipeline reaches 390 MWp. This is comprised of its 191 MWp Pirapora I project, 109 MWp Pirapora II project and 90 MWp Vazante project. The Pirapora I project is in construction and expected to reach commercial operation in 3Q17, with the Pirapora II and Vazante projects expected to reach commercial operation in 2018. Canadian Solar will supply made-in Brazil solar modules for its projects.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder Project of The Year Winner: Staten Solar’s Levee Mount

Levee Mount

Category: Ground-Mount (C&I)
Delano, Calif. | 522 kW

BRAR-pic-2-for-use

The agricultural segment has a conundrum when it comes to adding solar: it could benefit greatly from the power generation, but dedicating too much land for a sizable enough project will cut too deeply into its revenue. Wasting productive land just isn’t an option.

“Typically, farmers love their trees like their children, and they don’t want any harm to them or to their revenue,” says Sandipan Bhanot, president and CEO of Staten Solar Corp.

The owners of a farm in Delano, Calif., were just the latest example for Staten Solar, which has these conversations time and again since 30 to 40 percent of its revenue comes from agricultural installs. Solving this conundrum would be both a huge deal to its customers and its own business.
So, they solved it.

ground mount wnner'Enter the Levee Mount

To avoid using up too much agricultural land, the Staten team looked to an area you’d normally be advised to avoid — a nearby body of water. Farmers construct lagoons to pool water for any sediment to settle so it will not clog sensitive drip irrigation systems. The idea was to install solar panels along the levees of the irrigation lagoons to avoid wastage of more productive space.

In terms of space-saving, it was a no-brainer. Generally, a 500-kW solar system covers about two acres of land, but by strategically placing solar panels along the levees of the lagoon, 20 to 30 percent of the productive land and the associated annual crop revenues are saved. This also helps avoid deforestation. The farmer can now save tens of thousands of dollars every year by harnessing the power of solar energy.

But obviously, execution of the idea is easier said than done, especially considering no one had done it before.  “There are no off-the-shelf racking systems available,” Bhanot says. “Most of the companies you can think of will not supply anything for a project like this.”

Staten engineered its own solution, dubbed the Levee Mount, that had to be both structurally sound for this unconventional location and meet the stringent approval of the local building department.

By strategically placing solar panels along the levees of the lagoon, 20 to 30 percent of the productive land is saved.

By strategically placing solar panels along the levees of the lagoon, 20 to 30 percent of the productive land is saved.

Special considerations

Like any project, the Levee Mount started by accounting for regional wind loads, which is why they chose a strong galvanized steel foundation. But given the close proximity to water, this agricultural solar facility was constructed with special designs from Staten’s structural and electrical engineering staff.

Some examples: AHJ requirements called for at least 10 ft of clearance to the back. The structure also required sacrificial steel so that in the event of any corrosion, the integrity of the project would not be compromised for at least 25 years. They also galvanized the steel to improve its resistance to corrosion and weathering.

All of the posts that support the racking system were driven, which required equipment large enough to ram a 19-ft post into the ground. Some areas of the levees went up to 6 ft and had narrow embankments.

“There were lots of construction challenges; we had to build specialty platforms for the machines to stand on to start ramming through the levee into the ground,” Bhanot says. “This took place in Kern County [Calif.], and they have special inspectors that sit on site to watch and make sure that what was drawn is done in the field. So, that was an added source of anxiety, being unsure how they would respond, but it all turned out great.”

Oh, and there’s also the small matter of direct current lines being so close to a pool of water. Staten Solar wanted to use string inverters and try to minimize the DC wiring as much as possible.

“Normally we’d have, let’s say eight tables feeding one inverter, so we’d put that inverter in the middle of a table so that the cabling from all those tables can be minimized,” Bhanot explains. “In the Levee Mount, we didn’t want to do that. Here we have the inverters on the ground, with longer homeruns, which adds to the cost, but in the overall context it’s a miniscule cost increase for providing more safety because there is no AC voltage on the levees.”

Check out the other 2016 Project of the Year Winners

The levees went up to 6 ft and had narrow embankments.

The levees went up to 6 ft and had narrow embankments.

More Levee Mounts to come

This 522-kW Levee Mount project in Delano is just the first of many that have gone through the permitting stage and are awaiting construction as Staten Solar looks to make this strategy a bigger part of its focus going forward.

“We can go out to the customer and, if others say you have to cut down 300 trees, we can say they can preserve maybe 200 of them. Makes a huge difference,” Bhanot says.

In fact, the company is pitching customers as early as it can on the innovation to hopefully influence construction of the lagoons at the outset.

“Typically, we only install south-facing panels, so Levee Mounts can be done on the northern and southern edges of the lagoons,” he says. “We have been working with farmers so that they are now constructing their reservoirs based on our recommendation where the northern and southern edges are much longer than the east and west.”

After climbing this hill and placing PV on top of it, Bhanot thinks the next step to further improve PV’s value in the ag sector is getting AHJs on board with floating solar on top of the lagoon itself.

“We need to work with the AHJs to get them over the hump on that. We hopefully will have announcements on that next year,” Bhanot says, in what we can only assume is a spoiler alert for the 2017 Project of the Year awards.

— Solar Builder magazine