Creative installations: Three solar project designs with aesthetics in mind

With the right customer, a new PV system can be more than just a way to reduce an electric bill and even become an aesthetic calling card. As we prep our Project of the Year issue, we thought we’d share a few of these concepts.

New Hope Community Church

Palomar Solar PV design

Installed in Chula Vista, Calif., this is believed to be the first design of its kind. Palomar Solar came up with the idea to use black on white panels for the design of the cross and black on black panels to frame it. The church was very excited and did not reveal what we were up to too the rest of the congregation including the Pastor until the install was completed. Palomar used LG modules, SolarEdge inverters and Everest mounting systems to complete the job.

Guido & Companies

Freedom Solar Power

Freedom Solar Power recently designed and installed a one-of-a-kind project for Guido & Companies Inc. that uses solar panels to spell out the word “GUIDO” on the building’s rooftop and doubles as creative aerial advertising.

Guido Construction Company and Guido Building Materials Company are located right next to the San Antonio International Airport, so people flying into or out of the airport get a prime view of the company’s large solar panel “billboard.”

The 85-kW project is comprised of 260 SunPower modules, will meet than 60 percent of Guido’s energy needs, and will pay for itself in less than 4.6 years.

There were significant space issues that made installation very technical, according to Freedom Solar’s lead designer Josh Meade. The roof’s tilt changes on the left and right sides of the building, which required two separate arrays on the main part of the rooftop project where the word “GUIDO” appears. Freedom Solar also had to install a third array on the other side of the building to increase the number of panels and reach the desired kilowatt-energy production.

 

The project features 327-watt high-efficiency solar panels SunPower, which are the most efficient available today and unmatched in reliability with an expected useful life of more than 40 years. Freedom Solar is a SunPower Master Dealer, the only company with that distinction in Texas.

The Solar Labyrinth

solar labyrinth

solar labyrinth project

solar labyrinth PV

Solar Labyrinth was commissioned by Dr. Allan Berger of Bright Eyes and Bushy Tails Veterinary Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, and designed and fabricated by Anthony Castronovo. The project was an outgrowth of a 40-kW solar installation on the roof of the building. The goal of the project was to design a creative solar sculpture that would add to the visual presence of solar power at the site while also creative an exciting work of public art. The ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur became a focus of discussion and the Labyrinth form was the resulting physical embodiment of this ancient story. Each of the 14 panels on the interior of the structure have a different animal surrounded by a sine wave pattern to reference the path of the sun. A Minotaur sculpture will eventually be added to the center of the labyrinth to complete the project.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Builder 2017-06-19 16:15:39

Historic funeral business leaps into 21st century with rooftop solar arrays on seven locations

freedom solar installation

Freedom Solar recently installed more than 530 kilowatts of solar power on seven locations of Mission Park Funeral Chapels and Cemeteries, the largest and oldest privately owned funeral company in San Antonio.

Powered by 1,634 high-efficiency solar panels, the new solar projects will offset more than 55 percent of Mission Park’s electricity needs at the seven locations: two mortuaries (Oak Hill and Palm Heights), its corporate office, three funeral chapels and cemeteries (North, South, and Dominion), and its funeral home (Brookehill).

The entire system is expected to pay for itself in less than four and a half years. A generous local utility rebate covered roughly 46 percent of total system costs. Mission Park will also receive the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for 30 percent of the project’s total cost, saving the company a total of 76 percent.

Annually, Mission Park’s solar arrays will produce 778,735 kilowatt-hours of electricity, which will offset more than 547 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents. Because funeral homes operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, electric bills are a large portion of their operating costs. Mission Park’s project features SunPower 327-watt solar panels, which are the most efficient available today, with unmatched reliability and an expected life of more than 40 years. Freedom Solar Power is a SunPower Master Dealer, the only company with that distinction in Texas.

Once the first phase (the initial seven locations) of Mission Park’s solar project has paid for itself, Tips will begin phase two and have Freedom Solar design and install solar arrays on another set of its locations.

Austin Independent School District adds 600 kW rooftop system

PCI Solar is installing a 600 kilowatt portfolio of rooftop solar for Austin Independent School District (AISD), as well as providing classroom instruction to Austin High School engineering students interested in careers in solar. Austin High is one of the AISD schools receiving a solar energy system, and invited PCI to speak with interested students, some of whom have solar on their homes. PCI Solar staff provided an overview of how solar energy works, the economic case for solar, and the various types of careers in solar energy.

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“We were really impressed at the knowledge level of these students regarding energy in general and solar specifically,” said Mark Hilpert with PCI. “They asked good questions and had a knowledge far beyond what I had at their age. If these sorts of kids join our industry, we will be fortunate.”

PCI staff and the students discussed a variety of issues including the differences between ground mount, rooftop and carport solar, and the different market opportunities between residential, commercial, and utility scale solar. An informal poll of the students indicated that at least 25 percent of them were actively considering a career in renewable energy.

PCI is nearing completion on the AISD portfolio, which was won through a public competitive bid process. AISD valued PCI’s experience building solar for other school districts, including Alamo Heights Independent School District in San Antonio, TX and Petaluma City Schools in California.

 

ReVision Energy, Quest Renewables design solar canopy atop Portland, Maine garage

revision parking canopy

ReVision Energy, in partnership with Quest Renewables, recently completed the installation of a 193.63-kW QuadPod solar canopy system atop Portland, Maine’s Fore Street Garage. The system has been producing power since late May. Fore Street Garage is owned by ReVision Energy’s customer, East Brown Cow Management Company.

The installation marks the first commercial solar parking garage canopy in the state of Maine. The solar parking garage canopy on the top level of the Fore Street Garage provides shaded parking and cover from the elements for vehicles and provides clean, local, renewable energy to the Hyatt Place. The 193.63kW solar array consists of 578 individual panels wired to seven grid tied inverters and mounted to an advanced long span solar canopy structure.

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The system was designed by Quest Renewables and features seven of their QuadPod solar canopies. To accommodate the addition of the system atop the parking garage, engineers designed it to integrate into the garage with minimal disruption during construction. 90% of QuadPod’s construction activity, including assembly, wiring and lighting, takes place on the ground. After assembly, wiring and lighting, the solar canopies are lifted by crane for final installation, minimizing overhead work and optimizing worksite safety. Worksites are safer and more efficient with construction crews working on the ground.

The power generated by the system will offset energy used by the garage and the Hyatt Place, also owned by East Brown Cow Management Company. The 578 solar panels atop the system will produce an estimated 232,235 kWh of clean, renewable energy each year for decades to come, offsetting over 23 percentof the hotel’s historical electrical consumption. Over its lifetime, this system will eliminate 7 million pounds of CO2 pollution. The array is grid-tied, and feeds into the utility grid anytime it’s making more energy than is being consumed on site. Solar energy is eligible for a federal tax credit, worth 30% of the total project cost.

How Temple Beth Elohim Wellesley financed solar energy for its synagogue

Temple Beth Elohim, a Wellesley-based Reform congregation, has joined with Solect Energy and PowerOptions of Boston, to install a 37-kW solar energy system on the roof of its synagogue. The solar array is a significant addition to the congregation’s efforts toward
sustainability.

As a nonprofit that is unable to benefit from renewable energy federal and state tax incentives, the Temple faced a number of options for financing and installing the solar array. After comparing rooftop solar opportunities from different vendors, a team of congregants, staff and clergy at Temple Beth Elohim selected Solect’s small systems solar program with PowerOptions.

Under the program, Solect installs, owns, and operates the solar arrays on the Temple’s roof, and sells the power generated under a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) at a fixed rate for a period of 20 years. However, completing the transaction was not as straightforward as in many other towns. Solar generation works differently under municipal utilities than it does in an investor-owned territory with utilities like Eversource and National Grid. Wellesley is one of 41 towns in Massachusetts that purchase power from the electric utility owned by the municipality, in this case, the Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (“WMLP”).

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Massachusetts laws require the utility to be the reseller of power to its customers within the town boundaries. Making the array a reality required a PPA with the WMLP. Under the agreement, the power generated from the array is purchased by the WMLP, who then sells it to the Temple.

“Creating the contractual arrangement with the municipal electric utility requires an understanding of Massachusetts laws and maintaining a focus on value for the customer,” said Kevin Sullivan, Assistant Superintendent for the WMLP. “It required hard work and collaboration from a number of different parties to develop this innovative solution, and I’m thrilled we made it work for the congregation.”

Nexamp Powers Up Community Solar  in Massachusetts

Nexamp logo

Nexamp sent word that it completed a 700-kW facility located in Fitchburg, Mass., that is the first community solar project to serve Unitil customers in Massachusetts and will provide local residents and small businesses with access to the benefits of solar energy for the first time.

Through Nexamp’s innovative Solarize My Bill community solar program, participating Unitil customers, many of whom were previously unable to install solar panels on their own property, are now seeing reduced electricity charges through their subscription to the Fitchburg Solar project. In addition, the neighboring Town of Lunenburg will realize substantial energy cost savings through a long-term agreement to purchase discounted energy credits generated by the project. Together, the Town of Lunenburg and Nexamp’s Solarize My Bill customers are expected to save hundreds of thousands of dollars through their participation in the project.

“Lunenburg has enjoyed a very beneficial relationship with Nexamp,” said Phyllis Luck, Board of Selectman, Town of Lunenburg. “In addition to the Town’s net metering agreement, which is expected to generate over $600,000 in utility cost savings over the next 20 years, Nexamp has extended the partnership to include our Town’s residents, who remain keenly interested in community solar. In fact, Nexamp enrolled nearly 40 Lunenburg households in two weeks’ time to theirSolarize My Bill community solar program and these residents should save over $275,000 in electricity costs over the term of their subscriptions with Nexamp.”

The project is situated on land towards the rear of an active apple orchard in Fitchburg, providing the landowners with a reliable source of ground lease income that will help keep the orchard operational and enable it to offset nearly all of its energy needs from local renewable resources.

Fitchburg Solar is one of 17 community solar facilities that Nexamp has constructed and expects to achieve operations in the coming months.

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— Solar Builder magazine

Solar gives back: Freedom Solar hosting benefit to fundraise for Haiti orphanage project

sunpower freedom solar haitiFreedom Solar Power and ABC Home & Commercial Services are teaming up to bring a 100 percent sustainable off-grid solar system to an orphanage in Haiti that currently does not have electricity.

Freedom Solar will host a benefit on Dec. 15 from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. at Summit Rooftop Lounge, 120 W. 5th St., with live music by Minor Mishap Marching Band, to raise funds for the project. The benefit is free and open to the public, with a suggested $10 donation at the door.

Raleigh Jenkins, president of ABC Home & Commercial Services in Houston, is a founder and board member of A Child’s Hope, the nonprofit that built the orphanage. The goal is to make the orphanage self-sustaining, Jenkins says, and solar power is critical to that mission because there is no electricity available on the mountain where the orphanage is located.

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Project plans

The orphanage’s solar installation will begin in January. Freedom Solar will donate the labor, and SunPower will donate the panels. Proceeds from the benefit will help pay the additional costs of the project, such as international customs and trans-oceanic shipping costs for equipment. Once installed, the 20-kilowatt solar array and battery backup will meet 100 percent of the orphanage’s electricity needs.

“Solar power will allow us to build an aquaponics farm to raise fresh fish and grow nutritious, organic produce. Solar will allow us to refrigerate or freeze that food so it doesn’t spoil and the children have a constant, reliable source of food. Solar will allow us to light our facilities. It’s a life-changer,” says Jenkins.

The charitable partnership comes on the heels of Freedom Solar installing arrays on two of ABC Home and Commercial’s offices: a 50-kilowatt project at the San Antonio office earlier this year, and 147-kilowatts at the Austin headquarters last month. The arrays offset 75 percent of each office’s electricity costs, and the money ABC saves on its bills will help fund the Haiti orphanage.

Bret Biggart, managing director of Freedom Solar, says: “We’re excited to deepen our partnership with ABC Home & Commercial and work together on this meaningful charitable project. Haiti has the world’s largest population living in energy poverty, with more than 7 million people lacking access to electricity.”

Once completed, A Child’s Hope Orphanage will give 320 Haitian children the opportunity to live in a thriving environment that differs sharply from traditional orphanages in the country.

“Most Haitian orphanages are merely designed to keep kids fed and to provide shelter. We’re creating a place where kids can grow, learn, and become productive citizens and leaders of Haiti,” says Jenkins. “We’re overwhelmed with gratitude for Freedom Solar Power. They’re helping us build a sustainable future for lost and abandoned children in Haiti for generations to come. It’s going to change lives.”

For more information or to RSVP to the Haiti orphanage benefit, head here.

— Solar Builder magazine

2016 Editor’s Choice Projects of the Year: Solving space limitations

beardWe say it every year: When it comes to solar projects, we are all winners.

We already announced the winners of our 2016 Project of the Year vote, but we at Solar Builder liked a bunch of the other submissions too. Welcome to the first in our series of Editor’s Choice winners! These are projects that
didn’t garner the most votes from readers but we felt were still pretty darn cool too.

Strictly Pediatrics Surgery Center

Strictly-Pediatrics-2

Comprised of nearly 2,500 solar panels, the 812-kW system designed and installed by Freedom Solar Power includes two solar canopy structures on the parking garages, a roof-mounted solar array on the building and an in-lobby monitoring system that shows the energy savings in real-time. The limited space on the building’s rooftop was covered with panels during phase one, but phase two is where the real innovation took place — Freedom Solar Power designed and installed a custom solar canopy to shade the top floors of the parking garages while providing a significant amount of the building’s energy needs. The solar installation is expected to offset 50 percent of Strictly Pediatrics’ energy needs and generate more than 1.2 million kWh of electricity per year. The solar project will pay for itself in less than seven years. and save Strictly Pediatrics more than $3 million over the next 25 years.

Strictly-Pediatrics-3

 

Location: Austin, Texas

Size: 812 kW

Completed: May 2016

Developer: Freedom Solar Power

Contractor: Freedom Solar Power

Modules: SunPower

Inverters: SMA

Mounting: Schletter (for rails and clamps)


Mashpee Commons

Mashpee-commons

Mashpee Commons is an open-air shopping center that is the physical and social center of the quaint Cape Cod town of Mashpee. SunBug Solar was ultimately selected to carry out the project and was careful to address several key requirements of the client. At Mashpee Commons, where the visitor experience is paramount, SunBug Solar made sure not to impinge on the enjoyment of the guests. The use of heavy equipment was limited; all panels, racking and ballast was lifted onto the roof using cranes in the early morning to avoid interfering with shopping hours. Street trenching and overhead wires were also not allowed. To further complicate the project, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires a formal waiver from the Department of Public Utilities to install more than one net meter on a single parcel of land, so the seven rooftop solar arrays had to be tied into one main Point of Interconnection — without cutting pavement. SunBug Solar decided to use horizontal underground drilling to connect the arrays to the main panel (2,000 ft of underground conduit and wiring). In order to connect inverters on seven separate roofs to a single cluster controller, SunBug Solar installed NanoBeam wireless devices on each roof to wirelessly connect to the local area network.

Mashpee-Commons-3

Location: Mashpee, Mass.

Size: 443 kW

Completed: June 2016

Developer: SunBug Solar

Contractor: SunBug Solar

Modules: SunPower

Inverters: SMA

Mounting: Ecolibrium

— Solar Builder magazine