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Roundup: Army Solar Tracking; Solar Equipment Spending Drops; Schneider Solar Training

Linda Hardesty

The US Army dedicated its largest solar photovoltaic (PV) system at White Sands Missile Range.

Developed in coordination with the US Army Engineering and Support Center – Huntsville, Siemens Government Technologies and Bostonia, the 4.1 MW White Sands Missile Range solar energy system will generate approximately 10 million kWh of electricity annually and provide an estimated annual savings of $930,000. Complemented by a 375 kW solar carport, the solar array deployed at White Sands will supply approximately 10 percent of the total power used at the installation.

Construction of the solar power plant began in April 2012 and was completed in December 2012. The ground-mounted single-axis 4.1 MW Solaria tracking system follows the sun across the sky, increasing energy yield by up to 30 percent over fixed systems. All energy generated from the project will be consumed by onsite operations. The $16.8 million solar PV system was the primary component of an energy savings performance contract implemented by the Building Technologies Division of Siemens Industry. Siemens will maintain and operate the equipment and will sell the energy it generates to White Sands Missile Range at the same rate they are currently paying the local utility company. The Army will own the Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) and use them toward meeting federal renewable energy mandates.

Research outfit NPD Solarbuzz says equipment spending for solar PV equipment declined 72 percent in 2012 to $3.6 billion, down from the peak of $12.9 billion in 2011. Spending for 2013 is forecast to decline even further to $2.2 billion, levels not seen in the industry since 2006. The decline marks an effective halt to capacity investment by PV manufacturers, as well as a lack of upgrades, whether in new technology or higher efficiency.

Excessive investment in 2010 and 2011 was the catalyst of the over-capacity and over-supply situation that exists today. It was also a key factor in end-market price erosion. The days of PV-specific backlogs and revenues at the billion-dollar level are unlikely to be repeated for at least three years, according to NPD Solarbuzz’s PV Equipment Quarterly.

Schneider Electric has added solar training for electrical contractors to its EcoXpert training and certification. The program trains electricians how to install and implement a broad range of energy solutions across commercial, industrial and residential applications. The program consists of several certification paths including EV charging stations, lighting and lighting controls, power distribution, data centers and critical infrastructure solutions, secure power, HVAC controls and energy monitoring. With the addition of the new solar path, students will learn how to install and maintain a wide range of solar solutions.



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