Pennsylvania public cyber school adds solar to support one-third of its consumption

commonwealth charter school solar project

Commonwealth Charter Academy (CCA), a Pennsylvania public cyber school, partnered with a Pennsylvania renewable energy developer to install more than 1,000 solar panels at CCA’s Capital Campus.

As part of the school’s commitment to improving sustainability and to minimizing its carbon footprint, CCA worked with Solar Renewable Energy LLC to equip its Harrisburg office with 1,080 solar panels that will produce approximately 500,000 annual kilowatt hours – the energy equivalent of 437,000 pounds of burned coal.

This eco-friendly annual power generation will support one-third of the electricity consumption at CCA’s 180,000-square-foot Capital Campus, resulting in an estimated savings of $60,000 a year.

“At CCA, we are always in search of innovative ways to improve as a school for our students, families and Pennsylvania communities,” said Tom Longenecker, chief operating officer of CCA. “We are a cyber school. We understand the importance of applying new technology to produce positive outcomes. This solar array is a long-term strategic contribution to society as a component of CCA’s commitment to the environment and the educational offerings we provide for students.”

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Partnering with Pennsylvania companies is important to CCA. The school identified Solar Renewable Energy, LLC as a company that could construct and install the solar array, which includes SolarEdge optimizers to maximize power generation.

“Solar Renewable Energy is very pleased to add CCA to the growing list of clients that truly appreciate and protect the environment,” said Doug Berry, CEO and president of Solar Renewable Energy, LLC. “What is unique with CCA is that students benefit from the opportunity to simultaneously learn, monitor and participate in the exciting world of renewable energy.”

CCA’s zero-waste aquaponics learning center, AgWorks at CCA, will be 100 percent powered by the renewable energy generated from the solar array. CCA students will be able to learn about power generation through a digital dashboard that will monitor the energy produced by the solar array system.

Solar Renewable Energy, LLC assisted CCA in earning a state grant in the amount of $213,000 to apply toward the solar array system. CCA has entered into a power service agreement with a Solar Renewable Energy entity in which CCA plans to fully purchase and take ownership of the system after six years.
Recent renovations to CCA’s Capital Campus also included the installation of energy-efficient lighting to reduce costs.

— Solar Builder magazine

7X Energy sells late-stage 100-MW solar project in Texas to Duke Energy

7X Energy, a leader in solar development in the U.S., announced the sale of the 100-megawatt (MW) Lapetus Solar Energy Project in Andrews County, Texas, to Duke Energy Renewables. 7X, the original owner and developer, will transition the last stages of development of the solar project to Duke Energy, which also will manage construction and serve as the long-term owner and operator of the project. CohnReznick Capital, a leading investment bank serving the renewable energy industry, acted as financial advisor to 7X Energy on the sale.

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Lapetus will be located on an approximately 800-acre site, and construction is expected to begin before the end of March. The project will be the first large scale solar project in Andrews County. During peak construction, the solar facility will bring approximately 150 jobs to the county and generate over $20 million in local property tax revenue. Lapetus is scheduled to begin by the end of the year.

Once operational, the solar energy from Lapetus will be sold in SolarBlocks under a power purchase agreement (PPA) negotiated by 7X and Duke Energy Renewables and will deliver electricity to ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas). Brazos Electric Power Cooperative, Inc. will purchase the energy on behalf of CoServ Electric and seven other distribution cooperative members.

— Solar Builder magazine

Snowlar Builder: We look at the opportunity of solar development in Northern latitudes

GP Joule

A snow covered project completed by GP Joule in Lake Waconia, Minn.

Solar power is starting to bolster the energy capacity in northern climes, especially across Canada and Alaska where diesel generators take the cost of electricity sky high. Both fixed-tilt and tracker installations are expanding rapidly in this region, as advancing solar technology helps cope with bitter cold and erratic daylight.

The sun can be elusive in the north. Between the spring and fall equinox, the Arctic region — including Fairbanks, Alaska, at a latitude of about 65 degrees — receives over 12 hours of daylight, but during the long winter sunlight can fall to only 10 percent of the summer peak. The extremes for the length of an Arctic day can range from 3.5 hours in winter to 22 hours in summer.

The combined potential of direct and indirect or diffuse light available in the north is enticing though. Research cited by the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) indicates that there are 230 more hours of possible sunlight at the Arctic Circle than at the equator. The winter holds a steady snow blanket on the ground, yielding one of the highest natural levels of albedo, or reflected light, at 70 to 80 percent of direct sunlight. This bodes well for the use of bifacial solar panels, which today can raise the energy yield by around 10 percent with more field testing expected to increase the bifacial boost by 20 percent or more over monofacial panels.

“We are not under any illusions that solar will not be a tough build, but cost has come down, so now it finally pencils out,” says Christopher Pike, a researcher at ACEP.

Thanks to the general decline in the cost of solar and the recent cost reduction in bifacial panel manufacturing, solar is becoming a more promising renewable energy solution in the northern latitudes. Indeed, one estimate of solar growth in Alaska suggests that installations roughly doubled during 2017 to close to 1 MW from a small base of about 300 kW in 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Anecdotes from Alaska solar analysts suggest that the 2018 installation total could double again.

Don’t miss our Solar Installer Issue in March — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

Design and conquer

The far north is a virtual testing ground for solar reliability, particularly for trackers with moving parts, and chatting with several manufacturers focused in this region reveals a variety of tactics for conquering the elements.

“If you see a tracker system in the Arctic controlled by actuator arms that can freeze, or fragile motors or sensors, it can be a concern,” notes Lance Brown, the director of marketing at Array Technologies. “But we are seeing more and more requests for installations at higher latitude locations.”

Array did a dual-axis project in the Arctic for the Canadian government 20 years ago for a 360-degree tracker, and it is still operating now, designed to function down to -25.6 degrees F, Brown says (new trackers are tested to -29.2 degrees F). Array is currently working on a new snow stow technology that will further optimize tracker performance in heavy snow conditions. Dealing with snow load is a primary requirement in the north.

“We have installed our dual-axis Savanna in heavy snow areas in northern Ontario and have had no issues with snow load,” says Nic Morgan, VP of business development at Morgan Solar in Toronto. “We found that the dual-axis sheds snow faster than fixed or single-axis designs. We can’t compete with single-axis trackers below 40 degrees latitude, but above that, dual-axis technology can offer better yield.”

One area of expertise that Toronto-based GP Joule has developed in the cold Canadian climate is foundation engineering, with a current single-axis tracker design that utilizes up to 60 percent fewer piles — or as few as 250 per MW — than general U.S. tracker competition, providing 20 percent more steel and a more robust structure, says David Pichard, CEO of the company. The system also uses up to 20 percent fewer piles than a competing standard fixed-tilt design.

Another innovation in tracker design for snow conditions is the three-armed, dual-axis Konza Solar tracker.

“Our three-actuator design enables an unencumbered range of motion, a simpler tracking method, the lack of a grease requirement and no cardinal orientation requirement,” says Nick Moser, the director of operations for the Anchorage-based company.

Part of the challenge tracking the sun in the Arctic is moving panels through wide angles in all directions, for which dual-axis trackers are inherently designed. “The tripodal design is both inherently stable and able to enjoy a number of ingenious mechanical advantages. It handles dynamic loading extremely well by distributing loads in a way that no other tracker can,” Moser says.

GP Joule

GP Joule developed its foundation engineering approach in the cold Canadian climate with a single-axis tracker design that utilizes up to 60 percent fewer piles.

Advocates for change

While the technology is tweaked, the opportunity grows. One institution that is advocating greater use of solar energy in Alaska is the AECP in Anchorage.

“The November to February months are cold and clear, so solar panels perform well. We have been talking about solar albedo up here for a long time,” Pike says. “Our solar resource is not as good as it is in the lower 48 states, but it is about the same as in Germany.”

ACEP is particularly interested in helping small towns and villages in more remote locations ween off diesel fuel transported by truck, which can push electricity rates up to the $1 per kW level, Pike says. The ACEP has just begun a new solar field study using vertically mounted bifacial panels oriented east, west and south.

There is also more federal government support for solar and other renewables to offset diesel use in Canada, through the $400 million Arctic Energy Fund, and in Alaska, through the Alaska Renewable Energy Fund, worth about $50 million every year until 2023. Since 2008, the REF has appropriated $259 million for 287 qualifying renewable energy projects.

Consider a new solar installation in Buckland, located in Northwest Alaska, being sponsored by the Northwest Alaska’s Native Corp. (NANA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. The remote town of 400 uses over 500 kW of electricity a month at a rate of up to 47 cents per kWh. This compares to 19 cents in Anchorage and a U.S. national average of 13 cents. The alternative is heating oil, which costs $8.25 per gallon locally. So, yeah, an investment in solar energy here will help considerably.

“We expect to offset 7 percent of the town’s diesel fuel use through this solar project, and once it is operating fully, we hope to add energy storage and wind to offset a cumulative 30 percent of the town’s diesel use,” says Sonny Adams, the energy director for NANA. Diesel costs in the region range from a low of $5.75 to a high of $11.00 per gallon locally, he notes.

This project, led by NANA, provides for the cumulative installation of 500 kW among three Alaska Native Inupiat communities — Kotzebue, Buckland and Deering — “to address common energy challenges and opportunities by developing high-penetration wind-solar-battery-diesel hybrid systems through collaboration with Tribal IRA Councils, local electric utilities, a national cooperative financial institution and others,” DOE reports. DOE provided a $1 million grant for the $2 million project, which was on track to be completed in December.

Charles W. Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California.

— Solar Builder magazine

Snowlar Builder: We look at the opportunity of solar development in Northern latitudes

GP Joule

A snow covered project completed by GP Joule in Lake Waconia, Minn.

Solar power is starting to bolster the energy capacity in northern climes, especially across Canada and Alaska where diesel generators take the cost of electricity sky high. Both fixed-tilt and tracker installations are expanding rapidly in this region, as advancing solar technology helps cope with bitter cold and erratic daylight.

The sun can be elusive in the north. Between the spring and fall equinox, the Arctic region — including Fairbanks, Alaska, at a latitude of about 65 degrees — receives over 12 hours of daylight, but during the long winter sunlight can fall to only 10 percent of the summer peak. The extremes for the length of an Arctic day can range from 3.5 hours in winter to 22 hours in summer.

The combined potential of direct and indirect or diffuse light available in the north is enticing though. Research cited by the Alaska Center for Energy and Power (ACEP) indicates that there are 230 more hours of possible sunlight at the Arctic Circle than at the equator. The winter holds a steady snow blanket on the ground, yielding one of the highest natural levels of albedo, or reflected light, at 70 to 80 percent of direct sunlight. This bodes well for the use of bifacial solar panels, which today can raise the energy yield by around 10 percent with more field testing expected to increase the bifacial boost by 20 percent or more over monofacial panels.

“We are not under any illusions that solar will not be a tough build, but cost has come down, so now it finally pencils out,” says Christopher Pike, a researcher at ACEP.

Thanks to the general decline in the cost of solar and the recent cost reduction in bifacial panel manufacturing, solar is becoming a more promising renewable energy solution in the northern latitudes. Indeed, one estimate of solar growth in Alaska suggests that installations roughly doubled during 2017 to close to 1 MW from a small base of about 300 kW in 2016, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Anecdotes from Alaska solar analysts suggest that the 2018 installation total could double again.

Don’t miss our Solar Installer Issue in March — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

Design and conquer

The far north is a virtual testing ground for solar reliability, particularly for trackers with moving parts, and chatting with several manufacturers focused in this region reveals a variety of tactics for conquering the elements.

“If you see a tracker system in the Arctic controlled by actuator arms that can freeze, or fragile motors or sensors, it can be a concern,” notes Lance Brown, the director of marketing at Array Technologies. “But we are seeing more and more requests for installations at higher latitude locations.”

Array did a dual-axis project in the Arctic for the Canadian government 20 years ago for a 360-degree tracker, and it is still operating now, designed to function down to -25.6 degrees F, Brown says (new trackers are tested to -29.2 degrees F). Array is currently working on a new snow stow technology that will further optimize tracker performance in heavy snow conditions. Dealing with snow load is a primary requirement in the north.

“We have installed our dual-axis Savanna in heavy snow areas in northern Ontario and have had no issues with snow load,” says Nic Morgan, VP of business development at Morgan Solar in Toronto. “We found that the dual-axis sheds snow faster than fixed or single-axis designs. We can’t compete with single-axis trackers below 40 degrees latitude, but above that, dual-axis technology can offer better yield.”

One area of expertise that Toronto-based GP Joule has developed in the cold Canadian climate is foundation engineering, with a current single-axis tracker design that utilizes up to 60 percent fewer piles — or as few as 250 per MW — than general U.S. tracker competition, providing 20 percent more steel and a more robust structure, says David Pichard, CEO of the company. The system also uses up to 20 percent fewer piles than a competing standard fixed-tilt design.

Another innovation in tracker design for snow conditions is the three-armed, dual-axis Konza Solar tracker.

“Our three-actuator design enables an unencumbered range of motion, a simpler tracking method, the lack of a grease requirement and no cardinal orientation requirement,” says Nick Moser, the director of operations for the Anchorage-based company.

Part of the challenge tracking the sun in the Arctic is moving panels through wide angles in all directions, for which dual-axis trackers are inherently designed. “The tripodal design is both inherently stable and able to enjoy a number of ingenious mechanical advantages. It handles dynamic loading extremely well by distributing loads in a way that no other tracker can,” Moser says.

GP Joule

GP Joule developed its foundation engineering approach in the cold Canadian climate with a single-axis tracker design that utilizes up to 60 percent fewer piles.

Advocates for change

While the technology is tweaked, the opportunity grows. One institution that is advocating greater use of solar energy in Alaska is the AECP in Anchorage.

“The November to February months are cold and clear, so solar panels perform well. We have been talking about solar albedo up here for a long time,” Pike says. “Our solar resource is not as good as it is in the lower 48 states, but it is about the same as in Germany.”

ACEP is particularly interested in helping small towns and villages in more remote locations ween off diesel fuel transported by truck, which can push electricity rates up to the $1 per kW level, Pike says. The ACEP has just begun a new solar field study using vertically mounted bifacial panels oriented east, west and south.

There is also more federal government support for solar and other renewables to offset diesel use in Canada, through the $400 million Arctic Energy Fund, and in Alaska, through the Alaska Renewable Energy Fund, worth about $50 million every year until 2023. Since 2008, the REF has appropriated $259 million for 287 qualifying renewable energy projects.

Consider a new solar installation in Buckland, located in Northwest Alaska, being sponsored by the Northwest Alaska’s Native Corp. (NANA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. The remote town of 400 uses over 500 kW of electricity a month at a rate of up to 47 cents per kWh. This compares to 19 cents in Anchorage and a U.S. national average of 13 cents. The alternative is heating oil, which costs $8.25 per gallon locally. So, yeah, an investment in solar energy here will help considerably.

“We expect to offset 7 percent of the town’s diesel fuel use through this solar project, and once it is operating fully, we hope to add energy storage and wind to offset a cumulative 30 percent of the town’s diesel use,” says Sonny Adams, the energy director for NANA. Diesel costs in the region range from a low of $5.75 to a high of $11.00 per gallon locally, he notes.

This project, led by NANA, provides for the cumulative installation of 500 kW among three Alaska Native Inupiat communities — Kotzebue, Buckland and Deering — “to address common energy challenges and opportunities by developing high-penetration wind-solar-battery-diesel hybrid systems through collaboration with Tribal IRA Councils, local electric utilities, a national cooperative financial institution and others,” DOE reports. DOE provided a $1 million grant for the $2 million project, which was on track to be completed in December.

Charles W. Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California.

— Solar Builder magazine

City of Warwick debuts its second solar array, via Southern Sky Renewable Energy

Eastern Section West Shore Rd

Southern Sky Renewable Energy RI and the City of Warwick recently flipped the switch on the City’s second solar array. The array on West Shore Road hosts 2,628 panels that are now producing 1 MW of electricity, contributing to the City’s portfolio of renewable energy.

In October, a 6.3 MW solar array on Kilvert Street also came online. The City’s solar portfolio with Southern Sky will offset the power used at the City’s municipal buildings and other city locations (10 MW).

“The City of Warwick is committed to clean, renewable energy to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Warwick Mayor Joseph Solomon. “Our portfolio of solar will offset the energy used at our municipal buildings and generate additional revenue for the City and its taxpayers.”

“Southern Sky is proud to partner with Mayor Solomon and cities and towns across Rhode Island to transition to renewable energy, save on energy costs and generate additional revenue,” said Ralph A. Palumbo, President of Southern Sky Renewable Energy RI. “We are committed to delivering high quality solar projects and transforming brownfields, landfills and other vacant land to clean energy solutions.”

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Over 70% of the City’s power will be produced by the West Shore Road and Kilvert Street projects. The 3rd site in Warwick’s portfolio is currently under construction in Johnston. The 6,834-panel project on Plainfield Pike will produce 2.7 MW of clean energy. The skilled trades men and women of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW Local 99) worked on all three projects.

The renewable energy produced by these arrays will yield significant environmental benefits, including offsetting the emissions equal to burning 10 million pounds of coal annually, taking 2,096 cars off the road or powering 1,057 houses. In addition to energy savings, the City will receive property taxes for the two Warwick sites over the 25-year life of the projects.

Southern Sky Renewable Energy RI worked with the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources, Department of Environmental Management and Department of Transportation to make the projects a reality. In addition, the projects also received CommerceRI grants through their Renewable Energy Fund.

Southern Sky contracted with Conti Solar to design and construct the facility and the project received a capital investment from Captona Partners, a New York-based investment company specializing in power generation and energy infrastructure assets. Monarch Private Capital and John Hancock have also invested in this portfolio of renewable energy projects.

— Solar Builder magazine