Standard Solar to finance 15 new rooftop projects for DC Department of General Services

Standard Solar DC solar finance

Standard Solar CEO Scott Wiater told us about the company’s plans to start owning and financing more projects, and they are hitting the ground running, announcing financing for solar arrays on 15 new sites for the DC Department of General Services (DGS). This group of projects will be about 2,000 MWh of additional onsite solar generation per year. DC Solar, a CBE JV with headquarters in the District of Columbia, developed the project and Standard Solar will own and operate the facilities. Construction on the first site is already under way and the project sites are expected to be completed and in-service in the spring 2018.

The solar arrays join the city’s rapidly growing solar portfolio which helped the District be designated the first city in the world to become a LEED Platinum city. In the past two years, with Standard Solar’s support, DGS has engineered and installed solar arrays on the roofs of 30+ public schools, other educational buildings (including administrative offices), police and fire facilities. Those projects are now producing solar electricity totaling more than 7MW, or approximately 20 percent of the buildings’ electricity consumption. With the added 15 sites, onsite solar generation capacity will total more than 11MW on 50+ buildings in the District.

Through its new in-house financing capabilities, Standard Solar is able to provide a ready source of funding for solar PV projects nationally. In addition, Standard Solar is providing mentoring services to District firms for development, engineering and construction, sharing the experience gained from installing more than 9.5MWs in the District since 2009.

“We’re thrilled to help move our nation’s capital even further along in its mission to lead the rest of the world with its commitment to renewable energy,” said Tony Clifford, Chief Development Officer, Standard Solar. “For us, it was an easy decision to provide project funding for this round of projects and add to the city’s sterling reputation for climate-change leadership.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Standard Solar to build, own 2.5-MW PV array for Maryland park system

Standard Solar

Standard Solar has been selected by Montgomery Parks, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), to construct, own and operate the 2.5-MW combined ground-mount arrays at South Germantown Recreational Park and Rock Creek Regional Park.

The 3,978 panel, 1.32 MW array at South Germantown Recreational Park is expected to be completed in December of this year. Rock Creek Regional Park will feature a 1.173 MW ground-mount array with 3,456 solar panels and is expected to be completed in early 2018. The system takes advantage of aggregate net metering—whereby municipal, non-profit, agricultural custom-ers can offset energy use at any of their meters with solar located remotely on a single meter—and is expected to provide power for multiple park facilities.

Both arrays are being built simultaneously and will use local contractors and labor, creating local jobs in Montgomery County.

SB Buzz Podcast: Standard Solar CEO talks trade case, Gaz Metro deal, new tech at SPI 2017

When completed, the combined arrays will produce about 3,500,000 kWh of solar electricity annually, thereby offsetting 2,877 tons of greenhouse gases yearly.

“These projects represent another great example of counties and municipalities reaching sustainability goals and enhancing their financial bottom line by taking advantage of installing solar on unused land,” said Scott Wiater, president & CEO, Standard Solar. “We applaud Montgomery County and MNCPPC for their unwavering commitment to sustainability and these projects.”

Standard Solar financed the projects through a long-term power purchase agreement and will own, operate and maintain the systems.

— Solar Builder magazine

SB Buzz Podcast: Standard Solar CEO talks trade case, Gaz Metro deal, new tech at SPI 2017

Standard Solar podcast

At Solar Power International 2017, we grabbed a few minutes of Standard Solar President and CEO Scott Wiater’s time (along with some beers) to chat about the general vibe at SPI this year. The solarcoaster makes sure that each and every SPI has its own weird vibe, but the contrast of the positive momentum in the industry with the looming Section 201 trade case decision made this one feel especially awkward. Scott and I delve into it, but also chat about Standard Solar’s growth under its new owner Gaz Métro, the challenges and opportunities he sees right now and also our (now irrelevant, but mostly correct) predictions for the Browns-Ravens game.

— Solar Builder magazine

Check out this 541-kW solar canopy project at Salisbury University

Standard Solar sent word of a completed solar installation at Salisbury University. Standard Solar constructed and will operate, own and maintain the 541.8-kW solar system featuring four solar canopies and five electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. The canopies will cover a parking lot to provide shade for the University’s Parking Lot H, as well power to the adjacent educational buildings.

Standard solar parking canopy

Completed in fewer than three months, the 541.8 kW DC system is comprised of 1,548 modules that will produce 765,100 kilowatt hours of electricity annually and provide electricity to three campus buildings. The system is expected to provide the equivalent of 100 percent of the electricity needed to power the combined annual operation of three SU residence halls: Manokin, Pocomoke and Wicomico.

The system features Quest Renewables QuadPod™ double cantilever which enabled the rapid project installation timeline. With three foundations per 100kW, the QuadPod double cantilever can be applied to any parking lot configuration irrespective of parking spot width or drive aisle dimensions. 90% of QuadPod’s construction takes place on the ground, inclusive of module and inverter wiring. After ground assembly which includes nearly all electrical and lighting, the canopies are then lifted by crane for final installation, minimizing overhead work and optimizing worksite safety.

Standard solar university parking canopy

The system also features five EV charging stations, more than tripling the number on campus.

“Standard Solar’s extensive experience was evident in how efficiently the project was completed. We look forward to realizing the full environmental, educational and sustainability value that the project will deliver,” explained Wayne Shelton, SU director of campus sustainability and environmental safety.

Standard Solar will own, operate and maintain the system for 20 years, after which ownership will revert to SU.

— Solar Builder magazine

Why energy density matters — and three ways to maximize It

as much energy for the space as possible

System designs like this squeeze as much energy out of your available space as possible.

In previous generations of solar installations, the primary cost-driver was the electricity-generating modules. But in the past five years, as costs for the modules themselves have fallen, myriad other costs have become far more central to making the economics of projects work.

The increasing financial burden of fixed-cost items like permitting, interconnection and customer acquisition — just to name a few — forces project designers to evaluate closely whether it’s worth paying a premium for the most efficient solutions. When comparing options, engineers need to look at costs over the project’s lifetime, not just the dollars‑per‑peak‑watt cost of respective modules.

Solar installers generally have less space than needed to generate all the electricity used by a building. Even for distributed-generation ground mounts, where the generation is co-located with the load, developers have space limitations. All of this explains why energy density has become an area of concentration for new product development by manufacturers as of late.

Energy Density Explained

I use the term energy density in this case to indicate the amount of energy that can be generated by a PV system per unit area in a year. Energy density is something that system designers can leverage to achieve the best levelized cost of energy (LCOE) for all solar projects today, whether it’s in rural, suburban or urban areas. A more efficient solar panel or more panels squeezed into the same area will produce more kilowatt hours per square foot.

In recent years, the race to maximize energy density has moved into high gear. From May 2016 to December 2016, four companies broke panel efficiency records (Hanwha set a record in June that it topped in December). Researchers in Australia set a new record at more than 35 percent efficiency, and NREL recommitted itself to the race to find new materials for solar cells that could break the theoretical 29-percent maximum efficiency of traditional silicon solar panels.

The most popular candidates to replace traditional silicon cells are perovskite (which are not yet commercially available) and CIGS thin-film cells like those produced by First Solar. Thin-film panels can not only push efficiencies higher, but they have an added well known benefit of half the temperature coefficient of traditional silicon PV cells.

LCOE Heroes: How inverters drive down PV levelized cost of energy

Three Technologies

But those aren’t the only technologies that can help solar installers produce the best energy density for their clients’ investment. Here are three technologies that will make the most of the space you have, no matter where your project is located:

1) Bifacial solar modules: Bifacial modules capture the sun’s energy on the front and the backs of the panels, significantly increasing the amount of sunlight each module can convert to electricity. This technology is inspiring new thinking on installation, including the idea of installing bifacial modules at unusual orientations, like west-facing vertically, which exposes both sides to sunlight at the same time. The technology is still evolving, but for roof-space-intensive projects, I believe bifacial modules hold a lot of promise.

2) Creative racking solutions: When space is sparse, creativity is crucial. For example, when Standard Solar won a DC Department of General Services (DC DGS) contract to install solar arrays on 30 buildings in the densely populated Washington, D.C., area, the engineering team realized quickly that we had to figure out how to maximize the energy density on such tight roofs. The solution, as it turned out, was a high-density racking solution — double-sided with limited row spacing — that allowed us to pack more panels into the same space. As a result, the project was able to realize more kilowatts on each roof because the racking systems allowed an array design that was as aggressive as possible to produce a higher power output from the space.

3) MLPEs: Module-level power electronics provide high granularity for module power output control, shade tolerance and data monitoring for the asset managers. MLPEs have been mostly relegated to residential applications where significant shading issues are common. However, MPLEs can deliver better yield by reducing losses even when no shade is present. MLPEs also open wider options for array design and placement — an advantage for engineers looking to maximize the power production of any given space.

As the costs of modules continue to plummet and the share of other costs increase as part of the financial calculations involved in a solar project, installers and engineers must perform a detailed cost-benefit analysis of how to increase the amount of power a project can deliver from any given space to maximize project economics.

And as the space for arrays becomes increasingly restricted, engineers and installers will have to use all the equipment and innovation at their disposal to increase energy density — and keep the solar revolution growing.

C.J. Colavito is director of engineering at Standard Solar.

— Solar Builder magazine