Solar canopy installed in just five days, ready for upcoming Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

Quest Renewables

Quest Renewables solar canopy can be assembled at ground level.

Interconnection Systems, Inc. (ISI), in partnership with Quest Renewables, completed the installation of a 54.6-kW QuadPod solar canopy system at the Harley-Davidson Rally Point Plaza in Sturgis SD in just five days in June. The plaza is used as a central gathering place during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and for numerous public events during the year. The power generated by the system will offset energy used by the building that houses the Sturgis Public Library and City Hall.

Liz Wunderlich, P.E., City Engineer for Sturgis, had this to say about the construction and the system, “The Harley-Davidson Rally Point is an extremely important public space for the City of Sturgis. Both Quest and ISI did a marvelous job incorporating the new black powder coated canopy into the aesthetic aspect of the Plaza, and were respectful of property, events and of residents. Construction even took a break while the city had a parade going by during fabrication. I am definitely pleased with ISI, Quest and the finished canopy.”

RELATED: Solar carport developers find low-cost opportunity despite the tariffs

The 54.6-kW system features the QuadPod double cantilever system from Quest Renewables. 90% of QuadPod’s construction takes place on the ground, making construction three times faster. After on-the-ground assembly, panel placement, inverter mounting, wiring and lighting, the canopy units are lifted by crane for final attachment, minimizing overhead work and optimizing worksite safety.

Nate Conaway, Project Manager of Interconnection Systems, said of the solar industry, “[It] now employs more people than the oil industry.” He also said, “[The solar industry] is an industry that’s not going to go away.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Nuance Energy awarded contract for 6-MW in solar from LA Department of Water and Power

nuance energy

Nuance Energy, manufacturer of the patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform and developer of distributed generation solar projects, was awarded a contract with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for ground mount solar arrays to be deployed at LADWP facilities. The contract was awarded after a competitive bidding process that attracted interest from dozens of vendors. Here’s a full case study.

LADWP supplies more than 26 million Megawatt-hours of electricity annually to 1.4 million homes and businesses throughout the City of Los Angeles. Like all electric utilities in California, the agency must meet the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) required by state law and the California Energy Commission. LADWP is well ahead of the mandated RPS targets with its own, more aggressive targets of 33 percent by 2020, growing to 65 percent by 2036.

Nuance Energy’s Osprey PowerPlatform is a fixed tilt ground mount system. These portable and modular units will be used to deploy solar arrays totaling 50-kW AC of power (or approximately 65-kW DC) in LADWP facilities. The successful vendor would need to be able to supply enough solar units to deploy up to 40 of these 50kW AC solar project sites in the first year. The contract is optionally renewable over the next two years for an additional 80 solar arrays resulting in a total of up to 6MW.

RELATED: We shift you not: A ground-mount solar system without piles

“A major reason Nuance Energy was selected after such a competitive bidding process is the industry-leading ease and low cost of installation afforded by our revolutionary Osprey PowerPlatform,” said Brian C. Boguess, Nuance Energy’s founder and CEO. “The Osprey’s pre-engineered, modular design and innovative earth anchor foundation system make it possible for a three to four-person crew to install up to 50kW (AC) in an eight-hour work day using only handheld power tools, and without any need for a geotechnical report or special inspections.”

“The speed to deploy the Osprey is unmatched in the solar industry,” Boguess added. “Nuance Energy’s modular Osprey PowerPlatform allows the customer to ‘lift and shift’ the renewable energy asset as needed. Osprey PowerPlatform is a proven solar solution that can be used by any electric utility wishing to deploy solar arrays along their rights-of-way.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Expand the growth of community solar with factory-direct systems

community solar

Hands Show Light Bulb Ideas Together Partnership

As of Q1 in 2018, there have been 1,023 MW of community solar projects installed across 26 of the 50 U.S. states, with another 3 GW of expansion projected over the coming years. One of the ways this gets easier is by helping Community Solar projects get off the ground faster, with simple installs and the best rate on factory-direct, BoS systems.

Supporting over 8 GW of utility-scale solar, OMCO is a leading, factory-direct mounting systems manufacturer across the U.S. Being a one-source, cost-effective OEM partner, OMCO Solar is changing the speed and cost of construction for community solar, empowering projects from 500 kW to 2,000 kW or more, with its Field-Fast system. Here’s how.

Simple assembly with fewer components

Most solar mounting structures arrive on-site with hundreds of parts to assemble, sometimes more, depending upon the size of the project. But OMCO Solar has taken this paradigm and solved the problem of time-intensive delivery, staging and set up by pre-assembling all the components for their Field-Fast racking system at the factory. What arrives on site is seven pre-assembled components per rack. No other BoS manufacturer can claim that.

It then takes a team of only two installers to assemble seven Field-Fast racks per hour – that’s nearly one completed mounting system assembled every nine minutes. What’s better is that there is no need for any heavy-lifting equipment and there is zero overhead lifting for the installation team. All assembly happens from the ground-level, including panel installation. The required tools have been consolidated too, so there is minimal gear required to aid construction.

OMCO-AD-DIGITAL-300-X-250-SolarBuilder_FINAL

Every Field-Fast rack comes with set-up training from OMCO Solar engineering and construction leads at one of their national manufacturing facilities. Can’t make it to the factory? That’s OK. OMCO Solar staff will talk you through via video chat to answer any questions and make sure your team understands everything they need to know to execute a surefire, correct install that will pass inspection. OMCO Solar customer service support is also available to customers during the entire lifetime of the system.

Factory-direct costs community solar projects less

Factory-direct, Field-Fast mounting systems reduce in every area that typically inflates racking costs. From reducing on-site labor size, cutting build-time and radically simplifying ease of installation, OMCO Solar costs community solar projects markedly less at every stage of construction. Plus, the Field-Fast mounting system is ISO-certified as a quality product. Fabricated from high-quality U.S. steel, Field-Fast is always at the ready for builds of any size, distributed straight to the project from OMCO’s closest factory for optimized logistics.

OMCO solar community project

Field-Fast is also fully NEC-compliant, UL 2701 ed. 1 certified, wind-tunnel tested and able to withstand a snow load of up to 90 PSF and winds of 180 mph. Plus, Field-Fast is compatible with any framed solar module, including First Solar Series 6 panels.

What about undulating terrain?

Field-Fast has the adjustability an in-field team will need, right out-of-the-box. Complete with pre-stamped slots allowing connections to adjust to changes in grade, without any extra parts or cutting of the rack, Field-Fast is fully adjustable for construction requiring elevation changes.

In summation

• 35% faster builds than average
• Lowest labor cost per watt in the industry
• Featuring OEM-direct material buys and total turnkey installation packages
• OMCO in-house design & engineering team to assist communitysolar projects

The solar engineering and fabrication experts at OMCO have leveraged over 8 GW of utility-scale experience and 60 years of custom roll-form manufacturing skills to develop Field-Fast. With a proven capacity to deliver for projects of any size, OMCO’s dedicated team knows each project front-to-back and provides technical knowledge that can’t be matched throughout construction, beginning on day one.

Get a higher-quality mounting system for less money for your next community solar project, no matter the program structure via on-bill crediting, utility-sponsored, special purpose entity (SPE) model, or the non-profit, buy a brick model.

Join OMCO Solar at Community Solar Power Summit 2018 in Minneapolis, July 18-19 at the Radisson Blu Downtown. Can’t attend the show? Visit OMCOsolar.com to schedule a call with an OMCO Community Solar Specialist today to learn more.

Jen Degtjarewsky is a guest editor for OMCO Solar.

— Solar Builder magazine

Why mass customized solutions win in utility-scale solar

SunLink Tracker

SunLink started designing solar mounting systems in 2004 when the concept of commercial rooftop solar was novel. The first systems were custom designed for the particular application, because everything was new. Needless to say, these first arrays were inordinately expensive by today’s standards, but the success of those installations helped pave the way for a booming distributed energy economy.

Solar, however, is relentlessly cost competitive. Smaller installations can’t absorb the soft cost of custom engineering. At the same time, no two solar projects are the same, which on the surface mandates custom engineering. Mass customization can make customization at scale cost-effective.

What is mass customization?

Legos are a great way to describe mass customization. The Legos are standard, but you can configure the blocks to build whatever you want. Here are a few examples of this approach in working in utility solar:

Take a single-axis tracker. The tracker needs to be engineered for a wide range of environmental conditions and any row length (since string length varies by project and space constraints require partial rows). This could lead to countless combinations of torque tube lengths and thicknesses. In a mass customized solution, a half dozen or so standard torque tubes are configured to meet the unique needs of the project. Limiting the number of parts greatly increases supply chain and engineering efficiency.

Similarly, the number of foundations can be increased to increase load capacity without designing a new part. Cleverly designed module mounting hardware accommodates the most common PV modules with no changes. With TechTrack’s dynamic stabilization feature, SunLink brings an important new tool for efficiently configuring resistance to wind loads. The unique nature of solar sites is designed into products so that manufacturers can respond to opportunities quickly, cost-effectively, and with a fully-vetted solution.

SunLink

Innovative manufacturers are moving beyond traditional racking and into software and services. In doing so the focus shifts from catering to the unique needs of the project to the unique needs of the customer, yet the benefits of mass customization remain.

As an example, SunLink recently launched product packages to complement the mounting systems. What differentiates the product packages is that they integrate hardware, software and services to serve a customer’s specific needs. The TechTrack Standard Package, Cold Weather Package, and Pro Package allow us to standardize solutions for common needs while giving the customer choice in what to pay for.

The product packages are analogous to the options available when buying a car. Paint color, drivetrain, and interior options cater to different customers, but all are built from the base model car.

Mass customization also guides the development of software. Different modules are implemented depending on whether the user is an O&M provider, an EPC or a developer. The best systems are highly flexible with provisions to connect to a wide variety of data monitoring systems, device types, SCADA implementations, etc., because inverters, trackers, storage systems and other intelligent hardware are constantly changing, as are the requirements of the utility and the ISO.

Modern communication protocols are critical to strong yet flexible systems. Modbus, developed in the late ’70s and early ’80s, is still the most common protocol for energy devices and SCADA systems. It should be no surprise, however, that a 30-year-old protocol isn’t up to the task of two-way communication between thousands of modern intelligent devices and numerous software services. Worse still, many software packages have limited ability to communicate with other applications. If you want to look at the performance of a solar portfolio but have several data monitoring systems, you may be forced to print reports from each system and manually input the data into a spreadsheet. This is a failure of technology.

In tech, RESTful APIs enable efficient, flexible communication between devices and services, allowing developers to build applications that leverage other applications. At SunLink, we’ve incorporated this approach by developing VERTEX for remote tracker performance monitoring and O&M benefits to provide bankable data that will unlock new value in the energy industry. An additional value in using a RESTful API enables Vertex as a standalone application, as well as simple integration with other products and services (thereby reducing software product bloat).

Mass customized solutions win in utility solar because they drive down cost while accommodating the needs of the project and customer. The next time you are looking at the design of a solar plant, or anything else for that matter, consider what’s led the products to be standardized, customized or mass-customized.

— Solar Builder magazine

The role of system design, labor in reducing utility-scale solar costs in 2018

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)’s U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark Q1 2017 report, the installed cost of solar fell to record lows last year due to the continuing decline in PV module and inverter prices, higher module efficiency, and lower labor costs. Utility-scale solar system cost alone grabbed headlines as costs fell nearly 30 percent last year. Thanks to the Trump Administration, however, we may see the first cost increase after a nearly seven-year decline in the installed cost of solar due to the new import tariffs placed on solar (30%) and steel (25%) earlier this year.

Price-squeezing is nothing new in the solar industry, but the tariffs are putting additional pressure not only on module pricing but structural costs as well. And with field labor costs also on the rise, especially in states with union labor mandates, there is little to no room for margin growth.

To meet customers’ ongoing efforts to reduce solar project costs, SunLink, a utility-scale solar mounting system and tracker company, is applying innovative engineering design and technology to shift the industry mindset from lowest cost, commodity components to value-add, smart tracker designs that deliver more intelligent energy.

Lessons from tech industry: Engineering efficiency

SunLink President & CEO Michael Maulick saw this opportunity when he took over the helm four years ago. As a long-time technology executive, Maulick was surprised to find the solar industry so fixated on “pounds of steel” as opposed to looking at design innovation as a means to create a better product.

“When we set out to enter the tracker market three years ago, we knew we had to create a more effective product that would not only generate optimal energy production but also be cost-efficient,” said Maulick. “By rethinking a traditional damper and innovating to create the dynamic stabilizer design, we managed to reduce steel in the system by 17 percent, which with today’s steel tariffs, are a huge cost savings to our customers.”

SunLink

Every component in SunLink’s single-axis tracker TechTrack is designed to eliminate inefficiencies and optimize energy production. And when you’re operating in a tariff heavy business environment, shaving time off of hardware and soft costs like installation can contribute towards reducing your overall project costs. In less than two years, SunLink has installed more than 300 MW of trackers with customers responding positively to the company’s dynamic design approach for increased responsiveness in various environmental conditions, improving durability and reliability in the field. That approach has increased SunLink’s project range, from projects with higher wind conditions to projects with higher snow loads without increasing the steel requirement.

SunLink’s latest tracker enhancements are aimed at reducing field labor and installation costs.

“We improved our pivot design to provide enough room in the stabilizer stroke so that the system no longer needs to be rotated to complete installation. Instead, the stabilizer mount position can be set from a measurement, saving substantial installation time,” said Kate Trono, senior vice president of product. “The pivot and bearing arrive onsite pre-assembled, enabling immediate installation, saving valuable time in avoiding additional assembly of multiple parts in the field.”

An additional design benefit of the improved pivot is the drop-in torque tubes feature, which eliminates the requirement for specialized jack equipment or a larger crew to hold the tubes in place. According to Trono, with improved durability of the pivot and bearing, the tracker components can also better withstand the rigors of construction crew handling on a project site.

Another key reduction in installation time came from revisiting the slew arm design. A more streamlined design has eliminated the need for multiple or expensive custom tools and install kits that can sometimes add another $10,000 to a project. The redesigned slew arm can be installed with standard tools, reducing the number of components, labor time and additional expenses.

Feature enhancements like these may seem like small improvements, but the payoff is big when you consider the reduction in labor, installation time and overall solar project costs.

— Solar Builder magazine