2016 Editor’s Choice Projects of the Year: Community Spirit

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.

Editor’s Choice: Solving Space Limitations

 Town of Stafford

DJI02581

Challenges: Building this PV system on a rocky, steep terrain required special drillers just to install the piles. Some boulders pulled out were bigger than a pickup truck. Developer Standard Solar did a formal study and used innovative smart inverter capabilities to integrate to the grid according to ES’s requirements. The landfill part of the project was unique in that all electrical wiring/conduit and racking foundations had to remain above grade so as to not penetrate or disturb the cap layer. Standard had to run the inverter output feeders in conduit down a very steep (approximately 40 percent grade) section of the cap in order to reach the equipment pad. Innovation: This is one of the first virtual net metered projects approved in Connecticut, and it offsets 100 percent of the town’s load, making the whole town net zero. It supports mostly schools and other community loads.

Town-of-Stafford-landfill-solarLocation: Stafford, Conn.

Size: 3.45 MW

Developer: Standard Solar

Contractor: Electrical Contractors and Maine Drilling and Blasting

Modules: Hyundai Heavy Industries

Inverters: Chint Power Systems

Mounting: GameChange Solar and DCE Solar


 

Cedar Falls Utilities “Simple Solar” Initiative

IMG_0736

Cedar Falls Utilities (CFU) launched its “Simple Solar” community initiative to meet a growing demand for clean energy, while offering flexibility around participation in the project. CFU gave its customers the opportunity to pre-subscribe for the solar energy by making an upfront payment. These payments gave customers access to a portion of the energy that the array will produce — an amount by which their energy bills will be reduced — and the more customers who participated, the lower their cost to participate. This approach proved demand and interest among customers, drove the size of array built and created a mechanism where a customer could apply their energy savings to another home if they decide to move. Interest drove the solar unit price from $399 to $270. This became the largest community solar project in the state.

Location: Cedar Falls, Iowa

Size: 1.987 MW

Developer: RER Energy

Contractor: SunLink PowerCare

Modules: Hanwha

Inverters: Yaskawa-Solectria

Mounting: SunLink

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Top 6 solar projects and transactions of the week (Sept. 26 – Sept. 30)

PG&EPacific Ethanol 5-MW System – largest net-meter project in PG&E territory, largest PACE transaction

Pacific Ethanol, a leading producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels in the United States, is installing a 5 MW solar PV system designed and built by Borrego Solar Systems at its Madera, Calif., plant.

Through the displacement of more than 30 percent of the grid electricity currently used, the solar PV system is expected to reduce the Madera facility’s annual utility costs by more than $1 million as well as drive premium pricing on the ethanol produced due to improvements in its carbon-intensity score. The system also qualifies for the Energy Investment Tax Credit, further accentuating its attractive investment profile.

“Pacific Ethanol represents the new generation of fuel companies — low carbon fuel production powered by zero carbon energy,” said Chris Otness, Borrego Solar project developer. “This will be one of the largest single-site net metered projects in PG&E territory. Historically, these types of projects were limited to a single megawatt, but given the recent CPUC NEM 2.0 ruling, large energy users are now able to go above that threshold and offset a significantly larger portion of their overall usage. In addition, by financing this project through PACE, Pacific Ethanol is able to retain full ownership of the system from day one and capture the tax incentives afforded to solar system owners.”

Pacific Ethanol financed $10 million of the expected $11 million total investment through the CleanFund SolarPACE program, which provides for immediate positive cash flow and a financing term of 20 years.

CleanFund provides capital for projects using Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), a financing framework adopted in 33 states and the District of Columbia that allows property owners to repay investments for building upgrades and new construction on their property tax bills. The Pacific Ethanol financing is the largest commercial PACE transaction in the U.S. to date. The improvement also represents the largest solar PV system (based on power generating capacity) to be funded through a PACE program.

RELATED: PACE financing updates: California to create uniform disclosures, Renovate America completes $320M securitization 

 

SoCore Energy grabs equity interest in 22 community solar projects left by SunEdison

dickinson minnesota solar project

SoCore Energy, a leading developer and operator of commercial and distributed solar generation and a subsidiary of Edison International, agreed to acquire equity interests in 22 community solar garden development projects in Minnesota as part of the SunEdison bankruptcy proceedings, subject to certain conditions. The acquisition of these equity interests was approved today with an order from the US Bankruptcy Court in New York, for a total price of up to $79.8 million if all projects are completed.

Once constructed, these projects will provide up to 140 MW of solar generated power to meet the growing demand for renewable energy in the state. SoCore has existing solar installations in Minnesota focused on the needs of commercial customers and is developing several other solar projects to serve those customers, as well as electric cooperatives in the state.

These new projects acquired from SunEdison will form an integral part of SoCore’s expanding portfolio, with several projects commencing construction as early as the fourth quarter of 2016. SoCore is targeting completion of all project development and construction in 2017 using third-party tax equity and debt financing.

RELATED: Community Solar Legal Primer: From project structure to consumer protection 

canadian-solar-logo

Canadian Solar takes on 100 MW AC in California via PPA

Canadian Solar Inc. announced a 15-year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) for 100 MWac of solar power in California with MCE, California’s first operating Community Choice Aggregation program.

Power from the Recurrent Energy-developed Tranquillity 8 solar project, located in Fresno County, California, will supply MCE with 100 MWac of clean solar electricity, which is sufficient to power 48,300 homes. Construction of the project is expected to begin in 2017 and the project will begin providing power to MCE by late 2018.

“We’re proud to be working with Recurrent Energy to grow California’s solar industry, helping to power economic strength, job creation and tackle climate change by transitioning our communities to clean energy,” said Dawn Weisz, CEO of MCE.

“This contract award further expands our contracted pipeline in the U.S. and marks the third and largest PPA between Recurrent Energy and MCE,” said Dr. Shawn Qu, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Solar. “MCE’s continued leadership in procuring renewable energy is to be commended. We are pleased to have the opportunity to continue delivering reliable, cost-competitive solar power to MCE and their customers.”

RELATED: California regulators say they deny all legal challenges to their net metering rules 

 

Wolverine Power solar projectGeneration cooperative installing its own solar array

Spartan Renewable Energy, a member-owner in the Wolverine Power Cooperative, will commence construction this fall on a 1.2-MW solar array in Cadillac, Mich., across from Wolverine’s headquarters facility. Wolverine will purchase 100% percent of the output from the project – the largest in Northern Michigan, for the benefit of its member-owners.

“SpartanSolar represents our ongoing commitment to Michigan renewable generation – built in Michigan, with Michigan labor, and Michigan panels and equipment,” said Eric Baker, Wolverine’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “Wolverine continues to add clean energy resources to power our members’ future. We will take our first step into solar with SpartanSolar and intend to add more solar power in the months ahead,” said Baker.

“Wolverine’s members committed to far exceed Michigan’s Renewable Portfolio Standard and, in the past few years, have become Michigan’s renewable energy leaders – we will nearly double the statutory requirement this year,” said Joseph Baumann, a Wolverine Vice President. “Much of this excess has been achieved through large-scale wind projects and solar power will now play a key role in further diversifying Wolverine’s environmentally friendly power supply mix,” concluded Baumann.

Wolverine is a generation and transmission cooperative serving the wholesale power supply and transmission needs of seven member-owners: Cherryland Electric Cooperative (Grawn); Great Lakes Energy (Boyne City); HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative (Portland); Midwest Energy Cooperative (Cassopolis); Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op (Onaway); Spartan Renewable Energy (Cadillac); and Wolverine Power Marketing Cooperative (Cadillac).

RELATED: Consumers Energy finishes second solar power plant at a Michigan university 

 

WGL Energy solar MassachusettsFormer-Army-base-turned-mixed-use development adds a solar array

MassDevelopment, the state of Massachusetts’ finance and development authority, is redeveloping Devens – a former U.S. Army base – into a mixed-use community. As part of that, WGL Energy Systems completed a 3.2-MW solar facility — a 4,400-acre community in north-central Massachusetts. The system consists of 10,488 rooftop solar panels installed on top of two buildings in Devens.

WGL Energy, with more than 205 MW DC of distributed solar power capacity operational or under contract in 19 states across the U.S., owns and operates the facility and will sell power to the Devens community under a 24-year power purchase agreement (PPA).

WGL Energy operates 13 solar projects throughout Massachusetts, with a combined capacity of over 24 MW DC. Sol Systems developed the project and managed the engineering, construction and procurement of equipment for the project’s two solar facilities.

The solar facilities are expected to produce more than 30,000 megawatt hours (MWh) per year of electricity, which avoids more than 21,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, the equivalent to the amount emitted by more than 4,450 cars or the electric power used by more than 2,200 homes in one year.

RELATED: Load Warriors: Experts discuss rooftop ballast installation best practices 

 

PCI SolarAmeriPride project in Texas coming together thanks to rebates

Minnesota-based AmeriPride, a national uniform rental and linen supply company, has chosen PCI Solar to install a solar energy system at its Odessa, Texas plant. This is AmeriPride’s second solar energy project, following a rooftop installation at its Worsester, Massachusetts site. The solar projects are part of AmeriPride’s broader environmental commitment, recognized by being one the first commercial laundries worldwide to earn the industry’s ‘Clean Green’ certification, signifying that its production facilities meet the highest international standard for water efficiency, energy conservation and adopting best practices for reusing, reclaiming and recycling resources.

The rooftop solar energy system, composed of Hanwha Q Cells 335-watt panels and Fronius inverters, will offset approximately 15 percent of AmeriPride’s energy use at its Odessa site. To overcome a somewhat complicated interconnection, PCI Solar worked closely with AmeriPride officials to ensure that the proposed design solution was compatible with AmeriPride’s ongoing business operations at the facility.

To help the project make economic sense, PCI Solar leveraged Oncor’s cash rebate for solar energy projects. The rebate program, which will continue in 2017 at rates to be determined, will provide $0.85/Watt towards the cost of the system. When combined with federal tax credits, the project offered a compelling ROI to AmeriPride.

Austin’s PCI Solar has helped Texas companies leverage the Oncor rebate to obtain significant savings on their energy bills. Customers ranging from manufacturers like Athena Manufacturing in Austin to Holt Cat dealerships in Cleburne and Fort Worth have chosen PCI to be their solar provider. These companies chose PCI to help them go solar due to compelling project economics and PCI’s local presence and experience building projects in Oncor territory. These companies have been able to pair the Oncor rebate with the 30% Federal investment tax credit and other tax benefits to reap significant return on their solar investment.

— Solar Builder magazine

WATCH: PCI Solar constructs carport in Woodland, Calif.

PCI Solar carport

PCI Solar completed a solar carport array for the City of Woodland, Calif. The solar project, part of a 2.5-MW portfolio that PCI Solar is building for Woodland, was part of an RFP hosted by Terra Verde Renewable Partners.

The system will help power the City of Woodland’s police headquarters. The carport is unique because it spans the entire parking lot, using an East/West racking design to maximize usable space and shade for the parking lot. The array consists of 1,462 Hanwha Q Cells 310 watt modules, SolarEdge and Solectria inverters and AlsoEnergy monitoring. SolarEdge inverters were used to minimize the shading effects of a cell phone tower in the parking lot.

And here is its full construction in a one-minute video:

City of Woodland Meter Police Station Solar build, timelapse from David Ezrailson on Vimeo.

Commissioning is scheduled next month, and once online, the system will provide clean solar energy for at least 25 years. The project is expected to generate approximately 636,012 kwh per year.

PCI Solar has constructed multiple solar arrays for cities across the western United States, including Bizbee and Douglas in Arizona and Bishop in Callifornia, . Solar energy’s extremely low water use compared to conventional energy generation also provides a compelling rationale to go solar in an arid, water-constrained environment.

For more about PCI Solar, visit their website.

— Solar Builder magazine