Solar Builder 2018 Projects of the Year: Five projects win Editor’s Choice Awards

Solar Builder Editors Choice

Nominees for the Solar Builder Projects of the Year are submitted throughout the year by our readers, with the best submissions put up for an open online vote. The top three vote getters are named the Solar Builder Projects of the Year — Gold, Silver and Bronze. The remaining nominees are then eligible to be recognized as Solar Builder Editor’s Choice selection. The following five projects were the ones that stood out the most from the field.

Best Mission

Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical School | Rochester, Mass. | 10 kW

Best Mission

All solar projects attached to schools are great, but they are even better when added as part of the school’s larger mission. OMCO Solar got together with Solar Frontier and Cypress Creek Renewables to create the Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School’s new Solar Training Program, in partnership with the Massachusetts Workforce Skills Capital Grant. A renewed emphasis on vocational and technical schools is giving Massachusetts students the opportunity to prepare themselves for higher paying jobs in industries like solar, which is also a booming industry for the state. The opportunity to have access to current solar mounting systems and modules, along with guidance for the instructors from the professionals at OMCO, is vital for skills training.

Best Carport

Chaffey Community College District | Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. | 5.5 MW

Borrego solar carport

This 5.5-MW system is the largest solar carport project to date for a California community college. The energy produced by the three systems will meet 90 percent of the Chaffey Community College’s energy needs and is expected to save the district $28.5 million in energy costs over the life of the project. The system is comprised of solar carport structures on parking lots at Chaffey College and its campuses in Fontana and Chino, all in San Bernardino County. The project is expected to produce nearly 10 million kWh of energy in the first year, which is the equivalent to powering approximately 1,375 average homes in California annually.

Coolest Design

IBEW 332 | San Francisco | 202.3 kW

Coolest concept

This project was cool for a number of reasons: 1. Every load in the building was turned electric from gas in order to become a net zero building — going from paying $140,000 in utilities a year to zero. 2. The solar panels on the roof spell out IBEW, which is short for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The building is in the flight path for San Jose’s International Airport, and the solar array is clearly visible to passengers when landing. An LED lighting system is wrapped around the IBEW panels so that it is illuminated at night too. 3. Energy storage was also included in this project so that the core systems will continue in case of an outage. Basically, they thought of everything, and then thought of a few more things.

Best Value

Harley-Davidson Rally Point at Sturgis Plaza | Sturgis, S.D. | 54.6 kW

Harley Davidson quest renewables

We already picked the best carport, but we had to select this cool carport at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point in the Sturgis Plaza too. So, we named it our Best Value for a few reasons. This space is used as a central gathering point during the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and a few other public events during the year. Initially, the city was going to purchase fabric canopies to shade the plaza, but when they realized the fabric system would cost nearly as much as solar, they changed directions (not to mention that 40 percent of the building’s usage would be offset in the summer and 80 percent in the winter). The main challenge was Interconnection Systems out of Central City, Neb., had to bore a 600 ft-long tunnel from the plaza to city hall, but the system was still constructed and installed in just five days in June. And though not typical for the QuadPod solar canopy, the steel for the system was requested to be powder coated black and looks even cooler than usual.

Most Resourceful

Calif. Governor Brown’s Microgrid | Williams, Calif. | 14 kW

California Governor microgrid

California Governor Jerry Brown has a nice property that sits off on its own, except it’s five miles away from any utility power. A bunch of solar companies in the area were contacted to install a solution, but not a lot of companies do off-grid or battery-based projects. Eventually, after researching contractors on YouTube, Jason Andrade of West Coast Sustainables popped up, who has years of experience that proved valuable in this highly detailed off-grid / microgrid that now supplies autonomous power for the entire property. “We used components that could be easily expanded and incorporated the arrays to be functional shade structures,” Andrade said. The system consists of 24 kW of OutBack Radian inverters, 14-kW SolarWorld modules, 34-kWh Simpliphi Lithium-Iron batteries and a Kohler 24-kW propane backup inverter.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar FlexRack supplies G3-X fixed tilt system for 71-MW project in North Carolina

Brantley Solar Project Installed with High Quality Solar FlexRack Utilitiy-Scale Racking_2018 copy

Solar FlexRack’s reputation within the solar industry continues to grow. A division of Northern States Metals, Solar FlexRack has completed shipments of its G3-X fixed tilt racking system to Brantley solar farm, a large-scale solar project in North Carolina. The 71 MWdc project, which is about 30 miles east of Raleigh, was developed and is currently being built by Cypress Creek Renewables, a leading national solar developer, builder and operator.

“Cypress Creek Renewables has been instrumental in supporting the growth of the solar industry in North Carolina, generating jobs for communities, and providing passive income opportunities for landowners,” said Steve Daniel, Executive Vice President of Solar FlexRack. “As long-term solar project owners and operators, they care about the quality of the systems they install which resonates with our values as a quality-driven organization.”

Solar FlexRack’s solar tracking and racking facilities located in Youngstown, Ohio employ hundreds of people. More than 5,200 tons of North American sourced steel went into the racking technology manufactured for Cypress Creek’s Brantley solar farm.

“The Solar FlexRack team brings a deep level of solar expertise, ensuring projects are constructed without issues,” said Matthew McGovern, CEO of Cypress Creek Renewables. “We are pleased to be working with Solar FlexRack to supply our Brantley project with American-made components widely recognized across the industry for their quality.”

Solar FlexRack offers solar tracking and racking solutions for crystalline and thin film modules. The selection and quality of their products provide a wider choice for solar project engineers to design optimal performance in their solar systems.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar job training program launches at Massachusetts vocational school

OMCO massachusetts ribbon cutting

Unveiled at an official ribbon-cutting by the Massachusetts Secretary of Education, Jim Peyser on the campus of Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School came the official opening of the new Solar Training Program for high school students preparing to begin their careers in the 21st Century workplace. This was made possible after an OMCO Solar donation to Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School’s new Solar Training Program, in partnership with the Massachusetts Workforce Skills Capital Grant, Cypress Creek Renewables and Solar Frontier.

“We are proud to support Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School to help train the next generation of solar professionals,” said Jared Porpiglia, Senior Director of Procurement for Cypress Creek Renewables. “Cypress Creek is committed to building clean, affordable solar throughout the Northeast and we look forward to working with our industry and educational partners to empower strong and healthy communities.”

The solar program launch at Old Colony High School comes at a critical time for the Northeast region. No one knows what the future holds for Massachusetts after the push by Eversource to impose a demand charge on solar customers, but as of now, Massachusetts ranks 6th in the U.S. for installed solar capacity having over 2 GW in the ground and 330,445 homes powered by solar energy. There are 478 solar companies now working within the state, 11,530 active solar jobs in Massachusetts and an additional 1,741 MW of solar growth projected for installation over the next five years, as calculated by the Solar Energy Industries Association.

OMCO solar training

Seizing upon this opportunity for students, Old Colony High School leadership applied to the state of Massachusetts through the MA Workforce Skills Capital grant program. Awarded $577,197 in grants, four vocational and training programs at the school will benefit from the acquisition of new equipment. It also enabled the beginning of a Solar Training Program curriculum.

RELATED: Here’s a plan to cut solar costs to offset impact of new tariffs on panel prices

Aside from the grant money, Old Colony High School required a resource for the racking structures and solar modules to give students direct experience with installation applications. A chance meeting in Logan International Airport between OMCO Solar Director of Business Development, Eric Goodwin and AET Labs, Mark Lyons, (who was working with the Massachusetts Schools STEM Program) quickly paved the way for sourcing of racks and modules. Soon after, an official start date for the solar program at Old Colony was set.

In support of the school’s development of vocational programs to support renewable growth in the Northeast, OMCO Solar donated 15-ft. of Field-Fast fixed-tilt racking, along with strategic partner Cypress Creek Renewables who gave twelve, SF-165 solar modules made by Solar Frontier.

Before the official launch celebrating the Solar Training Program, students of Old Colony High School assembled the large section of Field-Fast racking on the school’s campus with supervision by John Reed, Manager of Engineering for OMCO Solar. The racking and modules they built will be used throughout the year to educate and train students enrolled in the upcoming solar program at Old Colony High School.

“OMCO Solar believes the availability of solar curriculum at the vocational level is vital,” said Eric Goodwin, Director of Business Development for OMCO Solar. “Aside from donating Field-Fast racks for the Solar Training Program and sharing our industry knowledge with the teaching and administrative staff, OMCO will continue to have an extended partnership with Old Colony to participate in other student programs in the future.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Cypress Creek Renewables opens new solar O&M control center

cypress-control-center-two-men-I

Cypress Creek Renewables opened up a new solar control center in its flagship Research Triangle Park, North Carolina office. The opening of its new control center marks a significant milestone for Cypress Creek as the company expands its operations and maintenance services for third-party customers, operate secure solar sites and maximize production. The company operates 232 utility, distribution and rooftop-scale solar facilities out of the Cypress Creek Control Center (C4), totaling nearly 2 gigawatts in 14 states across the country.

“We are thrilled to announce our Cypress Creek Control Center in our flagship Research Triangle Park office,” said Matthew McGovern, Chief Executive Officer, Cypress Creek. “Operations and maintenance is an important and growing business for the solar industry and for Cypress Creek. We now have the team, infrastructure and technology to deliver exceptional customer service and system performance.”

The C4 is just one of a handful of North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) – Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) compliant control centers in the country operated by a solar-only company. The C4 was designed to meet NERC’s most stringent cyber security and reliability requirements. To meet the new compliance level, Cypress Creek hired 22 people over the past three months.

RELATED: How to optimize performance and profit through O&M monitoring

Services offered by Cypress Creek’s 60-Person Operations and Maintenance team include:

• 24/7/365 Operations. From the C4, operators quickly identify and initiate corrective actions in coordination with our field technicians and operation engineers. Cypress Creek has combined a real-time operations platform provided by PowerFactors with an enterprise SCADA system designed and engineered by Nor-Cal Controls and GridSME.

• Predictive Maintenance. Dedicated engineers and technicians work to optimize daily performance at sites, utilizing aerial thermography and state-of-the-art technology to identify and correct site level anomalies. Cypress Creek’s O&M team has a nationwide network of technicians and engineers capable of maintaining and repairing solar components.

• Vegetation Management. A team of vegetation technicians and managers work to mitigate safety risks while optimizing system performance. Whether the site requires standard grass mowing, pollinator friendly habitats or sheep grazing, Cypress Creek caters to the unique demands of each solar site and region.

— Solar Builder magazine

LG Electronics, Cypress Creek complete large portfolio of solar-plus-storage projects in North Carolina

LG Solar Farm

One of the 12 new utility-scale LG solar farms in North Carolina, developed by LG Electronics with Cypress Creek Renewables. (PRNewsfoto/LG Electronics USA)

LG Electronics joined Cypress Creek Renewables, the nation’s fastest-growing solar farm developer, to celebrate the official opening of one of largest solar-plus-storage installations in the continental United States – an 8.5 megawatt portfolio of utility-scale solar projects, with storage capacity of 12 megawatt hours, in North Carolina.

All told, 21,900 high-performance LG solar panels (395-watt LG NeON 2 72-cell modules) have been installed across a dozen separate solar farms in Columbus and Brunswick counties. LG Electronics provided tax equity financing to the projects in partnership with Cypress Creek.

Cypress Creek acquired the projects from United Renewable Energy, the initial developer of the projects. The power developed on these sites will give the local homes and businesses in the area access to clean and affordable energy. The LG solar panels will charge batteries during off-peak periods. Once the batteries are charged each day, the solar portion of the projects will continue to deliver energy to the grid. During peak load times in the summer and winter, the projects will provide reliable renewable energy using the batteries, and LG solar panels will reduce the utility’s peak power requirements.

RELATED: New guide shows strategies for pairing community solar with storage 

Backed by best-in-class 15-year product and 25-year performance warranties, LG NeON 2 72-cell solar panels are designed to deliver higher efficiency. LG’s flagship panels feature innovative LG Cello technology, which utilizes circular-shaped wires to scatter light for better absorption while reducing the electrical loss and increasing power output and reliability.

“Creating a clean, sustainable future that’s accessible and affordable is central to LG’s goal of providing solutions that match changing needs in our communities, workplaces and homes – including innovative, intelligent solutions for energy conservation, solar energy and energy storage. LG’s involvement in these projects underscores the company’s commitment to providing innovative, market-leading solutions to its partners and customers,” said Tim Distler, head of solar business development, LG Electronics USA.

— Solar Builder magazine