2-Megawatt Distributed PV Project is Largest on a Public Housing System

public housing with solar Santa Barbara

Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, California. Photo: Ben Siebert

The Housing Authority of the County of Santa Barbara, Calif., (HACSB) in August commissioned a 2-megawatt rooftop photovoltaic project, providing 100 percent of the energy used in 863 housing units on 250 buildings, at 21 sites around the county. The system uses 7,438 SolarWorld 235- to 245-watt modules installed by Planet Solar. The project was managed by Planet Solar COO Paul Metzner, who arranged $12.8 million in financing through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding and Treasury grants. For HACSB, the project was free.

With that many roof surfaces, the company faced a wide variety of design challenges. Ben Siebert, CEO of Planet Solar, reports hiring 17 new employees, but they didn’t work directly on the project. “We wanted only experienced crews on the roofs for this one,” he said. So the new hires freed up the time so the 20 best rooftop personnel could focus on the project for five and a half months.

Smaller duplex buildings got 4-kilowatt (kW) arrays feeding Enphase inverters — more than 1,000 D380 units. Larger buildings, with arrays up to 30 kW, used more than 150 SMA Sunny Boy inverters. Tilted roofs got Professional Solar Products racking systems, and some flat roofs used DPW ballasted racks. Every piece of equipment was American-made. For additional roof space, Baja Construction built a number of carports.

“It was probably the most complex project of its kind in the country,” Siebert said. “We dealt with three utility districts and six permitting jurisdictions.” — SETH MASIA

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