Project Merit: Solar Power


SunPower (San Jose), which won a CCBJ bronze award in 2010 for revenue growth, deserves similar honors for 2011, as its revenue grew by 36% to $1.75 billion for the nine months ending Sept. 30, 2011. But CCBJ is singling the company out for its achievements as a developer and builder of large PV projects. That business grew dramatically in 2011, driving SunPower's Utility and Power Project segment to $872.9 million for the nine-month period, 67% growth year-on-year. The company booked revenues (under percentage-of-completion accounting method) for a 20 MW project in Ontario and three U.S. plants totaling 60 MW, according to SunPower's Q3 report.

In June 2011 SunPower and client Glimcher Realty Trust (Columbus, OH), a real estate investment trust, completed what they say is the largest rooftop PV system in North America. The 4.8 MW facility at the Jersey Gardens shopping mall in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was designed and built by SunPower using its T5 Solar Roof Tile technology. Glimcher has entered into a power purchase agreement to sell the electric power to Clean Focus Corp. Gerdling Edlen's renewable energy and financing subsidiary Gerdling Edlen Sustainable Solutions.

Another 2011 milestone for SunPower was the completion of permitting for its 250 MW California Valley Solar Ranch, which upon completion will be the largest solar PV project in California, according to the company. CVSR is unique in that it incorporates a 14,000-acre conservation program to be managed in perpetuity for special status species-an unprecedented benefit from a utility-scale project, according to SunPower's principal environmental consultant, Ecology & Environment.

Southern California Edison (Rosemead, Calif.) for dramatically increasing the solar-generated electricity it uses in its vast service territory of about 50,000 miles that stretches from the eastern Sierra to Orange County and incorporates about 14 million people.

SCE is not the largest utility buyer of solar-generated power in the United States-that honor goes to Pacific Gas & Electric Co., which was recognized by CCBJ in 2009 for its renewable portfolio development. But SCE is a close second, with its solar procurement and customer-owned generation growing rapidly. By the end of 2010, SCE had signed power purchase agreements (PPAs) for about 1,600 MW of PV projects.

In 2011, the utility (which had revenues of $8.06 billion for the nine months ending Sept. 30, 2011) signed some mammoth solar PPAs, including one for 711 MW with SunPower and one for 250 MW with First Solar. SCE is committed to procuring 500 MW of PV-generated power under its Solar Photovoltaics Program (which will include 125 MW of utility-owned generation), and PV projects will likely be a major component of energy SCE procures under the new (commission-mandated) renewable auction mechanism. In terms of customer-owned PV capacity, SCE has approximately 350 MW of projects underway or installed on its grid, with a 2016 goal of 805 MW under the California Solar Initiative (CSI).

SCE also achieved at least two important solar energy milestones in 2011. In December, the utility and its partners, industrial real estate owner Prologis and consumer packaged goods manufacturer Kimberly-Clark (Kleenex, Scott, Huggies), completed a 4.9 MW PV array, one of the largest in the United States, on Kimberly-Clark's Redlands distribution center. Prologis managed construction while SCE is the investor and owner.

In November, SCE broke new ground in utility procurement of concentrating solar power (CSP), striking a deal with Brightsource Energy to compensate the developer for the added value of a SolarPLUS molten salt storage system that will allow the facility to provide baseload and even peaking power when it comes online in 2016 or 2017. As detailed in CCBJ's April/May 2011 solar energy edition, deployment of storage is seen as critically important to the future of CSP, which is suffering due to the rapid price decreases in PV modules. While Brightsource and other CSP developers still have to prove that storage can deliver flexible power at reasonable prices, SCE's contract can be seen as a signal of the utility's confidence that Brightsource, at least, will achieve this goal.

JinkoSolar, (Shanghai), Premier Power (El Dorado Hills, Calif) and Dependable Companies (Los Angeles) for what may be the largest solar PV system installed on an industrial high-rise building anywhere in the world. The 1.2 MW rooftop PV array uses 5,292 JinkoSolar modules to cover approximately 300,000 square feet of The Dependable Companies'-a logistics service company providing trucking, warehousing, freight forwarding and air freight-headquarters in East Los Angeles.

While larger multi-MW rooftop PV arrays are becoming more common, this project is arguably unique from the perspective of the five-story industrial building's height-110 feet. To ensure the system stands up to the significantly higher wind loads than a typical low-elevation PV system would endure, a hybrid racking system with ballast attached at strategic high-wind points was used, as well as a hinge-and-lock feature that allows each module to be lifted up for maintenance access. Premier Power was the EPC Contractor; Clenergy (Palm Desert, Calif.) manufactured the racking system; Current Electric (Orange, Calif.) was the electrical contractor; and Tecta America (Rosemont, Ill.) was the roofing contractor.

New Jersey American Water (Voorhees, NJ) for developing a 112 kW PV power plant in a uniquely challenging location: the surface of a reservoir that freezes and thaws regularly in winter months. A subsidiary of American Water Works Co., a water supply and wastewater treatment company with revenues of $2.04 billion for the nine months ending Sept. 30, 2011, New Jersey American Water is "extremely confident" that the $1.35 million system will survive in a freeze-thaw environment and believes that the system will be the first in the world to successfully do so. "Limited floating solar photovoltaic systems have been installed in warm-weather climates," said American Water's Denise Venuti. "These systems, however, have previously not been able to survive freeze/thaw weather cycles."

EPC contractor ENERACTIVE Solutions used a specialized docking and polystyrene float system manufactured by Poralu Marine and a "creative" anchoring system manufactured by Seaflex to ensure the system withstands severe weather conditions. The cost for modules and construction was $880,000; design/build and construction management came to $297,000, and New Jersey American Water spent $173,000 in labor, overhead and other costs.

The floating array was chosen in large part because the 1920s vintage water treatment plant to which it supplies electricity was surrounded by protected lands where a ground-mounted array wouldn't have been permitted. American Water is evaluating the array's performance and its potential for a wider deployment on other reservoirs.

CH2M HILL (Englewood, Colo.) for supporting the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America Communities program to accelerate the adoption of solar energy in 25 U.S. cities. CH2M HILL developed a web-based Solar Mapping tool that allows a city's residents to assess the precise solar potential of each building in a neighborhood, rooftop by rooftop, through a combination of aerial imagery and advanced 3-D modeling, providing a proven method of jump-starting the conversion to solar energy.

In 2011, CH2M HILL completed and released the PV Cost Convergence Model and the PV Economic Development Report for Solar America. The cost model forecasts when solar energy costs may become competitive with existing grid electricity rates in each of the 25 Solar America Cities, and the economic development report is designed to help cities develop their strategies for increasing local solar energy generation capacity as well as recruiting and retaining PV manufacturing companies and suppliers.