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ESA Renewables Signs on for Five North Carolina Solar Projects in Two Months

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January 25, 2012

ESA Renewables Signs on for Five North Carolina Solar Projects in Two Months

By Cheryl Kaften
TMCnet Contributor


North Carolina is a state that is not renowned for year-round sun exposure, but it represents a hotbed of activity for the alternative energy industries, especially in the Research Triangle of Raleigh-Durham. In the past two months, a turnkey solar solutions provider, ESA Renewables (ESA), has teamed up with two regional electric utilities — Progress Energy and Duke Energy (News - Alert) —  to install and operate no fewer than five projects in that area.

Two of the projects are being deployed under the auspices of the SunSense Commercial Solar PV Program offered by Progress Energy Carolinas, which comprises two major electric utilities that serve about 3.1 million customers in the Carolinas and Florida. The SunSense program provides a guaranteed payment for solar energy produced from eligible PV systems that are purchased and installed on commercial rooftops. As part of participation:

  • Customers must enter a standard agreement to sell all of the energy and Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from the system to PEC for a 20-year term.
  • Customers also must execute an Interconnection Agreement.
  • Once the system is installed and approved for commissioning, PEC will set a separate meter to register the generation.
  • Customers receive an incentive of 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for solar electricity produced and delivered to the Progress Energy electric system.

Just this week, Hayesville, North Carolina-based ESA announced that it has commissioned a 500-kilowatt (kW) DC solar photovoltaic (PV) system in Fuquay-Varina, a 12-square-mile town in the Raleigh metropolitan area. The solar PV array is situated on 55,867 square-feet of the roof of a building off of Purfoy Road in Wake County and is expected to annually generate enough energy to power 83 average North Carolina homes.

Photos courtesy of ESA Renewables

The electricity generated from the installation will be sold to Progress Energy. ESA developed the project, installed 2,016 245 Wp and 250 Wp CS5P modules from Canadian Solar and provided EPC (engineering/procurement/construction) services. ESA also installed its monitoring system and will be providing operation and maintenance services for the duration of the Power Purchase Agreement term.

ESA's proprietary, turnkey Monitoring System provides pertinent, real-time and historic data, including energy balances, display data loggers, power curves and astrological data. ESA's Monitoring System also provides automatic fault alerts to system managers, allowing for quick response and minimal operational losses.

The Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, PV system was purchased at commissioning by Holocene, a renewable energy company with offices in Raleigh. “We are delighted to be partnered with ESA Renewables on this prominent renewable energy project. ESA Renewables’ professional team worked closely with Holocene leadership in meeting part of the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard,” said Ralph Thompson, president of Holocene, adding, “This is an attractive addition to our growing pool of owned renewable energy assets.”

In addition, last December 13, ESA signed on for a 1.3 MW commercial rooftop solar project in the city of New Bern in Craven County, North Carolina. This project is one of the largest rooftop photovoltaic (PV) arrays in eastern North Carolina, and will help bring clean, renewable solar energy to New Bern residents. According to the terms of the contract, ESA will build, operate, and maintain the system, and also will install its proprietary monitoring system to monitor operation of the array for the 20-year term of the PPA contract with Progress Energy. ESA will sell the entire energy output from the system to Progress Energy, which will distribute solar energy to its customers in the area.

 ESA has installed 5,376 Canadian Solar modules, each of which produces 235 watts (W). In total, the modules cover 175,122 square feet of space on one commercial rooftop. This project is expected to produce 1.7 million kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year, enough clean renewable energy to power approximately 200 New Bern homes annually.

”This is an exciting project and a landmark installation in a region that hasn’t traditionally been thought of as a prime solar energy market,” said Alan King, general manager of Canadian Solar USA. “ESA Renewables is actively driving and enabling major solar projects across the country that demonstrates the value and viability of solar, and we’re proud ESA has selected our modules to help bring more than a million kilowatt hours of clean energy to North Carolina.”

The inverters ESA selected for the project, purchased from Fort Collins, Colorado-based Advanced Energy (AE), are PV-powered 260kW commercial inverters. “We continue to be impressed by ESA’s leadership in bringing solar energy onto our nation’s electric grid with impactful projects like this,” said Steve Levy, vice president of Sales and Marketing for AE Solar Energy. “AE is pleased to be a partner in this project, and we look forward to collaborating with ESA on future solar projects.”

Finally, later last month, ESA entered into three separate multi-year operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts with Duke Energy for solar farms located in southwestern North Carolina, in and around the town of Murphy. Headquartered in Charlotte, North Carolina, Duke Energy has about 4 million U.S. customers and about 35,000 MW of electricity generating capacity in the Carolinas and the Midwest,

  • The Murphy-based solar energy generating systems generate a total of 4MW of solar power. They include:
  • The Murphy Solar Farm, which is approximately eight acres in size and comprises 4,298 ground-mounted solar panels on the property of Martins Creek Elementary School;
  • The Wingate Solar Farm, which uses 4,340 solar panels and has been installed on a tract of land that is about seven acres in size;
  • The Holiness Solar Farm, which deploys 4,242 solar panels and is located on approximately nine acres.

The three solar properties were purchased by Duke Energy from ESA Renewables in November. The power from each of the newly acquired solar farms is being sold through Blue Ridge Mountain Electric Membership Corporation  to the Tennessee Valley Authority, as part of TVA’s Generation Partners program. The length of the power purchase agreements is ten years. TVA also will receive the renewable energy certificates (RECs) created by the projects.

Generation Partners is a pilot program introduced in 2003 to support homeowners and businesses that install small-scale renewable generation, such as solar panels or wind turbines. The program supplies renewable power to TVA's Green Power Switch and creates a market for green power generation in the TVA region. By selling some of the green power they produce, participants in Generation Partners defray the cost of their renewable systems, lower their monthly energy bills, and make more green power available to consumers

ESA is proud to have designed and engineered renewable energy technology that is an ideal O&M solution to maximize energy generation,” commented Jeffrey Burkett, president of ESA Renewables. “We look forward to integrating our technology on many other renewable energy power plants in the near future for effective monitoring and control.”

ESA owns and operates a diverse portfolio of over 475 solar PV power generating facilities located in the United States, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Italy. ESA’s scope of services includes financing, engineering, construction, testing, and operation and maintenance.

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Cheryl Kaften is an accomplished communicator who has written for consumer and corporate audiences. She has worked extensively for MasterCard (News - Alert) Worldwide, Philip Morris USA (Altria), and KPMG, and has consulted for Estee Lauder and the Philadelphia Inquirer Newspapers. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves

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