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Swiss Solar Tech, Okanagan Solar earn 2018 APsystems Project of the Year Awards

2018-iconAPsystems congratulates installers Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. and Okanagan Solar Ltd., both of British Columbia, Canada, as winners of our annual Project of the Year Awards.

Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. is honored in the Commercial category for the Poplar Grove Winery/Vanilla Pod Restaurant project in BC’s Okanagan Valley. The project creatively showcases APsystems YC1000 true 3-phase microinverters as a visual design element in the 46.36 kW array, creating a solar-shaded outdoor restaurant patio.

Okanagan Solar Ltd. is honored in the Residential category for the Carrington View Apartments installation in West Kelowna, BC. The 225 kW project uses APsystems YC1000-3 microinverters to create an ambitious three-building, 240-unit solar-powered complex, demonstrating the vitality and growth of multifamily solar.

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APsystems thanks all installers and customers who participated in the 2018 Project of the Year Awards contest.

Read more about the Swiss Solar Tech commercial installation here.

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Read more about the Okanagan Sola residential project here.

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2018 Residential Award Winner: Carrington View Apartments

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As single-family residential solar booms across North America, multi-family projects are catching on as a vibrant market segment for developers and installers alike. 

A developer in West Kelowna, British Columbia, is leading the trend, now completing its eighth multi-family residential solar project in just a short time with installer Okanagan Solar Ltd.

Their newest showcase: the Carrington View Apartments, an ambitious three-building, 240-unit solar-powered complex.

For demonstrating the vitality of multifamily solar, Carrington View by Okanagan Solar, Ltd., earns an APsystems Project of the Year Award in the Residential category.

Robert Monteith of Okanagan Solar Ltd. credited “trust and training” received from distributor National Solar and the APsystems technical and sales team for choosing APsystems microinverters for the project. The rooftop arrays use the APsystems YC1000 3-phase units.

okanagan-logo“After our first APsystems install, we really liked the product for performance and ease of install,” Monteith said. “I have APsystems YC500s installed on my own home.”

Before the install, Monteith took APsystems microinverters and related components to the local electrical inspection branch for their review. He also invited them to an install at the nearby St. Hubertus Winery, where code-compliance inspectors tested the rapid-shutdown capability of the APsystems utility-interactive inverters.

Inspectors came away suitably impressed with the APsystems safety features, not least the fact that the microinverters went to low-voltage AC right at the solar panel. 

CR2-5c0aeb0277137“Since that encounter our licensed electricians rarely see them come for an inspection as they know there is nothing to see that they are worried about,” Monteith said. “Having credibility with the electrical inspection branch is an advantage in our business.”

At Carrington View, rooftop modules are arrayed in a crisscross pattern to fit amongst structural elements. Each array feeds the house “common area” panel, Monteith said, “so the common area power costs nothing for the owner to operate once completed.”

Notwithstanding its scale, Monteith said the install went without a hitch; technical challenges were resolved ahead of time with good planning and communication with the entire consultant team.

The APsystems technical support team made a site visit during planning and offered suggestions to make the install run smoothly.

CR3-5c0aeb027719fThere’s more to come – Okanagan Solar Ltd. will install 1.5mW of solar for this same client in 2019. The builder has embraced renewables, Monteith said, and will soon complete the first net-zero residential building in the province.

What is the most rewarding aspect of the Carrington View project? 

“Being able to showcase and demonstrate that we do not have to burn coal, dam rivers or build nuclear power plants to generate significant power at a cost per kilowatt-hour that is less than what the utility charges is great,” Monteith said, “because ‘deniers’ cannot argue with it.”  

Installer: Okanagan Solar Ltd.
Project name: Carrington View Apartments
Location: West Kelowna, BC
Total system capacity: 225kW (75kW/building over 3 buildings)
Microinverters: APsystems YC1000 3-phase
Total number of microinverters used: 204
Brand/wattage of modules: Canadian Solar 270W Mono all-black

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2018 Commercial Award Winner: Poplar Grove Winery/Vanilla Pod Restaurant, Okanagan, B.C.

2018-iconThe same temperate climate and generous sunlight that makes the Okanagan Valley ideal for growing grapes makes it perfect for a natural harvest of another sort: solar.

When Tony and Barbara Holler, owners of Poplar Grove Winery, decided to add a solar-covered patio to the winery’s Vanilla Pod Restaurant, they worked with installer Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. for a design that not only optimized harvest, but highlighted the solar technology itself.

For showcasing solar in a popular restaurant setting, the Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. is the winner of the APsystems 2018 Project of the Year Award for the Commercial category.

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Poplar Grove winery and its 100-acre estate vineyards are perched on a mountainside overlooking the picturesque Okanagan Valley Lake and the town of Penticton in British Columbia, Canada.

The decision to go solar, Tony Holler said, “really revolves around the Okanagan’s high sunlight hours, the increased efficiency and lower costs of solar panels and our belief that if you can use a renewable energy source like solar rather than fossil fuels, why wouldn’t you do it? Solar also has the lowest environmental footprint of other renewable energy sources like hydro and wind.”

It’s the Hollers’ second winery to go solar using APsystems microinverter products. In 2017, they installed a 389module array at their nearby Monster Winery.

poplargrove5At Poplar Grove, Swiss Solar Tech Ltd. came up with an attractive, innovative design: a solar shaded restaurant patio that would provide enjoyable lunches and dinners for visitors, while harnessing the sun’s energy year round.

The bifacial glass modules overhead make brilliant use of the sun by generating up to 35 percent more energy per watt than traditional single-sided modules. APsystems YC1000 3-phase microinverters tie in directly to the low-voltage DC modules, increasing safety for the guests under the patio awning while eliminating the possibility of high-voltage “arc” fires. 

A bold design touch: the APsystems microinverters were left exposed on the patio beam face, in full view of restaurant patrons below. It’s a rare moment in the sun, so to speak, for a solar component generally covered over by modules or otherwise tucked out of site.

poplargrove-1It’s a practical application, said Susan Huber of Swiss Solar Tech Ltd., as the open installation allows for easy inspection and maintenance, while the YC-1000’s NEMA-6 metal enclosures offer robust protection from the elements.

But there was a more important reason: for the Hollers, this project was not just about harnessing solar, but promoting it.

“The Hollers liked the sophisticated, hi-tech look of the APsystems microinverters,” Huber said, “and they want to share that with their customers.”

Installer: Swiss Solar Tech Ltd.
Project name: Poplar Grove Winery/Vanilla Pod Restaurant
Location: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
Total system capacity: 46.36kW
Microinverters: APsystems YC1000-3-208
Total number of microinverters used: 42
Brand/wattage of modules: Prism Solar Bi60 bi-facial, 368 watt
Number of modules: 126

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Powered by APsystems microinverters, the largest solar array in Manitoba goes live

The largest solar array in Manitoba, Canada, goes live this month, powered by APsystems microinverters.

The ambitious 200.2 kW ground-mount array will provide 100 percent of the power needs for the Crescent Beach Cottages, a waterfront vacation resort on scenic West Hawk Lake in the Whiteshell Provincial Park.

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Installer Evolve Green of Manitoba and the resort owners chose APsystems YC500A dual-module microinverters for their high production and the integrated Energy Monitoring & Analysis system. The APsystems EMA allows real-time monitoring of individual modules in the array to ensure optimal production at all times.

The resort’s rocky, forested terrain posed a challenge for installation – system designers had little room to work with – but creative placement put the topography to advantage. Installers mounted the second row of modules on a rocky tier some 8 feet above grade, allowing the two racks of modules to be placed closer together and conserve space.

The two-rack ground-mount system includes 308 modules and 154 APsystems microinverter units per rack — more than 600 modules and 300 microinverters total — provided through Canadian solar equipment dealer National Solar Distributors.

In addition to achieving “net zero” energy use for the resort, the owners will recover 30 percent of their investment through a rebate program by regional utility Manitoba Hydro.

See a video of the Crescent Beach Cottages array here.

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More power, smart-grid ready with new YC600 microinverter

The powerful new YC600 microinverter from APsystems is the forward-thinking choice in all solar markets. Seattle-area installer Puget Sound Solar chose the YC600 for a recent residential installation in the Magnolia neighborhood, where homeowners will benefit from the 300VA peak output to take maximum advantage of Washington state’s progressive net metering program. The 7.7kW system called for 22 modules arrayed over four distinct roof slopes on the multi-story home, using APsystems microinverters for design flexibility. Inherently smart-grid compliant with Reactive Power Control technology, the YC600 is designed and built for utility-interactive requirements today and into the future.

Installer: Puget Sound Solar
Location: Magnolia neighborhood, Seattle
Installation Date: 2018
System capacity (kw): 7.7kW
Microinverter: APsystems YC600
No. of Microinverters: 11
Number of modules: 22
Module brand/wattage: LG 350W, 60 cell

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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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Lowen home and organic family farm, Coldstream, British Columbia

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Helmi and Kornelius Lowen of Coldstream, British Columbia, wanted to eliminate their power bill – or better yet, start getting a check from the power company under the local net-metering program. Working with a leading Canadian installer Got Solar?, they were able to populate three slopes of their farmhouse roof with solar panels powered by APsystems microinverters.

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The output from the solar array should come very close to achieving “net-zero” and maybe even “net-positive,” creating more power than the Lowen home and farm consume in a year. The grid-tied array was so ambitious, local power provider BC Hydro came out and upgraded the transformer and replaced the pole – at no charge to the Lowens.

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Add it up, and the Lowens earn distinction as Canada’s first 100-percent solar organic farm.

“What makes this project so special, is that even before we installed the solar system, the Lowens in essence already used solar power to create the majority of their profits,” said Chris Palmer of Got Solar? “The fruits, vegetables and other produce grown by this organic farm are all powered by the sun.”

The 3.7-acre family farm in Canada’s rich Okanagan valley raises tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, strawberries, spinach, lettuce, potatoes, beans, peas, beats, corn, squash, zucchini, and in one recent year, some 27,000 heads of garlic.

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“Just about anything you need in a kitchen, it’s right here,” Helmi Lowen told Okanagan Seniors in a video feature. “I get bored very quickly and so does Kornelius, so we enjoy doing the gardening.”

Perhaps more impressive: the Lowens, now in their late 70s and mid-80s, respectively, still work the farm largely on their own.

By helping the Lowens create enough power for both home and farm, Got Solar? and APsystems microinverters helped the couple complete the last link in their quest for self-sustainability. And they still plan to upgrade to an electric car.

Launched in 2015, Got Solar? provides grid-tied and off-grid solar energy systems in Kelowna, B.C., and surrounding areas for residential and commercial clients. They are also the only solar company in the Okanagan that caters to DIY installers.

For the Coldstream Corner project, Got Solar? selected APsystems YC500 dual-module microinverters to support 93, 315-watt modules by Canadian Solar, all but two being 72-cell units. Two 60-cell modules were required due to space constraints around a chimney.

Palmer cited the flexibility of APsystems microinverters that allowed system designers to handle the different module sizes seamlessly. That promises forward-compatibility through the life of the array, he said.

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“Should a solar module ever be damaged or fail in the next 30 years, APsystems has essentially ‘future proofed’ their product by making it so widely compatible through its wide-ranging input capabilities,” Palmer says. “No longer do you have to try and find vintage matching panels, rather, you replace with whatever is currently in use and in inventory.

“Thank you, APsystems, for allowing our crews to have shorter installation times, higher productivity, and ease-of-installation that has no equal.”

Like APsystems microinverters, the Lowens are proud examples of industry and productivity over the long haul.

“A lot of seniors come here and say, ‘I couldn’t do what you’re doing,’ and I don’t believe that,” Helmi Lowen told Okanagan Seniors. “A lot of people could do it. They don’t have to do it, but they could do it. They say no to big gardens, but they could start small in their own backyard or even in their apartment. There’s always a plot there for seniors to go and get their hands dirty.

“If you say you can’t, you can’t. But if you say you can, you can.”
Location: Okanagan, British Columbia
Capacity: 29kW
Installer: Got Solar?, B.C., Canada
Modules: Canadian Solar 315W, 72-cell and 60-cell monocrystalline
Number of modules: 93
Microinverters: APsystems YC500 dual module
No. of microinverters: 47

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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.