In case you haven’t heard the news, Cool Spring Preserve is now solar powered. We welcome you to monitor our solar production through Solar Edge. Below is the backstory on how the solar panels came to be…
On an ordinary December day, the extraordinary happened: Bill Anderson of Milestone Solar flipped the switch and made the Cool Spring Nature Center solar powered!
The project, which has been over a year in the making, all started with AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, Erin Shaw, applying for and receiving a grant from the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation for a 24-panel, 7000-kilowatt system. With $24,700 of funding secured we entered the research, learning and decision-making phase for all things solar. Did we want a roof-mounted or ground-mounted system? Should we be grid-tied? Do we want a battery-backup? Which local solar company should we hire? Some choices were easier than others. After several months of careful planning, we decided on a ground-mounted, grid-tied system without a battery backup. Our building was not a suitable site for a roof-mount system because it is not south facing and our structurally insulated panels could not support the weight. This left us with the ground-mount option, but a new decision about where to place the panels. For placement, our desires for tree preservation had to be balanced with our fear of vandalism, while also factoring in the locations of our existing utilities. Ultimately, we were able to select a great location on top of the hill behind the nature center. The decision to be grid-tied was a little easier for us. While we do not want to sell back to the grid, remaining grid-tied gives us extra energy security during times of heavy nature center usage, like summer camp. When we investigated battery-backup systems we found out they are high voltage. Since we wanted to use our solar panels for teaching opportunities and often have children at the preserve, this was not an option for us.
Per our specifications, we received three different system proposals and were then faced with our final big decision. In the end, Milestone Solar proposed a system that could not be beat. Our system is comprised of Panasonic 330 HIT panels, SolarEdge P400 optimizers and a SolarEdge 7600 inverter. The panels came with a 25-year workmanship and a 25-year linear power warranty. They operate at a whopping 20% power efficiency and are expected to produce an average of 11,200-kilowatt hours of energy per year. And, the system came in under budget! This will allow us to invest in protective fencing around the system, along with security monitoring.
PVAS would like to thank Erin for chasing this opportunity for us; the Appalachian Stewardship Foundation for investing in our green energy future; and Bill and his Milestone Solar crew for installing a great system. We look forward to being more green in 2019.
article by KC Walters