Solar Builder

JAN-FEB 2019

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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Page 28 of 51

SOLARBUILDERMAG.COM | 29 Being able to pick and choose from a menu of services not only mitigates dependence on third-party subcontractors, but also frees up EPCs to expand and bid more jobs. This is, of course, if that supplier has earned the trust to function as an extended arm of the EPC. Better tools Tracker systems are abundant now, and many of your favorite racking manufacturers that don't have one (or aren't yet promoting one) likely will be in the coming year. This is a combination of tracker prices dropping and suppliers working to address the needs of their customers. Meanwhile, the long-established racking and tracker systems on the market have integrated new layers of installa- tion and cost efficiencies. RP Construction Services Inc. (RPCS), a turnkey construc- tion company that works with Array Technologies, is promoting the Plug-N-Play Solar Tracker system, for example. In addition to the installation advantages gained from its familiarity with Array Technologies DuraTrack HZ v3 single-axis tracker, the Plug-N-Play tracker brings in eBOS suppliers Shoals, CAB Products and Hellerman Tyton for a full solution that saves thousands of feet of trench and conduit while preventing all trench-related schedule delays. "We are coordinating directly with these various manufacturers to bring products together to form a singular solution," says Adam Larner, VP of projects for RPCS. "Recently we saw a 28-MW proj- ect convert from trenching to above-ground Plug-n-Play halfway through the project as they analyzed and then recognized significant savings by making the switch, even midstream." RPCS says this new partnership has simplified its tracker project installations by reducing trenching by 50 percent (eliminating 900 to 1,100 ft of trench per MWdc), utilizing less specialized labor (for string-level electrical connections) and requiring less time (all crimping, labels, wire testing and cutting are completed in the fac- tory). What's more, the Plug-N-Play Tracker approach also allows for more solar panels per string and fewer combiner boxes per site, cutting cost and solar electrical complications. In all, RPCS has shown $3,000 to $5,000 in savings per MWdc for DG projects. Eben Russell, founder, president and CEO, puts it like this: "Allowing more of the system to be built in the factory prior to mobilization drastically impacts schedules, keeps the quality level high and consistent across all sites and allows us to manage the work with fewer asset managers. Lastly, building portfolios of projects with identical and uniform high-quality leads to higher ROIs, less transactional cost per project, better control over schedules and higher asset resale value after the full tax benefits are realized." Perron says integration like this is the future in the supplier space, bringing more "pre-built" assemblies to the site, which leads to fast- er, higher quality builds. "We try to have the suppliers do more product integration in their factories rather than us integrating in the field, leading to better quality installs," Perron says. "Logically it makes sense. If you can integrate items in an environmentally controlled setting rather than in the field where you do not know what type of weather conditions you will face, it will always lead to higher levels of productivity and higher levels of quality." Product line evolution occurs in small ways too based on sim- ple conversations. OMCO was contract manufacturing for First Solar, for example, and without being specifically asked they worked on a redesign idea for its module interface bracket to cut costs. Conversely, proactive customers will explain the pain points they see with designs. Leading up to the debut of its branded, Field-Fast racking system, Goodwin says OMCO made some tweaks to its wire management options and changed the design of its foot bracket to make it easier to package, ship and preassemble in the factory, all of which came directly from work- ing with customers. What's next? With the ITC scheduled to phase out over the next few years and the development pipeline more robust than ever, developers and independent power producers are pushing to get as many MWs installed as possible. Construction schedules will be compressed and competition will be fierce. None of that is new for the solar industry, but the context has changed. Due to the innovations and stream- lined services that have emerged from EPC-supplier relationships, "the fittest" will be evolving the conditions in which solar develop- ment continues to thrive instead of merely survive. Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder. "Allowing more of the system to be built in the factory prior to mobilization drastically impacts schedules, keeps the quality level high and consistent across all sites and allows us to manage the work with fewer asset managers." - Eben Russell, RPCS CEO

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