sonnen’s ecoLinx automation technology the center piece of this new Chicago development

Sonnen battery

sonnen has partnered with Evolutionary Home Builders, Chicagoland’s premier sustainable home builder, and Brandon Weiss, healthy home building expert and PHIUS Passive House Certified Builder, to elevate sustainable building to a new level. The ‘Wildwood of Marengo’ community, founded on healthy and clean living, represents an innovation in home building standards that uses clean energy and sonnen ecoLinx energy automation technology as the centerpiece if its intelligent, energy positive homes – creating a first-of-its-kind energy positive sonnenCommunity.

The Wildwood of Marengo Development, the third U.S.-based sonnenCommunity project, is comprised of 28 passive homes that follow a conservation-first approach. Each passive home features a 6 kW solar array and a 20 kWh sonnen ecoLinx energy automation system and is built pursuant to the world’s most rigorous energy efficiency standards. The design, certified by Passive House Institute United States (PHIUS) in Chicago, maximizes energy gains, minimizes energy losses and performs at the highest level of building science.

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By specifying the development to include sonnen ecoLinx energy automation systems, each residence uses smart home technology plus solar to produce, store and intelligently manage the home’s power throughout the day and night without sacrificing comfort. The homes are capable of becoming independent of the grid during high-cost periods of the day, avoiding the use of high carbon intensive peak power and minimizing stress on the utility grid.

“With the adoption of renewable energy gaining traction, and exponentially growing, it’s even more important to include intelligent energy storage in passive home design to eliminate negative impacts on the grid infrastructure and reduce the carbon emissions associated with utilizing peak power plants,” said Brandon Weiss. “By partnering with sonnen, Evolutionary Home Builders is ensuring its customers and new Wildwood homeowners can rely upon the most innovative smart home, renewable technology solution and approach – one that represents the home of the future, and the concept of ‘clean energy for all’.”

The Wildwood community represents a new standard in sustainable building that elevates comfort, quality and performance to create a community that is better for the environment and healthier for the occupants with homes that follow suit. In addition to the energy forward features, the development also includes 120 acres of wildlife and forestry – restored to its native state by Bluestem Ecological Services of Marengo, Illinois. Evolutionary Home Builders will initiate the development of the community with a completed Model Home opening in Summer 2019.

— Solar Builder magazine

Windsor water treatment facility is adding California’s largest floating solar system

Windsor_CT Float

Ciel & Terre USA, innovators in floating solar power systems, and officials for the California town of Windsor have started construction of what will be the largest floating solar power system in the state. The floating solar array will be installed on the Town’s largest recycled water storage pond and is expected to meet 90 percent of the Town’s water treatment and pump facilities’ energy needs.

The Ciel et Terre solar installation will consist of 4,959 (360 W) high-output solar panels mounted atop the company’s patented Hydrelio floating solar racking system. The 1.78-MW system will generate power for the Windsor Wastewater Reclamation Facility, Public Works Corporation Yard, and the Geysers pump station, delivering approximately 90 percent of the water reclamation facilities’ power requirements while saving about 30 percent of the electricity cost based on the facilities’ existing grid service. The array will be floated in the pond and tethered to the shore, making it resistant to wind and seismic loads.

The project is being developed and construction financed by Ciel et Terre, which has entered into a 25-year lease and power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Town of Windsor to provide discounted clean energy. The floating solar system will allow Windsor to better control its electrical costs in the face of rising utility prices.

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“By entering into a PPA, the Town can substantially reduce its energy overhead without any investment,” said Eva Pauly-Bowles, Representative Director for Ciel & Terre USA, Inc. “Floating solar is becoming an attractive energy alternative for municipalities seeking to reduce operating costs and preserve valuable land for other developments.”

“Our water reclamation and corporation yard facilities currently account for 40 percent of the Town’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Toni Bertolero, Town of Windsor Public Works Director. “Installation of this new floating solar array will reduce our reliance on energy-polluting sources by an estimated 350 metric tons of CO2 per year, a significant step to achieve our Climate Action Plan emission reduction goals.”

The floating solar project will cover only 22 percent of the available water surface area of the pond. It will have no impact on the biology of the pond and will reduce water loss from evaporation and inhibit algae growth. The state-of-the-art floating solar design can be expanded for extra capacity and will not affect plant operations while it is being installed.

Ciel & Terre is partnering with local union contractor, Collins Electrical Company, for installation.

“Installing a Ciel et Terre floating solar system is like assembling a giant Lego structure. The floating frame snaps together and most of the assembly is done on shore so it is safe and relatively easy,” said Craig Gini, Vice President and Renewables General Manager for Collins Electrical Company Inc. “Floating solar is an excellent alternative to conventional solar arrays and it’s simpler and faster to install. We expect more of our California customers will be installing floating solar systems in the coming months.”

Using manmade bodies of water to host floating solar systems provides more efficient energy production due to its cooling effect on the system, while eliminating the need to use expensive real estate. The floating array also reduces water movement to minimize erosion and reduce evaporation.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) estimates that floating solar systems could meet 10 percent of the United States electricity needs.

— Solar Builder magazine

Windsor water treatment facility is adding California’s largest floating solar system

Windsor_CT Float

Ciel & Terre USA, innovators in floating solar power systems, and officials for the California town of Windsor have started construction of what will be the largest floating solar power system in the state. The floating solar array will be installed on the Town’s largest recycled water storage pond and is expected to meet 90 percent of the Town’s water treatment and pump facilities’ energy needs.

The Ciel et Terre solar installation will consist of 4,959 (360 W) high-output solar panels mounted atop the company’s patented Hydrelio floating solar racking system. The 1.78-MW system will generate power for the Windsor Wastewater Reclamation Facility, Public Works Corporation Yard, and the Geysers pump station, delivering approximately 90 percent of the water reclamation facilities’ power requirements while saving about 30 percent of the electricity cost based on the facilities’ existing grid service. The array will be floated in the pond and tethered to the shore, making it resistant to wind and seismic loads.

The project is being developed and construction financed by Ciel et Terre, which has entered into a 25-year lease and power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Town of Windsor to provide discounted clean energy. The floating solar system will allow Windsor to better control its electrical costs in the face of rising utility prices.

Don’t miss our Solar + Storage issue in July — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

“By entering into a PPA, the Town can substantially reduce its energy overhead without any investment,” said Eva Pauly-Bowles, Representative Director for Ciel & Terre USA, Inc. “Floating solar is becoming an attractive energy alternative for municipalities seeking to reduce operating costs and preserve valuable land for other developments.”

“Our water reclamation and corporation yard facilities currently account for 40 percent of the Town’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Toni Bertolero, Town of Windsor Public Works Director. “Installation of this new floating solar array will reduce our reliance on energy-polluting sources by an estimated 350 metric tons of CO2 per year, a significant step to achieve our Climate Action Plan emission reduction goals.”

The floating solar project will cover only 22 percent of the available water surface area of the pond. It will have no impact on the biology of the pond and will reduce water loss from evaporation and inhibit algae growth. The state-of-the-art floating solar design can be expanded for extra capacity and will not affect plant operations while it is being installed.

Ciel & Terre is partnering with local union contractor, Collins Electrical Company, for installation.

“Installing a Ciel et Terre floating solar system is like assembling a giant Lego structure. The floating frame snaps together and most of the assembly is done on shore so it is safe and relatively easy,” said Craig Gini, Vice President and Renewables General Manager for Collins Electrical Company Inc. “Floating solar is an excellent alternative to conventional solar arrays and it’s simpler and faster to install. We expect more of our California customers will be installing floating solar systems in the coming months.”

Using manmade bodies of water to host floating solar systems provides more efficient energy production due to its cooling effect on the system, while eliminating the need to use expensive real estate. The floating array also reduces water movement to minimize erosion and reduce evaporation.

The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) estimates that floating solar systems could meet 10 percent of the United States electricity needs.

— Solar Builder magazine

Duke Energy gets go-ahead for solar + storage microgrid in North Carolina’s Madison County

duke energy microgrid

Madison County will soon be home to an innovative microgrid installation after the North Carolina Utilities Commission (NCUC) approved Duke Energy’s renewable energy project.

In the town of Hot Springs, the company will proceed with a solar and battery-powered microgrid system that will help improve electric reliability, provide services to the overall electric system and serve as a backup power supply to the town of more than 500 residents.

“Duke Energy’s research work on microgrids has led to a large-scale effort that will better serve, not only these customers in a remote area, but also help us gain experience from this pilot project to better serve all customers with additional distributed energy and energy storage technologies,” said Dr. Zak Kuznar, Duke Energy’s managing director of Microgrid and Energy Storage Development. “Projects like this will lead to a smarter energy future for the Carolinas.”

The Hot Springs microgrid will consist of a 2-megawatt (AC) solar facility and a 4-megawatt lithium-based battery storage facility. The microgrid will not only provide a safe, cost-effective and reliable grid solution for serving the Hot Springs area, but the microgrid will also provide energy and additional bulk system benefits for all customers. This will include reliability services to the electric grid, such as frequency and voltage regulation and ramping support and capacity during system peaks.
The project is part of Duke Energy’s plan to meet power demand by balancing public input, environmental impacts and the need to provide customers with safe, reliable and affordable energy.

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Another component of that plan is in the city of Asheville where Duke Energy will connect a 9-megawatt lithium-ion battery system at a Duke Energy substation site in the Rock Hill community – near Sweeten Creek Road. The battery will primarily be used to help the electric system operate more efficiently and reliably for customers.

Together, the two projects will cost around $30 million and should be operational in early 2020.

Also in the region, Duke Energy is closing a half-century-old, coal-fired plant in Arden by January 2020 – and replacing it with a new 560-megawatt cleaner-burning combined-cycle natural gas plant.

Duke Energy has a smaller microgrid project in North Carolina already operating. In Haywood County, N.C., Duke Energy has a 95-kilowatt-hour zinc-air battery and 10-kilowatt solar installation serving a communications tower on Mount Sterling in the Smoky Mountains National Park that has been operating since 2017. It is also currently working on proposed projects in South Carolina.

— Solar Builder magazine

Drinking Buddies: How to pair a beer with your next solar farm (and why)

Drinking Buddies photo 2

a pollinator-friendly solar farm designed and managed by Engie.

So, a solar developer and a beekeeper walk into a craft brewery … have you heard this one before? No? Then you need to chat with Rob Davis. He’s the director of the Center for Pollinators in Energy at Fresh Energy, a non-profit that promotes better vegetation on solar farms and pulls together partnerships to include bee apiaries as well.

“Whenever a solar farm is built on arable land, we want to make sure that we make productive use of that land,” Davis says, whose team has developed solar farm vegetation programs for more than 3,500 acres of projects in 10 states. “We want solar farms treated like rich soil that we’re borrowing from our grandkids, who will be inheriting it after that solar asset hits its end of life in 30 or 40 years.”

The main opponent here is simply the status quo. Vegetation is almost always significantly less than one percent of a total project budget.

“People just naturally think it’s just not important,” Davis says. “Often EPCs just want to do what they call throw and go mix just to fulfill their stormwater permit and then get on to the next job.”

Fresh Energy’s collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Lab is starting to produce evidence that thicker vegetation under and around solar farms creates a cooler micro climate, which then increases PV energy generation.

“For one, you have greater dust suppression,” Davis says. “Solar panel efficiency is significantly improved with cooler panels, but it’s also key for longevity. Anything we can use in the natural world, at a super low cost, to increase the efficiency and longevity of the panel is a worthy investment.”

Bee kind

Solar apiary

This apiary is owned and managed by Bare Honey. Photo: Dennis Schroeder/NREL InSPIRE

Smart use of land means more than just a focus on plants. Pollinator Friendly Solar in particular has been highlighted by the U.S. Department of Energy as a best practice, but often for the solar developer or EPC, the honey isn’t worth the bees, so to speak. This is where Fresh Energy comes in, doing all sorts of legwork to structure the partnerships and collaborations ahead of time.

“Imagine a dozen plates spinning on sticks, the classic circus trick, where you have to get them all spinning at the same time,” Davis says. “You want this solar farm to have flowering meadows. Okay, well, who provides the seeds and who plants them and who has the expertise? You go to the vegetation company, and they don’t know anything about solar so you bring them up to speed on solar. Then we go to the beekeepers and tell the beekeepers all the background, and then the beekeepers say, okay, but who’s going to buy the honey?”

To finally tie one recent bee apiary deal together, Davis swapped that last spinning plate for a pint glass. Craft breweries are great partners to pursue in these partnerships. Not only do craft breweries often have a sustainability story to tell, but they are also always in search of locally sourced ingredients, collaborations and community-minded programs. Sourcing honey from bee apiaries on solar farms check all of these boxes. Craft brewery partnerships also add cache to a solar project.

“Beer is broadly bipartisan and supported,” Davis notes. “It happens to be, I think, the product where someone can say they don’t really think about conservation, they don’t really think about clean energy, they don’t think about the whole supply chain, but they really like the beer, so let’s have some of this.”

pollinator friendly solar

A pollinator-friendly solar farm designed and managed by Pine Gate Renewables. The beekeeper pictured is John Jacob of Old Sol Apiaries.

Fresh Energy’s recent collaboration with 56 Brewing in Minnesota has produced Solarama Crush, which 56 Brewing is now promoting as Minnesota’s first solar beer — a double dry-hopped American IPA made with honey harvested from bee apiaries on flowering solar farms. Clean energy is literally considered an ingredient in the beer.

On the solar side, the apiary is outside the fence, so it’s more about the private landowner striking a deal with the beekeeper than it is about the solar company. Davis does see an opportunity for solar companies here too from a community relations standpoint — maybe an opportunity to procure that honey and make it available in branded jars. If nothing else, it helps tell a more impactful story when needed. Davis also says permit approval for a project is often easier for a pollinator-friendly site versus a turf grass or gravel site.

“Nobody has ever sampled honey from a coal-fired power plant,” Davis says. “But you can bring solar farm honey to a permit hearing and hand out samples to everyone and half the people are going back for more.”

We’ll drink to that.

— Solar Builder magazine