Solar Builder

MAY-JUN 2018

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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28 M AY / J U N E 2 0 1 8 mounting utility poles and holding up retainer walls for a century. Those load anchors are sent into the earth and pull tested in real-time conditions (Nuance requires 1.5 times the worst case scenario for its design load test) and attached to the racking — a unit of four to six adjustable legs that is fully assembled with PV and wiring at ground-level. And yes, this means the entire system, if needed, can be disengaged and moved. We'll explore those implications at the end. With that as our starting point, grab a paddle and let's head downstream. Good bye geotech Geotechnical reports are often done months in advance of the installation so a structural engineer can design the ground- mount system per the requirements of the geotech report. All in, this is a couple thou- sand dollars and a six- to eight-week process. What if you wanted to perform a geotech investigation in the fall? You might not even get the calculations back until the New Year, at a time when delays are equal to death. As mentioned, the Osprey's anchors are pull tested on site with a safety factor of 1.5 the worst case design load. This real-time condition test gives engineers the best knowl- edge of the soil at that time, eliminating the need for the geotech report ordering, process and price. That is just the start of how using the Osprey saves EPCs time and money. Master of your domain Larger projects are often the realm of larger companies or require a smaller com- pany to rent equipment and wait for a larger company to deliver it. This is a per- fectly fine system, but removing piles and removing the large equipment needed to drive them opens up the market even more for a wider variety of contractors, defrag- menting the market. "The small guy gets beat up over con- crete and relying on outsourced teams to drive the product in the ground with heavy equipment they rent or lease, which means the equipment is on that company's time, not the EPC's," Boguess says. Even in the most efficient outcome from order placement to equipment delivery to pile driving, the mere fact of being on another company's timeline adds extra time to project development and intro- duces the possibility of delays. The possi- bility of the delay has its own subtle chill- ing effect on a contractor's project pipeline. If a larger project is delayed because equip- ment is held up at another site, the con- tractor's delicate summer and fall project window will be shattered and accounts payable left in the lurch. A system that is fully installed by the contractor using only hand tools gives full control of scheduling back to the contractor. "If you can't control your installation schedule, you can't control your revenues and accounts receivables," Boguess says. "For small- to mid-size EPCs, a lot of these guys live project to project. If they can't control cash flow, they are stuck." Obviously a larger company working to please investors with timely commission- ing and quicker returns on investment would also benefit from the extra control over scheduling, but the savings go deeper, both in actual cost savings and costs avoid- ed. Large developers have slush funds available to cover for unforeseen obstacles under the ground. For example, a developer putting a project in the ground in Florida has to account for the threat of running into limestone — both accidentally crack- ing it and then working to avoid it if found. Those threats don't change the installation of an anchor system, which can go in the ground at any angle and avoid any such obstacles, keeping slush funds put and improving profit margins. Nuance Energy procures its steel from both U.S. and foreign suppliers. This has not affected its model of packaging Osprey units at its regional warehouses and ship- ping them out with up to 40 units on a truck. Freight costs can be reduced by up to 60 percent. Labor savings An all-handtool installation for a 5-MW project might sound laborious, but Boguess has compelling evidence of overall labor savings achieved, in less time, with the Osprey vs. a conventional large-scale ground-mount installation. "One of our first projects with Brad Thomas, senior director of project man- agement [formerly of NEXTracker], was only a 75-kW job. He had forecast three weeks for the installation. The job was finished in five days. He had overcalculated by two weeks, saving $14,000. That's 18.6 cents a watt on a 75-kW job." With minimal training, any local labor crew can be employed to install the Osprey system. The adjustable legs also reduce the amount of site prep and grading needed. New market: Lift and Shift The niche for Nuance thus far has been projects in the 10 kW to 5 MW range, but applications within that range extend beyond the conventional. For starters, Boguess has seen a lot of activity in rural residential and small agriculture in the Midwest, less sexy solar locations like Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota. "The smaller customer is anybody order- ing one to 10 units from us, and each unit holds 5 to 6 kW," Boguess says. "Residential contractors have a cash flow business with

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