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Cleaveland-Price, Canada’s Got Solar? earn APsystems Project of the Year Awards

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Congratulations to Cleaveland-Price of Trafford, Penn., and Got Solar? of British Columbia, Canada, winners of APsystems Project of the Year Awards.

Cleaveland-Price is honored in the Commercial category for the massive 673kW rooftop array powering the company’s high-voltage switch factory. The project uses APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters to handle the 2,245-module array, the company’s first-ever venture into solar installation.

Got Solar? is honored in the Residential category for the Lowen family’s Coldstream Corner Farms net-zero project. The 29kW array atop the Helmi and Kornelius Lowen residence in Okanagan, B.C., earned distinction as Canada’s first 100-percent solar organic family farm.

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“Microinverter technology is the smart choice for projects of every scale, as these two outstanding winners demonstrate,” said Jason Higginson, senior director of marketing for APsystems. “While their installations are much different in size and capacity, they help the customers achieve the same goal of energy independence. Cleaveland-Price and Got Solar? set a great example for all commercial and residential installers looking for power, reliability and value from their rooftop microinverter arrays.”

Read more about the Cleaveland-Price commercial installation here.

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Read more about the Got Solar? and the Lowen family’s Coldstream Corner Farms net-zero residential project here.
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APsystems thanks all installers and customers who participated in the 2017 Project of the Year Awards contest. Special mentions were also awarded to Vision Energy of Canada for the Moose Jaw all-electric solar home project in the Residential category, and Sycamore Energy for the Optimist Holsteins 177kW Commercial installation.
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Sylvan Star Cheese Factory

Canadian cheese maker Sylvan Star’s gouda has a secret ingredient: the sun.

The Red Deer, Alberta’s plant is powered by a massive solar array featuring APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters. The owners worked with local installer CarbonBite Innovations and National Solar Distributors of Edmonton toward achieving a 100-percent solar, net-zero installation. The 460-module, 122kW array was commissioned in 2016 and now powers the processing of popular and award-winning cheeses for the dairy operation.

See a video feature on the project here.

Location:  Red Deer, Alberta, Canada
Installation Date: 2016 
Installer : CarbonBite Innovations, Alberta
Number of modules: 460
Module brand/wattage: Canadian Solar 265W CX6P-265P
System capacity (kw): 122kWDC or 115kW AC
Microinverter: APsystems YC1000-208V
No. of Microinverters: 115

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Completed Solar Install for Pennsylvania switch manufacturing plant

More than 2,200 solar modules … 673kW of power … and only one microinverter that could handle the job – the APsystems YC1000.

Congratulations to Cleaveland/Price for completing this impressive commercial array at their Pennsylvania switch manufacturing plant, using the industry’s leading true 3-phase microinverter.

Read full project installation story here.

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APsystems powers massive 3-phase array at Pennsylania’s Cleaveland/Price plant

When your customers are electrical utilities, you tend to think of power on a grand scale.

So no surprise the new solar array at Pennsylvania’s Cleaveland/Price switch manufacturing plant will take its place as one of the larger solar arrays on the local grid: 673kW.

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“We knew that the project would take a lot of manpower and planning. However, we also knew that Cleaveland/Price could engineer a system that was efficient enough to be energy friendly while saving costs on a regular basis. Our long-term goal is to produce 100 percent of our electrical energy consumption, using solar power at a substantially lower cost,” said Trish Conboy, Cleaveland/Price marketing director. “We will see success in being energy independent, while being environmentally friendly. Cleaveland/Price will be capable of manufacturing with substantially lower energy costs. This will result in sustained company growth and lower product costs to customers.”

Cleaveland/Price manufactures a range of high-voltage switch products for power utilities nationwide. The company’s sprawling manufacturing complex sits in a glade off forested Route 993 in Trafford, Penn., east of Pittsburgh.

The idea for solar came less than a year ago, Conboy said, when Cleaveland/Price realized solar power costs less than purchased power, regardless of Pittsburgh’s cloudy conditions.

“Most people in the Pittsburgh area assume that solar will not work,” she said. “The fact is, solar does work in Pittsburgh and can cost less than what utilities charge for power.”

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The first step was construction of a new standing-seam roof, covering most of the plant’s eight-building layout and providing the ideal platform for an expansive array.

Cleaveland/Price engineers designed the 2,245-module array themselves, and will handle the final electrical hookup. Local contractor Don Miller, Inc., was hired to complete the installation of modules and microinverters, which began in late September and should be completed by mid-autumn.

The array features Neo Solar Power 360W, 72-cell monocrystalline modules.

APsystems YC1000 microinverters were chosen for their true 3-phase power handling and multi-module design. Each unit will handle three modules, simplifying the installation.

Steve Cleaveland, company principal, said the APsystems units also offer low-voltage startup, an advantage over string systems and boosting solar harvest.

“It only takes 22V to start up the microinverter to produce AC, so it is ideal for Pittsburgh’s cloudy and low-light days,” he said.

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Cleaveland/Price’s engineering expertise also led to an innovative racking solution, with a combination of off-the-shelf and custom-fabricated parts.

Microinverters are installed on “bridge” brackets between two Power Wide Clamps, with modules connected using a power bolt in combination with a power clamp, both from Solar Connections International. Cleaveland/Price’s own CNC team fabricated the 748 connecting “bridge” brackets in-house.

When completed, the array’s first phase will power about 30 percent of the facility’s demand. The second phase will power the remaining demand, while the final phase will power the warehouse.

Thanks to Pennsylvania’s net-metering allowance, the array should allow Cleaveland/Price to “bank” power on weekends and evenings when the facility is closed.

“We designed or purchased all equipment,” Conboy said. “This resulted in a low-cost solar array, with a less than four-year return on investment. This includes the 30 percent first-year federal tax credit on renewable energy.”

LEADER IN HIGH-VOLTAGE SWITCHES
Cleaveland/Price has been serving the power utility industry since 1975, when founder Chuck Cleaveland started supplying parts for switches that had been discontinued by electrical giant Westinghouse.

Being engineers, the Cleaveland/Price team began improving on the original designs and manufacturing its own product line. Over time that led to a full portfolio of custom switches and components rated up to 345kV, for a variety of utility applications.

Their reputation for reliability has been a major factor fueling their growth. No matter where you live in the United States, you may well drive past a Cleaveland/Price product at some point during your day.

The Cleaveland/Price solar field will be among the larger grid-tied arrays on the local West Penn Power system. It will join other high-profile commercial solar arrays in a growing regional market.

A 1.9MW solar field developed by Crayola powers that company’s crayon factory in Easton, Penn., while Lincoln Financial Field, home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, boasts an 11,000-module, 3MW array. Among utility-scale projects, Community Energy’s 6MW Keystone installation in Lancaster County provides clean power for an estimated 950 homes.

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As a state, Pennsylvania has climbed five places to No. 19 in total solar capacity nationwide, thanks to the completion of 38.8MW worth of new projects in 2016, the Solar Energy Industries Association says. An estimated 568MW will be developed in Pennsylvania over the next five years, SEIA projects.

Cleaveland/Price manufacturing plant
Location: Trafford, Penn.
Capacity: 673kW
Modules: Neo Solar Power 360W, 72-cell monocrystalline
Number of modules: 2,245
Microinverters: APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase
No. of microinverters: 748
System designer: Cleaveland/Price
Installer: Don Miller, Inc.

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APsystems microinverters installed in northernmost grid-tied solar project

APsystems 3-phase microinverters now power the northernmost grid-tied solar installation in the Americas – the Community Hall at Pond Inlet, Nunavut, latitude 72N.

Vancouver Renewable Energy (VREC) powered up the 590kW system in Canada’s newest and northernmost province in September.

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The 9.3kW community system features 32 SolarWorld 290-watt mono-crystalline modules and eight APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters.

In just three weeks the PV system had produced 590kWh of power, saving hundreds of dollars on the municipal power bill for the remote, 1,500-person hamlet. The community otherwise relies on a diesel “tank farm” and generator plant for its power needs – an expensive proposition now helped by clean, renewable solar and APsystems microinverter technology.

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The new array will be paired with a mural celebrating light, both from the sun and from qulliqs, traditional Inuit lamps that use animal fat for fuel, according to the Vancouver Renewable Energy blog.

Read the whole story here.

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Smart software for fewer truck rolls

By Larry Busby, Technical Services Manager at APsystems USA

For a PV installer, there’s nothing worse than having to return to a jobsite. Except, of course, having to do it more than once. We’ve all heard the expression “work smarter, not harder,” but you would be surprised how often solar installers get in a truck and roll out to a jobsite to adjust or repair something that probably could have been fixed remotely back at HQ. Many software-savvy solar installers are boning up on best-practices to better utilize the systems and information already available to them—most of it right at their fingertips—to save both time and money.

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For solar arrays, the most critical software typically lies within the power conversion devices, gateways and interconnected online monitoring platform provided by the inverter manufacturer. The online platform not only monitors the performance of the system, but also tracks a profusion of data points simultaneously and stores that information in the cloud. By checking certain performance specs, settings, activity and historical data, installers can quickly troubleshoot and fix common hitches or, at worst, narrow down the problem that’s plaguing a PV system.

Every inverter monitoring interface is a little different, but much of the information and tools available are typically the same. With an MLPE system like microinverters, you’re able to drill down to the PV panel level to see what each module is producing at any given time. When troubleshooting a system issue, or perhaps if you see a PV panel which is reporting low or zero watts, first try rebooting the system remotely if your monitoring platform offers that capability. With some systems, a reboot may help the interface identify the issue or it might reset the array to its default parameters in case an unusual grid event threw a monkey wrench at it. It could also spur the system to begin downloading recent updates which may have stalled when the system encountered the issue. You may even consider rebooting more than once.

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If you’re still troubleshooting the issue, check the DC side of your system. For a microinverter system, you want to be sure each inverter is reporting at its minimal operating range (such as 16V) incoming DC from the panel. Next, check your AC output. If your system shows it registering 0V or 120V, the inverter may not be sensing the grid or enough volts from the grid to register as a 240V grid connection. Without an identified grid connection, the inverter will not convert energy, so if you see this as an issue with multiple sequential inverters, it could be a cable or connector problem. If it applies to the entire string or array, the problem could be a loose wire in the junction box, or a tripped or off breaker.

With a low wattage problem, you can drill down to the panel level online and check the voltage. If it’s registering under its minimal operating range, it’s likely a panel problem and not the inverter. You may still have to visit the site, but at least you know what you’re replacing and exactly where it is on the array which saves you time troubleshooting. When you hit the site, unplug the suspect panel from the inverter and take a live load DC voltage and current reading. If your panel is reading below its minimum startup voltage and 0 current, then the panel is the culprit and needs replacing.

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Also, don’t underestimate the value of historical data. Looking back over a system’s history—especially that of a single panel—may allow you to identify recurring issues that seem to affect that particular panel. Perhaps a chimney shadow hits the panel at the same time each day. You can look back through the production history to see if it occurs often, or if you have multiple installations in a particular area, you can check each of those when you see unusual grid activity to see if and how it may be affecting your other sites.

Understanding what the site metrics are telling you will give you better insight into what’s happening at a job site. Learning what you can do to troubleshoot an issue online can not only save you a truck roll, but also significantly reduce your time identifying the problem if you do have to drive to the site. Most importantly, if you do need to hit the job site, remember that safety is paramount and to always turn off the AC before doing any work on the roof.

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APsystems supports new Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden in Orlando

Good nutrition has been a popular part of the curriculum at Orlando Junior Academy since 2011, with students in grades 5-8 “sowing and growing” fresh vegetables in garden plots and learning cooking skills with each harvest.

But the school’s cooking stations were rudimentary. So Edible Education Experience, a Florida-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, dreamed of providing something more grand for students and the greater community.

emeril3-jpgThree years of fundraising and friend-raising paid off this month with the opening of the new Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden in Orlando’s College Park Neighborhood.

The 3,500-square-foot facility features four cooking stations for food pre, hand-washing sinks, and modern appliances. An educational lounge provides additional instruction space, while the Edible Education Experience organization maintains its offices upstairs. A second-story catwalk looks down into the kitchen area.

The Kitchen House facility was designed to meet LEED standards, including a metal roof and cisterns for rainwater catchment to irrigate the garden, energy-efficient A/C, and other features.

The building also includes a small solar array to power exterior lighting for the building and grounds.
APsystems contributed YC500 dual-module microinverters to the project through area distributor UMA Solar. Superior Solar of Altamonte Springs, Fla., contributed installation and balance-of-system, with modules donated by Solartech Universal.

“The Kitchen House offers Orlando kids a great new facility for learning about healthy cooking and healthy eating,” said Jason Higginson, APsystems Senior Director of Marketing. “We think it’s great that they can also learn about healthy energy through solar power, and we’re proud to be among the solar vendors that came together in support of this excellent project.”

EEE RENDERING 1The $1.2 million Kitchen House facility was built with support from, and named for, the Emeril Lagasse Foundation, established by the popular celebrity chef “to create opportunities to inspire, mentor and enable youth to reach their fullest potential through culinary, nutrition and arts education with a focus on life skills development.”

The building is situated in the middle of a 1,000-sf culinary garden, cultivated by students and volunteers to provide a bounty of fresh produce for cooking classes and events. A veranda and picnic area allow outdoor events, as well.

The Kitchen House & Garden now provides educational programming for K-12 students in both public and private schools, area kids’ clubs and other community groups. Summer and holiday camps will be offered where students will use locally grown food and learn how to cook healthy, affordable meals – developing skills and menus that they can take home, and use throughout their lives.

The mission of Edible Education Experience is to connect kids with seed-to-table, garden-to-classroom, learning experiences to build a healthy future, said Janice Banks, executive director.

“We are so grateful to APsystems and Superior Solar for partnering with us and for ‘setting the stage’ where kids can learn innovative ways of turning Orlando’s sunshine into sustainable energy,” Banks said. “The reduced energy bill will be a monthly reminder of this generous ongoing partnership.”

For information on the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House & Culinary Garden project, see www.EdibleEd.org and www.emeril.org.

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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.”