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Projects : Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2

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PROJECT TEAM: EPC—Joule Energy, joule-energy.com; owner—Boviet Solar USA, bovietsolarusa.com; developer— Hecate Energy, hecateenergy.com

DESIGN & INSTALLATION LEAD: Corey Shalanski, senior PV engineer, Joule Energy


DATE COMMISSIONED: April 2017

INSTALLATION TIME FRAME: 40 days

LOCATION: Woodland, GA 32.8°N

SOLAR RESOURCE: 4.59 kWh/m2/ day

ASHRAE DESIGN TEMPERATURES: 95°F 2% average high, 12.2°F extreme minimum

ARRAY CAPACITY: 1.613 MWdc

ANNUAL AC PRODUCTION: 2,826 MWh

Located in Woodland, Georgia, the Old Alabama Road 2 (OAR 2) solar project represents two trends present in many megawatt-scale ground-mounted PV installations—tracked arrays and the use of string inverters for power processing. The OAR 2 project team has three primary stakeholders: Boviet Solar, a subsidiary of Powerway Group, is the system owner and module vendor; Hecate Energy served as the project developer; and New Orleans–based Joule Energy was the proj- ect EPC firm.

Site grading began in late September 2016. Construction coincided with a significant drought that impacted much of western Georgia, and the drought conditions complicated early construction efforts. At one point in the site preparation process, the grad- ing contractor was not able to secure burn permits. As a result, workers had  to truck vegetation debris off-site, which added unanticipated cost and resulted in a minor project delay. Another early delay resulted from the severing of an unmapped 2-inch gas line during stump excavation. Further investigation revealed that the pipe had been aban- doned and supposedly capped off many years ago. The project team worked with local officials to trace the source of the pipe and quickly and safely make the appropriate repairs.

Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2 Image 1

With site preparation completed, Joule Energy opted to subcontract the tracker and module installation, focusing its efforts on realizing the cost savings that optimizing the ac power collec- tion system would offer. Considerations included the strategic location of power processing equipment and ac aggrega- tion panels, as well as approaches to minimize the project’s wiring material cost and speed conductor deployment. A total of 35 Ginlong Solis 40 kW 3-phase string inverters provides power conver- sion and optimization for OAR 2.

Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2 Image 2

All array rows contain even num- bers of tracker tables, which simplified the wiring plan. This configuration allowed Joule Energy to parallel two module source circuits and thereby minimize homerun wiring back to the string inverters. Joule developed a rela- tively simple homerun gauge scheme based on each string’s position in its row. For shorter runs, it used 10 AWG and 8 AWG conductors; for longer runs, it stepped conductor size up to 6 AWG. Installers paralleled strings using Y branch connectors for 10 AWG and 8 AWG conductors and Tyco GTAP con- nectors for 6 AWG conductors.

Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2 Image 3

Joule Energy used the leapfrog wir- ing method shown in SolarPro’s April/ May 2014 issue. This wiring configuration results in the colocation of each source circuit’s homerun connections, which allowed OAR 2 installers to plug them directly into the parallel branch connec- tor. The installation team ran all home- run conductor pairs to their respective inverter-input terminals with no inter- mediary breaks. This approach compli- cated the initial installation, particularly because the design called for direct burial of portions of each homerun. However, the design also significantly reduced the number of field-installed connections, which are among the Joule Energy O&M team’s most frequently cited failure concerns. Because only two strings ter- minate at each inverter MPP tracker, the system did not require any in-field fuses, which further cut costs and simplified installation.

Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2 Image 4

The installation team had to learn quickly how to deploy both large-gauge wire spools and large numbers of smaller-gauge spools. In early attempts, team members used an extendable- reach forklift and a custom-built lumber rack. The Joule Energy team has since learned that a more optimal approach is to use a full flatbed trailer with turntables underneath the spools, a setup it purchased for future projects.

Joule Energy Old Alabama Road 2 Image 5

Installers grouped the inverters at the site location nearest to the point  of interconnection. They constructed two separate equipment walls, one comprising inverters serving the east- ern rows of the array and one com- prising inverters serving the central and western rows of the array. The equipment support structures include metal roofing panels along the top and back sides of the structure to shade the inverters. The 11 inverters on the eastern equipment wall combine at an 800 A breaker panel, as do each of the two sets of 12 inverters on the central and western equipment wall. Joule Energy minimized ac voltage drop by locating each inverter within 40 feet of its respective breaker panel, and the breaker panels within 120 feet of the system’s fused disconnects.

“While this project is relatively small in size compared to many of today’s solar farms, it represented a big accomplish- ment for our team. We applied a fresh perspective to the overall EPC process— focusing on design and installation efficiencies—and produced a showcase system that serves as the standard for our current and future work.”

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