SunPower constructs 4.8-MW carport on two California campuses

sunpower helix carport

California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and SunPower Corp. (Nasdaq: SPWR) are constructing a 4.8-megawatt SunPower Helix Carport solar power system at two university parking areas. CSULB will purchase the solar power generated by the system under a power purchase agreement that offers competitive rates, enabling the university to offset approximately 15 percent of campus electrical load with clean, renewable solar power.

The SunPower Helix platform is a fully-integrated solar solution for commercial customers. Available for installation as a carport, on the roof, or as a ground-mounted technology, Helix is a pre-engineered, modular solution designed to deliver more energy and greater reliability than conventional solar products. The elegant design of the Helix carport can also enhance the aesthetics on campus. Since launching the product late last year, SunPower has contracted a total of 40 megawatts of Helix Carport to deliver to customers in the commercial and public sectors.

In addition to generating power, the solar carports at CSULB will provide to the campus community needed shade and electric vehicle chargers with the capacity to charge 50 cars. All of the systems are expected to be operational by the end of next year. CSULB will own the renewable energy credits associated with the systems.

RELATED: Solar carports will spread across the country as costs decline 

SunPower estimates that one year of solar energy produced by the CSULB system, once it is operational, could power more than 2,200 electric vehicles for 30 years. According to estimates provided by the Solar Energy Industries Association, the annual power production of the system will be equivalent to the power required by 1,200 average California homes.

CSULB has three operating solar power systems on campus today, but this new SunPower project will be the largest solar power system on campus and within the 23 campus CSU system to date.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the university’s Sustainability Task Force oversees a range of activities to reduce campus environmental impact, including energy efficiency, water conservation, sustainable food service, and waste reduction and recycling.

— Solar Builder magazine

How SunPower’s Helix Platform takes aim at commercial sector

Dual_SunPower_FI_02-25-15

There are two big “I” words for the solar industry in 2016: investment and integration. This could be especially important for commercial projects. Achieving a real widespread influx of commercial solar installations — from large companies, small companies and everyone in between — will likely require some new solutions and services from the industry.

One of these fancy new integrated solutions is the Helix platform just launched by SunPower. We chatted with Matt Mayberry, senior manager, commercial products, to understand more about the system’s capabilities.

For starters, the Helix platform is a fully integrated commercial solar solution that combines solar power production and energy management. Every component of Helix is engineered by SunPower, with a focus on optimization, cost-efficiency and reliability. Outside of what SunPower has created, the inverters are provided by SMA, under a proprietary SKU that is only available to SunPower, and the energy management system was co-developed with EnerNOC.

Helix is a pre-engineered, modular solution that is built to last and fast to install, enabling customers to scale their solar programs quickly with minimal business disruption. The Helix platform is standardized across rooftop, ground and carport (more on that below) installations.

“The most difficult challenge was creating a standardized platform while still enabling adaptability to meet varying customer and site requirements,” Mayberry says. “The solution to this problem was ‘pragmatic standardization’ which we achieved by focusing on modular elements of the system that could be configured together to achieve almost infinitesimal combinations. This enabled repeatable efficiency while also creating a highly adaptable system that can be tailored to a customer’s specific energy objectives.”

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System Breakdown

Panels. SunPower says its solar panels can produce 60 percent more energy from the same space over the first 25 years than conventional panels and are the only solar panels that have the Cradle-to-Cradle Certified Silver designation. But part of the efficiency story comes from the optimization of the full system. They are control freaks like that.

Mounting. The mounting hardware, for example, according to Mayberry, enables Helix to achieve 72 percent more energy generated over 25 years when compared with conventional solar power systems. This is primarily due to the combination of the high-efficiency solar panels and the Helix Dual-Tilt roof design, which maximizes roof coverage.

Power station. This is where SunPower removed a lot of cost from the system as well as simplify the install. Basically, the power station is plug and play. It is preconfigured and includes the inverter, AC combiner, eBOS mount, DC branch and AC whips while eliminating the need to strip and land wires on site.

That level of pre-configuring is unusual in the commercial sector.

“Nearly all of the wiring is completed in the factory, reducing labor costs during installation, eliminating wiring errors and enhancing safety. Locating the inverter closely to the AC combiner eliminates the need for a DC combiner, DC disconnect and dedicated AC disconnect, further reducing costs,” Mayberry says. “There’s no need to mount the power station separately as it is an integrated component of the mounting system. No roof penetration is necessary.”

By attaching the power station to the mounting system, the Helix platform complies with NEC 2014 6901.12 Rapid Shutdown requirements, eliminating the need for dedicated components to serve this purpose.

Software. Finally, the Helix platform comes with its own brain, better known as SunPower EnergyLink. This energy intelligence software (EIS) quantifies real-time demand charge savings and identifies demand peaks and savings opportunities.

RELATED: Largest behind-the-meter solar plant on a college campus, via SunPower 

How exactly can Helix save time and cost?

As measured by DNV GL, a global independent energy expert and certification body, the SunPower Helix Roof ST product is installed at more than 33 panels per installer hour. Leading competitive commercial rooftop systems have publicly reported maximum install speeds of 12 to 13 panels per installer hour. Mayberry points to the panel installation and wiring:

• “The Helix platform is designed to cut panel installation time in half, minimizing business disruption and reducing labor costs. Helix Single Tilt can support the installation of up to 20 to 30 panels per installer hour, which is significantly faster than the 12 to 15 panels per installer hour achieved by leading mounting systems on the market today. Both Helix ST and Helix DT support snap in module installation.”

• “Connecting the power station is fast and easy, requiring no manual stripping or landing wires on the roof. Nearly all of the wiring is completed in the factory, reducing labor costs during installation, eliminating wiring errors and enhancing safety. “

Finally, all of those pieces are put together by SunPower, which makes for an attractive holisitic solution for businesses looking to take greater ownership over their energy costs.

“It is well-suited for multifacility companies that want to accelerate growth of their solar programs cost-effectively and drive down costs such as demand charges across all their facilities — those with solar and those without,”

Mayberry says. “Helix is also designed to work for mid-size companies and organizations such as school districts.”

One of the first big names to jump on board with the new platform is Bed Bath and Beyond, which will construct the Helix system on eight stores in early 2016.

“The SunPower Helix Roof product delivers value through innovation, benefiting our commercial customers with an exclusive combination of the most efficient solar panels installed at world record speed,” said Howard Wenger, SunPower president, business units. “For businesses and organizations choosing SunPower Helix systems, installation time that is two and a half times faster means less business disruption and the opportunity to fast track cost savings and sustainability goals.”

SIDEBAR_close-up-parking-canopySunPower builds carport business

In November, at SunPower’s Analyst Day, the company announced the acquisition of leading solar carport supplier Solaire Generation. Solaire and SunPower have been working together since 2010 and have projects together totaling more than 38 MW. Combining the expertise of Solaire and SunPower will greatly improve and accelerate the Helix Carport platform.

Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder.

— Solar Builder magazine

SunPower’s Helix platform: A fully integrated commercial solar power system

Achieving a real widespread influx of commercial solar installations — from large companies, small companies and everyone in between — will likely require some new solutions and services from the industry. To that end, SunPower just launched its Helix platform, a fully-integrated commercial solar solution combining solar power production and energy management.

RELATED: Solar+storage: What’s holding back solar systems with energy storage? 

SunPower Helix system

Helix is a pre-engineered, modular solution that is built to last and fast to install, enabling customers to scale their solar programs quickly with minimal business disruption. The Helix platform is standardized across rooftop, carport and ground installations. Features include:

  • SunPower solar panels that produce 60 percent more energy from the same space over the first 25 years than conventional panels. These are the first and only solar panels in the world to receive the Cradle to Cradle Certified Silver designation.
  • Mounting hardware that maximizes roof coverage, enabling Helix to achieve 72 percent more energy generated over 25 years when compared with conventional solar power systems.
  • Plug-and-play power station. Eliminates the need to strip and land wires on site, reducing labor costs during installation and improving reliability.
  • SunPower EnergyLink is a comprehensive, powerful energy intelligence software (EIS) for solar, which quantifies real time demand charge savings and identifies demand peaks and savings opportunities.

“With standardized Helix components, we have eliminated the inefficiencies and added costs of complex system design,” said Tom Werner, president and CEO of SunPower. “Helix makes the complex simple, allowing our commercial and public agency customers to easily and intelligently manage their energy use and costs and maximize solar power production over the long-term.”

SunpowerBed Bath & Beyond is one of SunPower’s first Helix customers’, with construction expected to begin on systems at eight stores early next year. The major retailer launched its solar program in 2006, and currently generates a total of 17.5 MW from SunPower systems on 26 facilities in four states.

“The cost savings we expect to see with the new SunPower Helix systems, such as plug-and-play power stations that greatly reduce installation time, will enable Bed Bath & Beyond to grow our solar program more quickly, delivering operational savings at more of our facilities,” said Robert Eckhardt, head of architecture and renewables development for Bed Bath & Beyond. “Minimizing the complexities of solar system installation is critical for keeping projects on schedule and meeting return on investment goals. Helix is designed to meet those challenges.”

With more than 20 MW of Helix systems sold to date, SunPower will begin installing Helix early next year.

— Solar Builder magazine