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


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

Canadian Solar orders one of the largest single-project deployments of DC optimizers

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar is going to deploy Ampt LLC DC optimizers in a 33-MW PV system, which would make it one of the largest deployments of DC power optimizers in the world. The 33 MW installation capped off a six-month evaluation period by Canadian Solar, which began with a smaller demonstration project. Following the successful demonstration, Canadian Solar selected Ampt’s String Optimizer as it consistently outperformed other designs while costing less.

“Our initial work with Ampt surpassed expectations and laid the groundwork for the 33 MW utility-scale installation,” said Ken Rowbotham at Canadian Solar. “We chose Ampt for its clear technology advantages which support our broader commitment to being the industry-leading provider of clean solar energy across the globe.”

RELATED: How optimizers bridge the gap to 1,500-volt PV systems 

Ampt’s patented technology puts voltage and current limits on the output of each optimizer to allow twice the number of PV modules per string and eliminate half of the combiner boxes and associated cable and labor. Ampt also performs maximum power point tracking (MPPT) on every 20 modules to mitigate losses due to mismatch, and allows the inverter to operate at a high and narrow input voltage range to improve inverter performance. Ampt’s optional string-level data reporting via wireless communication helped validate comparison data.

“At Canadian Solar, we are always evaluating new technologies to lower the cost of solar energy for our customers,” said Ken Rowbotham at Canadian Solar. “The Ampt solution stood out, as it allowed us to reduce the cost of electrical balance-of-system (BOS) components, produce more energy and get the most out of the inverters.”

According to research from Global Market Insights, DC power optimizers will continue to see rapid growth in the solar market. While the use of DC optimization started with the residential market at the module level, Ampt’s String Optimizers bring unique power conversion technology to large commercial and utility-scale power plants by lowering the total upfront cost of systems while increasing energy generation.


— Solar Builder magazine

WATCH: Massive Mustang solar project comes together, ready for commercial operation

The Mustang solar power project in Kings County, Calif., is massive (100 MWac/134 MWp) and ready for commercial operation, says  Recurrent Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canadian Solar Inc., one of the world’s largest solar power companies.

“The commercial operation of the Mustang solar project continues a historic year that will see Recurrent Energy complete more than one gigawatt of U.S. solar photovoltaic (PV) projects,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar.

In 2015, Recurrent Energy secured a tax equity investment commitment for the Mustang project from U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corporation (USBCDC).

The renewable energy generated by the Mustang project will be sold under long-term power purchase agreements to Sonoma Clean Power and MCE. The project is expected to produce enough electricity to power approximately 45,000 homes.

Construction of the 1,000 acre project created 450 peak construction jobs. Blattner Energy served as the provider of Engineering, Procurement, and Construction services.

RELATED: The value of a team approach to fixed-tilt ground-mount projects 

— Solar Builder magazine

Sunrun stocks up on Canadian Solar PV modules in 2016

canadian-solar-logoCanadian Solar Inc. says that it will supply 112 MW of Canadian Solar CS6P-265P PV modules to Sunrun in 2016.

“We are pleased to be working with an industry leader like Canadian Solar to ensure our customers have a great customer experience and access to high quality modules for their home solar systems,” said Paul Winnowski, Chief Operating Officer of Sunrun. “We look forward to helping more American families switch to solar and furthering our goal of creating a planet run by the sun.”

Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar, commented, “As North America’s largest module manufacturer, Canadian Solar believes wholeheartedly in our corporate mission of making a difference in the lives of others through solar. Together with Sunrun, this joint collaboration will help allow us to reach new solar users and spread the word about the incredible power of solar energy.”

Founded in 2001 in Canada, Canadian Solar is one of the world’s largest solar power companies and has a geographically diversified pipeline of utility-scale power projects. In the past 14 years, Canadian Solar has successfully deployed over 12 GW of premium quality modules in over 70 countries around the world.

— Solar Builder magazine