Creative installations: Three solar project designs with aesthetics in mind

With the right customer, a new PV system can be more than just a way to reduce an electric bill and even become an aesthetic calling card. As we prep our Project of the Year issue, we thought we’d share a few of these concepts.

New Hope Community Church

Palomar Solar PV design

Installed in Chula Vista, Calif., this is believed to be the first design of its kind. Palomar Solar came up with the idea to use black on white panels for the design of the cross and black on black panels to frame it. The church was very excited and did not reveal what we were up to too the rest of the congregation including the Pastor until the install was completed. Palomar used LG modules, SolarEdge inverters and Everest mounting systems to complete the job.

Guido & Companies

Freedom Solar Power

Freedom Solar Power recently designed and installed a one-of-a-kind project for Guido & Companies Inc. that uses solar panels to spell out the word “GUIDO” on the building’s rooftop and doubles as creative aerial advertising.

Guido Construction Company and Guido Building Materials Company are located right next to the San Antonio International Airport, so people flying into or out of the airport get a prime view of the company’s large solar panel “billboard.”

The 85-kW project is comprised of 260 SunPower modules, will meet than 60 percent of Guido’s energy needs, and will pay for itself in less than 4.6 years.

There were significant space issues that made installation very technical, according to Freedom Solar’s lead designer Josh Meade. The roof’s tilt changes on the left and right sides of the building, which required two separate arrays on the main part of the rooftop project where the word “GUIDO” appears. Freedom Solar also had to install a third array on the other side of the building to increase the number of panels and reach the desired kilowatt-energy production.

 

The project features 327-watt high-efficiency solar panels SunPower, which are the most efficient available today and unmatched in reliability with an expected useful life of more than 40 years. Freedom Solar is a SunPower Master Dealer, the only company with that distinction in Texas.

The Solar Labyrinth

solar labyrinth

solar labyrinth project

solar labyrinth PV

Solar Labyrinth was commissioned by Dr. Allan Berger of Bright Eyes and Bushy Tails Veterinary Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, and designed and fabricated by Anthony Castronovo. The project was an outgrowth of a 40-kW solar installation on the roof of the building. The goal of the project was to design a creative solar sculpture that would add to the visual presence of solar power at the site while also creative an exciting work of public art. The ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur became a focus of discussion and the Labyrinth form was the resulting physical embodiment of this ancient story. Each of the 14 panels on the interior of the structure have a different animal surrounded by a sine wave pattern to reference the path of the sun. A Minotaur sculpture will eventually be added to the center of the labyrinth to complete the project.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarEdge will give you $10,000 if you connect the 500,000th PV project to its platform

solaredge commercial

GTM Research recently ranked SolarEdge as a top global monitoring provider with more than 466,000 monitored PV systems around the world. In order to celebrate this new milestone, the company is offering a $10,000 prize to the installer that connects the 500,000th PV site to our monitoring platform.

Less than a decade ago, monitoring PV systems was a passive and reactive process. With the rapid adoption of MLPE, module-level monitoring and remote troubleshooting have become the standard for PV systems. SolarEdge’s monitoring platform offers improved PV asset management and decreased O&M costs by reducing the number of trips to sites and amount of time spent on site, while also increasing system uptime.

About SolarEdge monitoring

The free monitoring for system lifetime, with real-time insight into system performance from anywhere, provides value to installers and system owners alike. Acting as a strategic PV asset management tool, the platform offers comprehensive analytics tracking and reporting of energy yield, system uptime, and financial performance. For immediate fault detection, accurate maintenance, and rapid response, the platform features pinpointed and automatic alerts. The module-level power curves and voltages displayed in the monitoring platform enable remote troubleshooting. Its dashboard displays energy production on a weekly, monthly and yearly resolution.

Comparative energy charts available on the dashboard compare present and past performance on a monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis. To compare actual monthly yields with estimated figures, PV simulation results can be uploaded. For commercial PV systems, a commissioning report is offered with a comprehensive checklist of key aspects of the SolarEdge installation. For reporting purposes, there are various options including performance measures, comparative data to previous periods, and the report format.

— Solar Builder magazine

Modules and integration: Four reasons why AC, smart modules are on the rise

The LG NeON 2 ACe

The LG NeON 2 ACe debuts at Intersolar 2017.

At Intersolar 2017, the industry’s newest power couple made its engagement announcement: LG and Enphase have teamed up on an AC module. Known as LG’s NeON 2 ACe, the new product combines LG’s NeON 2 technology with Enphase’s IQ6+ microinverter.

“This changes the basic architecture of an install — the goal is to see the inverter go away and to go plug-and-play,” LG noted at the press event. “This also makes warehousing easier by reducing part count.”

But wait, there is more. Also around Intersolar, Boviet Solar Technology finalized an agreement with SolarEdge Technologies to include SolarEdge power optimizers with its 60-cell mono smart solar modules. Boviet is just one example in a growing list of manufacturers to setup such an arrangement with SolarEdge.

“This new arrangement with SolarEdge gives our customers a single source for both solar panels and power optimizers, which means less equipment to stock and transport to the jobsite,” says John Bereckis, president of the Boviet Solar USA Module Division.

These are just the two most public announcements of MLPE and module marriages — putting faces on a trend that’s been evolving the last few years, whether it is a power optimizer-embedded smart module, a microinverter-embedded AC module, or maybe just a souped-up junction box. Here are some reasons to consider an integrated module, MLPE solution:

1. Streamline purchasing and installation

LG PresentationSolar installers commonly source their solar modules from one vendor and match solar power optimizers supplied by another. By bundling the power optimizer with the module, installers only have to work with a single supplier, which results in savings in both product sourcing and installation. In addition, purchasing solar modules with MLPE pre-installed ensures turnkey functionality and shortens installation time.

“By incorporating MLPE in the module, we eliminate the need to install separate boxes on modules, reducing labor costs,” says Gautam Ghose, senior product marketing manager at Trina Solar. “This enables efficient design and also reduces shipping, inventory tracking and storage costs.”

Trina Solar is currently working with Maxim and Tigo, but says it is pursuing other partnerships as we speak. The integrations are available in the company’s Trinasmart, Trinaswitch and Trinapeak models.

System owners receive the same type of design and efficiency benefits with smart modules that have embedded power optimizers as with the add-on power optimizers. The power optimizers offer MPPT per module, which allows for flexible installation design with multiple orientations, tilts and module types in the same string.

2. Safety

No fretting about meeting any Rapid Shutdown requirements. A smart or AC module is ready to comply right off the bat.

Module Evolution: What big-time PV improvements will boost panel efficiency?

3. More monitoring, less mismatch

Incorporating MLPE into the module at the outset ensures module-level monitoring in each system to help pinpoint system performance issues, resolve those issues and minimize downtime over the life of the system.

“Using smart modules offers a variety of benefits, such as faster installation for labor savings, simplified purchasing and inventory, and easier site logistics,” says Lior Handelsman, VP of marketing and product strategy at SolarEdge.

“With the optimization in Trinasmart and Trinapeak, you increase the energy produced by your PV system by minimizing mismatch losses caused by partial system shading or the varying degradation rates of individual modules,” says Parjanya Rijal, product marketing manager at Trina.

If problems are discovered, each manufacturer notes the simpler serviceability for field replacement in addition to the more granular degree of optimization. The strategy here is to maximize the energy produced from each cell in a module and increase durability by eliminating hotspots.

For example, the NeON ACe provides an integrated web-based solution. Monitor power generation through the internet, anywhere and anytime and utilize an automatic problem diagnosis function. With the LG AC Module mobile app, it’s possible to set up all monitoring configuration steps.

4. Install flexibility

Tigo seems to work with every company on both the module and inverter side to ensure smooth integration of its Flex MLPE TS4 Platform. Tigo emphasizes the importance of selective deployment with its Flex MLPE TS4 platform because different functionalities can be used together in the same system by using different TS4 covers.

“Diodes, monitoring and safety (TS4-D, TS4-M and TS4-S) can be selectively deployed on any size system,” the company notes. “Predictive IV is a feature of the TS4-O and TS4-L, which uses analytical data about the module itself to predict optimal performance conditions. This data is used in conjunction with Tigo’s impedance matching technology, allowing for selective placement only on shaded modules.”

Optimization also enables wiring flexibility: Longer strings, uneven string lengths, layouts and orientations, shade mitigation and so on.

“For example, a residential customer might combine strings of modules of different lengths or tilts. Customers can also have modules at different orientations on the same string,” Rijal says.

In addition to fitting more modules into tight spaces, one can easily add additional panels in the future as power needs increase. These features boost the aesthetic and technical advantages of rooftop solar.

When working with SolarEdge inverters, SolarEdge power optimizers automatically maintain a fixed string voltage, allowing installers even greater flexibility with longer strings and strings of different lengths in order to design optimal PV systems. This means more modules can be installed on the roof for increased system size and longer strings for decreased BoS costs.

This article appeared in the Sept./Oct. issue of Solar Builder magazine. Not a subscriber? It’s free! Get on the list today.

— Solar Builder magazine

The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

Big leap for microinverters

APsystems SPI

APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter at SPI in Las Vegas. A groundbreaking design in microinverter technology, the YC600 will offer the highest peak output power, faster transmission speed and more modules allowed per string than comparable microinverters. A wider MPPT voltage range will result in a greater energy harvest for homeowners.

You’ll want to get the full scoop at booth 1745.

Streamlined Shutdown

Fronius

Fronius is launching a new generation of its Rapid Shutdown Box, which the company says will be the most convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 compliance, while enhancing overall rooftop and firefighter safety. The new generation includes two versions: the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and Quattro.
“Based on customer feedback, we implemented many improvements into this new generation of our Rapid Shutdown Box,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management at Fronius USA.

Directly connected to the inverter through the same conduit as the DC homeruns and powered by the array, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of components and eliminates the need for an external power supply. The low-profile design and the multiple mounting options allow for installation underneath the modules, ensuring a clean system look. In addition, the NEMA 4X rating ensures the box is built for severe outdoor conditions. MC4 connectors, spring-loaded terminals and generous wiring space make the wiring a breeze. The Rapid Shutdown Box also acts as a combiner box, removing the need for additional hardware. Booth 3943.

Lightweight, flexible power conversion

Ideal Power

Ideal Power invented a new kind of power conversion architecture that delivers on flexibility, allowing you to enable or disable any features depending on project needs. At SPI, check out its 30-kW Stabiliti Series power converters. These multiport, compact converters are smaller, lighter and dramatically reduce installation costs while increasing return on investment. Ideal Power recently partnered with NEXTracker to implement it in various PV sites throughout North America. Booth 1433.

A top rail clip to rule them all

Heyco solar rail clips

Heyco has been busy this summer, introducing several new clips and wire management accessories for the solar market. Newest to the lineup are the SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U, which are top rail clips for various racking manufacturers such as Unirac, Ironridge, Everest, SnapNRack, Solar Mount and other similar racking profiles. The SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U are suitable for the new Enphase Q Cable. At the booth, you can also enter for a chance to win a Google Home. Booth 4762.

Drive down carport costs

Baja Carports InterSolar 2017 Booth Models

Baja Construction always has a standout booth, and this year its in-house construction team will be installing its signature Baja Solar Support System design, the “Braced Single Post Support,” built with high-tensile light gauge steel to support 24 solar modules (7.8 kW). Included in the structure is an EV Station for the hot red Tesla parked underneath. Meet Baja’s in-house designers, engineers and project managers and also make certain to visit Baja’s sponsored lobby lounge for food and beverages. I’m sure you’re already there. Booth 4155.

Improve your grip strength

Ace Clamp solar mount
AceClamps are factory-assembled clamps with patented design features that allow strong connections to standing-seam roof panels without the use of set screws or any other loose parts that could damage the surface of the roof panel. AceClamp designs have been vibration tested during the development stage and incorporate special locking features to ensure that the bolts do not back out when subjected to vibratory loads from wind flutter and light seismic activity. Booth 809.

OMG Roofing solar mount

OMG Roofing Products has introduced PowerGrip Universal for mounting solar racking systems on commercial roofs. PowerGrip Universal is designed to reduce or eliminate ballast in solar racking systems, so there’s less weight, material handling and labor on the roof. Made of heavy-duty cast aluminum, PowerGrip Universal offers 3,300 lbf of tensile strength, 2,500 lbf of shear strength and 2,000 lbf of compressive strength. It’s one of the strongest anchors on the market. Booth 629.

Solar Connections

The Standing Seam Power Clamp from Solar Connections can attach to virtually any standing seam profile and draws its strength from patent-pending WaveLock Technology with optional two, three and five points of attachment. The top can be custom drilled and tapped to fit any bolt configuration. Offering ease of installation, the Silver Bullet set screws include a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength while also keeping the paint finish and seam free from harm. Additionally, the Standing Seam Power Clamp is available in standard mill finish aluminum material, making it an item you can easily keep in stock when the need arises. Booth 1569.

Reinventing the ground mount

Nuance Energy

Nuance Energy’s patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform could revolutionize ground-mounted solar projects. This earth anchor foundation system satisfies permitting requirements for virtually any site and soil type without the need for geotechnical reports or special inspections. It eliminates the need for heavy equipment or cement by enabling small, unskilled crews to install the entire platform quickly and easily using only handheld tools. Booth 2108.

Meet the 4G platform

Ginlong Solis inverter

Ginlong Technologies is now shipping its Solis 4G Platform. What you can see at SPI this year in booth 2427 is the Solis-1P(2.5-10K)-4G-US single phase string inverters, with high switching frequency; 2, 3 and 4 MPPTs designs; 97.8 percent peak efficiency (97.5 percent CEC); fan-less NEMA 4X / IP65 design, integrated AFCI; web-based and smartphone app monitoring, all under 44 lbs. The Solis 25K-66K-US three phase inverters are designed for all commercial and utility-scale installations with four MPPT designs and ultra-low start up volume that maximizes energy harvest. Booth 2427.

Five trackers to, um, track

SunLink TTD

SunLink’s TechTrack enables efficient load redistribution and allows the system to handle extreme wind with less steel, fewer foundations and lower cost. Now, TechTrack’s intelligent control system also delivers equally responsive control modes for snow, flood and O&M. The result is system level benefits, visible in SunLink’s Vertex data monitoring system. Rigorous testing to UL3703 further reduces permitting risk. Booth 3319.

Soltec

SF7 is the next-generation horizontal single-axis solar PV tracker from Soltec. Soltec says the SF7 enables up to 5 percent greater MW per acre than other trackers and does that with 54 percent fewer piles-per-MW, 15 percent less parts count and 58 percent fewer screw type connections than leading competitors. SF7 standard features include short tracker site-filling options, unique steep-slope tolerance of 17 percent NS, efficient self-powering and innovative cable management solutions for combining, fusing and protecting PV source circuits more economically. Booth 3640.

Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Turnkey Solar Tracker_2017

Solar FlexRack is launching its TDP Tracker with a new BalanceTrac design to increase energy yield and reduce balance of system costs. This TDP 2.0 Solar Tracker with BalanceTrac, optimized for 1,000- and 1,500-V modules, has greater rotational range of up to 120° and enables more modules per row (up to 90). The robust design delivers autonomous tables that increase site flexibility to maximize land use. Booth 2538.

AllEarth Renewable

AllEarth Renewables is showing off its new Gen 4 tracker which will be self-powered, to guard against the grid going down and will have expanded communication options, such as Wi-Fi, cellular and SD card enabled. It will come as a complete, pre-engineered system for easy, efficient shipping. Booth 626.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies is revealing the results of a recent TÜV Rheinland-backed independent report focused on solar tracker reliability. Array’s latest single-axis tracker, the DuraTrack HZ v3, is often touted for its reliability and lower cost of ownership. Array says DuraTrack HZ v3 is proven to be 300x less likely to experience catastrophic failure during wind events than more stow-reliant, single-row competitors. Booth 2919.

Page two has new on big-time collaborations, products for boosting performance, installing on shingles and more.

— Solar Builder magazine

Watch the solar eclipse on SolarEdge’s monitoring platform

SolarEdge eclipse stream

SolarEdge Technologies says it will be sharing a live broadcast tracking the total solar eclipse from its monitoring platform. The live view is possible with the company’s PV monitoring platform, which leverages its nearly 300,000 monitored solar energy systems across the United States to track the path of the total solar eclipse and its effect on solar energy generation. The broadcast can be viewed here.

“Being one of nature’s most magnificent events, the solar eclipse is a reminder of the importance of sunlight in all our lives. With solar energy now having greater significance for power generation, tracking the path of the eclipse is an exciting undertaking,” stated Guy Sella, CEO and Chairman of SolarEdge. “As a leading PV inverter provider in the United States with PV systems installed coast to coast, we are able to leverage our vast fleet of PV systems and real-time monitoring to live track this event.”

The Company is inviting SolarEdge installers and system owners throughout the U.S., both within the path of the total solar eclipse and the areas that will experience the effects of a partial eclipse, to take part in the live tracking by sharing photos and monitoring screenshots during the event on social media using the dedicated hashtag #PVEclipseTracking.

— Solar Builder magazine