Kansas community college adds solar to curriculum and campus via RP Construction Services

RPCS cloud county community college

As part of Kansas’ Cloud County Community College’s Solar Energy Technology program, new solar energy courses — spurred by the installation of a new on-campus solar site — will train students for high-tech, high-wage jobs in the exciting, emerging solar industry through innovative teaching and educational partnerships.

The site will service the campus’s energy needs, and will be installed by students enrolled in the program. Historically focusing on wind energy, solar was a natural transition. The program is centered around hands-on training for solar projects, including construction and electrical training for both residential and commercial solar.

“The curriculum blends on-campus, on-line and distance learning, land-lab, and field training opportunities for traditional and non-traditional students,” the college’s website states. This educational program will produce a qualified workforce to serve the emerging solar industry throughout Kansas and the nation.

Founded in 1965, Cloud County Community College is dedicated to delivering high quality, innovative, and accessible educational opportunities and services that prepare a diverse population to be critical thinkers and lifelong learners who can meet the challenges of an ever-changing global community.

Students, faculty, and staff of the college formed an active, volunteer-based group that has named itself the “Go Green Committee,” which has distinguished itself on campus with numerous environmentally-friendly efforts. The college earned a Green Power Partnership, awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a voluntary program encouraging organizations to use green power as a way to reduce the environmental impacts associated with conventional electricity use.

The 200-kW site features LONGi 340W solar panels on Array Technologies’ DuraTrack HZ v3 single-axis solar trackers. Array’s mounting technology keeps the modules following the sun on its course throughout the day, ensuring up to a 20 to 25% increase in energy production over fixed-tilt systems. RP Construction Services Inc. (RPCS), California-based solar construction contractor and Array Technologies’ trusted partner, helped supply the project

Andrew Clark, Cloud County Community College Renewable Energy Technology instructor and also the project’s construction manager, used his experience as a local solar installer to help students with the installation process and guide them in overcoming challenges posed by snowy weather.

“It was my dream when I started teaching at Cloud to introduce solar to the program offerings,” says Clark. “Once I found out that was possible, I decided the program needed a solar project, so I imagined a small solar array to get their feet wet. Never in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to be able to secure funding for the project and finish it the very next year. It really has blown my mind all that we were able to accomplish in a short amount of time. I have to thank everyone who was involved; they helped make it possible.”

The program hopes to complete the project in a few weeks, celebrating with a ribbon cutting ceremony.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolAmerica Energy goes with SolarFlex Rack TDP 2.0 trackers for eight Georgia projects

SolAmericas REDI Project Portfolio installed with Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Solar Trackers with BalanceTrac

SolAmerica Energy installed Solar FlexRack’s new TDP 2.0 Solar Trackers in eight solar projects located across the state of Georgia. The new Solar FlexRack 2.0 Tracker with BalanceTrac introduces a technology that increases overall system efficiency, array design options and enables increased energy yield. The TDP 2.0 Tracker design expands the number of modules per row (up to 90) and is compatible with 1,000 or 1,500V thin film or crystalline modules. It also enables the installation of shorter piles and a lower per-unit fixed costs for balance of system, significantly reducing project installation costs.

“We require high-quality solar mounting and tracking products and support services in our solar projects. Solar FlexRack has consistently met our standards for performance, reliability and durability,” said Peter Corbett, Senior Vice President of SolAmerica Energy.

RELATED: Engineering Insight: Inside Solar FlexRack’s second generation tracker

SolAmerica, a leading solar development, engineering, procurement and construction contractor based in Atlanta, developed and managed the construction of the solar project portfolio with the local utility. The projects are part of a distributed generation plan that enables commercial businesses to purchase sustainable, carbon-free solar energy.

“SolAmerica is playing an important role in working with the local utility to help companies throughout the state have the choice of clean energy through well-constructed, distributed generation solar plants,” said Steve Daniel, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Solar FlexRack.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, in 2017, Georgia’s national solar ranking was 22nd. Georgia has aggressively stepped up their solar program and today, the state ranks #10 with over 1.5 GW of solar installed and almost 4,500 employed in the industry.

— Solar Builder magazine

Bifacial Gains: How much will bifacial modules add to solar tracker value? We are about to find out


Soltec is testing for all bifacial tracking variables at its new evaluation center in Livermore, Calif.

We are on the verge of the bifacial solar tracker era. Projects are being quoted with many starting to break ground later this year and early 2019.

Only two issues remain in the way of serious wide-spread adoption. First is the price of bifacial modules, which sits at about 30 cents a watt on average right now. The premium price makes sense because the market hasn’t formed yet, and it won’t form until there are bankable production estimates for the technology. That would be issue No. 2: the data set for bifacial tracker performance is incomplete, but this is about to change in a hurry.

Several big-time partnerships between tracker companies, module companies and PV research and testing labs have formed within the last year to understand this new bifacial module + PV tracker paradigm, test theories and build a complete data set on bifacial tracker production.

“This is a fundamentally different paradigm than before because the tracker and module are all intertwined with the site conditions in a way they weren’t before,” says Ron Corio, founder and CIO of Array Technologies.

Multiple approaches

The splashiest of these partnerships is Spain-based single-axis tracking supplier Soltec teaming with the National Renewable Energy Labs (NREL), Black and Veatch and RETC to build BiTEC, the world’s first evaluation center specialized in bifacial trackers, in Livermore, Calif. We visited the facility in July, and the site has a variety of configurations structured to isolate and measure any site or system design effect, such as:

  • Albedo
  • Terrain surface
  • Types of bifacial technology (from Hanwha-QCells, Jinko, Canadian Solar, LG and more)
  • GCR
  • Pitch
  • String design
  • 2x modules in portrait versus 1x.

One variable not changed throughout the field is tracker height, with all 2x configurations standing at 7.71 ft (with 1x configuration trackers at a height of 4.43 ft). The reason is Soltec’s preliminary electric performance measures over bifacial modules reveal a short-circuit current difference of over 2.3 percent between 1x and 2x trackers, meaning that height has a significant influence over the energy output of bifacial panels. The capture of diffuse irradiance below and around the tracker is increased with height, while the shadow cast on the ground is softened.

Array Technologies is taking a different approach. Also working with a U.S. national laboratory, Array is mapping the backside irradiance at a half cell resolution as well as testing various configurations at string level. Array’s testing is focused primarily on the module tracker interaction, varying module mounting techniques as well as testing module design variance. An important objective of this testing is to validate ray tracing simulation programs which will aid in the accurate modeling of bifacial performance in site-specific applications.

“We are working closely with the module manufacturers in a way we’ve never done before for exactly that reason,” Corio says. “When you design the module and the tracker as one system, you get a better result.”

In a comparative one year test, conducted in 2017, Array saw a 9 to 10 percent yearly gain for bifacial over monofacial at the same test site.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies already sees a 9 to 10 percent gain in bifacial tracking performance.

The difference in Soltec and Array’s testing approaches is in line with the difference in their tracking approaches — Soltec uses distributed tracker rows and Array supplys centralized drive. All of the performance gains reported will need to be considered within the already established LCOE of each tracker design.

Example: The torque tube impact is an early point of differentiation depending on who you ask. The Soltec testing team has seen the shadow from the torque tube in a 1x configuration hurting irradiance harvest in a way it does not when positioned in a 2x configuration, so its SF7 tracker includes an intentional gap between modules at the torque tube location that avoids shadowing on the backside of the module. Preliminary measurements have shown that up to 38 percent of reflected light does not reach the center of the bifacial modules compared to the edge due to the torque tube shadow of the 1x configuration. Array is quantifying the impact of the torque tube to harvestable rear side irradiance and testing modules with design characteristics that may use the torque tube as a performance advantage. All of Array’s test data will be compiled in an LCOE comparison.

The difference in testing isn’t really the point. The Lawrence Berkley National Lab noted during the Market Trends panel at Intersolar that the cost premium associated with tracker projects is all but gone with 79 percent of newly installed capacity being trackers. When all of this testing is done, the choice will still be the same centralized or distributed tracker decision its always been, just with these new bifacial performance gains to plug into the equation.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on Soltec’s new solar tracker wind-load analysis method

Soltec tracker

Soltec, already dedicating itself to bifacial tracker research, now presents Dy-WIND, an innovative method for comprehensive dynamic analysis in tracker wind-design developed with engineering consultancy Rowan Williams Davies & Irwin Inc (RWDI). Soltec decided to undertake this project after several studies have shown that certain wind-design code standards applied to solar trackers are insufficient for reliability because they do not consider the second order effects produced by the action of wind on the tracker.

Matthew T. L. Browne, Technical Director at RWDI, said: “the hybrid experimental-numerical approach developed through working with Soltec accurately estimates tracker behavior under the action of wind in multi-row arrays and allows flexibility in the design process that is generally not practical through full aeroelastic model testing.”

RWDI already has the expertise and wind tunnels that use stereolithography technology, integrated data acquisition, storage and processing systems, computer-aided drafting and a broad base of specialized instrumentation. Some of the most notable projects in which the firm has participated are the Petronas Towers in Malaysia, the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai or the Messina Strait Bridge in Italy.


— Solar Builder magazine

IHS Markit: 9 key stats from PV Structural Balance of System Report for North America

In its just-published PV Structural Balance of System (SBOS) Report for North America, IHS Markit forecasts the market at $8.3 billion from 2018 to 2022, to be driven by demand for single-axis trackers. The blended average pricing across all product segments (roof-top and ground-mount) is expected to fall from $0.13/W to $0.09/W during the period.

IHS Markit BOS

What happened in 2017?

• In 2017, more than 11 GW of PV racking and mounting products were delivered in North America, a decline of over 20 percent from 2016 due to lower demand for ground-mounted products.

• The competitive landscape for PV structural BoS in the United States experienced year-over-year consolidation in 2017, with the top ten suppliers accounting for 85 percent of shipments for the year. NEXTracker, RBI Solar, Array Technologies, SunLink, and IronRidge were the five largest suppliers and collectively accounted for over 60 percent of the market in 2017.

Market demand forecast

• The size of the PV structural BoS market in North America is forecast to surpass 74 GWdc from 2018 to 2022, with the ground-mounted segment accounting for 75% of demand.

• Demand for PV structural BoS products in the United States is forecast to peak from 2020 to 2021 before declining in 2022 due to the influence of the Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC).

IHS Markit BOS 2

Single-axis tracker domination

• Single-axis trackers have remained the dominant PV mounting product type in the United States, accounting for 56% of the ground-mounted segment in 2017 and are forecast to account for 69% of the segment from 2018 to 2022. The utility-scale PV ground-mount segment is projected to experience even higher attach rates for tracking systems, eclipsing 81% by 2021.

• The strongest cost benefit of utilizing single-axis trackers is in the Southwestern United States, but markets across the Western and Southeastern United States also provide attractive opportunities for tracking systems compared to fixed-tilt, albeit the cost-benefit in such regions is weaker.

• The market for fixed-tilt PV systems has remained stable due to strong market share within the small megawatt-scale market (system sizes 1 MW to 20 MW) and in key emerging utility-scale markets such as Florida associated with land types and seasonal conditions that are less conducive for tracking systems.

Rooftop demand

• Roof-top PV accounted for 3.6 GW of PV structural BoS shipments in 2017, primarily driven by demand for residential pitched-roof systems in the United States.

• Railless solutions lost market share in the pitched-roof segment in 2017 primarily due to the pull back of large railless customers such as SolarCity/Tesla and Vivint Solar, though multiple suppliers launched or experienced a higher sales volume for railless solutions during the year.

— Solar Builder magazine