Watch: Solar Optimum adds 780-kW SunPower system across Laguna Woods Village

SunPower Elite Dealer Solar Optimum is helping Orange County’s premier senior living community Laguna Woods Village embrace energy efficiency by installing an aggregate total of approximately 780 kW DC, producing 1,337,333 kWH, offsetting the common area load that the community was paying high Southern California Edison electricity bills for. This “Best in Class” project is the largest SunPower Helix project interconnected in the west coast in 2017.

The project consists of 12 buildings which were occupied while the work was performed and Solar Optimum used the SunPower Helix dual tilt PV solar system, which notably is the highest density solar system on the market today. The cutting-edge technology sped up the process and Solar Optimum’s rigorous safety measures made it possible to install while tenants occupied the facilities.

This was the most complicated virtual net metering project ever processed by Southern California Edison with over 550 benefiting meters offset by 800 kW on 12 sites. A typical virtual net metering project has a mere 10 to 20 meters with just one rather than 12 connection points. Southern California Edison requires meters to be lined up with parcels. “With such a large project, it was like a Rubik’s cube lining it all up. All sides are green now,” exclaims Gene Okun, Solar Optimum’s commercial project manager.

“Our goal was to get the project installed to meet the looming net metering 1.0 deadline, when rates on solar energy credit would rise and cost the community an additional $15,000 per month in meter fees,” says Gene Okun. “Solar Optimum and SunPower managed the deadline successfully, despite the size and complexity of the project. We are pleased with the results.”

The Solar Optimum team had to tackle the small sizes of the host buildings which made power density critical. “We were originally planning for 16 buildings as host sites, but the SunPower Helix system made it possible for us to get all that power in 12 buildings,” says Bill McNeese, director of business development at Solar Optimum. “This gave us the competitive advantage, reducing the number of roofs needing to be replaced by the community. When the cost-benefit analysis was complete, the board unanimously selected Solar Optimum and SunPower Helix.”

“We realized that Laguna Woods Village had other very competitive proposals but were confident in our ability to deliver the project within the tight timeframe despite its complexities and engineering challenges,” says Gene Okun. “With the success of Laguna Woods Village, we look forward to expanding our commercial portfolio and taking on new challenges in the Southern California market.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Photos of Sollega-mounted solar install that survived Hurricane Irma

At Solar Power International, we chatted with Elie Rothschild, sales manager at Sollega, a leading commercial solar racking manufacture. He mentioned that Sollega’s injection molded FastRack 510 withstood 190 mph sustained (Category 5) winds of Hurricane Irma. Nearly 90 percent of the 900 kW array on the Westin Hotel are still attached to the racking and on the roof. Here is the before and after:

Sollega hurricane


Sollega hurricane damage

The array was installed using Sollega’s patented FR510 ballasted/hybrid racking system. The fully adhered single ply membrane roof utilized a combination of heat weld mechanical anchors and ballast block.

— Solar Builder magazine

A 6.9-MW community solar project completed on Massachusetts farm

Ameresco, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts and BlueWave Solar just launched five community solar projects with a ribbon cutting ceremony at Twin Elm Farm in Mendon, MA. The solar arrays located in Hopedale and Mendon, three of which are located at Twin Elm Farm, comprise a total of approximately 6.9 MW of renewable power. Overall, the projects will increase the amount of power generated by community solar in Massachusetts by an estimated 13 percent.


The solar projects, owned by Ameresco, and co-developed by BlueWave, were supported through a long-term agreement with anchor-offtaker Blue Cross to purchase 2.6 MW of net metering credits to apply to its utility bills. Credits from the projects will also allow nearly 200 residents and small businesses in the Blackstone Valley to lower their electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions.

“This project is a win-win for Blue Cross,” said Jay McQuaide, SVP of Corporate Communications & Citizenship, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “The cost savings will help us advance our mission of making quality health care affordable, and the environmental benefits align perfectly with our commitment to supporting renewable energy and helping our members live healthier lives.”

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While exploring ideas on how to generate income on their 650+ acre farm in Mendon, the Varney Family took into consideration how the Town of Mendon and local residents viewed the farm and its defining landscape and a solar farm seemed to be the perfect fit. The farm landowner, Elizabeth A. Varney, President/Treasurer, Varney Properties added, “The solar farm allows us to generate income, maintain the beauty of our agricultural land for residents and helps the town increase their tax base, not to mention the positive impact it has on the environment.”

“The demand for solar has skyrocketed over the last several years,” said Terry Sobolewski, Senior Vice President and Chief Consumer Officer at National Grid. “As customers continue to demand faster, cheaper access to cleaner energy, collaborations like the one we’re celebrating today are imperative to offering innovative solutions.”

— Solar Builder magazine

This solar+storage case study shows 96 percent reduction in grid-buy

Tabuchi Americas

The post-net metering solar industry looms on the horizon, some day, for every state, but in Hawaii it is a reality, which makes it guinea pig. At SPI, Poncho’s Solar and Tabuchi Electric Co. will be presenting the results of their collaboration with J.O.B. Technologies (Aiea, Hawaii), detailing the results of a year-long case study on the post-NEM residential self-supply (non-export to the grid) market in Hawaii.

Analysis of the field data details various types of optimization and integration required to successfully integrate solar PV with electrical battery storage, solar hot water thermal storage, and summertime solar A/C cold thermal storage. By integrating solar PV + battery storage and adjusting the time-of-use (TOU) of the top 4 major household appliances and using Tabuchi Electric’s HEMS (home energy management system), nearly all household energy demands can be met without the need to purchase from the grid.

“In the post-NEM customer self-supply world, the economics of solar PV and saving electricity is quite different than with NEM,” noted John Borland, President of J.O.B. Technologies. “For NEM programs, the amount of cost savings and return on investment is determined by generating the maximum amount of solar PV energy possible and selling back to the grid. The key to the fastest return on investment in the post-NEM world is through achieving a monthly utility bill with Grid-Buy as close to zero as possible. By working with Poncho’s Solar and Tabuchi Electric over the past 15 months, we successfully reduced the monthly daily average Grid-Buy electricity by 96.0% through modifications and improvements to the solar thermal storage system, the inverter, the Home Energy Management System (HEMS), and the hardware and software control system. The average daily Grid-Buy energy in April 2017 was reduced to ~2.7kWh/day from 48.7kWh/day in April 2016. Additionally, 12 days were at Zero Grid-Buy, running on 100% Renewable Energy.”

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“Mid 2016, we installed a 7 kW rooftop solar PV system with 27 c-Si modules with the Tabuchi Electric solar inverter and battery storage system,” stated Corpuz Poncho, President of Poncho’s Solar. “Since electrical water heaters in Hawaii can account for as much as 40 percent of the monthly household electrical bill, integrating the solar PV system with solar thermal is essential. To eliminate Grid-Buy needs on water heating, we customized the hot water tank into a thermal storage for Battery Optimized Discharge Hot Thermal Storage.”
The Tabuchi Electric 5.5kW solar PV inverter with 10kWh Lithium-ion storage battery provides multiple flexible modes of operation for users in both NEM-enabled markets, such as California and Arizona, and post-NEM markets like Hawaii.

“Our system monitoring software allows for optimization of energy usage by major household appliances to reduce Grid-Buy, with dynamic battery charging and discharging to maximize savings based on TOU rates,” noted Harumi McClure, President/COO of Tabuchi Electric Co. “The results from this study resulted in improvements to both the software and hardware of our hybrid inverter system. This enabled the Stand-Alone Operation of 21 days with ≤4kWh/day Grid-Buy, and of which 12 days were Zero Grid-Buy. Improvements were made to our new EIBS16GU2 system increasing the critical load panel to 3.3kW and doubling the capacity of batteries to 19.78kWh, and we expect our customers to see further financial savings on electricity and better return on their investment.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Santa Rita Union School District takes advantage of California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program


Generate Capital and Sharp Electronics Corporation’s Energy Systems and Services Group (Sharp) have broken ground on a six-site solar PV and SmartStorage energy storage installation with the Santa Rita Union School District (SRUSD) in Salinas, Calif. With project developer SolEd Benefit Corporation and construction company MBL Energy, Generate Capital will build over 1 MW of solar production, integrated with 1.2 MWh of Sharp’s SmartStorage behind-the-meter energy storage systems. The systems offer the district a variety of long-term benefits: renewable energy from California’s most abundant resource, savings on expensive utility bills, battery back-up and microgrid capabilities for resiliency, and educational opportunities for the district’s elementary and middle school students.

The SRUSD installations will be among the first projects deployed under California’s revival of the Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) supporting solar PV and energy storage installations for customers in California. Generate Capital President Jigar Shah said of the project, “Generate is proud to accelerate the deployment of solar-plus-storage systems to bring cost-saving, clean energy solutions to schools, municipalities, and businesses across California.” Depending on the time of year, the SRUSD solar-plus-storage systems can supply as much as 70 to 80 percent of the schools’ electricity needs.

“This is a precedent-setting project, because, in addition to providing substantial utility bill savings, the SmartStorage system will also provide backup power for critical school loads in the event of a grid outage,” said Carl Mansfield, General Manager of Sharp’s U.S.-based Energy Systems and Services Group. “In the past, commercial buildings have relied on expensive diesel engine generators to provide backup power. This project will demonstrate that renewable power generation coupled with a SmartStorage system is now a viable, bankable, cleaner alternative for backup power applications.”

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Generate Capital is a leading capital partner for solar-plus-storage innovators in the United States. The SRUSD projects represent one of the first solar plus storage projects supported by California’s recently restructured SGIP. With one of the largest behind-the-meter energy storage portfolios in North America, Generate Capital partners with project developers, technology vendors, and solution providers to build money-saving, environmentally beneficial infrastructure.

“California school districts face extremely challenging budgeting situations and any reduction in operational expenses can directly translate into money for teachers, books, or supplies,” said Dr. Shelly Morr, superintendent of SRUSD. “It is also important for our community that schools aren’t impacted by events such as power outages as this disrupts not just the school day, but parents having to leave work early or scramble to make other arrangements for their children. We’re excited to see these precedent-setting clean energy systems implemented on our school campuses.”

— Solar Builder magazine