Caterpillar to start selling Cat-branded SunPower solar panels through its distribution network

Cat Hybrid Energy Solutions - Shingled Cell Solar Panels
SunPower is now providing high-efficiency SunPower Performance Series (P-Series) solar panels under the Caterpillar brand. Offered as part of the Cat Hybrid Energy Solutions suite, the monocrystalline, shingled-cell Cat PVC395 MP solar panels are currently available through the Cat dealer network in Southeast Asia, Africa, South America, and the Middle East.

Providing efficiency, performance and dependability, Cat PVC395 MP solar panels are rated at 395 watts per panel and achieve efficiencies of over 19 percent through an innovative shingled-cell design with multiple redundant paths for electricity flow. This eliminates many of the reliability challenges of traditional front-contact solar panels. Additionally, the panels use a unique parallel circuit architecture that significantly limits power loss from shade and soiling.

“Backed by SunPower’s product and power warranty, the P-Series solar panel technology offered through our relationship with Caterpillar can generate up to 32 percent more energy than conventional panels in the same space over 25 years,” said Peter Aschenbrenner, executive vice president for SunPower. “Our technology is the most sold shingled-cell solar panel in the world, maximizing production and delivering long-term value. We’re pleased to collaborate with Caterpillar, an exceptional brand with a strong commitment to sustainability.”

Check out the 2018 Solar Builder Projects of the Year!

Cat PVC395 MP solar panels are the latest addition to the Cat Hybrid Energy Solutions suite, an innovative lineup of power systems that combines environmentally friendly solar panels, state-of-the-art energy conversion and storage technologies, and advanced monitoring and control systems with Caterpillar’s traditional line of reliable power generation equipment.

“SunPower shares Caterpillar’s commitment to developing an impressive portfolio of technologies with proven durability and performance in the field,” said Joel Feucht, general manager in Caterpillar’s Global Power Solutions Division. “By expanding our global solar offering, the world-class Cat dealer network can better serve the growing customer demand for cost-effective solar energy, backed by the reliable power of Cat standby- or prime-rated generator sets.”

The Cat Hybrid Energy Solutions technology suite is designed to reduce fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions, and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy resiliency in even the most challenging environments. Key offerings in the Cat Hybrid Energy Solutions suite include:

• The Cat Master Microgrid Controller (MMC), which keeps loads continuously energized with high-quality power at the lowest cost by managing the flow of power from every source in the system;

• Cat Connect Remote Asset Monitoring, which offers real-time collection and remote monitoring of site performance data in Cat Microgrid applications; and

• Cat Bi-Directional Power (BDP) inverters, which provide real and reactive power with grid-forming and grid-following capabilities.

— Solar Builder magazine

Wheeler Power Systems installs Caterpillar solar system for Utah’s first net zero community

Living Zenith is Utah’s first net zero community setting an unprecedented standard for energy efficiency in the state. With smart tech and strategic design, these green homes generate as much energy as they use in one year. Caterpillar solar photovoltaic systems, provided by Wheeler Power Systems, a division of Wheeler Machinery Co., power these homes. The systems are designed with capacity to export surplus electricity to the local power grid and optional energy storage systems which will allow the homes to draw upon solar power even when sunlight is not available.

Living Zenith Development

“Wheeler Power Systems is thrilled to be a part of this innovative, cutting edge project,” said Jonathan Campbell, Vice President of Sales and Rentals at Wheeler. “This development is a shining example of what can be achieved when economic development is balanced with environmental stewardship. We look forward to future projects that, like this one, exceed the expectations of our customers while contributing to the sustainability of Utah.”

REMEMBER when we visited Caterpillar for the debut of its solar system?

Constructed by Redfish Builders, each Living Zenith unit is made with high thermal barriers, an air tight exterior, efficient appliances, triple-paned windows, LED lighting and low-flow water fixtures and toilets.

Living Zenith is the outcome of a multifaceted collaboration among the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development, Salt Lake City’s Sustainability Department, Wheeler Power Systems, Portland Energy Conservation, Inc., Utah Clean Energy, University of Utah and other innovators committed to improving Utah’s air quality.

“The Living Zenith project is a further demonstration of Utah’s leadership on energy innovation, delivering solutions to advance energy efficiency, address air quality, and meet the demands of our growing population,” said Dr. Laura Nelson, the Governor’s energy advisor and executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development. “We’re proud to promote Governor Gary R. Herbert’s collaborative spirit across industry to continue to elevate Utah’s high quality of life.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Caterpillar completes 1 MW PV system with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency

Caterpillar Inc. sent word that Cat dealer Altorfer has commissioned a 1000 kW solar PV system in Rantoul, Ill. Built to fulfill a 20-year power purchase agreement with the Illinois Municipal Electric Agency (IMEA), the installation was constructed on an eight-and-a-half-acre site near Heritage Lake Park and the University of Illinois Transportation Lab in a southeast section of the former Chanute Air Force Base.

caterpillar solar project 2

The agreement with Altorfer enables the IMEA to diversify its power generation capabilities by adding PV components to its existing power generation portfolio. Altorfer Power Systems leads the installation, maintenance and operation of the facility in Rantoul, which is expected to produce an estimated 1.6 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year.

RELATED: On the Scene: Caterpillar to deploy PV as part of turn-key microgrid solution throughout dealer network 

Caterpillar’s solar PV system is powered by advanced thin-film solar modules that are setting the industry benchmark with improved performance over conventional silicon solar panels. Fully scalable and pre-engineered for quick and easy installation, the system offers reliable and predictable energy in all climates and applications with modules that are independently tested to pass accelerated life and stress tests beyond industry standards.

caterpillar solar project

Caterpillar’s solar PV offering is a key component of the Cat Microgrid technology suite, an innovative lineup of power systems that adds environmentally friendly solar panels, state-of-the-art energy storage, and advanced monitoring and control systems to Caterpillar’s traditional line of reliable power generation equipment, including generator sets, switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies and automatic transfer switches. The Cat Microgrid technology suite is designed to reduce fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions, and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy efficiency in even the most challenging environments.

“With the cost of renewable energy rapidly declining, the use of microgrid technology is quickly becoming more popular. Advances in solar panel technology and energy storage have enabled Cat Microgrid technology to become one of the most effective ways to produce clean, reliable and affordable power,” said Rick Rathe, general manager of new ventures for Caterpillar’s Electric Power business. “Cat Microgrid technologies deliver an innovative, financially viable way to incorporate sustainable sources of energy into any existing portfolio of traditional power generation offerings.”

caterpillar solar project 3

Caterpillar is a leader in the power generation marketplace with power systems engineered to deliver unmatched durability, reliability and value. The company offers worldwide product support, with parts and service available globally through the Cat authorized service and dealer network. In addition, dealer service technicians are trained to service every aspect of Cat equipment.

— Solar Builder magazine

On the Scene: Caterpillar to deploy PV as part of turn-key microgrid solution throughout dealer network

Caterpillar solar microgrid

Yours truly, at the Cat Proving Ground in Tucson, Ariz. I did not get to keep the safety vest.

Solar technology is definitely not the niche energy category it used to be and there’s perhaps no surer sign of its current and future value than the leader in the power generation marketplace folding PV into its product offering, with plans to take it global — and fast.

That leader is Caterpillar Inc. The company invited your favorite Solar Builder editor out to its Tucson, Ariz., Proving Ground to get a first-hand look at the debut of this innovative, turnkey suite of power systems called the Cat Microgrid. This system provides PV panels, state-of-the-art energy storage and advanced monitoring and control systems in addition to Caterpillar’s traditional line of reliable power generation equipment, including Cat generator sets, switchgear, uninterruptible power supplies and automatic transfer switches.

So, why PV, why now? The Cat leadership team just pointed to a chart showing the LCOE of solar + storage for a C&I application compared to generator only (could be a 10 to 80 percent savings). The fuel savings are too immense to ignore, and this trend is unlikely to reverse. Plus, Cat as the advantage of having world-glass generator sets as part of a holistic solution to meet any customer’s needs and fit the true sweet spot in LCOE for any project.

Caterpillar solar microgrid

The Cat Microgrid includes both fixed-tilt and tracker options.

Cat Microgrid applications can include any combination of the following elements:

• Thin-film solar modules, which capture more energy, especially in high-temperature, high-humidity, desert, and coastal climates;
• Energy storage such as ultracapacitors, lithium-ion, or rechargeable metal-air storage that provides the most economical and advanced energy storage with controls and monitoring down to the cell level;
• Cat generator sets powered by diesel, heavy fuel oil (HFO), natural gas, biogas, or dual fuel, offering high power density, high-part load efficiencies, and excellent capability to follow loads; and
• the Cat Microgrid Master Controller to monitor and optimize power usage in the microgrid.

Caterpillar - Tucson Proving Ground - Energy Storage

Cat Microgrids use a combination of lithium ion and zinc-air for energy storage.

On the PV front, Cat is working with First Solar to provide its PV panels and system as a Cat-branded product through the Cat dealer network for this microgrid solution, which is a big win for both companies. First Solar is already huge, but it’s solely focused on utility-scale projects. Cat is looking to own the commercial & industrial space with this system, so this broadens First Solar’s horizons by being able to leverage the expansive Cat dealer network.

And that’s the biggest story to me – the dealer network. Cat has 177 dealers worldwide, all of which now have the capability to promote, sell and service a turnkey solar + storage microgrid solution. That reach, backed by Cat’s name brand (and corporate structure, financing, warranties, etc.), has the potential to quickly and efficiently move PV in a way that wasn’t possible previously (especially considering some of the financial hurdles for solar+storage in the C&I space). Cat Microgrid technologies can be purchased as turnkey installations or design-to-order solutions. Ranging from 10 kW to 100 MW, units can be added in a modular fashion to create systems customized for a variety of power needs.

Ideal for a broad range of applications such as telecommunications towers, industrial facilities, mining installations and remote villages, islands and rural communities, the Cat Microgrid technology suite is designed to reduce fuel expenses, lower utility bills, decrease emissions, and reduce the total cost of ownership while increasing energy efficiency in even the most challenging environments.

RELATED: Microgrids: Why are they gaining in popularity, what part does storage play? 

In a hybrid microgrid, renewable sources of energy can account for any percentage of the load depending on conditions. Excess energy produced by renewables is stored for stabilization as well as for use during unfavorable conditions, such as cloudy days and nighttime. Generator sets supplement the system by powering the microgrid when energy from other sources is unavailable.
To support the development of the Cat Microgrid technologies over the past year, Caterpillar has invested in Fluidic Energy for energy storage, signed a strategic alliance with First Solar for an integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar solution, and made an equity investment in Powerhive, an energy solutions provider for emerging markets.

Cat developed its own bi-directional inverter, leveraging electrical drive technology from its tractors, to run the system. The string inverters used out in the field (at least that we saw) are from SMA.

The Proving Ground

Caterpillar - Tucson Proving Ground - Entrance

Caterpillar has proven the real-world value of its microgrid technology by commissioning a system at the company’s Tucson Proving Ground. In March, facility managers installed 500 kW of photovoltaic solar power along with 500 kW of short-term energy storage in the form of batteries and ultracapacitors to supplement power that previously had been supplied solely by three C15 410-kW diesel generator sets. The integrated system is expected to reduce fuel consumption by approximately 33 percent.

Caterpillar - Tucson Proving Ground - Solar Panel Closeup

“With the declining cost of renewable energy sources and rapid advances in energy storage technology, the time is right to provide an integrated application for remote power,” said Rick Rathe, general manager of new ventures for Caterpillar’s Electric Power business. “Cat Microgrid technologies deliver an innovative, financially viable way to incorporate sustainable sources of energy into our existing portfolio of traditional power generation offerings.”

To learn more about Cat Microgrid technologies, visit www.cat.com/microgrid.

— Solar Builder magazine

Caterpillar, First Solar Enter Strategic Alliance to Develop Microgrids

First-Solar-LogoCaterpillar’s Electric Power Division’s latest endeavor, announced April 30, is a strategic alliance with First Solar Inc. to develop an integrated photovoltaic (PV) solar solution for microgrid applications.

Under the agreement,  First Solar will design and manufacture a pre-engineered turnkey package for use in remote microgrid applications, such as small communities and mine sites. The package will feature Cat-branded solar panels manufactured by First Solar and will include a balance of system components.

“We are excited to announce this alliance, underpinned by First Solar’s 10 gigawatts of global experience in solar energy, and coupled with Caterpillar’s knowledge of generator sets and distributed power, and the strength of our unmatched dealer network,” said Steve Niehaus, Caterpillar vice president with responsibility for the Electric Power Division. “By working with First Solar, we will optimize the efficiency and integration of solar power with our offerings.”

Caterpillar will exclusively sell and support the integrated solution featuring Cat-branded solar panels through its worldwide Cat dealer network, along with its current offerings of generator sets and energy storage. Acting as a central source, Cat dealers will be uniquely positioned to provide customers with this fully integrated and supported single solution in the large and rapidly growing microgrid market today.

Caterpillar expects to first market the new microgrid solution in the Asia Pacific, Africa, and Latin America regions, with the integrated PV solution, including Cat-branded solar panels, available for customers in that region in the second half of 2015.

Microgrids provide value to prime power diesel and gas customers by integrating renewable energy, such as solar power, with generator sets. With these solutions, Caterpillar can help deliver reliable, cost-effective and sustainable energy for customers.

“This strategic alliance provides yet more evidence of a global energy transition, where solar energy’s reliability and cost competitiveness with traditional fuels effectively allows it to complement conventional generation. It is also evidence of the role that solar can play in enabling the local generation and distribution of energy to address specific needs,” said Marc van Gerven, First Solar’s vice president for global marketing. “By entering into this alliance with Caterpillar, with its extensive experience and reach, we’re establishing an important new precedent for the commercialization and scaling of microgrid-based distributed generation solutions.”

This new alliance supports Caterpillar’s belief that sustainable progress is made possible by developing solutions to help improve the quality of life, while also minimizing economic, social and environmental costs.

For more information, follow this link to the Caterpillar website.

— Solar Builder magazine