Three solar trackers (22-kW) installed at California elementary school

AllEarth Renewables trackers

AllEarth Solar Trackers are producing power with three 7.3 kW solar array trackers for Grenada Elementary.

Three state-of-the-art American made solar trackers are now powering the Grenada Elementary School in Grenada, Calif., thanks to Sharpe Energy Solutions, based in Ashland, Ore. Sharpe is an engineering, procurement, and project management firm that has performed more than 140 energy audits for schools in the Oregon and Northern California area in the last few years to procure state funding for energy efficiency and renewable energy project.

This particular 22-kW solar project is net metered to offset the electrical bills of Grenada Elementary, which educates approximately 180 students from kindergarten to 8th grade in northern California.
Sharpe Energy Solutions, an engineering, procurement, and construction management company, procured the financing for the installations from California’s Proposition 39 program, which is a jobs creation program that provides all California schools with resources for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

RELATED: PV in schools: Education sector is one of solar’s best opportunities 

The newly installed project utilized American-made AllEarth Solar Trackers, which track the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production. The ground-mounted pre-engineered solar trackers are designed for residential and commercial-scale installations and are manufactured in Williston, Vt. by AllEarth Renewables.

The AllEarth Trackers produce approximately 40 percent more energy than equivalently sized fixed-mount systems for this location. Here is a feature we wrote on the product and its benefits for both installer and customer.

“We are excited to be utilizing AllEarth’s technology to help rural schools move their energy systems into the future, and proud to be empowering school communities to operate their own renewable energy systems,” said Jeff Sharpe, Senior Engineer at Sharpe Energy Solutions.

Grenada School Principal and Superintendent Ginger Lee Charles expressed pleasant surprise at the speed with which the trackers were installed. “We are really impressed with Proposition 39 program, and appreciate SES’s work in spearheading our projects,” she said.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fronius expands U.S. presence with new Bay Area location

Fronius inverter Bay Area

Fronius already has an enormous U.S. facility located in Indiana, but is ready to commit to the U.S. market further, expanding into an office in the Bay Area. Just recently opened, the new Fronius location accommodates product management, R&D and technical sales.

When Fronius entered the U.S. solar market in 2004, it was among the first movers in a new market and has been expanding the local presence ever since. For example, the 400,000-sq-ft headquarters in Portage, Ind., includes a full manufacturing and testing facility.

“Our inverter production line applies the latest lean production technologies to ensure efficiency and highest quality,” explains Klaus Strassmair, head of manufacturing at Fronius USA. The production equipment for the line was sourced locally from U.S. suppliers, as another strong commitment to the US economy.

RELATED: Fronius launches huge cash back promotion to close out summer 

The latest expansion for Fronius USA is a new office in South San Francisco, Calif. “While the market dynamics have proven challenging for some companies, we are proud of our strong commitment and dedication to serve the U.S. market with innovative products and US based service and support,” says Tristan Kreager, Director of Solar Energy at Fronius USA. “The new office in the Bay Area is an important next step in our ambitious growth plan for the US. As many are aware, the Bay Area and the innovative spirit of the Silicon Valley act as a hub for solar innovations and technology partnerships, which will help us to serve the US market with even better solutions.”

Furthermore, Fronius is staffing up the U.S.-based Technical Support team and just recently launched the 24/7 online support tool, Fronius SOS, for best-in-class service and support. In addition, Fronius is growing its team of Technical Sales Advisers and Field Engineers for in-person support for solar installers on a regional level.

“Local production, R&D and Product Management, as well as excellent US-based Sales, Service, and Support are key to our long-term growth strategy in the United States. As a privately held company, we can focus on our vision and show our commitment for decades to come,” Kreager stated, excited about the unique position that Fronius USA has in the market.

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar groups trying to raise grid-supply cap in Hawaii

Hawaii solar grid

A notable group of solar industry installers and associations filed a request to the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission to increase the capacity for its grid-supply option. This grid supply option is one of two tariffs (the other being self-supply) that replaced net metering in the state; it provides customers the option of exporting excess energy to the grid in exchange for energy credits to their bill. This is has been by far the more popular of the two options.

Sunpower and the Alliance for Solar Choice, the main groups involved, noted that the option will soon be capped out – their estimates showing some islands capping out the first week of June and the rest joining them by August.

Well, unsurprisingly, the Hawaiian Electric Co. is opposing the request. From the Pacific Business News:

The state’s largest utility, through its attorneys, said this week there is a limit to the amount of load to be served, and the state and PUC need to determine how best to serve this load so that it is both cost effective and reliable for all customers.

The article also noted that solar employment in the state is declining rapidly, with “70 percent of surveyed solar firms reporting workforce reductions of 35 percent on average since the net energy metering program was ended by state regulators this past fall.”

— Solar Builder magazine

SEPA: Top 10 solar utilities of 2015 ranked

Southern California Edison connected 1,258 new MW of solar power to the grid in 2015, more than any other utility in the United States, according to the annual utility solar market survey conducted by the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA), formerly the Solar Electric Power Association.

Edison was one of two utilities claiming the No. 1 spots on SEPA’s Top 10 utility solar lists — one for total new megawatts and the second for watts per customer — announced today in Denver at the educational nonprofit’s annual Utility Solar Conference. The Village of Minster in Ohio headed the Top 10 list of utilities that added the most watts per customer in 2015, hitting a new record of 2,104 watts per customer.

“Today’s recognition is the result of the work that SCE has been engaged in for many years, not just in connecting solar, but in supporting California’s ambitious carbon reduction goals and supporting customer choice in technology through innovation and investment in our distribution grid,” said Caroline Choi, SCE’s vice president of Energy and Environmental Policy.

utility solar

Other key points from the survey:

• Pacific Gas & Electric (787 MW), which had claimed the No. 1 spot in total megawatts for the past eight consecutive years, fell to No. 2. Duke Energy Progress of North Carolina (461 MW) edged out San Diego Gas & Electric (441 MW) for the No. 3 spot, the first time a utility outside California has broken into the top of the list.

• In fact, North Carolina made an exceptionally strong showing in this year’s survey, with Duke Energy Progress and Dominion North Carolina Power appearing on both the Top 10 lists for total new MW and watts per customer.

RELATED: How to achieve low LCOE utility-scale solar without cutting costs 

• On the watts per customer list — where small utilities have the competitive edge — municipal and electric cooperative utilities took seven of the 10 spots. Along with Minster, utilities breaking into the Top 10 for the first time include Carey Municipal Power and Light, also from Ohio; the City of Okolona Electric Department in Mississippi and Dominion of North Carolina.

“This year’s utility solar market survey truly shows the dynamic nature of the sector, and the positive, proactive role utilities are playing in the energy transition in our country,” said Julia Hamm, SEPA’s President and CEO. “Utilities are responding to consumer interest in solar with cost-effective, innovative programs that provide benefits to their customers and the grid.”

The 2015 survey results are based on raw data that SEPA received from about 330 utilities across the country, covering a total of 6,428 megawatts of new solar — residential, commercial and utility-scale — they connected to the grid from Jan 1 to Dec. 31, 2015. In all, the utilities on this year’s Top 10 list account for 65 percent of total new solar connected in the country last year.

— Solar Builder magazine

GE’s energy startup Current to install PV at 18 sites across the country

Current GEGE is putting solar solutions from its energy startup Current, powered by GE, to work across 18 GE sites in 12 states and Puerto Rico. The installations will deliver roughly $70 million in energy and operating savings over the solutions’ 20-year lifespan and offset energy usage an average of 10% across the sites.

The locations across GE businesses use solar ground-mounts, rooftop panels or carports, including the largest solar carport in New York state in Schenectady.

Collectively, the installations will produce more than 614,000 MW of power over their 20 year lifespan.

“The cost to implement solar has dropped 60% since 2010,” says Erik Schiemann, General Manager, Solar, Current, powered by GE. “Couple that with solar’s significant energy returns, and it’s hard to justify not investing in solar. At Current, we’re giving our customers a holistic, distributed energy solution and a new way to reduce, produce, optimize and shift their energy usage. We believe so strongly in the value of this model that we are putting it to work at our own sites across the country.”

RELATED: Is there a PV storage solution between lead-acid and lithium ion? 

Sites receiving the solar installations are expected to include:

• California: Power site in Bakersfield
• Connecticut: Corporate site in Bridgeport
• Delaware: Aviation site in Newark
• Massachusetts: Aviation site in Lynn; Energy Connections site in Foxboro; Healthcare site in Marlborough; Oil & Gas site in Billerica
• Nevada: Oil & Gas site in Minden; Transportation site in Las Vegas
• New Hampshire: Aviation site in Hooksett
• New York: Power site in Schenectady; Healthcare site in North Greenbush
• North Carolina: Current site in Hendersonville
• Ohio: Oil & Gas site in Twinsburg
• South Carolina: Healthcare site in Florence
• Vermont: Aviation site in Rutland
• Wisconsin: Healthcare site in Waukesha
• Puerto Rico: Energy Connections site in Arecibo


— Solar Builder magazine