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Bombard Renewable Energy wins this year’s APsystems Solar Project of the Year Award in the Commercial category

When the state of Nevada established a pilot program to bring solar power to marginalized communities, Bombard Renewable Energy delivered.

The Las Vegas based Solar PV contractor completed a string of projects for prominent area nonprofit agencies, putting the power of solar to work for citizens and agencies not often served by renewable PV resources.

For helping bring solar power to the nonprofit sector, Bombard Renewable Energy has earned the APsystems Project of the Year Award in the Commercial category.

“Nonprofit organizations are an overlooked segment of the commercial solar market, but that’s changing thanks to solar installation leaders like Bombard,” said Jason Higginson, senior director of marketing for APsystems USA. “We’re proud to see our microinverter products supporting the good work of so many worthy nonprofit agencies.”

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Bombard Renewable Energy is honored for a quintet of service-sector projects in the Las Vegas area, including:

  • HELP of Southern Nevada – An 81kW mix of rooftop arrays and solar carports supports an agency that assists families and individuals attain self-sufficiency through direct services, training and resource referrals.
  • Boys and Girls Club of Southern Nevada – An ambitious 242kW system provides nearly all the power needed for this facility, whose mission is to enable all young people to reach their full potential as caring, responsible citizens.
  • Las Vegas Rescue Mission – Rooftop arrays and solar carports totaling 125 kW support the mission complex that provides care, support and meals to the homeless and addicted population.
  • Veterans Village – A 48kW rooftop array powers an important regional center providing transitional and permanent housing for United States veterans in need.
  • Ronald McDonald House Charities – The 28kW shade structure supports the center’s mission of providing temporary housing for families who travel to Las Vegas to receive critical medical treatment for their children.

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The projects were built through Nevada’s Low Income Solar Energy Pilot Program, established by the state legislature several years ago to benefit low-income customers, including, without limitation, homeless shelters, low-income housing developments and schools with significant populations of low-income students.

Bombard Renewable Energy contracted with NV Energy for the engineering and construction of the projects, said Bo Balzar, Bombard Renewable Energy Division Manager.

Bombard chose APsystems’ YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters for the installations.

“Superior durability combined with a comprehensive warranty and exceptional design flexibility made APsystems the obvious choice for our projects,” Radford said. “APsystems is the only microinverter technology we found which supports both 60-cell modules at 240V and 72-cell modules at 208 and 480V 3-phase systems.”

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APsystems micros and expanded array boost art museum to LEED Gold rating

Bainbridge Island Museum of Art near Seattle has earned the vaunted LEED Gold environmental certification, making it the first new art museum in Washington state to achieve the Gold rating.

The certification is thanks to a newly expanded solar array using APsystems YC500 dual-module microinverters.

This past fall the museum nearly doubled its array to 100 modules. The 28kW system caps a host of advanced sustainability features that extend from the roof down into the earth beneath the museum itself.

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“What’s thrilling about this achievement is that it affirms how deeply Bainbridge Island and the museum itself care about all aspects of community vitality and wellbeing,” said Sheila Hughes, BIMA Executive Director. “We live, work, visit and raise families in a place that invests equally and deeply in cultural enrichment and in sustainability.

“It’s wonderful to see BIMA’s LEED Gold status, made possible through the generosity of its local donors, as a leading example of both.”

The U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification – for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – is a progressive code that rates new buildings for sustainability and promotes eco-friendly construction techniques.

Designed by Bainbridge architect Matthew Coates, of Coates Design Architects, BIMA earned high marks for innovation in design, indoor environmental quality, water efficiency, and site sustainability.

“Art museums are inherently energy-intensive, making LEED Gold designation an extremely challenging goal,” Coates said. “We’re proud to demonstrate that architects, builders and clients can work together to create beautiful buildings for our environment and for our planet.”

General contractor PHC Construction worked with the museum staff to secure LEED Gold certification. The expanded PV array provided the final “points” required under the LEED scoring system.

The array uses APsystems YC500 microinverters provided by Blue Frog Solar, and iTek Energy 240W and 280W modules.

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The inverters were provided free of charge by Blue Frog Solar, Northwest distributor for APsytems USA.

“When the art museum came to us with their solar proposal a few years ago, we could tell it would be a special building in every way,” said Tim Bailey, Blue Frog Solar co-founder. “It’s been an honor to contribute to both phases of their solar project, and support such a great institution.”

Several other private donors stepped in so that the solar project had no effect on the non-profit art museum’s budget.

Installer was Puget Sound Solar of Seattle.

BIMA opened in June 2013 to showcase contemporary Northwest art and has been an unqualified success, recently welcoming its 250,000th visitor.

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Building a sustainable museum

Architect Matthew Coates designed the museum to embody forward thinking in both aesthetics and sustainable materials and systems in a facility-scale building.

That commitment started below ground. A geo-exchange system uses 14 bores beneath the foundation to reduce the energy used for heating and cooling the building.

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Drilled 400 feet, the bores act as a heat sink and source at a constant ground temperature of approximately 50 degrees. The system is designed to reduce heating and cooling energy by 90 percent, and to cut peak heating and cooling loads in half.

Thanks to the musuem’s sunny southern exposure, nearly all of the publicly occupied spaces enjoy generous natural light to further reduce energy usage for lighting.

A sophisticated louver system across the two-story glass façade tracks solar angles to reduce heat gain and glare inside.

Low-flow water fixtures inside and Northwest climate-appropriate landscaping reduce water demand.

During construction, 95 percent of construction waste was recycled, while more than 20 percent of new materials came from recycled sources.  All paints, sealants and materials were selected to be non-toxic.

The site itself, on a prominent corner near the ferry terminal that connects the island with downtown Seattle, was reclaimed from a former automotive business.

During site preparation, numerous scrap automobiles and many hundreds of spent tires were excavated from the property and recycled.

BIMA now is an educational institution whose mission is “to engage a diverse population with the art and craft of our region and our time.”

The art museum exhibits, interprets, preserves, collects and promotes works of proven cultural value as well as new those by emerging artists and craftspeople.

Information: www.biartmuseum.org.

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New 32-home San Antonio project powered by APsystems micros

When it comes to solar growth, it doesn’t get much hotter than San Antonio.

The market ranked no. 6 nationally for metropolitan growth in 2015, and no. 7 for the spread of solar, setting the pace for the Lone Star State.

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Those trends converge at 330 Clay Street, a 32-home planned-solar neighborhood by PSW Real Estate now underway in the San Antonio’s arts and culture district, at the south edge of downtown.

Billed as “an oasis in the heart of the city,” the New Urbanism-inspired project features geometrically distinct homes clustered around a winding pedestrian path and drought-friendly, native vegetation. The modern designs are stylish, with acute angles, dramatic roof slopes, and accents of corrugated metal and cedar.

Efficiency features abound, from eco-friendly siding to high-performance windows, tankless water systems with “smart” fixtures, and the latest heat-pump systems for indoor climate control. Sustainable, low-impact materials are used throughout.

Topping it off is solar, with a compact array designed onto every single roof.

Austin-based installer Lighthouse Solar is pairing APsystems YC500 dual-module microinverters with Phono Sun 310W modules. Capacity across the whole neighborhood will be about 73kW from 234 modules at buildout.

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Lighthouse chose APsystems equipment on the recommendation of regional distributor The Power Store, said Burke Ruder, procurement manager.

The Lighthouse installation team found the dual-module microinverters made for a quick install, and less time on the roof under the punishing Texas sun.

“Pretty easy wire management – just plug n’ play, man,” said Josh Bernard, one of the three-man crew at Clay Street.

Elijah Zane Echeveste, PSW Real Estate sales consultant for San Antonio, said PSW has been including a solar component on its homes for about three years.

Individual arrays at 330 Clay Street are modest – seven or eight modules per roof – putting solar onto every home while keeping price points attractive to a range of buyers. Home start at $295,000 for 1,250-sf, two-bedroom unit.

The energy package is paying off in early interest from buyers.

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“Solar was important, and green-built was important,” said David McDonald, 330 Clay Street’s very first resident. On a recent afternoon, the expatriate Briton was taking delivery of appliances even as the half-finished neighborhood around him thrummed with the sounds of construction.

“We do a lot of green builds back in the Britain,” McDonald said, “and this might be one of the first ones in San Antonio with the option of solar and all of the sort of ‘green’ things around the house.”

Several other projects are also planned or underway in the corridor, including a sprawling former Lone Star brewery complex slated for mixed-use redevelopment on the banks of the San Antonio River.

The influx of stylish new residential and commercial development amplifies Southtown’s reputation as the city’s hot “bohemian” center for galleries, nightlife and culture.

“The area was important – we didn’t want to go outside of downtown,” McDonald said. “You can walk to all the restaurants and bars, even walk into downtown. We were the first to sign up, and it’ll be a good investment for us.”

The 330 Clay Street project reflects a fast-growing local solar market.

San Antonio is the top-ranked market in Texas, according to a recent report by Environment America. Solar capacity within the city limits jumped 23 percent year over year, from 88 megawatts to 108 megawatts – with significantly more capacity coming online in surrounding areas thanks to utility-scale solar farms.

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About 207 megawatts were installed statewide in 2015, according to Environment Texas. Solar advocates credit a successful incentive program, which has fed consumer interest despite the state not having a net-metering law.

“Solar is an attractive feature for our buyers,” said Echeveste of PSW. “One of the largest reasons is that the solar panels reduce cost in energy bills and also increase the value of the homes. There is an environmental responsibility aspect with buyers wanting to be a part of this.”

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APsystems microinverters powering multifamily solar at Grow Community

Condos, apartments, townhomes – three flavors of multifamily construction, each with its own challenges for reaping the power, and financial benefits, of solar investment.

Asani development company is tackling all three at once at Grow Community on Bainbridge Island, across Puget Sound from Seattle.

On buildings dubbed the Salal, the Juniper and the Elan, now complete in the project’s expansive second phase, solar arrays will benefit both homebuyers and renters alike.

One roof apiece, with many beneficiaries beneath.

“Our investors said, ‘let’s go for it,’” said Greg Lotakis, Asani president and Grow Community project manager. “Without their desire to be the largest solar community in Washington, and wanting to plant the solar flag in the ground, we wouldn’t be doing this. Without their support, it wouldn’t be possible.”

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The Salal condominiums, with 12 units spread over three stories, is effectively a “community solar” project on a rooftop. Solar was included in the purchase price – no buyer option – and incentives from the State of Washington will be apportioned equally among condominium owners. Each will own a one-twelfth interest in the array.

Asani worked with state officials and the local utility provider to craft a program that satisfies the complicated provisions of Washington law.

The opening was a provision allowing common use of single roof for solar in multifamily buildings. Asani banked on prospective buyers seeing shared solar as a good investment as they bought their condo units, one that promised annual paybacks while lowering operational costs of their building through solar harvest.

Solar was designed into the Salal building. A single production meter monitors total system output, while 12 sub-meters track consumption in individual units for utility billing.
Buyers are rolling the cost of solar, about $15,000 per unit, into their mortgages to take advantage of low interest rates at the time of purchase.

“We wanted it very clean and divisible by all the owners,” Lotakis said. “I think it would be pretty difficult for six, 10, 12 people to come together and agree upon how the system would work after the fact. This gave us a chance to just deliver it.”

Lotakis expects the 44kW array to produce about $1,500 in incentives per unit annually – cumulatively much higher than the state’s $5,000 cap on incentives for a single-family residence.

Next door at the 12-unit Juniper apartment building, the 44kW rooftop array is similar but the equation is different. Renters will enjoy the benefits of solar production through net-metering, but not the annual state solar rebate. That will go to the building’s single owner, and will max out at the state’s $5,000 cap. The Juniper building array includes APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters.

The two-story Elan townhomes presented the most straightforward challenge. Individual 6-9kW solar packages are offered for each section of the common roof. No modules will cross the “virtual lot lines,” making each system self-contained within the owner’s patch of rooftop. Three systems have been installed so far, including APsystems YC500A microinverters.


GROWING NEIGHBORHOOD SOLAR

From project inception, Asani set out to build the most environmentally friendly development possible.
Relentless sourcing of renewable materials and low-impact fixtures, and close connection to the island’s town center, have positioned Grow Community in the marketplace for healthy lifestyle-conscious buyers.

The project’s first phase is noted for its shared pea-patch gardens and winding footpaths through close-set homes. The second and third phases are oriented around a woodland grove and open greenway.

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The project has earned recognition in national magazines and won awards from local and national homebuilder associations. It is only the second planned community in North America to be certified under the rigorous One Planet Living standards.

Grow’s first phase of 23 detached units sold out immediately, and every homeowner chose to add the solar package.

Asani has also showcased Made In Washington components to support the state’s solar industry.
Modules at the Salal are by Itek Energy of Bellingham, WA, while the Juniper and Elan arrays include APsystems microinverters manufactured and distributed by Blue Frog Solar of nearby Poulsbo.

Using a mix of in-state and out-of-state components allows Asani to achieve different price points for buyers while optimizing local incentives where possible.

Lotakis cautions that Grow Community’s multifamily solar program relies on particularities in Washington law. Multifamily programs elsewhere would face their own challenges, although he believes Grow offers a useful model for developers nationwide to consider.

With the Salal building only recently certified for occupancy, new residents have no comparative data on their energy savings. But the solar component was attractive, as it has been to buyers throughout the three-neighborhood, 142-home project due to be completed in late 2017.

“Solar was a factor,” one new resident said, “along with a development that encourages a sense of community.”

Between the federal tax credit and annual rebates from the state, Lotakis said, owners buying into the Salal condominiums could have their share of the common array paid off within five years.

“And because they’ve rolled the cost of solar into their mortgage, they don’t really see it,” he said. “Those production checks will be like a dividend.”

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APsystems YC1000 supports electric vehicle charging station at Intel HQ

APsystems microinverters support a hybrid solar/grid-tied electric vehicle charging station at Intel corporate headquarters in Santa Clara, Calif.

Powered by APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters and Suntec 285-watt modules, the 4.2kW solar array supplements the charging station’s grid-tied power. A 45kW storage system by Powin Energy backs up the array, further reducing demands on the AC grid.

Intel employees can top up their electric vehicle cells at an OpConnect EV Charging System station. The OpConnect pedestal charges up to four vehicles at a time, and supports 120V and 240V service.

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University of Kansas architecture students take solar construction into the future

Powering old homes with solar is only half the renewable-energy equation.

Designing and building new homes that make the most of that renewable power – achieving ultra-efficient “Net Zero” construction, and beyond – is the next frontier for sustainable living.

Graduate students in the University of Kansas Department of Architecture, Design and Planning are pushing construction into the future through Studio 804, a nonprofit organization that tests their drafting-board skills against real-world challenges.

Where conventional construction ends, the Studio 804 program begins.

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“If a group full of students who have never worked construction or designed and built a project can accomplish these highly sustainable buildings, it shows what the industry as a whole should be capable of,” said Taylor Pickman, now in his fifth and final year in the colloquially known “M-Arch” program. “We like to think we’re setting an example in that sense.”

Their most recent success: the East Lawrence Passive House, an innovative solar home set among the tree-lined streets of a quintessential college town, a mix of modest historic homes, and even the mansions of nineteenth century industrial tycoons.

Outside, the home was designed to fit in with the scale and aesthetics of the neighborhood, while maximizing square footage on a prominent but narrow corner lot. Cut-cedar siding offers a look familiar to the neighborhood while carrying a low carbon footprint. Generous windows maximize passive solar potential.

Inside, the home boasts a laundry list of energy-saving features. A triple-thick blanket of insulation achieves dramatic “R” values, while an advanced air barrier wrap further reduces heat loss. A low-energy HVAC system and energy-recovery ventilator supplies fresh air without energy waste, while the plumbing includes an insulated hot-water recirculation system for more efficiency still.

The home meets the rigorous standards of the LEED Platinum, Net Zero and Passive House certification programs – a trifecta for sustainable construction.

Net Zero, for instance, requires that all heating, cooling and electrical needs must be met through energy-conserving design features and onsite renewable sources.

That’s where solar comes in. The East Lawrence home features a 6kW rooftop system powered by 20 Trina modules and 10 APsystems YC500 dual-module microinverters.

Studio 804 students approached APsystems for help with the project, and the Seattle-based solar technology company offered the microinverter units as a donation.

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“These students are really leading the way forward for energy-efficient design and construction,” said Thomas Nelson, APsystems vice president for sales, USA. “As a leader in innovative solar technology, we were glad to sign on to the project and be included in this showcase home.”

Pickman said microinverters represent “a huge innovation” in the solar field, helping students meet their project goals even without real experience as solar installers.

“I have to say that those microinverters were very simple to install, very simple to work with and very simple to use,” Pickman said. “We had more trouble getting the panels up onto the roof than we ever did working with the micro inverters.”

Bigger, more ambitious projects

KU’s Studio 804 program is committed to the research and development of sustainable, affordable, and inventive building solutions, from the standards of human comfort to the nature of urban spaces.

Two education tracks are offered: a three-year Master of Architecture program for students who already hold undergraduate degrees, or a five-year program that melds both undergraduate and graduate studies and also culminates in the master’s degree.

The final year is a rigorous practicum in which students tackle all aspects of design and construction: from site selection to negotiating building and zoning codes, to working with neighborhood associations and project engineers, to pouring concrete and pounding nails.

“A lot of our projects are speculative, so we are also in charge of making sure the project gets sold,” Pickman said.

To date the studio has completed seven LEED Platinum buildings and two with Passive House certification, meeting the most rigorous environmental standards for materials and construction.

Solar has become a regular feature of Studio 804 work, Pickman said, because it is one of the most effective means of achieving onsite energy production in the Midwest.

“Solar is relatively simple and it functions relatively well with different housing configurations,” he said. “And every year the technology gets better, so every year, we can demonstrate that technology as well.”

Studio 804 produces one building per year, and they keep getting more ambitious.

Twenty years ago, the first Studio 804 project put a simple metal roof over a historic farmhouse. Two years ago, students designed and built a lecture hall and auditorium addition to Marvin Hall, a treasured, 1908-vintage engineering building on the University of Kansas campus.

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Pickman said their next challenge may be achieving the WELL Building standard, which considers interior design and the ergonomics of the living spaces and fixtures – anything that will “reduce wear and tear on the human body.”

“Every year we set slightly different goals,” Pickman said, from building scale to advanced materials and construction and renewable energy techniques.

“And great architecture, or at least very good architecture,” he added. “There’s not a lot of it in Kansas.”

East Lawrence Passive House
East Lawrence, Kansas
Designer/installer: Studio 804, graduate students in the University of Kansas Department of Architecture, Design and Planning
System output: 6kW
No. of modules: 20
Module type: Trina TSM-290
Microinverters: APsystems YC500 dual-module
No. of microinverters: 10
croinverters: 10

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Community solar project hits 50kW with APS microinverters

Demand for shares in an eastern Washington community solar installation was so strong, sponsoring utility Inland Power & Light boosted capacity with a second array.

The project’s second phase, completed in late March, added a 20 kW ground-mount array to the existing 30 kW array that went into service last fall

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The arrays are powered by APS YC500 microinverters, distributed by Blue Frog Solar of Poulsbo, Wash. Installation was by Brimma Solar of Seattle.A member-owned utility, Inland Power made units in the solar installation available to its ratepayers through a lottery.

“The project sold out immediately,” said John Francisco, chief of energy resources for Inland Power.

Unit holders will get credit for their portion of the array’s power production, along with a pro rata rebate from the state under Washington’s Renewable Energy Cost Recovery program.

Inland Power & Light serves about 39,000 residential and commercial customers in 13 counties in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Founded in 1937, it is the largest electric cooperative in Washington.

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Seattle project produces solar-savvy graduates

A new PV array on the roof of a Seattle-area college is a clean-energy investment with a different sort of payback: solar-savvy graduates.

The Education Building at North Seattle College now sports a 7.4-kW PV system, its primary array perched atop a rotating armature that tracks the sun across the sky each day.

While the array will only yield a small fraction of the building’s energy needs, “power” per se wasn’t the point.
“This isn’t really about generating electricity,” said Mark Weber, faculty and program coordinator for the college’s HVAC and Sustainable Energy Program. “This is an educational tool for our students. It’s a dynamic learning environment rather than a static one, where we can do all sorts of experimentation with module orientation, the effects of weather, all kinds of things.”

About half of the $75,000 system cost was funded by a grant from the Portland, Ore.-based Bonneville Environmental Foundation, which promotes renewable energy and resource conservation. The college made up the balance.

Artisan Electric of Seattle was selected from among three local installers submitting proposals. The combination of a solar tracker, 3-phase output and a mentoring component for students set Artisan’s design apart in the bidding process.

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An APS YC1000 is installed on the underside of the array.

The primary array includes thirty 240-watt modules by Talesun. A secondary, fixed-position array of three modules is planned to serve as a system “control,” allowing students to compare the output of the two designs – one that continually aligns itself with the sun to optimize solar harvest, the other pointing eternally south.

Anthony Sarno, system designer for Artisan Electric, selected APS YC1000 microinverters for their true 3-phase output. The APS units tied into the building’s 480-V circuit without the need for step-up transformers, in an electrical room that would have been too small to accommodate a central “string” inverter.

“When I saw the 480 panel, the light bulb went on,” Sarno said. “I saw potential savings by using the YC1000 microinverter, and there was an element of allure to having a cutting edge product in the mix.”

APS and its Washington state distributor, Blue Frog Solar, provided the YC1000 microinverters below cost as a donation to the college.

“The chance to help students learn about PV system design and train for the renewable energy trades was compelling,” said Paul Barlock, APS Senior Vice President. “This project is a showcase for true 3-phase microinverters in a commercial setting, but the fact that it’s in a college environment provides much greater benefit still.”

Tracking the sun
Marketed under the name SolarTrackr, the “smart tracking” system was designed and fabricated by Wovn Energy of Seattle.

Putting the 2-ton apparatus atop a three-story building added a layer of design complexity, the first question being whether the roof could support it.

The structural engineer responsible for the building’s original plans was still in practice, Sarno said, and provided new calculations proving that the roof could bear the load.

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The team from Artisan Electric begin attaching modules to the tracking system’s steel armature. The array will rotate and incline to track the sun through the sky. Photo Credit: Wovn Energy

Next came the question of ballasting. Fortuitously, the rooftop featured several low concrete parapets that extended down through the building to the ground. These walls became the foundation for the massive steel armature that was assembled over five days in March.

The completed array rotates around a circular steel rail, inched along by a small electric motor, while a second motor and a piston provide inclination. Together the two motors draw about the same power as a 100-watt light bulb, said Alan Tilley, Wovn Energy vice president and tracking system designer.

Wovn’s solar tracking software uses algorithms provided by the National Renewable Energy Laboratories, and also accounts for local weather and atmospheric conditions to optimize the array’s positioning. Solar harvest is projected to be about 45% higher than a static array. Computer control can be manually overridden so students can set the array to other positions for research and data collection.

“Compared to a static system, this thing has so many more opportunities for learning,” Weber said, “not just for solar, but also for engineering. The control system is going to be way cool to play with. We can bring in people from other disciplines, not just our program.”

The founders of Wovn Energy set out on a mission five years ago to provide distributed-energy management systems, out of which the SolarTrackr system evolved, Tilley said.

The product was designed to offset the then-high cost of modules, allowing buyers to achieve greater yield from a smaller array, Tilley said. As module prices have come down, the SolarTrackr is now marketed as a way to make full-sized arrays more powerful still.

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Workers assemble the circular steel track on which the 30-module PV array will rotate at North Seattle College. The tracking system was designed and fabricated by Wovn Energy of Seattle. Photo credit: APS USA

The North Seattle College project was the company’s fifth installation, and the first on a rooftop. The biggest challenge previously was a ground mount perched on the side of a mountain.

“That one was a real bear,” Tilley said. “This one is tame by comparison.”

Wovn expects to have about 15 installations in its portfolio by midyear, he said, with two more already underway in the Seattle area.

For students, by students

Befitting an educational venture, the North Seattle College project engaged students from the start.
Students from nearby Shoreline Community College, which offers a two-year degree in Clean Energy Technology, were brought in to do a solar site assessment. Their report became the baseline against which formal proposals were evaluated.

North Seattle information technology student Christoph Strouse was a key member of the solar project team, and system designer Sarno is a graduate of Shoreline program.

“Artisan kind of plucked me out of the program, and things have fallen into place very well,” Sarno said.
Because the array shoots up 25 feet above the roof of an already tall building, it has become a billboard of sorts for North Seattle College. The array is visible from adjacent neighborhoods, from a popular commercial center a mile to the east, and to passing motorists on the busy I-5 freeway.

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Alan Tilley, engineering vice present and tracking system designer for Wovn Energy. The North Seattle College project is the Seattle company’s fifth installation. Photo Credit: APS USA

It is also becoming both a valuable asset and a recruiting tool. Weber said the college is in talks with other area schools and a major research university to share solar performance data collected by students. The colleges are also beginning to collaborate on programs to meet the evolving demands of the clean-energy and construction industries.

Weber and Strouse envision a hybrid program in “High Performance Building Technology.” Students might someday take electronics and IT classes at one school, HVAC or facilities management at another, and PV system design at a third toward an integrated degree.

Having an advanced solar installation could make North Seattle College the program’s logical hub, and the investment is already paying off for students.

“I’m very lucky to have been here at the right time to be a part of this team and experience this project from paper to completion,” Strouse said. “As a learning experience, it doesn’t get much better than this.”

Project Details
North Seattle College 3-phase 7.4-kw PV system
Designer/installer: Artisan Electric, Seattle
Tracking system and racking: SolarTrackr by Wovn Energy, Seattle
Microinverters: 8 APS YC1000 true 3-phase
Monitoring: APS Energy Communication Unit/Energy Monitoring and Analysis software
Modules: 30 Talesun 240W

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World’s largest true 3-phase microinverter installation powered by APS YC1000

The groundbreaking YC1000 microinverter from APS will power a milestone true 3-phase installation going into service in China’s Zhejiang Province this week.

More than 1.4 MW of the total 8.13 MW project will be generated using APS microinverter technology – earning it distinction as the world’s largest true 3-phase microinverter installation.

The project at the Haining Hailide Jianshan factory began development four weeks ago, and is planned to join China’s national power grid on Dec. 30.

The installation includes 1,200 APS YC1000 microinverters. Now available in all APS markets worldwide, the YC1000 is the industry’s first true 3-phase microinverter and handles up to four modules per unit, simplifying PV system design and installation while significantly lowering balance of system costs.

The YC1000’s balanced 3-phase output features a low-voltage, parallel circuit design, promoting system safety by negating the possibility of “arc fires” from high-voltage current.

Independent output and tracking optimizes the performance of each PV module while minimizing shading effects across the whole array.

APS microinverter technology increases array output by 5-25 percent compared to conventional “string” inverter systems.

Using the integrated APS Energy Communication Unit (ECU), Haining system managers will be able to track power output, voltage, current, temperature and other performance data of every module in the array.

The completed project will provide approximately 8.14 million kWh of energy per year, saving nearly 3,000 tons of coal while reducing CO2 admissions by more than 700 tons. Over the plant’s projected 25-year lifespan, the reduction in coal use and carbon and sulfur dioxide emissions will be multiplied many times over.

The year 2014 has marked the first widespread development of distributed PV power throughout China, an effort vigorously promoted by the Chinese government.

The electricity generated by the Haining system promises a strong economic return for investors, powering the factory even as it protects the local environment and promotes APS 3-phase microinverter technology in the robust China market and worldwide.

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APS microinverters power new community solar project in Spokane

APS dual-module microinverters power a prominent new “community solar” installation in Spokane, Wash.

“It’s producing extremely well,” said John Francisco, chief of energy resources for Inland Power & Light, as he monitored the output of the new 30kW installation outside the utility’s office. “We were fortunate to finish construction and energize the array during the span of several cloudless days so we could get a good feel for the performance of the array.”

The ground-mount array sits in view of passing motorists on I-90, a prominent display of APS microinverter capability.

It’s the first significant venture into solar for Inland Power, a member-owned utility serving about 39,000 residential and commercial customers in 13 counties in eastern Washington and northern Idaho. Founded in 1937, it is the largest electric cooperative in Washington.

brimma2-smThe full cost of the system was funded by participating utility members, who were given the chance to buy shares in the system and reap the financial benefits of solar investment.

The project is also a showcase for Washington’s thriving solar industry. The installation includes 56 APS YC500-MIW microinverters distributed by Blue Frog Solar of Poulsbo, 112 PV modules by Itek Energy of Bellingham, and racking by SunModo of Vancouver, Wash.

The installation was completed in late August by Brimma Solar of Vancouver, the winning bidder among three firms that vied for the project.

John Harley, Brimma Solar vice president, said the project’s impact extends far beyond the customers who will benefit from its power production.

“When a utility installs a system, it helps promote solar for their customers,” Harley said. “Customers with solar, or thinking about installing solar, feel comfort when they know their utility supports solar.”

For Washington solar manufacturers, the project is also chance to demonstrate the high quality of solar components being produced by local industry.

“We think this is exactly the sort of project our legislators hoped to encourage when they envisioned community solar,” said Tim Bailey, Blue Frog Solar co-founder and APS microinverter distributor. “To see locally made solar equipment in a showcase project like this is tremendous, and really shows solar’s success in Washington.”

Inland Power is the fourth Washington utility to develop an array under the community solar model, according to Phil Lou of the Washington State University Energy Program, which tracks the industry. About 30 community solar projects totaling 872 kW capacity have been developed statewide.

Those have supplemented residential and commercial solar installations in the growing industry. About 8 MW of solar capacity was installed across Washington in 2013, a 54 percent increase over the previous year.

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COMMUNITY SOLAR

In 2005, the Washington state Legislature enacted solar production incentives to promote the development of alternative energy sources including solar and wind.
Homeowners and businesses that install a solar system can earn a power rebate of 54 cents per kilowatt-hour of energy they put back into the grid – a “distributed generation” model – up to $5,000 per year.

The Legislature later extended the incentives to “community solar” projects, encouraging utilities and local governments to add clean energy arrays to their own production capacity. The sponsoring utility earns a state tax credit that is passed along to participating customers in the form of production incentives.

Inland Power already had about 80 customers with residential solar arrays. The utility also had a modest, 2.24 kW ground-mount array of its own that went up when it built a new office five years ago.

The opportunity to build a larger, community array on the same property made financial sense to the utility, and was met with strong support from members when it was proposed.

“We wanted to expand solar participation, and community solar was an excellent avenue due to the low entry cost to each participant and the very generous state incentive structure,” Francisco said.

With the array now up and running, members got the chance to buy in. Shares were made available to Inland Power members at $300 each, with a limit of 10 shares per member. A total of 526 shares were available.

The shares were priced high enough to keep the total number manageable by the utility, and low enough to allow participation even by customers of modest means, Francisco said.

Because of strong demand, Inland Power offered the shares to members through a lottery in October.

“We were way oversold, and the lottery was a fair approach to allocating the available shares,” Francisco said. Inland had approximately 1,300 members submit their names for the lottery, and 87 members were drawn.

Solar shareholders will receive the benefit of net metering, that is, the positive difference between their own power consumption and what their portion of the community solar system generates. They will also see a pro rata rebate from Inland Power per kilowatt hour of power produced.

“We are excited to help a broader section of our members enjoy the environmental benefits of solar power, contribute to our state economy by supporting in-state manufacturing and take advantage of the state-sponsored incentive program for community solar,” Francisco said.

Francisco said the project is already a success for Inland Power customers. If the utility is seen in the vanguard of community solar in Washington, that’s okay too.
“We’re doing this for the right reasons, but it’s nice to be recognized,” he said. “We believe in it, otherwise we wouldn’t do it.”