MBL-Energy is now pre-certified for solar carport installs at California schools

MBL Energy carport

MBL-Energy has received the first California Division of State Architects (DSA) pre-check certification issued under the newly released 2016 CBC compliance. This certification will enable MBL-Energy to quickly move forward on the design and construction of parking canopies for California public schools and other public works by reducing the permitting approval time from up to one year down to five weeks, potentially saving schools thousands of dollars in energy costs during the process.

MBL-Energy says this certification came through because it was the first to pass cyclical testing and meeting the rigorous project and safety requirements set forth by DSA. An integral component of the new and existing DSA pre-check certification is the approval of MBL-Energy’s patented UL-certified Beacon Clip, an enhanced solar module attachment. Developed by MBL-Energy CEO Robert Laubach, the UL-certified Beacon clip uses proprietary technology that enables a more efficient and safe installation process on solar arrays. With a higher safety rating than required by the DSA, the Beacon Clip is ideal for carports on school campuses and related public work structures.

“Earning the first pre-check certification in California from the DSA based on the current and new guidelines is the culmination of months of planning, hard work and coordination between MBL engineers, third party testers and inspectors,” Laubach said. “The use of our Beacon Clip was an important safety factor in securing approval of both our earlier pre-check certification and the certification under the new DSA guidelines. The pre-check certification enables us to streamline the design and construction of carports for school districts and other public work structures and can result in significant utility bill savings.”

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

The DSA oversees construction projects on California K–14 campuses by providing plan review and approval, and construction oversight of projects, in response to applications from California school and community college districts. DSA updates project pre-check qualifications based on current building code applications to meet standards agreed upon by a number of internal and external partners.

“Solar developers that receive DSA PC approval basically have structural permits, resulting in a significantly shorter project permit approval time than a non-certified project,” said Inspector of Record representative Fred Wasinger. “I have worked with MBL-Energy for 10 years on numerous projects of various sizes and scopes. Their depth of understanding of DSA is something that sets them apart from other contractors, and they consistently provide unparalleled and exacting work to our school districts.”

To date, MBL-Energy has successfully completed 350 MW of solar projects across California, of which 180 were DSA projects. This includes recently announced projects across six schools in the Santa Rita Union School District in Salinas, California, that integrates one megawatt of solar PV with 1.1 MWh of Sharp’s SmartStorage energy storage systems to form solar plus storage microgrids, and with the Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) in San Bernardino County.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar carport developers find low-cost opportunity despite the tariffs

Quest Renewables

“But whatever the reason [for the tariff], the consequences probably won’t be severe. The solar revolution is happening so fast that the tariff will make little difference.” — Noah Smith, Bloomberg.

This quote from Bloomberg is certainly true, but the immediate effect has unquestionably caused some projects that were “on the bubble” financially to be canceled, and significantly reduced the profitability of others. The uncertainty of the tariff came when the industry didn’t know the final amounts. This made financing difficult because no one knew what projects were ultimately going to cost. In reality, the module tariff turned out to be a relatively small increase of about $.15 per watt to the cost of solar projects.

There are multiple ways to save more than enough money to make up for the tariff increase. Installation labor efficiencies and civil engineering work provide opportunities to increase efficiency so much so that if these levers are pulled, solar installers will be able to decrease the total cost of their projects even with the module tariff in place.

At Quest Renewables, we are attacking the module tariff by improving installation efficiency in solar carports in four ways:

1. Reducing installation labor costs by 50 percent by assembling our systems on the ground, and then lifting completely assembled carports by crane. The cost of the crane is only about 5% of the traditional cost of labor, so the crane pays off by a lot.

2. Using standard pre-engineered array sizes and configurations. This enables us to optimize and reduce foundation count, so that our products have half the number of foundations of systems of comparable size. Not only does this reduce the overall cost of foundations, but it also reduces the overall project variability costs caused by uncertain soil conditions.

Quest Renewables

3. Leveraging local labor crews to reduce installation costs. When our customers manage the project labor or provide their own crews, they gain two big advantages. First, they eliminate markup from construction. Second, they use a skilled local crew that can install our standard systems over and over and become more efficient over time.

4. Increasing project size by covering parking spaces and drive aisles enables a system to deliver up to twice as many watts as a T-canopy. Our customers can install more watts on a project allowing them to spread fixed costs across more wattage which improves profit margins.

With these cost saving efficiencies in place, developers and installers alike are certainly in a great position to continue growing the solar carport space. As utilities realize the unique ability of distributed generation to reduce myriad grid upgrade costs, several states are supporting solar canopy projects. Quest is seeing a lot of new projects coming to fruition in states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and soon New York. In the coming months, Massachusetts will announce the final version of the state’s SMART Program. The current version of the program includes favorable incentives for carports.

What about the steel tariff?

With the module tariff proving to be manageable, albeit a little uncomfortable, now we bring focus to the steel tariff.

“President Donald Trump’s foray into trade protectionism heartened a handful of manufacturers in a deeply challenged industry but upset a much larger group of thriving downstream businesses that say they will lose sales and shed employees during what should be a boom time.” — James Rainey, NBC News.

Although Quest’s products are made with 100 percent American steel, the price of all steel is going up, foreign and domestic. The unique design of Quest’s canopies enables Quest to help customers overcome the increased cost from the rising price of steel. Quest is partnering with customers to ensure that the industry can succeed in this environment by not raising prices on our products in response to the steel tariff. Further, foundation reduction in projects using QuadPod solar canopies will overcome the increased cost of steel.

The industry is breathing a sigh of relief because the tariffs, both module and steel, have proved to be more of a speed bump and not a stop sign for project development. The bulk of the harm done by the tariffs was the difficulty to get projects financed, but financing can be found. According to the Department of Energy’s website, it remains “committed to leveraging America’s abundant solar energy resources — driving research, manufacturing and market solutions to support widespread expansion of the nation’s solar market.” Even so, the solar industry needs to remain vigilant in its’ advocacy to make sure that solar is here to stay.

Finn Findley is CEO of Quest Renewables.

— Solar Builder magazine

Florida’s Advanced Roofing builds out demo solar carport to promote the idea to local business

advanced-roofing-solar-carport

Advanced Roofing Inc., Florida’s largest commercial re-roofing contractor, has installed a demonstration project with a solar carport, electric vehicle (EV) charging equipment and rooftop solar arrays at its Fort Lauderdale headquarters to showcase the company’s latest innovations.

The solar showcase, now in full operation, includes a new rooftop solar array and a 16-space custom solar carport with solar-powered EV charging equipment. Advanced Roofing shares the 7-acre campus with its sister companies Advanced Air System and Advanced Green Technologies (AGT), the state’s largest commercial solar contractor. The solar carport demonstration project has 84-kilowatt (kW) power capacity, producing over 124,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy per year. The new carport and rooftop solar arrays add to two existing arrays at the headquarters site, which together produce an additional 100 kW – equivalent to enough energy to power approximately 30 average US homes.

RELATED: The ‘Carportunity’: How our electric vehicle future means big things for solar carports

“With all these solar solutions in place, we’re producing 100 percent of our main office’s energy needs, and that’s a doable goal for so many businesses that own their office and industrial locations,” said Rob Kornahrens, CEO of Advanced Roofing and AGT. He noted solar carport prices have dropped about 50 percent in the last five years through new technology and the company’s customized solutions and designs.

As electric vehicles’ (EV) popularity grows, Advanced Roofing – one of the nation’s “greenest” roofing companies – is also positioned to expand its role in the EV charge station market with a partnership with national EV charging industry leader ChargePoint. Already benefiting from electric vehicles’ energy savings, Advanced Roofing has added a Tesla Model S, a Tesla Model X and a Chevy Volt to its fleet.

Multinational corporations, hospitals, and other institutions took the lead in solar carport use during the last five-years, said Kornahrens, whose company has installed a total of more than 245 Megawatts of rooftop solar arrays and solar carports thought the United States – including two solar carports as large as six football fields for Lockheed Martin in Florida. With solar carport installations rising steadily nationwide since 2010, “many smaller companies that lack the rooftop space for a solar array are finding solar carports very practical.”

“Business owners with a deep commitment to sustainability are increasing solar carport demand here and statewide, taking advantage of the current economic and tax policy window,” Kornahrens said. “It’s a welcome benefit for their employees, whose cars stay cooler and protected from sunlight, and who enjoy the security of lighting systems installed under a carport’s solar panels.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Check out this simple new solar canopy from startup Renewz

iSun Oasis EV charger

At the New England Home Show in Boston, solar energy and electric vehicle (EV) technology startup Renewz launched an online ordering campaign for the iSun Oasis, a smart solar canopy that easily integrates into homeowners’ lifestyle and garden, patio or driveway. It is part of the iSun Energy brand, and is now available for the price of $9,999 USD less a limited offer $2,500 discount.

How it works

iSun Oasis connects directly to the home’s electrical grid. The durable, aluminum structure holds an American solar panel array which captures and delivers clean power, reducing the homeowner’s carbon footprint by approximately 1.4 metric tons of carbon emissions per year. Users will also see reductions to their energy bills, and may be eligible for further rebates and tax breaks in their state or province. In the US, Americans will receive a 30% federal tax credit in the first year after installation. In many cases, the entire purchase and installation of the canopy can be financed by energy savings, as well as an increase to home value when it comes time to sell.

The canopy extends the use of outdoor areas by protecting from heat, rain, snow and UV whether on driveway, patio or garden. iSun Oasis is controlled and monitored via the iSun mobile app, which will be consistently updated with new features such as Electric Vehicle charge control, smart lighting and more. The canopy’s functionality can be expanded with accessories like an EV charger, smart lighting, electrical outlets, bluetooth speakers, plant holders and bug nets.

Solar canopy

“One of our main goals in the design of our canopy was for it to integrate and improve users’ home lifestyle, in a seamless and cost effective manner,” says CEO Sass M. Peress. “We designed the iSun Oasis so that it would be simple to install, and easy to obtain an installation city permit, since it is considered a temporary structure due to its innovative anchoring system. Its access to a host of incentives plus energy payback and increased home value make it a smart financial decision as well.”

iSun Oasis works under all kinds of daylight conditions and features high efficiency, curved solar panels designed to optimize energy generation. While maximum power is obtained from direct sunlight, the canopy’s unique solar technology creates energy even through diffuse light or cloudy conditions. It is capable of producing power even when buried under four inches of snow.

The ‘Carportunity’: How our electric vehicle future means big things for solar carports

— Solar Builder magazine

Ameren Missouri prioritizes electric vehicle infrastructure in new program filing

EV charging stations

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is coming, if not already here, and as NREL noted, some big steps need to be taken to accommodate this new reality. Steps like this will help: Ameren Missouri has filed its Charge Ahead program with the Missouri Public Service Commission that would encourages EV and equipment use among Missouri residents and businesses, along with some other energy efficient measures. If approved, the program would initiate the following:

• New incentives for the installation of workplace, multifamily, and public EV charging stations, as well as fast-charging EV stations near interstate highways
• Incentives for commercial customers transitioning to efficient electric machinery, such as forklifts and other material-handling equipment
• Improved energy-grid accessibility and reliability through a revised line-extension policy

“Our Charge Ahead program is designed with Missouri’s future in mind by eliminating the barriers for EV charging and promoting the use of more efficient and cleaner electric equipment in commercial settings and on our roads,” said Michael Moehn, president, Ameren Missouri. “At the same time, the program will help provide lower costs to customers, improve air quality by reducing emissions and help promote economic growth by ensuring Missouri maintains a competitive business environment.”

The ‘Carportunity’: How our electric vehicle future means big things for solar carports

In 2017, Ameren Missouri announced a $1 billion investment in alternative energy sources. This investment will include building wind turbines in Missouri and surrounding states and result in the generation of 700 megawatts of wind-generated power by 2020. The company also plans to add 100 megawatts of solar-generated power over the next 10 years, with 50 megawatts expected to come on line by 2025. This is Ameren Missouri’s largest-ever commitment to clean, renewable energy.

In addition to increasing access to EV charging stations, the Charge Ahead program will offer numerous incentives for Ameren Missouri’s commercial customers transitioning to electric equipment. It also allows for a revision in Ameren Missouri’s line-extension policy, which will make accessing and connecting to the electric grid easier and more affordable for commercial and industrial customers.

— Solar Builder magazine