Intersolar North America: awards honor social and student housing

The Intersolar North America Awards recognized three solar arrays in the Solar Projects in North America category. FreeHotWater, MRI Global and Trina Solar all picked up prizes.

In a lively awards presentation, SPV Market Research Founder Paula Mints first led the crowd in some solar cheerleading. "What industry can you work in and do good at the same time?" Mints asked. "What industry is innovative and has been innovative for 40 years? What industry has a commitment to solving one of the great problems of our time?" The answer to all three questions was clearly "solar" and the crowd responded appropriately.

Mints continued that the selection process to decide the winners was genuinely tricky: "All solar projects do good work," she said.

San Jose-based FreeHotWater picked up an award for its 15th Street solar thermal and PV project in San Francisco. The dual technology project is located on student apartments in the city and is equipped with solar hot water systems and a PV array. In receiving the prize, the FreeHotWater representative noted that its solution was not selected purely on the basis of being environmentally friendly. "The nice thing about this project is that it was selected because it was competitive with traditional systems, reduced the operational cost of the building and was accomplished on time and on budget!"

Nabbing the second project award was MRI Global’s Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) in Aurora, Colorado. While not strictly being a utility scale photovoltaic array, the center employs a unique approach to innovation and development in solar through its testing and installation facilities. Intersolar North America judges described SolarTAC as a world-class research and development institute.

SolarTAC was formed through a unique partnership between the private sector, government and research institutes. It performs research, testing and demonstration of concentrated photovoltaic, solar thermal, photovoltaic and grid connection technologies. The data it produces can help increase bankability and generate interest from decision makers and investors in the various technologies.

Dustin Smith, SolarTACÂ’s executive director, said the development of the facility had taken a collaborative approach over a number of years. "It took a number organizations and people all moving in the same direction to bring about SolarTAC."

While accepting the award, Smith said SolarTAC “allows independent proprietary and collaborative research to take place at the same location — it’s a wonderful thing."

SolarTAC is member funded, with Abengoa Solar, SunEdison and Excel Energy making up the founding investors. "It’s similar to a country club," explained Smith, "in that private companies come together to form a "research club." SolarTAC occupies 74 acres in Aurora, with three quarters of space already having been utilized. The various arrays and technologies represent around $50 million in investment in equipment and research, reported the SolarTAC executive director.

The third and final installation to be recognized represents the essence of photovoltaics, Mints said. "It hits in the heart, the head and the wallet, what solar does best."

Trina Solar picked up the award for its Park Villas Solar Project, which represents 464 kW in capacity and is spread across 144 social housing units. The installation, which utilizes 2,000 Trina Solar solar panels, delivers 70% savings on electricity bills for the residents. Virtual net metering allows power to be shared between the buildings as part of the installation.

"There are many more of these projects to come," said the Trina Solar USA representative when accepting the award. "We’re going to take all the programs and policies that have been announced and get more social housing PV projects off the ground," he added.

In the PV Production Technologies award category, Intersolar recognized both EMD Chemicals – a division of Merck – and LayTec. EMD Chemicals picked up an award for isishape SmartEtch etching paste. The process is said to allow for better efficiencies in both mono and multi-crystalline silicon wafers.

LayTec in-line picked up the second production equipment awards for its LayTec X Link Measurement System, which allows for evaluation of the level of EVA cross-linking after lamination in a non-invasive process.