Manitowoc’s Grove GHC55 used for new solar panel assembly technique

manitowoc solar equipment

Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Mortenson Construction is using a trio of Manitowoc Grove GHC55 telescoping crawler cranes to perform a new method of solar panel assembly and installation at the Alamo solar farms in Uvalde, Texas. Traditionally, solar panels have been constructed by adjoining several 2 ft by 3 ft modules, each requiring a separate lift. The GHC cranes operate with 100 percent pick and carry capability, increasing efficiency on the jobsite. This allows Mortenson to combine 15 or 20 modules together on a table and then carry them into place to lift about 20 ft in the air for installation. The heaviest picks weigh up to 3.5 USt.

“We have chosen these telescoping boom crawlers because, as a rule, Mortenson will not pick and carry loads on cranes with rubber tires—especially on a remote job site with off-road terrain,” said Steven Klatt, crane manager with the company. “With 100 percent pick and carry, we can prefabricate the solar panels and run the cranes back and forth from the trucks to where they are placed on the solar farm. The crawler tracks easily handle the terrain, and the GHC’s booms withstand the wind. This has increased our efficiency.”

RELATED: Install-O-Matic: One solar company is turning the jobsite into a factory 

— Solar Builder magazine

NRG Energy discusses demand for community solar in Minnesota

NRG Energy, Inc has broken ground on its first five community solar projects in Minnesota and reached agreements to subscribe several national business customers to its solar farms in the state.

NRG Solar“Across Minnesota we are hearing the same strong message from residents and businesses alike: they want to be powered by affordable, renewable energy,” said Drew Warshaw, Vice President, Community Solar, NRG. “Community solar gives them that opportunity – a simple, cost-effective path for residents and businesses to go solar without having to put panels on their roofs.”

NRG’s commitment to developing community solar in Minnesota (the state where NRG began operations in 1989) is moving forward with 25-year Solar Subscription Agreements (SSAs) signed by more than 1,000 residents and several large businesses in the state including:

  • U.S. Bank – the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States, with six sites subscribed, including the iconic U.S. Bank Plaza in Minneapolis;
  • Land O’Lakes – a national member-owned agricultural cooperative based in the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburb of Arden Hills, with its corporate headquarters subscribing;
  • Macy’s – one of the nation’s premier retailers, with three of its retail sites subscribing;
  • Ecolab – the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services headquartered in St. Paul, with several corporate facilities subscribing.

“We seek out partnerships that positively impact the environment and participating in this unique community solar garden initiative is a great example of that,” said Reba Dominski, senior vice president, Corporate Social Responsibility at U.S. Bank. “We are proud to be a subscriber along with Land O’Lakes, Macy’s, Ecolab and others, and congratulate NRG for its leadership and investment in this important work. We are excited to see the positive impact the gardens will have on our communities.”

NRG’s renewables business has broken ground on five projects in Minnesota that will provide clean energy:

  • Forest Lake Project in Washington County – 6.7 MW dc (5 MW ac);
  • Farmington Project in Dakota County – 6.1 MW dc (5 MW ac);
  • Pine Island Project in Goodhue County – 3.5 MW dc (2.9 MW ac);
  • Highway 14 Project in Olmstead County – 6.7 MW dc (5 MW ac);
  • Dodge Project in Dodge County – 6.1 MW dc (5 MW ac).

All of the projects are slated for completion by early 2017. The five solar farms will serve both businesses and residential customers.

How it works

Business and residential customers in Minnesota subscribe to an NRG community solar farm by signing a 25-year SSA. Electricity generated at the solar farm goes to the local utility’s grid. Customers then receive a bill credit from their utility — in this case, Xcel Energy, Inc. — for their subscribed share of the electricity produced by the community solar farm.

“We’d like to thank Xcel Energy, Governor Dayton and the State Legislature for supporting this innovative community solar program,” added NRG’s Drew Warshaw. “Their forward-thinking leadership – along with that of our flagship customers in four Minnesota counties – is paving the way for other states to follow suit.”

Further reading: Community Solar Legal Primer: From project structure to consumer protection 

— Solar Builder magazine

Top solar projects of the week (Sept. 19-23 edition)

Swiss Re to build solar power plant for Americas’ headquarters

At the beginning of Climate Week NYC, Swiss Re announces concrete plans to further reduce the carbon footprint of its US-based operations by building and operating its own solar power plant at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Armonk, New York. Construction of the 2 MW facility will begin in October 2016. It should be running by late spring 2017.

commercial solar installations

The power plant will occupy approximately 10 acres of land at Swiss Re’s own premises. It is expected to generate 60% of the power required by the over 700 employees working in Armonk office.

Eric Smith, President and CEO Swiss Re Americas, said: “We’re delighted to be taking this crucial step to make our operations in North America carbon-neutral in a way that also improves our bottom line. In the context of Swiss Re’s extensive engagement in mitigating climate change, this is just another example of how we keep our commitments.”

Swiss Re aims to lead by example and wants to contribute to a greater societal impact in addressing the issue of climate change. It encourages other corporations across the globe to minimise their environmental footprint. The company is a founding member of the RE100 initiative, which now unites the world’s largest companies in a shared commitment to use 100% renewable power.


Already over 85% of the power Swiss Re consumes comes from renewable sources.

RELATED: Load Warriors: Experts discuss rooftop ballast installation best practices 

L’Oréal USA to exceed carbon reduction goals through PV projects in Kentucky and Arkansas

Loreal solar project

L’Oréal USA will exceed its carbon emission reduction goals and build two large-scale solar projects at the company’s manufacturing facilities in North Little Rock, Ark., and Florence, Ken., as part of its global sustainability strategy Sharing Beauty with All.

The two projects – among the largest in each state – represent an acceleration of the company’s original goals to reduce its CO2 emissions by 60 percent from its 2005 baseline. L’Oréal USA will achieve an 80 percent reduction, and plans to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity for its manufacturing in the United States through the projects and the purchase of additional, locally-sourced renewable energy certificates (RECs). The project in Florence will be the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky and the project in North Little Rock will be the third largest commercial array in Arkansas.

The Florence plant, in partnership with Scenic Hill Solar, will house the largest commercial solar array in Kentucky at 1.5 MW. Construction of the Florence project will start in late 2016 and will consist of approximately 5,000 solar panels. The array is projected to cut CO2 emissions in Kentucky by approximately 1,195 metric tons per year, equivalent to eliminating over 2.8 million miles traveled by passenger cars per year, according to EPA Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies.


The North Little Rock plant, also in partnership with Scenic Hill Solar, will house a 1.2 MW array that will be the third largest commercial solar array and the fourth largest solar project in Arkansas. The 4,000 solar panel installation in North Little Rock is scheduled to be operational by mid-2017 and will reduce carbon emissions in Arkansas by 1,326 metric tons per year.

RELATED: Beyond the rooftop: How offsite PPAs change the game for solar professionals 

Dickinson Solar Project in Minnesota finally comes online


dickinson minnesota solar project

The largest solar array in Minnesota owned by electric cooperatives is now generating electricity for members of Wright-Hennepin Cooperative Electric Association (WH). The Dickinson Solar Project is a collaborative effort between WH and Maple Grove-based Great River Energy, one of its wholesale electric power providers, and brings an additional 2.25-MW of renewable energy onto the grid. This is the second largest solar installation in Minnesota to date.


“The Dickinson solar project was built in response to members’ desire to have safe, reliable, affordable and increasingly clean energy,” said Tim Sullivan, president and CEO of WH. “We’re pleased to have worked with Great River Energy to bring utility-scale renewables to our membership.”

The project consists of 8,352 panels on a 13-acre site in Buffalo already owned by Great River Energy, so construction did not affect or harm any farmland or wooded areas. The project’s principal contractor was Energy Concepts of Hudson, Wis. Construction began in March 2016, and the project became operational in August.

Both cooperatives have experience with constructing and generating solar energy. Great River Energy completed a 250-kilowatt solar project at its headquarters, as well as 19 smaller arrays across its membership. WH has built three community solar projects, two arrays for the City of Rockford, and a fourth community solar array is planned for later this year.

RELATED: Community Solar Legal Primer: From project structure to consumer protection 

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on cool AC, DC nanogrid installation on Illinois Institute campus

aquion energy nanogrid

An innovative AC/DC nanogrid at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s (IIT) Keating Sports Center was just completed by a team of Aquion Energy, manufacturer of Aqueous Hybrid Ion batteries and energy storage systems, Schneider Electric, specialist in energy management and automation, and Azimuth Energy, a solar-energy and energy-efficiency engineering and construction company.

“This is the future of distributed generation, where isolated loads powered by renewables combined with energy storage can stand alone and operate without the grid,” said Tim Poor, chief commercial officer of Aquion Energy. “Our safe and sustainable Aspen batteries are the optimal choice for long-duration storage and deep daily cycling, from nanogrids like this one at IIT to microgrids, island communities, and other nanogrids such as telecom base stations.”

The nanogrid, which was designed and installed by Azimuth Energy, is a combined solar-plus-energy-storage system that uses Aquion Aspen batteries for storage and Schneider power control electronics for energy management. Aquion’s Aspen product line is optimized for daily deep cycling for residential solar, green architecture, off-grid and microgrid, telecom towers, energy management, and grid-scale applications.

RELATED: Microgrids: Why are they gaining in popularity, what part does storage play? 

aquion nanogrid

The IIT nanogrid is unique because it supports both AC and DC loads. During the day, the solar array directly powers the highly efficient DC LED lighting systems and AC loads, while simultaneously charging the batteries. Any excess solar energy can be exported to the grid. In the event of a grid outage, the batteries and solar panels deliver energy to the system 24/7.

Although the Keating nanogrid has a connection to the campus microgrid, it is engineered to operate autonomously using only solar and batteries, as an island off-grid system. The nanogrid is a demonstration of how a solar plus storage system can provide resilient electricity for critical building loads during power outages, such as police stations and hospitals. In the case of an outage, any building with a nanogrid could continue to be powered by its own sustainable, self-generated electricity. The nanogrid also allows building operators to respond to their power demand and control how and when they use power from the microgrid – and ultimately from the utility.


— Solar Builder magazine

Ideal Power, EnerDel create solar+storage microgrid at U.S. Air Force base

UoD-EnerDel project at JBSA

Power conversion company Ideal Power Inc. and EnerDel, a leading lithium-ion battery manufacturer and energy system integrator, have teamed up to create a mobile hybrid solar plus battery energy storage system for the United States Air Force aimed at reducing the diesel fuel used to power forward operating bases (FOB). Researchers in the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Dayton Research Institute recently launched the joint year-long program where they are demonstrating technologies capable of powering remote military installations that normally depend on the regular delivery of diesel fuel via convoy, often in hostile locations.

EnerDel selected Ideal Power’s Grid Resilient Multi-port 30-kW Power Conversion System (30B3) for this project. EnerDel’s Mobile Hybrid Power System (MHPS) integrates the 30B3 with an 8-kW tent-mounted solar array to form a portable microgrid. The project supports the U.S. Air Force’s Energy Strategic Plan, which seeks to improve the resiliency of their FOBs and reduce dependence on diesel-powered generators. The project has been successfully operating at the 319th Training Squadron’s Basic Expeditionary Airmen Skills Training (BEAST) facility at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland and is currently powering lights and air conditioning systems for 10 FOB living quarters. The microgrid has been undergoing rigorous testing for the past seven months and could eventually be deployed at Air Force locations across the globe.

VOTE for Solar Builder’s 2016 Projects of the Year 

“There is a history of successful commercial applications coming out of the military. This installation is a great example of the type of project that can lead to penetration of the large military and microgrid markets in addition to broad applications in a commercial setting,” said Bill Alexander, CTO at Ideal Power. “Ordinary solar PV installations can only supply power while the utility grid is up and running. This system supplies power from solar PV independent of the utility grid and points the way toward microgrid-ready solar PV which will supply electricity – with or without utility power – and allow facilities to continue powered operations from battery and/or solar PV after loss of utility power.”

— Solar Builder magazine