July 29, 2012 – Vol.17 No.20
SEVEN DAYS OF SOLAR 7-15-12
In the list of U.S. solar projects (below) is the 6 MW (dc) Keystone Solar Project now under construction in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It’s being built on farmland that could use a break from farming; lay fallow. Soils need a time out, sometimes a long time out, to replenish their nutrients. Farming solar energy instead of crops for 25 -30 years would give time for the soil to replenish itself. Owners of nutrient depleted farmland can still profit by farming sunlight.
However it’s also possible for farmer’s to give up growing crops if the financial returns are better with solar energy than say soybeans. (In the current drought in the US, many farmers may choose solar over wheat and corn in future years if drought becomes the new norm in much of the country.)
But solar and farming can also coexist. The recently-released NPD Solarbuzz United States Deal Tracker says in a press release:
Land in the United States that had previously been used for agricultural purposes is now tending to be sacrificed to renewable energy when this presents a more profitable financial option, often encouraged by incentives or power requirements.
Additionally, some colleges have recently started using sheep to maintain the grass under PV arrays, and a test market is currently being constructed in North Carolina for a 4 MW installation to be used as a sheep and lamb farm and monitored for herd management. To date, this may be the most viable approach to utilizing agricultural land for energy production, creating a “win-win” for all involved.
NPD Solarbuzz analyst Christine Beadle said, “While PV arrays are often criticized for taking land away from agriculture and farming, the combination of sheep farming and PV power generation is a great solution in many areas, as farmers can benefit from two sources of income. And while the concept of sheep herding in the same field as a PV array is still in its infancy, it certainly shows a great deal of promise.”
During the week beginning July 15, 2012, this publication received news announcements regarding more than 200 megawatts (MW) of projects completed, 96 MW under construction and 110 MW of solar projects in the development pipeline in the United States.
--- IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings retailer, has officially plugged-in the new solar energy system installed at its Pittsburgh-area store in Robinson Township, Pennsylvania. The 86,800-square-foot PV array consists of a 694 kW system, built with 2,884 panels, installed by REC Solar.
This investment by IKEA reinforces the company’s long-term commitment to sustainability and confidence in photovoltaic (PV) technology. Since 2000, IKEA Pittsburgh hosted a 31 kW PPA (power purchase agreement) array that was removed to facilitate installation of the new system, owned and operated by IKEA. Including this system now operational at IKEA Pittsburgh, there are 22 completed solar energy projects for IKEA in the United States, with 17 more locations underway, making the eventual U.S. solar presence of IKEA nearly 89 percent with a total generation of 38 MW.
--- Community Energy Solar (Community Energy) has closed financing and commenced construction of its 6 MW (dc) Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.
Exelon Generation and Community Energy’s retail marketing division committed to buy the output and back the financing for the project, which will supply the highest-quality green electricity – local solar power – to customers who sign up for a share of the generation. Several early high-profile customers have already signed up for a share of the output, including Franklin & Marshall College, Eastern University, Clean Air Council, and most recently, the Philadelphia Phillies and Millersville University.
The Keystone Project site is located along Lancaster Pike south of the city of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Community Energy worked closely with the fabled Lancaster County farming community and township officials in designing the project to support both farmland preservation and agricultural soil restoration.
The solar panels are being installed on driven posts without concrete to avoid soil disturbance, such that the site will be maintained with selected cover vegetation to preserve and improve organic soil content.
About 20,000 Canadian Solar 290 watt modules are being installed on fixed tilt, ground-mounted aluminum racking provided by Schletter
The solar project received financing and funding from the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership, the Sustainable Energy Fund and the State of Pennsylvania. groSolar, a commercial solar contractor, is serving as general contractor to complete construction, targeted for this Fall. About 50 construction, electrical, and other jobs are being created at the site this summer.
--- NRG Energy, MidAmerican Solar and First Solar have announced that the 290 MW (AC) Agua Caliente solar project, currently under construction in Yuma County, Arizona is more than two-thirds complete and delivering more than 200 MW to the electric grid. The Agua Caliente project is the world’s largest operating photovoltaic power plant.
The facility, which is owned by NRG and MidAmerican Solar, employs a daily average of 400 to 450 workers during the construction period. Expected to be completed in 2014, the project uses industry-leading solar plant controls and forecasting capabilities to integrate its output with the power grid. The Agua Caliente project is being financed with support from a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office.
First Solar designed and is constructing the project using its advanced thin-film photovoltaic modules and will operate and maintain the facility for NRG and MidAmerican Solar.
In the development pipeline.
--- Unirac has been awarded a contract by Bechtel Power Corporation to supply the ground mount system for the 110 MW (AC) Catalina Solar Photovoltaic (PV) Project in Kern County in Southern California.
The project is one of the largest photovoltaic ground mount installation in North America, projected to cover 1,100 acres and produce enough energy to power approximately 35,000 homes. Completion is scheduled for 2013.
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