Advanced Energy’s Long History of Supporting Solar

By Jonathan Susser | February 17, 2020

Solar technology has been growing rapidly throughout the U.S., but it has been around for decades, and we at Advanced Energy are proud to have supported it every step of the way.

In our early years, we promoted awareness of residential solar opportunities; fostered community workshops about passive solar design, active solar heating and photovoltaic (PV) systems; and offered testing for a variety of solar-based equipment, including solar water heaters. Starting in the mid-1980s, we worked with Carolina Power & Light Company to examine how PV modules affect utility distribution systems. The project explored interconnection and other equipment-related requirements while troubleshooting any issues that arose. Although solar technology was not cost-effective at the time, we were staying ahead of the curve to make sure it was progressing in a safe, usable and reliable direction.

Solar remained on the outside of the market for much of the 1990s and early 2000s, but we showed continued support by forming NC GreenPower in 2003. NC GreenPower is a nonprofit that works to improve North Carolina’s environment by supporting renewable energy, carbon offsets and solar installations at K-12 schools. It offers performance-based incentives to renewable energy generators for delivering energy to the grid, as tracked by utility statements. NC GreenPower began with just a handful of projects but has since supported more than 1,050 across the state, most of which have been residential solar PV.

In 2015, NC GreenPower launched the Solar Schools pilot, which has since become the Solar+ Schools program. This educational initiative provides grants for small solar PV arrays (3-5 kilowatts) at North Carolina schools. Qualified contractors install the PV systems while NC GreenPower staff manages the projects and provides real-time monitoring equipment, a STEM curriculum and lesson plans for educators, offering a hands-on solar experience for students. Since its founding, Solar+ Schools has provided grants for the installation of solar at more than 30 K-12 schools in 27 counties, reaching nearly 30,000 students.

Our broader solar efforts blossomed a few years ago when an electric utility in the Southeast requested consulting and assessment for its PV systems. The opportunity turned into the starting point for our offerings today: a suite of PV engineering services for utilities, private companies, developers and more.

With solar technology quickly developing, there are growing concerns over safety, premature failure, poor performance and impacts to power quality. It is therefore becoming increasingly important that PV facilities are properly designed and constructed in accordance with rapidly changing codes and standards. We seek to ensure that solar projects are installed to quality standards, provide optimal performance and can be maintained for safe and reliable operation for the life of the system.

Our current services take a variety of forms, using a mix of off-site and on-site evaluations, and following all work, clients receive a summary report detailing our findings. We provide AC interconnection support, equipment and performance spot checks, high-level quality assessments, detailed quality assessments and PV facility commissioning.

Over the last few years, our emphasis has been on PV interconnection commissioning. We partner with investor-owned utilities and electric co-ops to make sure that PV facilities being connected in the Southeast are of high quality and dependable to protect the power quality, reliability and safety of the utility grid. In our Interconnection Commissioning program, we review facility as-built construction for compliance with documentation studied and approved by the utility, assess facility AC construction to ensure it is built to quality standards, verify inverter and/or customer recloser interconnection protection setpoints, and conduct three phase and single phase cease to energize testing.

We have demonstrated a longstanding commitment to solar technology. We work closely with industry partners and utilities to address issues and find solutions, and with our decades of experience, we are well equipped to ensure that PV facilities are implemented effectively, correctly, reliably and safely.