Wrapping Up 2016 With ECC Solar’s Best of the Year

This last year was an exciting one in the solar power industry and a great year for ECC Solar. Along with growth and many new innovations in green energy, ECC was able to expand our areas of service to our New Mexico customers. We completed many projects that we are really proud of and enjoyed working with all of our wonderful customers.

Some of the highlights from this last year include smaller projects, working with many homeowners in our northern New Mexico area, and providing maintenance to the army’s largest solar power system on White Sands Missile Range.

ECC Solar designs and installs a range of different solar PV systems for our customers, from small residential systems to large systems for businesses and the government. These are some of the projects we completed in 2016 that highlight different types of solar PV systems.

Grid-tied solar

A grid-tied solar power system is designed to connect with the utility grid to offset a portion of your electrical usage. Grid-tied systems employ an array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to produce electricity from the sun and an inverter to provide regular AC power to your existing electrical panel.

When a grid-tied solar power system is making electricity, it slows the billing meter or actually spins it backwards, leaving any usage not met by solar as the net monthly amount billed by the utility. This is known as “net metering.”

There is no backup as part of these systems, and if the utility goes out the power still goes out in the house.

Example #1: This 4.68 kW PV array is mounted on a pergola next to a modular home, providing about 90% of the residence’s electric load. A pergola is an attractive and useful installation, providing power and extra shade around the home. Pergolas can be designed to the customer’s specifications. This installation is located in Wagon Mound, NM for our customer Ernie Encinias.

James and Charlene Courson had this 4.68kW ground-mounted PV array installed at their Alamogordo, NM home. Ground installations are common for situations where the roof of the home is not the ideal angle or when it is a more convenient solution for the homeowner’s property. The advantage is that a ground installation can be designed to maximize the angle of the sun for power production.

This is an example of a roof-mounted 4.16kW PV array on the home of John Albright in Eagle Nest, NM. A roof mount can be the most cost effective solar PV installation.

Off-grid systems

An off-grid electric system produces power for the customer completely independent of the power utility. Off-grid systems employ an array of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels to produce electricity from the sun and a large battery bank to store it for whenever power is needed. Because solar modules make DC power and batteries store DC, an inverter is used to provide regular 120 or 240 volt AC power to the electric panel.

Off-grid systems are typically designed with a battery bank large enough to meet the planned electrical load for about three days without solar recharging. This is enough to get through most storms in our area. The solar array is sized large enough to completely recharge the battery bank on a daily basis.

During the design phase, ECC Solar works with our customers to calculate the amount of power needed and the number of PV panels and batteries required to keep their home running. Many of our customers in the mountain areas install off-grid systems because they are more reliable than the local power source.

This is an example of a 9.0kW ground-mounted PV array ECC Solar installed at the Quillman residence in Ribera, NM.

Grid-tie solar with battery backup

A grid-tie with battery backup is a hybrid system which connects to the grid and operates just like a grid-tied solar power system when the grid is working. If the grid fails such as in a storm or other unexpected event, a battery bank provides stored power. This ensures that certain necessary devices such as computers, security systems, communications equipment, or other “critical loads” are not unexpectedly shut down. This gives many customers peace of mind, avoiding data loss, equipment damage, and other problems.

This 8.32kW ballasted roof-mounted PV array with a lithium ion battery bank was installed in 2016 at the Stapelton residence in Santa Fe, NM.

Utility-scale solar

Large grid-tied solar systems (typically greater than 1 megawatt) are connected directly to the utility grid and provide energy to the utility grid that is then distributed to many utility customers. Many use tracking systems to optimize the output and shift output to later in the day to better match the utility load profile. Some are owned by the utility and some are owned by third-party investors who sell the energy to the utility. These systems usually have extensive data logging systems to monitor performance and are often tested annually to be sure production is at its peak.

In 2016 ECC provided system testing and maintenance on a utility scale system located on White Sands Missile Range, including IV curves and replacement of weak modules in the system. This 4.1 MW tracking system is the U.S. Army’s largest solar PV system.

For more information about this large solar PV system, you can click here.

Looking ahead to 2017

We expect 2017 to be full of just as many interesting projects and new customers that we look forward to meeting. If you are ready to get your solar PV system, give us a call to set up your no-obligation appointment. We look forward to designing the system that works perfectly for your unique needs!

Ready to get your solar PV system underway in 2017? ECC Solar is your solar PV expert! Click here or call us today at (505) 454-0614 to set up your free evaluation.

 

BTU “Ribbon” Cutting

by Ben Remmers

It was a beautiful day in December when a good group of community members joined the BTU and Energy Concepts owners to commemorate the 53 kW grid-tied PV system mounted on the BTU lumber shed south facing roof. This is the largest commercial PV system in Las Vegas to date and demonstrates a commitment to the future and community by BTU. They will also get a much reduced electric bill for 30+ years.

Electricity runs through wires, so we chose to cut a big wire with the ever useful sawzall. Wayne, Shelly, Lisa, and I held the wire tight while Cary did the honorable cut.
This was inspired by BTU’s cutting of a board when they renovated the store not long ago. I think we may be starting a new trend of cutting a little more than a ribbon!

On a tour of the system, I was in front of the main meter with a group that included Wayne Soncher (BTU owner). At first I saw that the meter was moving forward very slowly, because the Solar power was covering nearly all the loads that were running. Then the meter stopped for a moment and began to spin backwards as more solar power was generated than the buildings needed!

Thanks BTU!

Ben Remmers at KFUN in Las Vegas, NM

Energy Concepts on the Air!

Education has always been key for our solar customers over the years, and the same is now true for those looking at our new solution for energy independence and savings. For that reason we are beginning a new series of workshops to help get the word out. Some of these are focused on business owners and managers, as businesses can be somewhat different than residences in terms of their best energy related opportunities.

This is due to the fact that lighting and air conditioning tend to account for most of their energy overhead, and not only because of the usage cost per kilowatt hour. Businesses also get hit with substantial electric demand charges that can account for 40 to 50% of each month’s bill! The good news is that we can reduce those charges by 20 to 40% with demand controls.

On the incentive side, the major utilities in our state offer energy efficiency programs for businesses to help make those lighting and other efficiency upgrades. These incentives can remove half the install cost through off-the-top rebates.

So why would electric utilities actually pay a business to reduce their electric usage? It turns out that electric utilities would rather maintain the existing demand on their power plants rather than having to build new ones, as the construction capital outlay is very large, with a long payback. The bottom line for business owners is that they can take advantage of the fact that utilities will “co-pay” their upgrades, making for a great ROI.

We have found that educating home and business owners about their energy options is a solid way to grow interest, and held our first business energy workshop in Santa Fe yesterday. We have two more workshops taking place in Las Vegas this Saturday and Las Cruces this coming Tuesday. You can read about them on our workshops page.

Education does require some marketing, and we have recently been using radio ads and interviews to help get the message out. These radio spots feature our own solar and energy specialist, Ben Remmers, who has the knowledge and the voice to make it happen. You can listen to some of these recent interviews over at KBAC, Radio Free Santa Fe:

Listen to Energy Specialist Ben Remmers Here!

Others coming soon from KFUN and KLVF radio out of Las Vegas.

Energy Concepts, ON THE AIR!

Welcome to the New Energy Concepts!

Energy_Pyramid

Like the sun itself, nothing about utilizing energy has ever stood still, so as a company that has been designing and installing photovoltaic systems since 1991, Energy Concepts has never stood still either. The changes in technologies, designs, electrical and building codes, install methods, incentives and suppliers are all things you need to track in order to stay current, and to best serve your customers. On the other hand, you also need to properly review and test new things before recommending and installing them, or you might be spending more time later with could-have-been avoided service calls.

Energy Concept’s founder and general manager, Cary Lane, had a good start learning about testing things in the real world back when he was an engineering student at New Mexico State University. During that time he served as Assistant Engineer for the New Mexico Engineering Research Institute, EMS Division in Las Cruces. Their work revolved around setting up and monitoring early photovoltaic and solar thermal technologies. That was before solar became mainstream, and commercial development was just beginning with a lot of R&D and small production runs. The main applications were remote power and off-grid homes.

Since that time we have seen the burgeoning of solar technologies to the point that they are being used and recognized everywhere, and some may wonder “What now?” Well, there is still plenty of room for growing solar, but when you’ve been in an energy business like ours for many years, you always want to look ahead. As it turns out, a good deal of what’s next is actually pursuing opportunities that are here now, and that have been here for a long time: energy conservation and energy efficiency. These areas have always been worth exploring for home and business owners, but now the technologies associated with energy conservation and efficiency have become very dependable and cost effective, while energy costs have steadily risen.

So a decision was made earlier this year that Energy Concepts should expand its energy solutions “menu” to better serve its customers by adding energy conservation and efficiency services to the solar electric core of its offerings. This website is an important part of that plan, because education is an important first step in serving our customers throughout the state. Further steps in the way of blog entries and news items will allow us to continue the process, which we really look forward to. In the meantime, feel free to take some steps/clicks around our new site, and to contact us with any questions or comments.

Welcome to the ECC Website!

Welcome to the new Energy Concepts website. It will continue to be undergoing some construction as we add pages and content over the next several days, so please bear with us as we complete the work.

Of course, with a constantly changing energy picture, new technologies, changing incentives and other developments, a website can never stand still if it is going to stay current, so we will endeavor to keep you posted through our Energy Concepts blog, News and Calendar. Stay tuned!