Solar Power World - SEPTEMBER 2012

Page 1

September 2012

Technology • Development • Installation

INSIDE: >> solar education: Grads Begin “Cool” Careers Page 26

>> project review: Solar Amps Up Clinic in A Can Page 12

>> engineering Developments: Customers Favor Total Package Page 40

Solar Soars In

NYC Page 34

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ALL SOLAR ENERGY IS NOT CREATED EQUAL At SolarWorld we believe our energy is different because we’re different. And it’s not just because we’ve been powering American homes and businesses for over 35 years. We believe all people around the globe deserve access to clean, renewable, solar energy — and clean water. So we’ve partnered with Water Missions International to provide energy to the safe water projects they’ve installed all over the world, in places like Haiti, Uganda, Kenya, Honduras and more. Right now, water borne illnesses lead to 3.5 million deaths per year. Using our solar technology, Water Missions International has been able to give over 600,000 people access to this basic need that most of us take for granted. To learn about how you can help bring safe water to more communities, go to

We’re SolarWorld – America’s Authority on Solar™

Kenya, Pokot Tribe of Masai People

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Editorial Advisory Board Natalie Wiener Solectria Renewables Jose Gomez Ingeteam Raheleh Folkerts Renewable Energy Systems Americas Steve Hogan Spire Gary Mull Westinghouse Solar Devon Cichoski SolarWorld Marcelo Gomez Unirac Justin Barnes North Carolina (State University) Solar Center Scott Wiater Standard Solar




Will You Make The List?


y beautiful wife Beth is an obsessive list maker. She will make a to-do list to start her day and then five minutes later a list for the morning. By noon, she’s on to her third list for the day. For 17 years, I’ve watched her do this, and for 17 years I’ve failed to understand it (I’m Oscar Madison to her Felix Unger). But her lists keep her organized, and she keeps me organized. The lists, prioritized with the most important items at the top, are a lifesaver. Otherwise, my life would be a complete mess. On this alone, I thought about asking for her help in January when my boss asked me to come up with a list of the Top 100 Solar Contractors in the United States. As a speech-language pathologist, however, she isn’t interested in diving into the solar industry (she has enough to handle with the children she works with at the Cleveland Metropolitan School District). I quickly realized I was on my own — well, not really on my own, of course. I turned to members of my editorial advisory board (EAB), contractors, colleagues at WTWH and more. We wanted to make sure we put together a comprehensive form to take a true measure of what installation companies in this industry are doing. After extensive review, the form is now up on our website, and I can’t encourage you strongly enough to fill it out and submit your application to participate in Solar Power World’s inaugural Top 100 Solar Contractors list. If you’re proud of your company’s achievements, you owe it to yourself — and your employees — to apply to be part of Solar Power World’s Top 100 Solar Contractors list. You and your employees work hard to further the interests of the solar industry through hard work, determination and gigawatts of installations (2.7GW at press time), and we at Solar Power World appreciate your efforts. To that end, we created a program that will give you the recognition you deserve — based on independent, verifiable information. We expect our list to become the Inc. 500/5000 list of the solar industry, one that companies clamor to make every year. The list will be broken down into residential, commercial and utility installations, so you will only be competing against your peers. It only takes a few minutes to apply for a chance to join this elite. The next name on our list should be yours.

What do you think? Discuss this, and other solar issues at

Frank Andorka

Editorial Director

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September 2012 • vol 2 no 4 EDITORIAL


Editorial Director

National Sales Manager

Frank Andorka • 440.234.4531 x110 @SolarFrankA @SolarPowerWrld

Todd Tidmore • 512.426.2378 @wtwh_ttidmore

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SOLAR power WORLD does not pass judgment on subjects of controversy nor enter into disputes with or between any individuals or organizations. SOLAR POWER WORLD is also an independent forum for the expression of opinions relevant to industry issues. Letters to the editor and by-lined articles express the views of the author and not necessarily of the publisher or publication. Every effort is made to provide accurate information. However, the publisher assumes no responsibility for accuracy of submitted advertising and editorial information. Non-commissioned articles and news releases cannot be acknowledged. Unsolicited materials cannot be returned nor will this organization assume responsibility for their care. SOLAR POWER WORLD does not endorse any products, programs, or services of advertisers or editorial contributors. Copyright© 2012 by WTWH Media, LLC. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, or by recording, or by any information storage or retrieval systems, without written permission from the publisher. Subscription rates: Free and controlled circulation to qualified subscribers. Non-qualified persons may subscribe at the following rates: U.S. and possessions, 1 year: $125; 2 years: $200; 3 years $275; Canadian and foreign, 1 year: $195; only U.S. funds are accepted. Single copies $15. Subscriptions are prepaid by check or money orders only. Subscriber Services: To order a subscription or change your address, please visit our web site at solar power world (ISSN 2164-7135) is published by WTWH Media, LLC, 2019 Center Street, Suite 300, Cleveland, OH 44113.


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w w w. s o l a r p o w e r w o r l d o n l i n e . c o m


4 D e pa r t m e n t s

12 Project Review 18 Future of Finance 21 Policy

26 Solar Power Jobs And The Future

Ecotech Institute grads start cool green careers.

31 Solar Product Insurance:

From paperwork to project reliability.

23 Racking and Mounting

45 Products


Contractors Corner


Ad Index

v o l


n o


F e at u r e s

04 Developments

2 0 1 2


01 The First Word

S eptem ber

34 Plan A Stay In The Future New York’s first net-zero building is a solar-skinned bed-and-breakfast.

40 Putting Together The Solar Puzzle

Many customers are turning to a new solution: the total solar system.

About the Cover: This month’s cover photo was provided by Voltaic Solaire of Brooklyn, NY.


The photo shows


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The Delta, a New York City bed-andbreakfast powered by solar and wind.

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SolarWindow: Generating Electricity On See-Through Glass New Energy Technologies, Inc. is a developer of see-through solar cells for generating electricity on glass. The company says its SolarWindow technology can generate electricity on see-through glass. New Energy Technologies has recently teamed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to developed the use of lowcost materials and a special application technique that could help optimize the movement of electrons within the ultrathin solar cells. This should increase the electricity produced when the company’s see-through SolarWindow prototype is exposed to natural or artificial light. The company says the technological improvement can be done at ambient pressure and low temperatures, avoiding materials that must otherwise be deposited using high-temperature vacuum deposition. Vacuum deposition is expensive and time-consuming and, thus, not practical for high-speed and large-scale applications. The innovation promotes low processing temperatures,

y of om-



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enabling high-speed roll-to-roll (R2R) and sheet-to-sheet (S2S) manufacturing. This large-area, R2R and S2S fabrication capability and improved durability of SolarWindow technology are crucial for production of market-ready electricitygenerating coatings on see-through glass and plastic. With assistance from University of South Florida and NREL, New Energy Technologies has improved its technology by advancing durability, power performance and cost-effective manufacturability – all important to the eventual commercial deployment of the SolarWindow technology. “Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow prototypes, and have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL,” John A. Conklin, President and CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc. says. “Earlier, we developed our first-ever

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working SolarWindow prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings. To generate electricity on prototypes, researchers creatively layer and arrange ultra-thin see-through solar cells onto glass. Each of these cells is arranged in a network and interconnected by way of a virtually invisible grid-like wiring system. Within these ultra-thin solar cells, the light-induced movement of electrons generates electricity. When prototypes are exposed to light, the light’s energy prompts electron movement through specific physical and chemical mechanisms leading to power generation. Dr. Scott R. Hammond, Principal Scientist at New Energy Technologies, Inc., believes the discovery could also favorably improve durability and shelf-life of future SolarWindow products. “NREL scientists have previously published unrelated results that demonstrate dramatic improvements to the operational and shelf-life of unprotected (i.e., nonencapsulated) photovoltaic devices utilizing related materials when subjected to continuous illumination. No doubt, this is a promising and significant advancement.” Currently under development for eventual commercial deployment in the

estimated 85 million commercial buildings and homes in America, SolarWindow technology is the subject of ten patent filings and is the world’s first-of-its-kind technology capable of generating electricity on see-through glass windows. SPW New Energy Technologies, Inc.

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Solar Makes A Great School Project American Clean Energy has commissioned 13 solar projects for the Toms River Regional School District in Ocean County, New Jersey. Advanced Energy Industries, Inc.’s AE 500 solar inverter will be used at one of the projects, which requires the integration built-in reliability the model offers. “We are extremely excited that the AE 500 units have been successfully commissioned on one of our projects,” says Steve Morgan, CEO of American

Clean Energy. “AE inverters have a tremendous reputation as being purposebuilt with project developers in mind,

central inverter maximizes energy harvest and accelerates payback with a 97% weighted California Energy Commission

enabling easy installation, maintenance and top-end performance, which is important to our project investors and host customer. In addition to delivering a great product, the sales and engineering support personnel were great to work with and we look forward to developing more projects with this inverter in the future.” AE says its 500 transformer-based

(CEC) efficiency rating, wide DC operating range, fast convergence MPPT, and the ability to produce full power all the way to 55°C. The inverter features a DC circuit breaker sub combiner that enables low-cost compliance with current safety and electrical codes, and improved serviceability. Built-in advanced power controls and optional factory-installed performance monitoring and metering make the solar inverter fully integrated and configurable, saving installation time and expense. SPW

Advanced Energy Industries, Inc.

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Industrial Wireless

Industrial Ethernet

Serial Connectivity and Networking

Embedded Computing

Smart Solar Ideas from Moxa

The IA3341 Series

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RISC-based Industrial Embedded Computer Moxa ART 32-bit ARM 9 Industrial Processor 4 DIs and 4 DOs with 3 KV digital isolation protection 2 AIs and 2 thermocouple inputs; sensor types J, K, T, E, R, S, B, N 2 software selectable RS-232/422/485 serial ports 50 bps to 921.6 Kbps serial speed, supporting non-standard baudrates Dual 10/100 Mbps Ethernet ports for network redundancy

Moxa’s Rcore ready-to-run platform makes it easy for programmers to develop embedded software. Rcore includes easy-to-use application libraries, tested bug-free sample code, and requires less time for the concept validation and development cycle enabling a faster time-to-market that meets or exceeds customer requirements. The Rcore Community also offers our partners easy access to software and technical knowledge about embedded systems, along with an interactive forum to share knowledge with embedded computing professionals. Visit for details.

SD socket for storage expansion Supports Modbus TCP library to retrieve AI and thermocouple data

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UC San Diego Takes Another Step Toward Carbon Neutrality

The University of California at San Diego

The Solution

has set a high sustainability goal as part of its Campus Clean Renewable Energy Project. To become climate neutral by 2025, the campus has made a variety of sustainability efforts, including implementing solar power. One of the university’s latest solar efforts was a 267-kW installation atop its Trade Street Warehouse. Built in 1988, the building is two stories and nearly 200,000 square feet. The university uses the facility for campus housing and staging, book store shipping and receiving and departmental and library storage.

To address the roof’s weight-load limitations, the project’s system integrator Sullivan Solar Power recruited SunLink engineers to design a hybrid mounting system that included both ballasted and connected sections. Hybrid systems help decrease the amount of overall weight bearing on the roof, while limiting penetrations. “The structural make-up of the roof supports offered limited capacity to support normal forces required to confidently anchor the racking system,” says Chris Gleed, Sullivan Solar Power’s director of project management. “A fine balance of weight distribution and anchorage distribution drove the design, with particular attention to the loading.”

The Challenges But installing solar posed some challenges. The roof’s weight-load capacity varied across it. And the university also required adherence to strict logistical and installation timelines.

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[DE VELOP MENT S Logistical and Installation Efficiencies Once the mounting system was finalized, Sullivan Solar Power took advantage of SunLink’s integrated balance-of-system products, procuring the company’s RMS racking, combiner boxes and wire management. “SunLink’s balance of system products allowed us to meet installation deadlines and ensure open communication from order placement to product delivery,” says Gleed. “This gave us the ability to properly plan, forecast and ensure that all aspects of installation were executed according to plan.” As an additional means to fast-


track installation, Sullivan Solar Power retained SunLink to prepanelize all of the project’s modules with mounting hardware into panel assemblies of three or four. Prepanelization helps to decrease on-site labor time and expedite overall system installation.

More Solar To Come The Campus Clean Renewable Energy Project initiative at UC San Diego has already lead to one megawatt of solargenerated power throughout the campus, including parking canopies, a groundmount system and multiple SunLink roof-mount systems. In addition to the PV, the campus plans to incorporate

energy storage to distribute power more efficiently and help the utility grid during peak demand. Sullivan Solar Power looks forward to working with SunLink to complete another smaller roof mount system on UC San Diego’s Marine Ecosystem, Sensing, Observation and Modeling Laboratory. SPW SunLink


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are simple, safe, reliable

and easy to install.” – Stuart Priour, Solar Community

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REVI EW ] K at h ie Z ip p /A s s oc iat e E d it or

Solar Makes Remote Medical Care Possible Clinic In A Can’s solar-powered shipping container enables cost-effective medical care in remote areas


y developing-world standards, most Americans, even the average Joe with his blue collar and bagged lunch, live in luxury. Everything is at our fingertips. Even when ailing, it’s a short drive to see a doctor in a clean, cool room in complete privacy — right down to the paper gowns. It’s easy to forget that everyday lives are much different elsewhere. People in Haiti, for instance, must travel miles on foot or by motorcycle — if they’re lucky — to seek medical care. And when they arrive, instead of finding comfortable rooms, they are treated under tarps and banana trees, in 100-degree heat and in public. What’s worst is that, though these people live in poverty, they don’t live in ignorance. They know how things are in other parts of the world from television— clean, air-conditioned and with 12


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running water. They’re aware of what they don’t have and how medical care is supposed to be. The challenges to providing health care in remote areas are myriad, but the lack of reliable power is one of the biggest challenges. Michael Wawrzeweski wanted to solve that problem — and he turned to experts in the solar industry for help.

Origins Of An Idea As a certified physician’s assistant, Michael Wawrzewski knew the poor conditions in which people were medically treated through mission trips to places such as Haiti and Bolivia. Having started his own medical mission organization, Hospitals of Hope, he was also familiar with how challenging it is to

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provide help. He knew the unimaginable cost of running mission agencies or clinics in developing countries. He knew building hospitals could take months, finding qualified architects, obtaining building and medical supplies, getting clearances and going through customs could be equally cumbersome. And even after completion, he knew there would still be the cost of maintaining it. Even knowing all this, Wawrzewski was still determined to help. “People struggle every day for clean water, access to medical care and electricity,” Wawrzewski says. “Many are children, and I know how important having good medical care for my children is to me. I know it’s important to parents over there, too.” Wawrzewski’s first attempted to build a better medical clinic in 2005. His project manager Kyle Stevens helped put nuts and

bolts to his idea to create an aluminum truck trailer that converted into a basic medical center. The model worked quite well during Hurricane Katrina disaster relief, but after the Haiti earthquake in 2010 Wawrzewski decided to revisit the idea to see how he could further improve it. The trailer was not ideal for traversing rough roads and was difficult to ship internationally to arrive on time. Instead, Wawrzewski reached for repurposed shipping containers. “A shipping container is much easier to move,” Wawrzewski says. “The infrastructure already exists to ship the clinic around the world, whether by truck, train, boat or airplane. It can be helicoptered into a natural disaster site.”

A Redesigned Clinic The team designed a 40-ft Clinic In A Can with one room that can be customized

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Inside The Clinic In A Can The clinic is designed to be durable and able to survive earthquakes, hurricanes and other natural disasters. It can also provide a safe environment for medical treatment and function regardless of the surrounding environment.

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into a variety of medical rooms, including an exam room. Wawrzewski and Stevens researched the best possible construction materials and use of space. For example, the two found using wood was a bad idea because insects would eat it. Instead, steel studs and fiberglass-reinforced panels made the clinic sturdy and structurally sound. Another major issue was insulation. The metal box could quickly become an oven in hot climates. They resolved the problem by using a spray-in polyurethane foam on all the walls and ceiling, and included air conditioning, which was a treat for the patients and a godsend for traveling doctors unaccustomed to such heat. With the updates, the Clinic In A Can model proved

successful. But Wawrzewski saw room for one more major improvement: the clinic’s power source. Power by diesel generators is expensive and hard to transport to remote sites, and obtaining fuel requires an organization to make arrangements for storage and delivery on a weekly or monthly basis. Wawrzewski hoped to change that. “I wanted to reduce the impact of our emissions, as well as the expenses and headaches of our clients,” Wawrzewski says The goal was to make the clinic a self-contained structure that could function on its own in remote areas that were without running water or electricity. Wawrzewski thought alternative energy, maybe solar, could do the trick but wasn’t convinced it could be done. So he turned to Farrel Williams, owner of Apex Solar, for help. “Michael was skeptical solar could be installed on the clinic successfully,” Williams says. “I actually applaud him for going on blind faith that what I told him could actually work.” Wawrzewski and Williams spent some time tossing numbers back and forth, determining if the clinic’s roof

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[P Ro j e cT

could host enough solar to meet its power demand. Finally, they came up with a solution that could work except for one issue: funding. The quote was more than Wawrzewski’s clients were willing to pay, so it was back to the drawing board. “We cut the solar in half,” Williams says. “It was the only solution because the inverter and batteries couldn’t be reduced in size or cost.” It was less solar than ideal, but still enough provide full power to the clinic. The team decided on 12, 220-W modules from Solar Power Industries

in Pittsburgh. But the racking posed yet another challenge. “Because the container will be shipped, there can’t be anything hanging off it,” Williams says. “The solar array also had to be able to be erected fairly quickly and easily by people who have never installed solar.” Williams found PV Racking’s system to be a good match. It breaks down to fit into the shipping container and then easily reassembles and disassembles as the clinic moves around. Installation is also easy, as modules slide into channels rather than bolt down.


Williams and Stevens also worked together to find ways to place all the equipment inside the container so nothing would move around during shipping. The result was a cost-effective, affordable system that could generate its own power, resist extreme temperatures, reach the point of destination on time without falling apart and assemble easily by the average person. Clinic In A Can had reached success.


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SOlar on shipping containers These up-cycled cans host more than clinics:

• Bedrooms for an orphanage in Haiti • Pizza restaurant in Montreal, Quebec • Library for the indigenous in Mongolia • Disaster relief bases in Houston • Cyber cafes and schools in Africa • Desalination plant in Singapore • Crop-production units in Boston

How It Helps Williams and Wawrzewski say the system is doing better than expected. Running the clinic on diesel can cost more than $10,000 a year, while solar can pay for itself in two years. The solar installation can last for more than 20 years, while only replacing the battery every five to seven. “We’re quite impressed with how the system is working for our clinics,” Wawrzewski says. “It’s obvious solar costs more upfront, but after a couple years the electricity is free, which saves thousands of dollars in fuel costs. Solar just ultimately makes sense.” Daniel White, assistant director of Clinic In A Can, has been surprised by the wide interest in the clinic. From mission groups in the Sudan, to governments, militaries and mining companies, the clinic is helping bring health care to remote locations. “It’s just like walking inside a doctor’s office in the United States,” White says. “With options for dental work, radiology or surgical facilities, you can customize the clinics however you like. The possibilities are pretty 16


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much endless.” Dr. Rick Moberly works overseas with DOCS for Hope and has used the clinic to treat a variety of ailments: hypertension, gastritis, intestinal parasites, malaria, tuberculosis, cholera and even provide prenatal care. “After the patients have been sitting outside in the heat waiting to see you, they appreciate the cool air as well as being able to have a sensitive exam done in a private room,” Moberly says. “It’s much better than having an exam on a bench in front of hundreds of people, which can be quite embarrassing.” Josh Jakobitz, operations director for Heart to Heart Haiti, has also worked with the clinic, particularly for use in primary care family practice. This one’s been customized with a pharmacy and a consultation room. He says it’s most rewarding to see the children receive help. “Parents come with their kids at 6 a.m., before the heat, and sit in triage to see a doctor,” Jakobitz says. “The parents and the community have really embraced having their own health care

within motorcycle or walking distance.” Even though the clinic’s design has come a long way from a trailer truck, Wawrzewski and his team are always looking for ways to make it better and as cost-effective as possible. But he thinks using solar will be the best way to reach the developing world and provide high-quality health care. “Solar has allowed us to provide modern medical care to the most remote areas all around the world,” Wawrzewski says. “From clean delivery of babies, to dental care, to modern vaccination for illnesses and viruses that kill thousands of children each year, we have the capability to meet all these needs because of solar.” SPW

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The Fate of the United States Solar Market Post-1603 Grant Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a bi-monthly Solar Power World series on U.S. solar financing to help our readers understand the current states of play in the markets. We’d like to thank Robert Sternthal, president of Reznick Capital Markets Securities, for working with us to produce this series.

First and foremost, the prevalence and viability of financing of U.S. solar projects depends upon the sector of the market in which you are developing: Robert Sternthal president of Reznick Capital Markets Securities

• Residential Solar • Small-Scale Commercial • Large-Scale Commercial/Utility-Scale • Residential Solar The healthiest market in the United States is currently residential solar. Large operators such as SolarCity, SunRun and its affiliates, SunPower et al., not only have significant financial backing, but also appeal to customers in various states where the payback for investing in solar is five to seven years if the homeowner pays for part or all of the system — or immediate savings in the case of a lease. The most interesting aspect of this market will be the ability of SolarCity, SunRun and any other companies to securitize cash flows from their portfolios.

Small-Scale Commercial The small-scale commercial market, while showing the most promise for positive economics, has the bleakest outlook for financing going forward. Why? Several reasons: • Lack of equity investors with in-house tax capacity; • Scarcity of debt; • High fixed costs for third-party legal, due diligence, operating and maintenance, among others; • Lack of standardized products — in documentation, system components, permitting, size, offtakers, interconnection, net metering, 18


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state RECs or rebates, among others; and • Offtakers tend to be unrated entities. For those sponsors or developers that lack tax capacity, all of the reasons cited above are amplified because any tax-equity investors will require third-party due diligence and legal review and will possibly inhibit debt at the project level, as well.

Utility-Scale The utility-scale market remains fairly healthy because of compelling demand from traditional owners of energy plants, infrastructure funds and private-equity players with large amounts of equity capital to put to work. Furthering fueling competition for these deals is the fact that this market generally suffers from a lack of viable deals, given the scarcity of power-purchase agreements (PPAs) available. Going forward, I would expect that the debtfinancing market for utility-scale solar deals will be shrinking, if it hasn’t already. One immediate impact of the European banking crisis and the new Basel Rules is the shortening of loan tenors from 18 years to 15 years or less for those lenders still active in the market. The utility-scale market will also face challenges as potential buyers without tax capacity will need to find an offtaker for the solar investment tax credit (ITC) and depreciation where such sums will be rather large vs. 1603 Grant deals.

What Does It All Mean These are all well-known facts — so how will this market develop over time? I would suggest that there are a few possibilities: • Field-of-Dreams Strategy – “Build it and they will come.” Many sponsors are developing portfolios of solar projects from 500 KW to 3 MW that they plan to sell prior to notice-toproceed (NTP). This strategy works extremely well for sponsors that have experience developing

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shovel-ready projects. They maximize value by selling to a turnkey purchaser or another potential owner that has a vertical approach, such as placing panels or a lower-cost engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) or operations-and-maintenance (O&M) model.

• The Remora and The Shark – Vertical integration or partnership with large U.S. taxpayers. The equity sponsor (the Shark) owns the solar projects, while the non-equity partner (the Remora) uses its tax capacity to shield its income otherwise earned through panel sales, EPC or other services provided to the projects. Essentially, the non-equity partner is leveraging its tax capacity to sell products or services to the solar industry.

• No Money Down – Programmatic sales. Using this strategy, the sponsor uses as little capital as possible until NTP, at which time, it enters into a sale-leaseback agreement to finance more than 100% of the project, earning a development fee for each project but retaining little to no ownership. Future articles will seek to break down these strategies and others to further explore how the market will develop. SPW

Sternthal is president of Reznick Capital Markets and has extensive experience in financing renewable energy transactions, whether they are in the wind, solar or biomass sectors. Working alongside Reznick Group and Reznick Think Energy, Reznick Capital Markets offers one of the most comprehensive financial advisory platforms in the industry.

The Basel (III) Rules “Basel III” is a comprehensive set of reform measures developed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision to strengthen the regulation, supervision and risk management of the banking sector. These measures aim to:

• improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from financial and economic stress, whatever the source • improve risk management and governance • strengthen banks’ transparency and disclosures. The reforms target:

• bank-level, or microprudential, regulation, which will help raise the resilience of individual banking institutions to periods of stress. • macroprudential, system wide risks that can build up across the banking sector as well as the procyclical amplification of these risks over time. These two approaches to supervision are complementary as greater resilience at the individual bank level reduces the risk of system wide shocks. Source: Bank For International Settlements (

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Loan Guarantees for Clean Energy Despite reports, the program is a success story — not a scandal. There’s a lively debate underway about the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan guarantees to American companies that are developing advanced renewable energy technologies. Unfortunately, many opponents are generating heat, but are not properly representing the facts around the DOE program’s strong success. These critics keep citing Solyndra, a solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt because of intense foreign competition. But the projects representing about 98% of the program’s funding have been successful, especially solar power plants that aren’t vulnerable to the volatile global economy. Overall, the program has spurred $40 billion of investments in energy projects over the past five years, while supporting more than 60,000 American jobs. An independent program review headed by Herbert Allison, a former Wall Street financier, reported that the loan portfolio is performing well, with the majority of companies on track to repay their loans on schedule along with some $8 billion in interest. Reaching similar conclusions, the news service Bloomberg Government, found that 87% of the program’s loans are low-risk. Meanwhile, the news site CleanTechnica observed that, with only 1.4% of its investments in “losers,” the program has a far better record than the private venture capital markets. Begun under former President George W. Bush, the program resembles federal programs that helped American companies commercialize cutting-edge technologies, including aerospace, medical treatments, nuclear power, global positioning systems and the Internet. It’s designed to minimize taxpayer costs and maximize economic benefits, such as job creation. The federal government manages a loanguarantee portfolio of approximately $1.1 trillion, consisting of more than 65 programs. As with the loan-guarantee program for renewable energy, these are federal guarantees of loans from private sources — not grants, tax credits or direct loans. Even if companies go bankrupt, the

taxpayers don’t have to pick up the entire tab because the federal government seizes the borrowers’ assets, from buildings to bank accounts, and can sell them or manage them in order to generate revenue. Meanwhile, the program helps American companies commercialize technologies that enable them to export products and services overseas and create good jobs here in the United States. For instance, in the town of Tonopah, Nev., a solar power project will produce power 24/7. A field of thousands of billboard-sized mirrors will focus the sun’s energy at the top of a tall tower where a “receiver” filled with molten salt will be heated by the sun. Stored in an insulated storage tank, the high-temperature salt can be used, day or night, to produce steam to generate electricity in a steam turbine. When operational at the end of 2013, the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Plant will generate 110MW of electrical power to serve 75,000 homes. Because 100% of the electricity generated by the plant is presold under a 25-year energy contract with NV Energy, the project is a solid investment. Over 30 months of construction, almost 600 jobs will be created onsite, as well as more than 4,300 direct and indirect jobs from equipment and service providers in more than twenty states. Over its first ten years of operation, the project will generate $37 million in local tax revenues, helping to pay for school systems, police and fire departments. The Crescent Dunes power plant is designed, developed and will be operated by SolarReserve, a developer of large-scale solar projects. More than $250 million of project equity was provided by private investors. But, in order to get this US-developed advanced technology off the ground, it received a boost from the DOE Energy Loan Guarantee Program. The loan program commercializes new technologies, supports American jobs, promotes American exports and generates clean energy. With all but a few loans on track for repayment with interest, the program is a winner for our country’s companies, workers and taxpayers. Make no mistake: Federal loan guarantees for advanced renewable energy technologies aren’t a scandal – they’re a solid success story. SPW

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Kevin Smith, CEO of SolarReserve

Smith is CEO of SolarReserve, a developer of large-scale solar projects. This article first appeared in the Tallahassee Democrat on July 20 and now appears exclusively in Solar Power World.



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St e ve n B u s h o n g/ As s i s tan t E di to r

With Little Space and Less Time North Carolina Project Requires Compromise And Calculation

After success with a small photovoltaic installation, officials in Gaston County, N.C., looked to the roof of their largest building, the York-Chester Plaza in downtown Gastonia. It seemed a prime spot to further their green-energy ambitions. The county, however, could not take advantage of state and federal tax savings that often make projects financially viable, so officials sought to lease the rooftop. Charlotte-based National Renewable Energy Corporation, or NARENCO, won the contract and started planning for installation. An aerial view of the sprawling 100,000 squarefoot building, which houses a police station and other government offices, suggests plenty of space to install solar panels. But structural analysis showed that some parts of the roof were unfit for an array’s weight because inside it supported hanging equipment. In all, NARENCO lost 12% of the installation space because of the equipment and another portion to a solar hot water system. Keith Davis, vice president of construction, was responsible for the installation and determining how to make up for all that lost space. “If I start losing panels, my lease doesn’t decrease, but my panels and kilowatt hours do — and therefore my revenue,” Davis says. “I needed to put more panels on this roof without negatively affecting generating capacity.” The optimum tilt angle for solar panels is the latitude of their installation — in Gastonia, that’s 35 degrees

— but such a steep angle is unlikely for flat rooftops. The massive ballast blocks and wind shielding required to keep an array in place would put too much strain on the roof. In addition, steeply angled solar panels require more space between rows — seven feet at 35 degrees. In an open field, it’s easy to achieve the optimum, Davis says. But on roofs, developers trade efficiency for lower angles that require lighter ballast blocks and less distance between rows. “It’s a balancing act,” Davis says. “You weigh this factor and you weigh that factor, and you make a decision about what’s the best return for your money.” Davis reached out to PanelClaw, a Massachusetts-based solar racking company, for a ballasted system with low tilt angles. He and PanelClaw regional account manager Chris Amsbary decided to use two systems together. The company’s Grizzly Bear system supports 178 kW of the array, holding panels at 10 degrees. Amsbary says this

Type: Roof Mount Size: 740 kW Energy Generated: 955,657 kWh Number of Panels: 3,122 Total Install Time: 11 weeks Best Installation Day: 400 panels on Dec. 8, 2011 (racking installed in prior days) Crew Size: 13

York-Chester Plaza Gastonia, N.C.

Hours Worked Per Week: 40 Benefit: Creates clean energy for the community and a small revenue for the county Racking/Mounting company: PanelClaw

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[ R A C KI N G

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angle is standard for flat roofs. A larger number of the panels — 571 kW worth — is supported by the company’s Polar Bear 5-degree system, installed using its reduced inter-row spacing option. (Polar Bear can also hold panels at 10-degrees.) “It’s often the case when designing a PV system that the integrator is trying to get a certain power output, but they are limited by factors including roof space,” says Amsbary. “With a 5-degree system, we were able to get more panels on the roof and meet the production targets.” Though actual spacing varies from project to project, the roof in Gastonia needed only eight inches of spacing between panels on Polar Bear racks. The Grizzly Bear racks, using standard spacing, required about 21 inches between panels. The change in angle from 10 to 5 degrees affected panel output by 2.5%, Davis says. They compensated for the loss by adding more solar panels, the cost of which was negligible, he says. “We could generate that much energy to cover that cost pretty easily,” Davis says. But there was another hitch. The system needed to be operational by Jan. 1, 2012, to be eligible for the government incentives, and crews didn’t take to the roof until mid-October. That left 11 weeks to install a 3,122-panel system that typically takes 12 weeks to build, all amid the holidays. To make matters worse, a string of inclement weather was headed their way. Davis says crews unloaded panels in the rain. They waited for frost to thaw and then

A combination of PanelClaw’s Grizzly Bear and Polar Bear racking systems contributed to the success of a 740 kW installation in Gastonia, N.C.

Discuss This and other solar issues at



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worked into the evening. They worked on combiner boxes inside pop-up tents under downpours. Crews even worked Christmas Eve and for overtime. “When you get down to that point, you do what you have to do,” Davis says. “It was worth those tax credits.” But the racking again contributed to the array’s success. The PanelClaw systems are relatively light on components, consisting of three major pieces and two nuts and bolts. A mechanically attached roof-protection pad and integrated UL 2703-certified grounding come standard, says Amsbary, all reducing installation time. The system first generated power on Dec. 28, feeding into the grid. It was a double-win for Gaston County. “[The system] generates a small revenue off that formerly empty rooftop, and renewable energy is being sold into the grid,” says Dan Ziehm, assistant director of public works. “In 15 or 16 years, Gaston County will be able to purchase the York-Chester solar array at a significantly depreciated cost, and the power-purchase agreement can be transferred to the county.” It’s going well for NARENCO, too. The system created about 107 MW of energy from July 1 to 30, averaging about 4 MW per day. “We are exceeding our expectations pretty handily on generation output,” Davis says. SPW

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Solar Power Jobs Biz Issues Ecotech_Vs3.indd 26

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’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about the future lately. I’m in good company; our inaugural class of Ecotech Institute students just graduated

with associate degrees in programs such as Solar Energy Technology and Wind Energy Technology. These visionaries are not only full of hopes and dreams about the future, they are getting actual job offers from cool places to work like Hawaii, Colorado and Texas. David Roberts at the environmental, non-profit organization Grist has also been thinking about the future, and asks:

“Why do ‘experts’ always lowball clean-energy

projections?” In terms of solar, for example, Roberts relates, “In 1996, the World Bank estimated 0.5 gigawatts of solar photovoltaics in China by 2020, but China reached almost double that mark — 900 megawatts — by 2010.”

I think Roberts is spot-on with his points about

dynamic and distributed systems. In his words: “When it comes to complex, parallel, loosely linked networks, the dynamics are more fluid and nonlinear changes more likely. They’re harder to quantify and predict, so we consistently underestimate them. This is something to keep in mind when pondering what today’s

Ecotech Institute grads start cool green careers

© Teri Fotheringham Photography 2011

and the future

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Ky l e C ri der/ Manager of En v ir o n m e n t al Operat i ons at Ec o tech I ns t i t u t e and Ed u c at i on C orporat i on of Am eri ca

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© Teri Fotheringham Photography 2011

© Teri Fotheringham Photography 2011




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projections are going to look like in 2020.” Or even in 2050: Jorgen Randers, one of the authors of the original Limits to Growth, recently updated his forecast for the next 40 years and reported that nearly 40% renewable energy is possible by that time. Let us hope this is a low-ball estimate as well! A recent U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report suggests that 80 percent electricity from renewables is feasible by 2050—using only existing technology. In one of the most uplifting books I’ve recently read, Amory Lovins shows in Reinventing Fire how more than 90% renewable energy is not only possible but also practical by 2050. Going back to Roberts’ dynamic and distributed systems point, I believe that if we hope to achieve near-100% renewable energy by 2050 we must plan to do so in as decentralized a manner as possible. Large, centralized power generation facilities, regardless of their fuel source, have many disadvantages over smaller, distributed systems, including: •Large-scale transmission infrastructure with accompanying large footprint, maintenance, and environmental issues (ecosystem fragmentation, herbicides, etc.), •Infrastructure breakdowns due to accidents, increasingly chaotic and extreme weather events, and acts of terrorism, •Power losses over long distances, and

•The need for transformers to step down the voltage before it can be delivered to local consumers. Even if all of these issues can be addressed, there is the basic matter of total number of ongoing jobs created. Installing and maintaining solar panels on the roofs of homes and businesses nationwide creates many more permanent jobs than a few concentrated solar mega-plants—and leaves our deserts free for owls and tortoises. Speaking of jobs and decentralized systems, it seems I can’t visit an eco-oriented web site these days without getting an advertisement for a “Green MBA” program. This leads me to another distribution-related jobs question: Who are these Green MBAs supposed to manage? Who is training the folks who are actually going to be repairing the wind turbines and installing the solar panels on all those roofs? While we’re busy working on the next Ecotech Institute to help answer that question, a few of those Green MBAs might have to roll up their white sleeves and get their hands dirty. Above, I mentioned the cool jobs companies have offered our first Ecotech Institute graduates. Five of our 41 graduates were hired by a solar company in Hawaii where solar has passed grid parity, that is, solar is now cheaper than fossil fuels. Previously,

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this company toured our Aurora/Denver campus and was so impressed that they went back and created positions for our students. These new employees will be rotating through four different aspects of solar business: residential, commercial, system design and project management. Solar City hired other graduates and assigned them to an army base to help meet net zero energy goals. Some are even greening the fossil fuel industry by working on soil and drilling fluid recycling. In a recent blog post Ecotech: It Means Jobs, I talk about the overwhelming response to America’s first dedicated renewable energy technology school. Our current population of almost 500 students represents every state except Maine, South Carolina and Utah. In other words, this job market is so promising that we have hundreds of students crossing state borders to attend an accredited college for environmental training. At first,

we thought almost all of our students would come from the Denver Metro area. But we rapidly realized there is interest from across the country and so we now advertise Ecotech Institute nationally. Let’s not low-ball our future in terms of solar energy jobs and other renewable energy careers. But we need more solar energy classes and solar energy schools to meet this growing demand for clean energy technology with zero fuel cost. As inspiration, here’s another Reinventing Fire quote: “…You can run a very prosperous U.S. economy, 2.6 times today, in 2050, with no oil, no coal, also no nuclear energy and a third less natural gas. It’s $5 trillion cheaper in net present value than business as usual. The transition requires no new inventions, no acts of Congress, and it’s led by business for profit.” ~Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute SPW

Roberts has an excellent follow-up to his post, titled: “What I left out when I wrote about lowball renewable energy projections.” Be sure to read it as well!

______________________________ Kyle Crider is Manager of Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at Discuss This and other Solar issues at

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Fro m Pa p e r wo r k t o Pro j e c t Re l i a b i l i ty Jeanne Schwartz and David A. Schroeder


ave you heard the one about the solar array that decided to take a skinny dip in the backyard swimming pool? Of course not. Despite the fact that solar arrays aren’t being constructed alongside swimming pools, insurers continue to ask solar photovoltaic project developers the question. Why? To ensure property visitors won’t be at risk from drowning, and solar panels refrain from making a splash in the deep end. Risk management requires solar project developers to understand the true threats to all phases of a project – from inception all the way

through ultimate dismantling. From stolen solar panels to property damage, and bodily injury to electrical or mechanical breakdown, to system reliability issues, there are numerous threats to consider and mitigate. Hazards and perils can seemingly come out of nowhere as a project’s risks change over its life. Power purchase agreements (PPA) often are complex legal deals, requiring different levels of property and liability coverage. Solar project insurance also varies depending on the equipment used for installation. The project is only as good as the sum of its parts, and that makes warranty administration and management a critical part of the insurance offering.

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Jeanne Schwartz is vice president of new venture commercialization for Assurant, Inc.

David A. Schroeder is vice president of operations and industry relations for the solar industry at Assurant, Inc.

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Biz Issues Assurant_Vs4.indd 32

Project investors increasingly are insisting on warranty management provisions due to concerns about the long-term viability of solar module equipment manufacturers and other components as the industry consolidates. Investors fear that if a manufacturer is acquired, merges with another company or goes bankrupt, it won’t be able to honor its warranty on their solar equipment 5 or 25 years from now. Such market realities threaten the sustainability of project cash flows and undermine the enthusiasm for solar project development. Warranty backstops now reduce risks by protecting cash flows and address concerns about the viability of solar equipment manufacturers by guaranteeing product warranties for the life of the project. Investors may worry about a solar project’s reliability and continued ability to generate sufficient energy to fulfill PPA requirements. What will the energy output be in 20 years, or 25 years? Will cash flows remain strong or will they dissipate over the course of 25 to 30 years? Some insurance available can alleviate those concerns by guaranteeing energy output and system performance. Business interruption insurance can protect against unexpected loss of revenue from system malfunctions, which can occur in the course of a project’s life. Lenders also are requesting “non-vitiation clauses” in their insurance coverage policy to ensure protection if the project developer breaches or voids the insurance agreement. With this additional layer of protection, lenders can increasingly feel confident in the safety of their long-term investment and commit to financing more projects. This is critical for solar project developers because the biggest risk they see isn’t related to buying insurance, but the potential inability to secure financing necessary to move forward with an installation. Yet, the two are inextricably intertwined. As for the risk posed by swimming pools, it turns out they aren’t nearly the hazard one might think, considering the question is part of the standard insurance query. Instead, the question itself is symptomatic of a larger issue in the solar insurance industry. The insurance process and products were not developed with solar projects in mind. Often the insurance application forms are filled with irrelevant questions not tailored to the needs of project developers seeking project insurance and what truly needs to be insured in this sector. Administrative complexity often gives way to

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frustration. Understanding the details of what is covered can be difficult and downright challenging to the most astute business people, and sometimes even those in the insurance industry. For a solar project developer, the problem is exacerbated when dealing with multiple insurance plans covering an installation. The result can be devastating if the project owner believes something is insured then finds out there were gaps in coverage after catastrophe strikes. Independent solar project developers in the mid-sized commercial solar market typically lack the resources of larger companies with dedicated risk management teams to help sort out the myriad of challenges they face. While solar technology may be complex, that doesn’t mean the insurance paperwork or understanding the insurance coverage needs to be. Specialty insurance provider Assurant, Inc. partnered with GCube Insurance Services, the leading provider of insurance for the renewable energy industry, to offer solar insurance to developers with mid-sized commercial solar projects in the 100-kW to 3-MW range. Together, we looked for ways to improve the standard insurance forms and improve the process for solar project developers. By eliminating questions that were not applicable to solar projects, we were able to cut down on the amount of questions that needed to be answered, and cut in half the time it takes to fill the insurance forms out. By bundling the insurance offering, we were able to consolidate coverage and provide single-source warranty management for claims authorization, payment and management. Less paperwork and a simplified process does not mean project developers must accept one-size-fits-all insurance coverage. Comprehensive and customizable insurance options are still available to provide project developers with flexibility to address multiple risks. In fact, it is a necessity for project developers to ensure proper coverage on the variety of solar projects. It is not surprising the insurance needs for solar projects built on New Jersey rooftops differ from solar farms in Arizona. Nor should it be a shock about how vital a role insurance plays in the development of the solar industry. Solar project insurance is a critical risk management strategy to help developers address investors’ fears. It is helping provide a stable foundation for investors and encouraging project development even before a claim is ever filed. SPW

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ndbreakfast Developers are set to open the first building in New York City entirely powered by renewable energy — 87 solar panels and a small wind turbine — and you can stay there. It’s a bed-and-breakfast. The Delta opened to reporters in late July, even though its final pieces were still coming together. The city hadn’t quite approved overnight stays in the IKEA-furnished studio and triplex. A retail space and a fried-food bonanza called Bite This also weren’t finished. But The Delta will have it all soon, with one notable exception: The building lacks a true south, the direction solar panels most often face to absorb the sun. Conforming to the sharp-angled intersection of West 9th Street and Hamilton Avenue, The Delta is named for its triangle shape. In architecture, triangles are strong and increasingly used in complex projects. But when

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developer Ron Faia invited a string of solar companies to install panels on the triangular building, they scoffed. The Idea Faia and his co-developer at Dynamic Technical Concepts began The Delta 10 years ago, without any intention of making it a renewable energy model. The building that stood there then was a dilapidated two-story. The cost to repair it had led to perpetual vacancy, so Faia convinced city officials to

let him build anew. The variance process in code-heavy New York took several years. “We just wanted to make a cool, unusual building,” he says. “The idea for the renewable energy came to us four years ago, when the price of gas and oil went up.” Still, the five-story building, located at 142 W. 9th St., seemed impossibly threesided to most solar companies, so Faia started his own: Voltaic Solaire, a Brooklyn-based company that designs and installs solar and wind-power systems. He says: “I thought if

we can create a building here and make it work, imagine what we could do when we have a true south.” Faia decided to cover most of the available space on the walls and roof with solar panels — skin it with solar film, he says. Delta is expected to produce 12.3 MW of energy a year with its 10.2-KW system, more than the 2,700 sq. ft. property — including the restaurant and retail space — is estimated to require. Excess power will be sold back to the grid.

“When you speak to the average person, they think solar is a great thing for the future,” developer Ron Faia says. “No. The future is today. We want to illustrate to entrepreneurs that it is very easy to implement into any building. We’ve done it.”

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The Panels Workers erected scaffolding in recent months to install several types of solar panels on the east and west sides of the building and the roof. The panels were selected, at the time, on the highest output potential and aesthetic value, Faia says. On the facade of the building, the eastern side, 36 TianWei frameless opaque thin-film panels cover the bricks on the building’s top three floors, except where there are windows. In those spots, workers arranged 12 transparent thin-film panels from the same company. People on the streets below can make out the windows only at night, when light shines through from inside. Though Faia says he strives to use American products, the TianWei amorphous silicon panels were designed to mount upright and do well in “inconvenient” conditions – recording up to 7% efficiency,

the manufacturer says. The panels were bought in China and shipped to New York, where they now reflect the image of traffic passing on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. And, Faia says, the panels’ red hue lends itself to the color of the brick. Sharp made the 15 thin-film panels that skin the western wall. Just below them are four solar hot water units – even though The Delta needed only three – that will provide enough hot water for the building and its restaurant. Sharp also produced the seven thin-film panels on an awning above the street. The ten panels on the roof — still the most integral part of the system — are 250-

watt monocrystalline silicon modules made by Samsung. Feet away, a wind turbine spins contributing 10% of the building’s power. The panels feed into three types of inverters — Solectria, SMA and Fronius — and a combiner box from SolarBOS. The diversity of inverters was chosen to give potential customers of Voltaic Solaire an idea of the available technology, perhaps during their overnight stay. The Racking To outfit the building with panels, Faia needed vertical racking. But the complexity and the lagging efficiency of vertical solar systems has led to sporadic use. When it is used, it’s often an

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I N S TA L L AT I O N P R A C T I C E S architectural or environmental statement rather than a primary means to generate energy. As a result, few companies manufacture such systems. Faia had to look overseas, to the Germany-based Schletter. It’s the company’s first facade system in the United States, after completing 10 such projects in Europe. John VanWinkle, a project engineer for Schletter, says one of the main concerns with facade systems is safety. Rooftop solar arrays are surrounded by parapets, but wall-mounted systems run the risk of panels sliding onto the ground — and possibly people — below. The systems must be heavier, VanWinkle says, and the anchors to the wall must be verified. Building materials and obstructions complicate the systems. On The Delta, VanWinkle used a



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cross-rail system on one wall and a single layer on the other. A cross-rail system is effective when obstacles are present on a wall, such as windows or signs. A basic first layer supports a complicated second. As with most projects, the actual installation varied from what was on paper. The late addition of the restaurant, for example, meant moving an awning higher up on a wall. But the end result was seamless, VanWinkle says. “It almost looks futuristic.” Schletter also installed the roof mounting. The Reason Faia says the bed-and-breakfast will be available for guests staying at least a few nights beginning soon. He is offering it as an inn rather than a private residence as it better affords the opportunity to demonstrate renewable energy. Faia says he imagines

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children coming through on class trips, learning about the benefits of off-grid energy. The building itself cost about $500,000. The renewable component brought the cost to $663,000. But various tax credits and incentives — including New York’s New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) funding, which is a state funded incentive to promote New York’s energy, economic, and environmental wellbeing – will trim the total cost by nearly $40,000. But for Faia, money isn’t the main consideration. Faia says he learned about energy conservation from his parents while growing up in the Caribbean and visiting Italy. He saw how other cultures conserve energy. “As a child, we were taught not to be wasteful, and take what you need,” he says. And now, with support from President Barack Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg — whose PlaNYC goal is to reduce New York’s carbon emissions by 30% by 2030 – the environment is advantageous for renewable energy. Plus, it’s a new challenge for the builder. “After a while, if you look at yourself as an artist, you need to reinvent yourself,” he says. During an interview, Faia says he looked up at the tall New York building with broad southern walls and thought about what could be done if only businesses people and entrepreneurs saw the possibilities. “When you speak to the average person, they think solar is a great thing for the future,” Faia says. “No. The future is today. We want to illustrate to entrepreneurs that it is very easy to implement into any building. We’ve done it.” Now, they can see for themselves. SPW

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Phone: 248.577.0020

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Piecing Together The

SOL AR PUZZLE Wayne Miller Senior Vice President of products and field operations of GreenVolts in Freemont, Calif.


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n the burgeoning solar market, many customers are finding that a complete solar system can be a difficult puzzle to piece together. While new solar deals, planned projects and installations are making headlines, actual commissionings are fewer and farther between. While solar energy has been around for years, the industry is still in its infancy. Most traditional photovoltaic (PV) systems are still composed of parts sourced from different suppliers, including solar panels, inverters, trackers and monitoring systems. Because these parts are not designed to work specifically with one another, the overall system performance suffers. Many customers are turning to a new solution: the total solar system. More and more companies are beginning to offer a complete, fully integrated system-design solution that essentially allows buying the entire puzzle, as opposed to separate pieces with jagged and conflicting edges. The conventional approach to building a solar-power plant typically includes installating modules, mounts or trackers, and inverters designed and manufactured from different suppliers, followed by having engineering and construction firms provide custom, aftermarket integration. With a system approach, all components can be designed to work optimally together, producing a higher energy yield and eliminating costly and timeconsuming integration. In addition, much of the system is pre-assembled, enabling a modular and scalable approach to power-plant design and construction. One such system, produced by GreenVolts, uses concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) technology, taking advantage of module efficiency that is 1.5 to 3 times that of traditional silicon or thin-film photovoltaics. In their design, the sunlight passes through primary and secondary optics, which deliver an industry-leading 1,300 times concentration onto the cell. The smaller cells, in turn, enable more effective heat dissipation, helping the cell produce maximum power. The primary optic has 24 individual Fresnel lenses (one for each cell in the module) based on siliconon-glass (SOG) technology. These optics are made by stamping the optical pattern on a highly transmissive sheet of glass. The silicon side is inside the module, and the tempered glass is exposed to the elements. The secondary optic is a molded glass element with a domed top to extend the acceptance angle and redirect the light in parallel rays for full and even coverage across the cell. Higher concentration ratios have been a challenge in the industry, as they require much more precise and accurate solar tracking — the margin for error is smaller — to focus the light for maximum power. The wide acceptance angle of this optic, integrated in a design together with the module and tracker, was critical in overcoming this challenge.


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The light is converted to DC power by a multi-junction (MJ) solar cell made from III-V materials. In contrast to traditional silicon or thin-film cells, the MJ cell is able to use the entire spectrum of light, thereby yielding more energy. These also have a low-temperature coefficient of power relative to other photovoltaic technologies, so they maintain higher efficiency in hot climates. Together, these optical elements and the MJ cell form the power unit, which is approximately 11 watts, and the 24-cell module is rated at 300W at STC at 1000W/m2. Building utility-scale power plants requires logistics, storage and assembly that comprise a significant portion of the overall project cost. Total solar system providers can address this issue by developing modular systems, which are largely assembled at the manufacturing location, as opposed to the traditional approach of assembling and installing materials on-site. For example, GreenVolts preassembles eight modules into a system element called a paddle, which is approximately 2,400W. The paddle is a structural element that has been pre-aligned to better than 0.1 degrees at the factory, installing directly to the tracker with four bolts and two snap-together electrical connectors. This model improves performance, while minimizing installation costs, compared to a multi-component, multi-vendor project. To maximize efficiencies, CPV requires two-axis tracking. An ideal tracker comes with a tilt and roll design, which breaks up the mechanical structure into smaller sections that can easily ship and quickly install on site. Another key aspect of these tracking systems



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is that they are divided into multiple smaller sections (16m2 area per grouping). This keeps the modules lower to the ground where there is less wind effect, minimizing the large sail effect of larger trackers. The result is a much higher wind operating range, up to 15 m/s when compared with multivendor systems. Using a feedback loop only reachable in a fully integrated design, the inverters operate in conjunction with roll-and-tilt motors to ensure each axis has been positioned to maximize power. This feedback loop and control results in approximately 10% greater power production than other high concentration tracking systems. A complete system approach also allows deviation from the industry standard centralized inverter, and to develop highly integrated, distributed inverter architecture, with inverters built into each array. This is a key advantage compared to other multifaceted CPV systems that use a more conventional centralized inverter approach, where the combination of cell and optical mismatch can lead to a significantly reduced energy harvest. In addition, since there are electronics required at each array for motion control, power monitoring, fusing, and disconnects, adding inverters at the array level is not significant in terms of additional cost. The benefit, however, of an integrated inverter at the array level is significant. An integrated inverter can substantially reduce cost for the BOS components. The DC string wiring for the array can be pre-manufactured in high volume, reducing costs and simplifying installation. As the DC and AC disconnects are built directly into the array electronics, the engineering design for the DC portion of the power plant is

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completely eliminated. GreenVolts’s inverter design has been optimized for CPV technology. The high Voc (open circuit voltage) characteristics of MJ solar cells enable single-stage power conversion. This eliminates a significant number of components, further increasing system reliability. Four parallel strings with eight modules (or 192 solar cells) generate up to 600V DC on both the north and south sides of the array. The strings are connected such that +600V and -600V are connected at the inverter in a bipolar configuration and synthesized from 1200V DC to 480V three-phase AC. This configuration simplifies the inverter design since a DC boost is not required. Another advantage of the distributed approach is that the power electronics are much smaller and all electronic subsystems are integrated into a single electronic enclosure. The design is PCB-based and

leverages high-volume electronics technology as opposed to high power, heavy copper, busbar based designs in central inverters. The enclosure is divided into two sections — a sealed NEMA-4 section, which is not exposed to air, and a NEMA-3 section that is. All the active electronics are housed in the NEMA-4 section. Heat sinks and enclosed components such inductors and thin-film capacitors are in the NEMA-3 section. There is also an industrial grade CPU for communications and control along with an 802.11 wireless communication module and antenna. Operations and maintenance is a key aspect of any utility-scale power plant, but unfortunately, capturing statistics and managing systems can be challenging when dealing with multiple components from different vendors. In a system approach, solar-plan management software can also deeply integrate across the system, providing much better monitoring, diagnosis, reporting

and control. These types of applications are much more than power monitoring — they include asset management for power plant equipment, alerting and messaging for component and system failures, and debugging and analysis tools to remotely diagnose and repair issues. They can also include intuitive graphical user interfaces with highly granular string monitoring and reporting tools. With the continued pressure for solar providers to reduce the overall cost of energy, the integrated solar system approach offers fresh opportunities for innovations and optimization. As the industry continues to evolve, we expect more to embrace this method, which can provide increased efficiency and durability, a greater energy yield and simplified maintenance. SPW Miller is senior vice president of products and field operations of GreenVolts in Freemont, Calif.

Protect & Monitor Solar PV Panels Series 789 current sensors continuously measure DC currents to optimize PV energy production. Networked via the MODBUS serial protocol, the sensors transmit data with an accuracy of 0.5% helping system operators quickly identify defective or damaged PV modules. t Up to 32 current sensors per MODBUS segment t Max. MODBUS cable length = 3,937 ft. t Network with virtually any PC or PLC based system t 2 modules measure up to 80A or 140A DC For more information on monitoring solar string or sub-array efficiency, visit us at or at Solar Power International – Booth #1316

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Grounding solutions, made better. The complete line of innovative WILEY WEEB grounding and bonding products for solar PV applications are now brought to you by BURNDY. Time-saving, cost-reducing WILEY products for solar installers now available through BURNDY, the leading manufacturer of electrical connector solutions. BURNDY and WILEY – two market leaders combined to provide superior, comprehensive solutions in bonding and grounding.

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[ PR O D U C T S ]

Obstruction Light Uses Solar Hughey & Phillips’ Horizon series L-810 LED-based obstruction light can be powered using a solar array. The low-intensity product is suitable for FAA L-810 steady burning lights and is available in both single and double configurations, operating with a range of 95-277 VAC and 9-48 VDC. H&P says the light lasts 15 times longer than incandescent models and uses about 96% less power.

Hughey & Phillips

Fuse Clip For High Voltages Schurter’s CSO fuse clip for 10.3 x 38-mm or 10.3 x 85-mm fuses is suitable for voltages up to 1500 VAC/VDC and currents to 32 amps. The clip is available in two versions: The solder type allows direct mounting on a printed circuit board using through-hole technology. The screw/rivet version provides additional flexibility. The company says a special copper alloy provides a strong clamping force.

Schurter Inc.

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Cables For Harsh Weather

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Rated for voltages up to 42,000 DC, Cicoil’s power cables are flame retardant, flexible and perform well


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[ PR O D U C T S ]

Inverter For MW Plants The Sinvert PVM UL inverter is available in four models, covering a range from 12 kW to 24 kW. Capable of over 98% peak efficiency, Siemens says the three-phase inverter features power outputs of 10, 13 and 17 kW for the IEC versions, and 12, 16, 20 and 24 kW for the UL versions. Each has an integrated combiner box with a lockable DC disconnect and string fuses. Ethernet and RS485 interfaces are available.

Siemens Industry

Transformers. Switchgear. Substations. Integrated Solutions. Automation. Engineering Services. CG is a global leader in electrical products and integrated solutions. Its products, solutions & services range from distribution & power transformers, to medium & high voltage switchgear, to SCADA & automation to complete turn-key substations & lines EPC solutions. CG has a proven track-record of on-time delivery & completion of an installed base of more than 20,000MW in North America, making CG one of the most reliable and preferred equipment & solution providers in the renewable market today.

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Mounting System Is Easy To Install PanelClaw’s Kodiak Bear flat-roof mounting system is available in 15- and 20-degree tilt angles, with integrated wire management and multiple row-spacing options. An 8,000-psi concrete ballast block offers freeze-thaw resistance and secure stacking. With three major components and a single loose fastener, the company says the system is easy to install. The supports consist of galvanized steel tubing.


Module Calculates Array Efficiency Carlo Gavazzi’s VMU-C Web Server Module is a micro PC with webserver and web-service capability for management of AC and DC measurements. It includes BOS, performance ratio and yield efficiency calculations. It can manage up to 18 VMU modules via a local bus or up to 11 independent EOS Arrays. The VMU-W Cellular Modem for use with the VMU-C meets quad and dual-band standards and comes in three versions for the North American, Asian and European markets.

Carlo Gavazzi Inc.


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[ PR O D U C T S ]

A Roof-Ready Combination SolarBridge’s next-generation Pantheon II microinverter comes integrated into AC modules for a roof-ready combination. The microinverter features 208V/240V autosensing and compatibility with 60- and 72-cell modules up to 280W. Smartgrid capable, the microinverter has a peak efficiency of 95.7% and a maximum output power of 240 watts AC.

Polymer Used For Modular Mounting

SolarBridge Technologies

Ecolibrium’s Ecofoot 2 is a ballasted flat-roof mounting system with an optional attachment method that combines the benefits of polymer with integrated grounding and wire management. The modular design eliminates customization and roof penetration, ensuring compatibility with all roof types. One main component with a clamp integrates grounding and expedites installation.


Two-Pole Switches At 1000 VDC ABB says its line of switches from 100 to 360 amps are the first two-pole disconnect switches in the industry to achieve a 1000 VDC rating per UL 98B. The switches, made for use in combiner boxes and at the inverter input, occupy up to 50% less space while saving energy and reducing wiring costs. Previous switches required up to six poles wired in series to break 1000 VDC.


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The Industry’s Biggest Newsmakers — Now In Their Own Words

Solar Power World’s weekly podcast program ask the questions you would ask if you had the chance. Subscribe on I-Tunes to download them automatically or check out our multimedia channels.

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[ AD Advanced Energy ........................ BC

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September 2012



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Solar Soars In


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Joule Energy, New Orleans Robert Schmidt and Julian Thomas Jr.

Robert Schmidt

Co-Founder and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer

Ross Reilly

Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer

planned to get into the solar industry all along. The pair founded Joule Energy in New Orleans back in 2009 as a broker for a North Carolina company that sold energy management systems to municipalities that wanted to provide their residents with a smart-grid environment. But in their hearts, they knew they wanted to join the solar revolution. So in 2010, they hired Ross Reilly, who learned construction and electrical trades installing locks and security cameras in Louisiana’s prison systems. Together, the three men have built a company currently handling solar projects in three states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Joule’s business mix consists of 60% commercial and 40% residential projects, and the majority of their installations consist of photovoltaic (PV) panels. It also does a handful of solar hot water installations as well. The company also prides itself on being a certified B corporation, which means it meets rigorous, independent standards of social and environmental performance. They aim to create greater economic opportunity, strengthening local communities and preserving the environment. “Our philosophy is to create a triple bottom-line company,” Schmidt says. “We value our people, the

Joule Energy Vital Statistics:

environment and, of course, profits. We value them all equally.” The biggest challenge the company faces is navigating different rules and regulations in all the municipalities in which the company operates. “We’ve got to keep a pretty expansive spreadsheet to keep everything straight,” Reilly says. “Our headaches and glitches tend to be outside of our control. We have to dedicate a lot of time making sure all of that runs smoothly.” The company must be doing something right — it has grown from a four-person operation in 2009 to having 45 installers in the field. Other firms might have found it difficult to hire quality people during such a rapid expansion — but not Joule. “What we focus on is training,” Schmidt says. “We’re not looking for an installer who necessarily has a PV background. We’re looking for someone who is intelligent, asks questions and has a good work ethic. We want to form our installers according to our standards.” “If any of your readers are having problems finding employees, have them give us a ring,” Reilly says. “We’ll shoot them some of the resumes that we’re getting.” For more of Solar Power World’s discussion with Robert Schmidt and Ross Reilly of Joule Energy, check out the Contractors Corner podcast at www. Search Contractors Corner and look for the Joule Energy podcast. SPW

2-year growth:................1,759% 2011 Sales: ....................$7.1 million Employees:.....................45 Founded: .......................2009 Website:



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Finally, someone beat Advanced Energy’s 97.5% CEC efficient solar inverter.

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