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

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

nuance energy

On the Osprey platform, load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions.

At Intersolar North America 2017, we caught wind of a new fixed tilt ground-mount system developed by Nuance Energy, but at the booth there was no physical system on display. Instead, Founder and CEO Brian C. Boguess handed me VR goggles to look through, which now feels appropriate because it was a glimpse into the future of modular ground-mount solar.

Nuance isn’t trying to play in the cut-throat utility-scale space, where an extra half penny per watt will cause a riot. Instead, the Nuance approach is about nimbly deploying smaller systems much quicker and to the benefit of small- to mid-size contractors and EPCs, increasing their revenue by enabling them to sell more solar quicker and cultivating a more robust, widespread solar industry.

“Where do you find savings? Always in the downstream,” Boguess says. “The upstream value chain has been beating itself up over technology to drive price down but no one paid attention to the downstream value chain.”

It all starts here: Nuance’s Osprey PowerPlatform is a ground-mount system that doesn’t require piles but is strong enough to withstand any load. Instead of piles and foundations, this new system borrows from the super old concept of anchors (5 in.) and cables (stainless steel, 60-in. long) that has been mounting utility poles and holding up retainer walls for a century. Those load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions (Nuance requires 1.5 times the worst case scenario for its design load test) and attached to the racking — a unit of four to six adjustable legs that is fully assembled with PV and wiring at ground-level. And yes, this means the entire system, if needed, can be disengaged and moved. We’ll explore those implications at the end.

With that as our starting point, grab a paddle and let’s head downstream.

Good bye geotech

Geotechnical reports are often done months in advance of the installation so a structural engineer can design the ground-mount system per the requirements of the geotech report. All in, this is a couple thousand dollars and a six- to eight-week process. What if you wanted to perform a geotech investigation in the fall? You might not even get the calculations back until the New Year, at a time when delays are equal to death.

As mentioned, the Osprey’s anchors are pull tested on site with a safety factor of 1.5 the worst case design load. This real-time condition test gives engineers the best knowledge of the soil at that time, eliminating the need for the geotech report ordering, process and price. That is just the start of how using the Osprey saves EPCs time and money.

Nuance Energy

Master of your domain

Larger projects are often the realm of larger companies or require a smaller company to rent equipment and wait for a larger company to deliver it. This is a perfectly fine system, but removing piles and removing the large equipment needed to drive them opens up the market even more for a wider variety of contractors, defragmenting the market.

“The small guy gets beat up over concrete and relying on outsourced teams to drive the product in the ground with heavy equipment they rent or lease, which means the equipment is on that company’s time, not the EPC’s,” Boguess says.

Even in the most efficient outcome from order placement to equipment delivery to pile driving, the mere fact of being on another company’s timeline adds extra time to project development and introduces the possibility of delays. The possibility of the delay has its own subtle chilling effect on a contractor’s project pipeline. If a larger project is delayed because equipment is held up at another site, the contractor’s delicate summer and fall project window will be shattered and accounts payable left in the lurch. A system that is fully installed by the contractor using only hand tools gives full control of scheduling back to the contractor.

“If you can’t control your installation schedule, you can’t control your revenues and accounts receivables,” Boguess says. “For small- to mid-size EPCs, a lot of these guys live project to project. If they can’t control cash flow, they are stuck.”

Obviously a larger company working to please investors with timely commissioning and quicker returns on investment would also benefit from the extra control over scheduling, but the savings go deeper, both in actual cost savings and costs avoided. Large developers have slush funds available to cover for unforeseen obstacles under the ground. For example, a developer putting a project in the ground in Florida has to account for the threat of running into limestone — both accidentally cracking it and then working to avoid it if found. Those threats don’t change the installation of an anchor system, which can go in the ground at any angle and avoid any such obstacles, keeping slush funds put and improving profit margins.

Nuance Energy procures its steel from both U.S. and foreign suppliers. This has not affected its model of packaging Osprey units at its regional warehouses and shipping them out with up to 40 units on a truck. Freight costs can be reduced by up to 60 percent.

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

Labor savings

An all-handtool installation for a 5-MW project might sound laborious, but Boguess has compelling evidence of overall labor savings achieved, in less time, with the Osprey vs. a conventional large-scale ground-mount installation.

“One of our first projects with Brad Thomas, senior director of project management [formerly of NEXTracker], was only a 75-kW job. He had forecast three weeks for the installation. The job was finished in five days. He had overcalculated by two weeks, saving $14,000. That’s 18.6 cents a watt on a 75-kW job.”

With minimal training, any local labor crew can be employed to install the Osprey system. The adjustable legs also reduce the amount of site prep and grading needed.

nuance energy

New market: Lift and Shift

The niche for Nuance thus far has been projects in the 10 kW to 5 MW range, but applications within that range extend beyond the conventional. For starters, Boguess has seen a lot of activity in rural residential and small agriculture in the Midwest, less sexy solar locations like Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

“The smaller customer is anybody ordering one to 10 units from us, and each unit holds 5 to 6 kW,” Boguess says. “Residential contractors have a cash flow business with three to four install teams out on roofs, and initially they are afraid to take on 20-kW ground-mounts because they think it means taking two crews off a roof. But we can keep them on the roof and get 20 kW installed in four hours.”

Boguess even believes they’ve created a completely new (and catchy!) application category for solar called “Lift and Shift,” born from the fact that the Osprey anchors can be disengaged and the complete PV system above ground can be literally lifted as is and shifted to another location. This opens up totally new areas for PV, such as temporary farm land and mining.

“We had the idea of financing modular ground-mount systems with a PPA in the mining industry,” Boguess says. “This is unheard of because how will you finance a mobile microgrid hybrid solution when you want to move the asset every two years? We enable mining operations or those EPCs in this space to mitigate that risk because when that dig doesn’t find what they want after two or three years, they can lift and shift to redeploy the asset, not leaving it stranded. A stranded asset is what is holding up PPAs.”

Underneath power lines is also a brave new world that’s now possible in California. Just recently Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) awarded Nuance Energy 40 50-kWac systems to be installed using the Osprey PowerPlatform.

“Our strategy for keeping costs low is to deploy solar arrays along existing transmission lines, where we already have rights of way, and to handle the installations entirely ourselves with our own crews,” says Francisco Fernandez, the lead electrical engineer in LADWP’s Solar Power Engineering Department. This strategy imposed two special requirements: easy removal when necessary to affect repairs or upgrades to the overhead transmission lines and ease of installation by small crews. “The solution from Nuance Energy met these two requirements.”

With LADWP’s system providing more than 26 million MHh of electricity annually to 1.5 million residential and business customers in the city of Los Angeles’ 472 square miles, the potential for solar energy deployments is substantial.

Added together, the Nuance Energy value proposition is a compelling one, offering several new opportunities for a wide variety of solar contractors and EPCs to grow and solidify their business.

— 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

The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

Big leap for microinverters

APsystems SPI

APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter at SPI in Las Vegas. A groundbreaking design in microinverter technology, the YC600 will offer the highest peak output power, faster transmission speed and more modules allowed per string than comparable microinverters. A wider MPPT voltage range will result in a greater energy harvest for homeowners.

You’ll want to get the full scoop at booth 1745.

Streamlined Shutdown

Fronius

Fronius is launching a new generation of its Rapid Shutdown Box, which the company says will be the most convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 compliance, while enhancing overall rooftop and firefighter safety. The new generation includes two versions: the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and Quattro.
“Based on customer feedback, we implemented many improvements into this new generation of our Rapid Shutdown Box,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management at Fronius USA.

Directly connected to the inverter through the same conduit as the DC homeruns and powered by the array, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of components and eliminates the need for an external power supply. The low-profile design and the multiple mounting options allow for installation underneath the modules, ensuring a clean system look. In addition, the NEMA 4X rating ensures the box is built for severe outdoor conditions. MC4 connectors, spring-loaded terminals and generous wiring space make the wiring a breeze. The Rapid Shutdown Box also acts as a combiner box, removing the need for additional hardware. Booth 3943.

Lightweight, flexible power conversion

Ideal Power

Ideal Power invented a new kind of power conversion architecture that delivers on flexibility, allowing you to enable or disable any features depending on project needs. At SPI, check out its 30-kW Stabiliti Series power converters. These multiport, compact converters are smaller, lighter and dramatically reduce installation costs while increasing return on investment. Ideal Power recently partnered with NEXTracker to implement it in various PV sites throughout North America. Booth 1433.

A top rail clip to rule them all

Heyco solar rail clips

Heyco has been busy this summer, introducing several new clips and wire management accessories for the solar market. Newest to the lineup are the SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U, which are top rail clips for various racking manufacturers such as Unirac, Ironridge, Everest, SnapNRack, Solar Mount and other similar racking profiles. The SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U are suitable for the new Enphase Q Cable. At the booth, you can also enter for a chance to win a Google Home. Booth 4762.

Drive down carport costs

Baja Carports InterSolar 2017 Booth Models

Baja Construction always has a standout booth, and this year its in-house construction team will be installing its signature Baja Solar Support System design, the “Braced Single Post Support,” built with high-tensile light gauge steel to support 24 solar modules (7.8 kW). Included in the structure is an EV Station for the hot red Tesla parked underneath. Meet Baja’s in-house designers, engineers and project managers and also make certain to visit Baja’s sponsored lobby lounge for food and beverages. I’m sure you’re already there. Booth 4155.

Improve your grip strength

Ace Clamp solar mount
AceClamps are factory-assembled clamps with patented design features that allow strong connections to standing-seam roof panels without the use of set screws or any other loose parts that could damage the surface of the roof panel. AceClamp designs have been vibration tested during the development stage and incorporate special locking features to ensure that the bolts do not back out when subjected to vibratory loads from wind flutter and light seismic activity. Booth 809.

OMG Roofing solar mount

OMG Roofing Products has introduced PowerGrip Universal for mounting solar racking systems on commercial roofs. PowerGrip Universal is designed to reduce or eliminate ballast in solar racking systems, so there’s less weight, material handling and labor on the roof. Made of heavy-duty cast aluminum, PowerGrip Universal offers 3,300 lbf of tensile strength, 2,500 lbf of shear strength and 2,000 lbf of compressive strength. It’s one of the strongest anchors on the market. Booth 629.

Solar Connections

The Standing Seam Power Clamp from Solar Connections can attach to virtually any standing seam profile and draws its strength from patent-pending WaveLock Technology with optional two, three and five points of attachment. The top can be custom drilled and tapped to fit any bolt configuration. Offering ease of installation, the Silver Bullet set screws include a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength while also keeping the paint finish and seam free from harm. Additionally, the Standing Seam Power Clamp is available in standard mill finish aluminum material, making it an item you can easily keep in stock when the need arises. Booth 1569.

Reinventing the ground mount

Nuance Energy

Nuance Energy’s patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform could revolutionize ground-mounted solar projects. This earth anchor foundation system satisfies permitting requirements for virtually any site and soil type without the need for geotechnical reports or special inspections. It eliminates the need for heavy equipment or cement by enabling small, unskilled crews to install the entire platform quickly and easily using only handheld tools. Booth 2108.

Meet the 4G platform

Ginlong Solis inverter

Ginlong Technologies is now shipping its Solis 4G Platform. What you can see at SPI this year in booth 2427 is the Solis-1P(2.5-10K)-4G-US single phase string inverters, with high switching frequency; 2, 3 and 4 MPPTs designs; 97.8 percent peak efficiency (97.5 percent CEC); fan-less NEMA 4X / IP65 design, integrated AFCI; web-based and smartphone app monitoring, all under 44 lbs. The Solis 25K-66K-US three phase inverters are designed for all commercial and utility-scale installations with four MPPT designs and ultra-low start up volume that maximizes energy harvest. Booth 2427.

Five trackers to, um, track

SunLink TTD

SunLink’s TechTrack enables efficient load redistribution and allows the system to handle extreme wind with less steel, fewer foundations and lower cost. Now, TechTrack’s intelligent control system also delivers equally responsive control modes for snow, flood and O&M. The result is system level benefits, visible in SunLink’s Vertex data monitoring system. Rigorous testing to UL3703 further reduces permitting risk. Booth 3319.

Soltec

SF7 is the next-generation horizontal single-axis solar PV tracker from Soltec. Soltec says the SF7 enables up to 5 percent greater MW per acre than other trackers and does that with 54 percent fewer piles-per-MW, 15 percent less parts count and 58 percent fewer screw type connections than leading competitors. SF7 standard features include short tracker site-filling options, unique steep-slope tolerance of 17 percent NS, efficient self-powering and innovative cable management solutions for combining, fusing and protecting PV source circuits more economically. Booth 3640.

Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Turnkey Solar Tracker_2017

Solar FlexRack is launching its TDP Tracker with a new BalanceTrac design to increase energy yield and reduce balance of system costs. This TDP 2.0 Solar Tracker with BalanceTrac, optimized for 1,000- and 1,500-V modules, has greater rotational range of up to 120° and enables more modules per row (up to 90). The robust design delivers autonomous tables that increase site flexibility to maximize land use. Booth 2538.

AllEarth Renewable

AllEarth Renewables is showing off its new Gen 4 tracker which will be self-powered, to guard against the grid going down and will have expanded communication options, such as Wi-Fi, cellular and SD card enabled. It will come as a complete, pre-engineered system for easy, efficient shipping. Booth 626.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies is revealing the results of a recent TÜV Rheinland-backed independent report focused on solar tracker reliability. Array’s latest single-axis tracker, the DuraTrack HZ v3, is often touted for its reliability and lower cost of ownership. Array says DuraTrack HZ v3 is proven to be 300x less likely to experience catastrophic failure during wind events than more stow-reliant, single-row competitors. Booth 2919.

Page two has new on big-time collaborations, products for boosting performance, installing on shingles and more.

— Solar Builder magazine

On the Scene: 11 cool things we saw at Intersolar 2017

Another Intersolar has come and gone, but the product innovations, large and small, are here to stay. At least until next Intersolar. If you missed the event, or didn’t have time to see all three floors, here are some products that stood out to us in the exhibit hall.

1. This quick driveline disconnect

Array Technologies Duratrack

Array Technologies is the market leader in central drive solar trackers. Array tries to minimize parts count wherever it can (150 MW of PV only needing 150 components total), and we stopped by the booth to check out some of the handy new tweaks made to its DuraTrack HZ v3. In addition to a built-in above ground wiring component, we thought this quick disconnect driveline was a smart, simple improvement for those who have always wanted a streamlined way to move the driveline for maintenance activities.

2. This simple tile mounting system

Ecofasten simple tile

Ecofasten maybe wins our award for variety of new solutions packed into one booth at Intersolar. Many of these items aren’t fancy – like partnering with Unirac on an install kit (packs of 10) – but as most of the names suggest, they are simple, which is often even better. Like this new (so new it isn’t officially named) Rail-Based Tile System. The flashing itself replaces one complete tile, so no cutting, drilling or grinding there. After the stud and simple seal bushing are fastened to the tile base, place the flashing over, pound it with a hammer to form a hole over the stud and then install the L-foot with a bonded washer and nut.

3. An AC module power couple

LG enphase AC module

Details on this here.

4. The concept of ‘Microstorage’

JLM Energy

JLM Energy launched a new energy storage product category called MicroStorage — a battery pack that couples directly to a corresponding solar panel, as you see here. JLM says the advantage of its Phazr’s microstorage approach is that a single solar panel can concurrently charge a battery and deliver energy to the grid. The simultaneous nature of electron flow is unique to JLM’s patent-pending technology. The Phazr is designed for large scale solar plus storage applications, and is also perfectly suited for smaller residential and commercial installs.

5. A totally new approach to ground-mounts

Nuance Energy

This could be a gamechanger for ground-mount installations. Nuance Energy has a new solution, inspired by an old solution: anchoring. Nuance Energy wants to lessen the amount of steel needed on a site by not driving any into the ground at all. Using the pieces you see above, a hole is drilled, the anchor is driven down 40 inches into the soil and pulled by an uplift device. As the anchor turns and is pulled there is a natural ballasting that occurs using the earth itself. Utility poles are anchored using this strategy. This could drastically save on traditional installation, and even created a new “lift and shift” category, where a portable unit is fixed into place on a drilling or mining site and then removed once the project has ended.

6. This wall-mounted 100-kW inverter

solaredge

The combo EV charger / inverter maybe received the most buzz on the floor, but we gravitated to its new wall-mounted 100 kW inverter. Yes, a wall-mounted 100 kW inverter. This prewired three box setup looks like (and installs like) three string inverters, but is commissioned as one inverter. Installing 1 MW in half a day is a possibility.

7. The wire management on this tracker

SF7 Soltec Bluxome party

Soltec made a splash at Intersolar this year as it tries to do more business here in the U.S. There is a lot to like about their product, like the amount of panels you can mount in one row (which makes for a more energy dense field), but it was the little things that stood out most. Specifically how the wire management of the system is housed inside the torque tube.

8. The potential of this smart home device for solar installers

smappee solar storage

I have no live photo of this (it was the afternoon of Day 3 and I forgot — give me a break, already.) but the Smappee is the coolest thing we saw the entire week. Attach it to the cable coming into the house, and the Smappee will listen to everything – what’s turning on and off, how much standby power there is, how much PV is being generated, and on and on. This gives homeowners much deeper (and easy to follow) insight into their home energy consumption and, at the same time, provides solar installers another touch point for customer follow ups and service. The low price point (under $400) makes it potentially an easy first foot in the door. Right off the bat, a homeowner is likely to save 12 percent on their utility bill, just through awareness and optimization tips from the app. From there savings could approach 45 percent.

9. This stepped-up decentralized tracker

solar flexrack tracker turnkey

Solar FlexRack launched its TDP Turnkey Tracker about this time last year. The update for this year is a newer, longer single row tracker (90 modules with 2 to 4 more posts), adjusted by a larger motor that will open up larger, utility-scale projects. The torque tube is offset to achieve better balance. The attention to detail is big for Solar FlexRack, which is why “turnkey” is built into this product’s name – its slew of engineers are involved in their installations to avoid adding their company name to the list of growing tracker system failures out in the field.

10. This tripod tile mount

Sun Modo tile

Sun Modo tripod

The last few years has seen a flood of great tile roof mount solutions enter the market. The TopTile Mount that SunModo debuted at Intersolar is an entirely above-the-tile system – no need to deconstruct the tile roof. The tripod mounting stanchion can be mounted on a tile ridge independent of rafter position. This could cut your install time in half, compared to a more conventional approach.

11. Smart surge software

Tabuchi Americas

Now with a two-battery system setup, Tabuchi Americas continues to improve upon its solar+storage system (now more than 20,000 installs worldwide). Thanks to an integrated transfer switch, everything needed to get a PV + storage system up and running is included in the package, which means at least $1,000 soft cost savings over an unbundled system. In fact, this is one of the first UL 9540 certified systems – the certification specifically for solar + storage systems. Updates to the system’s intelligence has also improved its defenses against power surges from things like water pumps.

— Solar Builder magazine