Hopkinton, Mass.-based solar developer Solect Energy Development has installed a 210 kW rooftop solar photovoltaic energy system at AmeriPride Services Inc.'s facility in Worcester, Mass.
The 840-module array is expected to offset up to 25% of the textile services and supply company's electricity needs at the location. The installation represents a key demographic for Solect, an example of the type of projects it is focusing on for its future success.
‘Our company focuses strictly on the commercial market,’ says Steve Bianchi, a partner at Solect. ‘Anywhere from 50 kW to 500 kW is really our sweet spot.’
Solect has built larger projects, such as the 2.7 MW array at Stonehill College in Easton, Mass. However, in terms of core strategy, the company has made an effort to specialize on the commercial space. One of the attractions of this market segment is that it is filled with business people who he is able to engage with on the opportunities and benefits of solar power.
‘Once you establish a relationship with these business owners, they understand how together you can create a win-win situation with solar power,’ Bianchi says. ‘I think being able to convey the value proposition of solar to commercial clients has been a key factor in our success.’
In addition to the cost savings generated at its Worcester location, AmeriPride's array also enables it to take advantage of state and federal financial and tax incentives, including solar renewable energy certificates, which Massachusetts utilities purchase to help meet their state-mandated renewable energy source goals.
‘Financial returns are great, but it's more than that,’ says Cesar Martinez, general manager of AmeriPride's Worcester branch. ‘We believe that it's important to be a leader in environmental sustainability and help facilitate the adoption of new technologies. And when you focus on doing the right thing, good things happen.’
One of AmeriPride's chief concerns was that the installation process not adversely affect the facility's operations. The Worcester facility is a regional hub for the company's uniform rental and linen supply business, with trucks coming and going all the time. Bianchi says it was important to establish a comfort level with AmeriPride so that Solect's crews and equipment would not be in the way.
‘A substantial amount of coordination and communication is required in a job like this,’ he says. ‘AmeriPride placed a lot of value on solar at all approval levels, particularly at the top of the organization. That outlook made the company very easy to work with from a project management perspective.’
Solect designers also worked with the company to incorporate its future growth plans into the project. It turns out that there are mid-range plans to raise a section of the roof, so the array design was altered accordingly to anticipate footprint and shading issues. At the same time, the project anticipates a phase II to extend solar panels to the new section when it is complete. Such decisions also informed inverter sizing so as to accommodate an expansion of 60 kW.
The current array features a Solectria SGI 225 central inverter. The rubber membrane roof has a 170-degree azimuth facing, which is just about perfect from a southern exposure standpoint. The ET Solar 250 W, 60-cell panels are mounted on Equilibrium Solar EcoFoot 2 ballasted mounting hardware with a 10-degree tilt.
‘We didn't go with the 72-cell panels in this case because there is a lot of existing equipment on the roof, and the smaller panels gave us the flexibility to get around that,’Â Bianchi says.
Solect is also providing the operations and maintenance (O&M) services on the project, which it monitors using Solectria's SolrenView software. Like many companies serving the commercial market, Solect considers O&M services to be an important part of its growth strategy.