SB Buzz Podcast: Discussing rail-less mounting with Ecolibrium Solar


We ventured out to Boulder, Colo., to discuss rail-less solar mounting with Chris Berg and Jonah Coles of Ecolibrium Solar. Because it is Colorado, the Ecolibrium office was located like 50 feet from a brewery, Asher Brewing Co., so that seemed like a good place to chat.

Click to listen (and subscribe!) below. Here’s what to look for in the discussion:

First minute: Beer selection.

2-min mark: Ecolibrium has a streamlined process for testing UL 2703 compliance because it is a certified partner lab of TÜV Rheinland Group. Chris explains how having this testing in-house adds to its product development.

4-min: We discuss the acceptance level of rail-less mounting in the market right now, and why, in Jonah’s view, it will only gain more ground as more installers get trained on these systems.

“Installers might not like it in the first week; they will come around in week two, and by the end of the month they won’t want to go back,” Jonah says. Then explains what hurdles need to be overcome in that first month and what advantages that can be gained, both on site and by doing more jobs overall.

10-min: Jonah dives into what he sees as myths about rail-less racking. One of them being that rail-less is only good if you have a perfect rectangle.

“I feel it’s the exact opposite. I installed rail for years before I came to Ecolibrium and was introduced here to rail-les, and if I have a couple of offset rows of panels [with rail] I have to square up that rail every time I have a new offset panel. But the panel is square, so if you don’t have a rail and you’re dropping a panel in, as long as you’ve placed your mounts where the panel is going to cover … there isn’t any squaring to do.”

14-min: We discuss the challenges and new considerations that exist with rail-less mounting. Plus, what should you look for when procuring a rail-less system?

18:50: We decided whether to stop the podcast and eat lunch or keep going.

19:01: We keep going.

19:08: What more can we expect to see in terms of rooftop solar product development, both residential and commercial – and how these developments can continue to grow the solar contractor market.

27-min: Examples they’ve seen (or things they would like to see) to keep removing soft costs from the installation process.

— Solar Builder magazine

OMCO Solar expands: New hires to drive expansion of fixed-tilt racking system, project management


OMCO Solar, a division of OMCO Holdings, announced a significant expansion to their solar product offerings and construction leadership teams, bringing years of solar experience to support the launch of their exclusive, Field-Fast fixed-tilt racking solution.

Chosen as Director of Solar Product Engineering, Matt Kesler will oversee all current and future solar engineering and design operations. With a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics from the University of Illinois, Kesler began his career with Motorola Semiconductor and its solar venture, Sunvolt, specializing in solid state physics where he developed proprietary photovoltaic cell technology and testing equipment.

Kesler went on to engineering advancements in medical electronics, where he developed countless patented products, one of which was selected as Product of the Year, by Electronic Products magazine. Returning to the solar industry, he was sought after by leading solar companies as a consultant and as the CEO of a tracker start-up prior to joining OMCO Solar.

Filling another key position, Michael Baker has been announced as OMCO Solar’s Director of Construction Services. With more than 15 years of large-scale solar construction project management, Baker’s affinity for utility scale solar construction requirements and his unique ability to consistently deliver results on large-scale solar projects with compressed schedules made him the obvious choice for OMCO Solar.

Baker brings years of solar project and construction experience from his history of working with industry leaders such as groSolar, AES Distributed Energy, and RES Americas. Baker’s proven experience in leadership roles will guide his decisions when implementing future construction services and strategies to support OMCO’s turnkey offerings.

OMCO Solar Field-Fast fixed-tilt racking

Mounting Pressure: Today’s large-scale PV boom demands new levels of service from racking companies

The OMCO Solar Field-Fast fixed-tilt racking system is simple, safe and quick to deploy. This solar mounting system requires fewer structural components, nearly eliminating loose hardware in the field. OMCO Solar can provide the Field-Fast structures from any of their four, U.S. manufacturing facilities, making this system truly direct from the manufacturer. With over 10 years of solar design and manufacturing experience in the utility sector, launching a proprietary solar mounting system was the logical next step.

“OMCO Solar has adapted proprietary optimal solutions driving from 10 years and 7.5 GW of utility solar experience to create a highly optimized and efficient racking solution. I am proud to have Matt and Michael on the OMCO team as we continue to enhance our offerings to the solar industry,” said Todd Owen, Director and General Manager of OMCO Solar.

OMCO pledges additional information about their growing product offerings, new project announcements, and official partnerships in Q1 of 2018.

— Solar Builder magazine

Soltec shows 200 percent growth in 2017, ranks third globally in solar trackers

Soltec PV plant in Mexico

Soltec, a manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers and related services, has installed its trackers all over the globe for more than a decade now but the company says 2017 was its best year so far, showing over 200 percent revenue growth.

The strategic move to the United States in 2015 has consolidated with additional market share in 2017, amid market uncertainties and strong competition. Four power plants across the U. S. feature Soltec’s tracking equipment, totaling 229 MW. Soltec enjoys strong momentum as a large-scale supplier going into the ITC build-out through 2020.

In parallel, Soltec’s leadership in Brazil skyrocketed in 2017 with supply contracts totaling 517 MW. Local product content played an important role in this achievement, thanks to Soltec investments in local people and manufacturing facilities that benefit both the customer project and the local economy.

“Providing high-grade customer experience and results with innovative factory approaches and cost-effective standard product application has proven a success, and has pushed Soltec to the leading position,” said Carlos Mena, Country Manager Brazil.

With these figures, Soltec is ranked by analysts in third-place of the global PV tracker estimated supply market in 2017, rising from sixth-place in 2016, and ranking as the number one European tracker supplier in 2017. These achievements exhibit the result of Soltec investments in 2016 to increase manufacturing capacity to 2.5 GW per year and to prepare for large-scale project supply challenges.

According to CEO of Soltec Raúl Morales, “repeating customers rely on us as project partners due to our ability to meet schedule, cost, and quality criteria. Our record-breaking growth is testament to the dedication of Soltec’s global team focused on large-scale supply capacity, cost-effective innovation, and technical leadership.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Nuance Energy installs 530-kW system at Flag City RV Resort thanks to unique anchor ground-mount

Nuance Energy, manufacturer of the patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform and developer of distributed generation solar projects through its Central Valley California AgWell Solar division, has installed 530 kW of solar power at the Flag City RV Resort in central California. Nuance Energy handled the installation directly owing to the project’s complexity, which involved rooftop, carport and ground mount solar arrays, as well as both state and local permitting requirements.

“Flag City RV Resort is proud of our highly efficient solar initiative, which reflects both our financial responsibility and environmental stewardship,” said Ricky Gill, the resort’s co-owner. “As one of the top-rated RV resorts in the U.S., we strive for excellence and believe this is a project our peers will seek to emulate. Thanks to our close partnership with Nuance Energy, we successfully completed this project that involved several challenges and multiple jurisdictions.”

Site challenges

Among the challenges were the undocumented underground services, the site’s 15-degree slope, and the constant traffic in and out of the resort. The Osprey PowerPlatform’s use of Nuance Energy’s innovative earth anchor foundation system easily overcame all three of these challenges based on its minimal ground penetration, adjustable anchor stands and the lack of need for any heavy equipment, including pile drivers, screw augers, backhoes or cement trucks.

Additional value

The installation was “green” for another reason, as it enabled Flag City to switch to a more favorable rate from the local utility, which eliminated the high demand charges with the previous rate. Those savings, combined with the daily offset of energy needed from the grid and tax considerations, result in an estimated payback in the fourth year of operation.

“Continued reductions in the cost of solar modules and inverters have made the business case for solar energy far more compelling for virtually all businesses,” said Brian C. Boguess, Nuance Energy’s co-founder and CEO. “Nuance Energy is making solar energy even more viable and affordable with the use of an earth anchor foundation system and related innovations that together provide the industry’s lowest installation cost for ground mount projects, including those like Flag City’s that present difficult challenges.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Case study: Prepping solar tracker systems in advance of a hurricane

Flood clearance_Virginia_Hurricane Matthew Oct2016_2 - Copy

When the U.S. government declared a state of emergency in advance of Hurricane Irma’s arrival on Sept. 8, we knew what was at stake for the 33 NEXTracker solar projects (or 24,000 tracker rows) that would be affected by the impending high winds and flood waters. Although our experience with the destructive winds and torrential rains of Hurricane Matthew in 2016 gave us full confidence that our systems would stand up to Irma’s fury, our NX services team nevertheless sprang into action to ensure our customers were fully prepared.

Monitoring Irma’s strength and direction, the NEXTracker services team contacted all our affected customers in the projected path of the storm in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. One of those customers, GroSolar, had installed approximately 50 MW of NEXTracker NX Horizon systems, some of which were likely to be impacted by Irma. Tom Lyman, GroSolar’s director of project management, was apprehensive. There was good reason for his concern. From a technical standpoint, unlike thunderstorms or synoptic winds, hurricanes are large, cyclonic events subject to radical changes in wind direction and speed, depending on the location and trajectory of the storm.

For GroSolar and the other customers in Irma’s path, we leveraged our Digital O&M remote monitoring and control capabilities to ensure that each of several thousand tracker rows were appropriately buttoned down for the storm. Thanks to inclinometers on every tracker row, NEXTracker was able to remotely confirm that each tracker had been stowed to the safest angular position ahead of the brunt of the storm. We also placed local field service teams on high standby alert to be ready for any contingencies.

Details on new solar fixed tilt, tracker Pro packages from SunLink

With the trackers secured against wind, attention turned toward potential flood impacts. NEXTracker systems are inherently optimized for flood conditions, with all drive and control components located high above ground level. “Once we visually confirmed that all was secure, and electricals were out of possible flood zones, I felt much better,” Tom told me later. “With the proper positioning of the trackers and the ongoing attention from the NEXTracker service team, we weathered the storm with no damage to those systems whatsoever.”

Once the storm passed and the grid came back online, the GroSolar solar farms quickly resumed power generation. Our team at NEXTracker’s Remote Operations Center (ROC) verified that all trackers had returned to their normal operating mode with no damage or performance issues, and concluded that no service personnel needed to be dispatched to perform visual inspections at the sites.

In Irma’s case, there was less flooding, but had there been, we were confident in NX Horizon’s survival, as our affected systems came through 2016’s Hurricane Matthew with zero damage. With Matthew, the NEXTracker sites in Virginia and North Carolina were unharmed by the high winds, and none of the drive and electrical components came into contact with rising waters due to the aforementioned ground clearance.

Marty Rogers is SVP of Asset Management and Global Services with NEXTracker. This was originally posted on the NEXTracker blog.

— Solar Builder magazine