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Carefree O&M – Part 1 – Count Your Sheep

Carefree O&M – Part 1 – Count Your Sheep

Carefree O&M - Part 1 - Count your Sheep

By Sun Action Trackers

As Operations and Maintenance becomes a hotter topic in the Solar and Solar Tracking industry, there has been many approaches to lower costs and minimize risk in the design and installation of solar farms.  There have been a wide variety of approaches in each area of solar farm O&M costs and savings.  In this article, we will discuss a practice that is becoming more common amongst utility scale solar farm developers across the country.

Options for Land Operations and Maintenance (O&M)

During the development of utility scale solar farms, there are so many operational parts in motion that if the land had not been graded and trampled, that it will be before the installation is done.  The sites are often left looking bare and lacking grass as the project installation heads near completion.  Not too far after however, mother nature takes over and grass starts growing and spreading quickly.  This creates the need for landscaping services and workers to maintain the acres and acres of property to ensure proper functionality of the system.

The Old Fashion Way

Many developers choose to periodically mow the property which takes multiple days and workers, while creating risks that need not be created.  Some of the inherent risks include but are not limited to:

  • Flying Objects – While mowing properties this vast, it is likely that at some point something will be struck by the mowers. This could be something natural such as a rock, or something left behind from development such as a nut or bolt.  This creates a risk to workers, but also to the solar farm itself, by cracking or shattering panels that then would need to be replaced.
  • Dust/Sand – Mowers also kick up quite a bit of dust no matter what the condition of the soil and property is. This sand and dust settles on the panels, making them less efficient and creates the need for the panels to be cleaned more frequently.

Though this method is widely adopted many developers are looking for alternative methods to lower O&M costs and to minimize financial risk on each project.

Genetically Modified Flora

One of these alternative methods is to plant “low growing grass” which has been genetically engineered to grow to a certain height and stop.  This method has proven to be effective in some areas, but the major drawback is weeds.  As the grass grows, weeds become an inevitable part of the landscape.  Since the weeds will never stop growing, this again creates the need for human intervention on a constant and continuous basis causing a hike in O&M costs. Another option in modifying the landscape is using herbicides and chemicals to keep the grass and weeds at bay.  This option works but it is contrary to the “eco-friendly” passion that renewable energy harvesting is based on.  Though this may be a viable solution, it creates risk to the environment and surrounding areas.

Keep it "Simple Solar" (KISS)

The simplest solution in solar is usually the best.  Systems are designed with minimal moving parts and are highly engineered to maximize efficiency and lower O&M costs.  Why wouldn’t you look for the simplest solution when it comes to land O&M costs?  Many solar farm developers from California, Texas, North and South Carolina and even Europe are adopting a simple and hyper-effective solution that is lowering land O&M costs and providing opportunities for the local economy and is completely eco-friendly.

Send in the Sheep

The aforementioned solution that has been adopted globally is the use of livestock, preferably sheep to maintain your land for you during the harvesting of your solar energy.  Sheep are low maintenance requiring only water and food, which is the growing grass in most solar farms.  States like California and North Carolina have widely adopted this solution and are showing incremental decreases in land O&M costs, while creating a thriving industry for farmers in the local economies surrounding their solar farms.  In North Carolina, there are sheep farmers that will even offer their flock for free for use at the solar farms in return for the free food that their flock consumes.

Environmentally and Financially Symbiotic Relationships

Not only is this method environmentally friendly, but it also creates more revenue through shared resources and legal loopholes.  In many states developers are charged an Energy Tax for the land usage, whereas agricultural land is not subject to the same taxing.  This creates a revenue increase from the partnership between farmer and developer.  It also saves the farmers money due to a seemingly unlimited food source.  The marriage between farmer and developer is truly a symbiotic one as both parties have much to gain, while also lowering costs on both sides.  On the environmental side, both parties are allowing nature to run its course while causing no harm to the land or the surrounding areas.  It also allows the developer to “cut the cord” of reliance on fossil fuels for land O&M, which we are sure that mother nature welcomes.

Not Just a Developer Farmer Relationship

Since the development of these relationships major brands have gotten involved bringing the process full circle.  Whole Foods, a national organic grocery market started selling “solar farm sheep” when it started selling lamb chops of sheep that had been exclusively raised on Solar Farms.  Sun Raised Farms is the name of the company that landed the opportunity with Whole Foods, providing their lamb chops exclusively for the nation’s healthiest supermarket.  The buying motivation for Whole Foods is that the sheep are essentially free range, raised organically in expansive open spaces.

Key Takeaways

Many of the solar farm developers in North America are beginning to use sheep to graze and maintain their solar farms.  The sheep are low cost and even free in some cases, creating a relationship between farmer and developer where everyone wins.  Financially it makes sense to use sheep as there are available tax breaks, unlimited food for the animals and no need to O&M risks by using machinery, human labor, and chemicals.  In Solar Energy Harvesting, simplicity is key to lowering O&M costs and minimizing risk.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Community, home news, Products, Residential Solar Trackers, solar system benefits, solar tracking, 0 comments
Dual Axis Residential Tracker Dealer Profile : Howard “Scot” Arey – Solar CenTex

Dual Axis Residential Tracker Dealer Profile : Howard “Scot” Arey – Solar CenTex

Dual Axis Residential Tracker Dealer Profile : Howard "Scot" Arey - Solar CenTex

By Sun Action Trackers

Sun Action Trackers would like to welcome Solar CenTex to our list of Authorized Dual Axis Residential Solar Trackers Dealer Network.  Howard “Scot” Arey, President and founder of Solar CenTex, has been an advocate for Solar Energy collection in Texas for many years, as he resided as a Chair on the Board of Directors of the Texas Solar Energy Society, and as Executive Vice President at Nexolon America, after 25 years of service in the United States Army, eventually retiring as a Colonel in 2013.  Scot has installed more than a few Dual Axis Solar Trackers from Sun Action Trackers and continues to adopt and champion our mission to increase solar output through engineering and innovation.

“The first time I saw this technology was at Solar Power International two years ago, and visually it was stunning.  In the case of SPI, it was even a moving display and when people see it, it is impressive.   In Texas we have a lot of ranches and a lot of space, and I always tell folks, this is the coolest way to have solar, but more importantly from our end, it is easy to recognize that this is the most value and effective way to put solar in.”

Solar CenTex has installed over a dozen of the Dual Axis Solar Trackers in various places in and around Waco and San Angelo Texas, on ranches and larger properties in the area.  During a particular installation, he was also able to run two separate interconnection points off of the same Dual Axis Solar Tracker.  He also plans to run a battery system to create the first “off-grid” or “microgrid” scenario for a Dual Axis Solar Tracker in the residential space.  When asked “Why Sun Action Trackers?”  He replied:

“It just makes so much sense.  If you don’t have such a great solar resource as we have here in Texas, solar production really matters, and you have to do whatever you can to maximize production yield.  The team as Sun Action Trackers is committed to a great product, and support, and they want you to be very successful.”

We would like to thank Scot and the whole team at Solar CenTex for believing in our solution as much as we do.  If you would like to know more information about Solar CenTex please click HERE, and if you would like to know more about our Dual Axis Solar Tracker solution for residential use, please feel free to CLICK HERE for more information.

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Community, Dual Axis Tracker, home news, real time sensor, Residential Solar Trackers, solar tracking, 0 comments
Sun Action Trackers joins San Antonio’s solar manufacturing scene

Sun Action Trackers joins San Antonio’s solar manufacturing scene

Sun Action Trackers joins San Antonio's Solar Manufacturing Scene

via Monika Maeckle, CPS Energy Newsroom

As Korean dignitaries and energy reporters gathered at Mission Solar Energy’s “Solarbration” to mark the debut of the country’s first n-type solar panel manufacturing plant last week, another San Antonio solar manufacturing player quietly opened its doors: Sun Action Trackers.

The New Energy Economy partner of CPS Energy builds and assembles dual axis trackers, components in solar arrays that allow solar cells to gather the maximum amount of light for conversion to solar energy. The trackers literally follow the sun, tilting not only left and right, but up and down. Keeping the panels aligned with the solar azimuth, or maximum angle for solar energy collection, allows for maximum efficiency in collecting solar energy. Read more

Posted by Ana Morales in Community, home news, Press Coverage, solar tracking, 0 comments
Latest solar farm uses locally-made products to produce clean energy

Latest solar farm uses locally-made products to produce clean energy

Latest solar farm uses locally-made products to produce clean energy

Via Scott Wudel, CPS Energy Newsroom

Solar panels produced here in San Antonio are now bringing renewable power to local homes and businesses.

More than 21,400 solar panels, manufactured at the recently opened Mission Solar Energy facility, fill the new Alamo 3 solar farm, located on 70 acres off Loop 1604 near IH-10 East. The 5.5-megawatt facility will generate power for more than 1,300 homes.

The farm also uses new, dual-axis tracker technology from Sun Action Trackers, and inverters built locally by KACO new energy. Both are New Energy Economy partners, which to date have brought 500 good paying, permanent jobs and more than $800 million in economic impact to our community. Read more

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Community, home news, Press Coverage, 0 comments
‘Steel forest’ in Uvalde to bring solar power to San Antonio

‘Steel forest’ in Uvalde to bring solar power to San Antonio

'Steel forest' in Uvalde to bring solar power to San Antonio

Via Scott Wudel, CPS Energy Newsroom

Out in Uvalde, a new forest is rising from the ground. How can a forest come to life and flourish in South Texas? When it’s made of silicon and steel.

The forest is actually a solar farm. It’s more of a ranch, really – it covers roughly 900 acres. Like other solar farms around the area, it’s designed to bring more renewable power to CPS Energy customers. The new farm will generate 95 megawatts (MW) of sun power – twice as much as any current farm now delivering power to greater San Antonio. It will be the largest solar farm in Texas.

OCI Solar Power, developer of four of the eight farms currently generating power for San Antonio, is continuing its commitment to provide 400 megawatts of solar to CPS Energy. These four farms are now producing 90 MW of clean power – with the largest producing 41 MW. The Uvalde farm, deemed “Alamo 5,” will eclipse the first four combined and will be complete later this year. Two more farms are on the way by 2017.

Roughly half of the Alamo 5 farm was built over the last eight months, despite the challenges of rocks, rain and rattlesnakes. Large steel assemblies, known in industry terms as “trackers” and manufactured by San Antonio-based Sun Action Trackers, line much of the acreage like steel tree trunks. Every day, more take root in the rocky terrain. In the end, there will be 9,000 of these steel trees, each holding a canopy of 42 silicon solar panels. Many of these panels were produced in San Antonio at the new Mission Solar Energy manufacturing facility.

Each tracker uses advanced technology – sensors to help the canopy of panels follow the sun’s arc both up and down and side to side, allowing the panels to generate more energy than fixed panels which only move in one direction. Inverters located across the site, made by KACO new energy, another New Energy Economy partner, convert incoming direct current, or DC, power from the panels to the alternating, or AC, power that customers use in their homes and businesses. When the farm is complete, a mind-boggling 378,000 panels will collect and convert sunlight into electricity. The 95-MW farm is expected to generate enough power for 17,000 homes. Read more

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in Community, home news, Press Coverage, solar tracking, 0 comments
Texas Solar Power Shines Strong

Texas Solar Power Shines Strong

In the News: Texas Solar Power Shines Strong

Via Paul MacDonald, Alternative Energy Magazine

While Texas has been hit by the decline in oil prices, the state has also recently been home to some large-scale solar power developments, including the 118-MW Alamo 5 project built by ConEdison Development and Mortenson Construction to supply CPS Energy.

It seems that as the bottom fell out of the market for oil, solar power is taking off in the state of Texas.

In recent years, the price of oil has fallen off a cliff—it hit a peak of $140 a barrel in 2008, but more recently has been trading around $50, after being as low as $26 a barrel early in 2016. Read more

Posted by Jonathan Bunting in home news, Press Coverage, real time sensor, solar tracking, 0 comments