Monday, November 9, 2009

Facility Improvements

Our factory and office are located within a structure built in the mid 1800's as a munitions factory. Bringing the facility up to a modern aesthetics and efficient layout is a challenge.

Every year we try and improve our facility. In 2007, that was a new standing seam roof over the factory. In 2008, that was a photo-voltaic solar array on the building where it faces the sun. In spring of 2009, we upgraded our air-conditioner and air handler equipment. Today we upgrade our shed-storage area with a new floor.

The area did have a rough concrete area, but it was uneven over the various building floors and foundation remnant that previously stood in that place.
We kept the concrete locally supplied by Haynes Materials in Seymour, and the contractor for the floors was Paul Kochiss from Oxford. Steel reinforcement came from Fox Steel Products in Orange. Preparation work of the area was performed Eddie Bleau in Seymour. I'd be happy to provide a reference for any of the above.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Photovoltaic Energy works.

The Connecticut Clean Energy Fund is the provider of contributions on behalf of the State of CT. The CCEF has put together a very nice website (flash based) to demonstrate how PV Solar, and other clean energy methods function.

I highly recomend it as an educational tool for those who want to learn more.

As our system enters the shoulder season of fall into winter, the daylight hours diminish, and the angle of the sun lowers in the sky. Both reduce the total kilo-watt hours produced by our system, but we are still generating more on a monthly billing basis, than what has been consumed. Since March 2009, when the system went live, we have generated >120% of our consumption from the sun.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

"Sunniest" days in June?

One might assume that the most sun would shine down on our photo-voltaic array in the longer daylight periods of June, but there are other factors at work in the system to creating electricity.

Certainly the longest day of the year is the summer solstice of Jun21. However, due to the orientation and location of the array, we don't immediately benefit from the sunrise start of the day, but the sunset lingers right till the end.

Next, is the typical weatherman forecast for the summer of "hazy sunshine". There is a difference between a crystal clear day in the winter when the sky is azure blue, and the summer sunshine day when the sky is a bit brown and yellow from smog.

Finally, is the nature of the polysilicon panels. They lose efficiency when warm (about 10% between a winter and summer day).

All that said, our Derby, CT location has had abnormally cool days this summer thus far, and also abnormally high amounts of rain this summer. The latter washes debris off the panels such as accumulated pollen, but the associated clouds cause lack of sunshine.

During July, we had the system down 6 days for service, yet still have been generating more electricity from the sun than what we consume for our entire office and shop operations.

The Naugatuck River Valley is where we are located, and there are several large PV arrays here(Thule in Seymour, Basement Systems in Seymour, Honey Cell in Shelton, and BJ's in Derby). To my knowledge, we are the first manufacturer in CT that entirely operates off the sun. Since Mar23, 126% of our electricity has come from the sun.

The local paper did a story (includes photo and video) on the local trend which you can read here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Photo-Voltaic: Proof in the electric utility bills

The electric utility bills have been received for two billing cycles of operation (April and May) and prove the viability of the installation.

We designed our PV system output to match our historical usage. During the implementation, we made efficiency improvements, dropping our usage below what we expected to generate.

April billing period we generated 123.3% of our consumption. May was 131.4% of consumption. Connecticut is a net-metering state, which means that you push electric into the grid, and you pull electric from the grid - paying on the net consumed. This net calculation is done during the three segments of rates from the utility: periods of peek, off-peak and shoulder. Thus, it's not a true "spin the meter backwards" concept over a billing period.

Our shop opens at 5:30AM and starts consuming electricity, but there is no solar generation at that hour, so we do cause a "demand" of electricity off the grid for which we are billed, the kwh consumed though is zero from the utility - we actually generate an excess of kwhs.

Our utility (United Illuminating) allows the credit to accumulate on your account, and it can be drawn down on - say if the inverter is out of service, or the winter months when daylight is shorter and snowpack on the roof may limit generation. If there is a credit on the account as of April each year, the balance is swept to zero and we are paid for that electricity generated. The price is based on the average spot market for the New England regional electric pool. It gets complicated, but in laymans terms: we get paid a wholesale rate of apx. 6cents per kwh for the excess.

The value in a PV (or other clean energy generating device) is to avoid purchasing electricity at apx. 22cents per kwh. The size of the system design should be close to your consumption to yield the best return on investment.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Air Conditioning Upgraded

In keeping with our intent to be environmentally sensitive, the HVAC roof-top unit on our office was replaced.

The old unit was placed there in 1989, and you can see by the exhaust marks that it was no longer running at high efficiency.

Fortunately, our location allowed easy access by a crane for loading and unloading. Note the skylights in the office area that let in ample natural light into the workplace.

The new units use a environmentally sound refrigerant of R-410A.

We hope that by bringing natural daylight openings into our building's design, and following enviornmatally sensitive operating methods, we can illustrate to others the benefits of thinking toward environmental and efficient design. We may even become a "leader" in the LEED field.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Announcement of 96kw Photo-Voltaic Electric System: Operational

This is a press release of IDA Internationl Inc.

Derby, CT (March 23, 2009) - IDA International Inc. announced today that it had completed installation of a 96kw photo-voltaic system at it's facility in Derby, CT.

Company President, Thomas Harbinson, recognized this as an exciting milestone for the company. "I'm pleased to announce that our facility will now be generating over 90% of our electricity needs, purely from the sun. This is an investment in our company's future and it's location in Derby, CT. While this is a decision that has taken significant time to implement, this has given us time integrate many decisions that will yield the optimum of results. We believe following our company's vision with emphasis on a "green" standard will be rewarding to the company from a financial perspective, and earn respect from it's customers, vendors and community as a company that sets environmentally sensitive standards."

The photo-voltaic (PV solar) system is a 525 array of panels mounted on the south facing roof of IDA's manufacturing building, a structure that dates to the late 1800's. Buildings then were often constructed in a "solar oriented" manner to take advantage of the sun lighting the workplace through windows and skylights, making this location ideal to take full advantage of solar electric generation potential. Our location is Lat: 41.324845, Long: -73.098274 Our building compass reading is 223-226 degrees (a "true" or "solar" reading adjusted for magnetic declination is 210-213 degrees). Our building roof pitch is: 25 (degrees). This data yields a Solar Pathfinder Annual Average of 98%

The location has a history of "green" energy use. The building was constructed adjacent to a canal where hydraulic power was taken from the river to run manufacturing machinery. One of the early occupants was a munitions company that built cannons. The building later housed a fabric dye and printing operations that were not clean operations by modern standards. The Hull Dye and Print Works was the last such entity, closing after a fire in the mid 1980's which substantially damaged the facility, leaving contamination from dyes and chemicals that needed remediation. The property was purchased from the City of Derby in the late 1980's and the long task of returning the property to viability began.

The project was partially funded by a grant from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund’s On-Site Renewable Distributed Generation Program, which provides qualified projects funding that can equal as much as 50% of a project’s cost. Combined with federal investment tax credits and accelerated depreciation, solar projects in CT can realize returns in the range of 15-20%.

IDA International Inc. is a turn-key operation for curtain-wall and other building facades. IDA serves the greater metropolitan area with engineering, fabrication and installation of construction elements that create a structure's building envelope. For more information regarding IDA's solar system, contact, or visit the company's green manufacturing page at their website,

Monday, March 23, 2009

Solar Operations - Witness Test

UI has observed testing of the PV system's inverter in operation.

Commonly referred to as a "solar system", a photo-voltaic (PV) system has many components. First of course are the panels where photons are converted to electrons. Those electrons move in a direct current (DC) type of manner - much like electricity in your automobile. This current is sent to an inverter which changes the electricity to an alternating current (AC) with correct phase, frequency, voltage and other aspects that will match what is being delivered from the utility so it "marries" properly. Lastly, the meters record what is being consumed and generated for the utility company.

Important to the utility company is correct equipment that "marries" with theirs and will not damage their infrastructure. They confirm this through testing that they witness - thus the term "witness test".

We did our test today, and were given the ok to run our system. Once we have some averages and time to generate reflective data, I'll update the blog with information. Till then, here is a video of our installer's representative explaining our witness test while it was happening.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Solar operations - Metering

UI has installed meters to record both what is generated, and what is consumed.

With solar installations, you both consume an amount of electricity and generate an amount of electricity at the same time. Some solar installations areas are able to get by with one meter. Consumption tries to move the meter forward (as it normally operates), while generating tries to move the meter backwards. If the solar array generates less electricity than what we consume, the meter's pace toward moving forward is reduced. This is what's called "net-metering".

Connecticut is a "net metering" state under Dept of Public Utility Control regulations. At our location, United Illuminating is the delivery agent for electricity. You can buy your electricity from a number of sources (including UI), but the delivery infrastructure (poles, lines, transformers, meters, etc) are owned by UI. It is UI as the delivery agent that carries out all the metering and billing work.

If over a billing period, we generate more than we consume, the "bill" for electricity "use" will be a negative number, and UI's billing system can not properly address that (UI likely has algorithms that monitor usage patterns to detect fraud). Thus, UI requires 2 meters to be installed. (see above photos) Meter A records how much we consume. Meter B records how much we generate. Meter A minus Meter B is what we are billed upon.

Installing the new meters required co-ordination with IDA's workplace, as the power was required to be shutdown to the building. Before UI would install the 2 meters, the City of Derby electrical inspector was required to close-out our permit with an inspection. Before that could happen, some final housekeeping work had to be completed on the DC side of the system on the roof - which was difficult due to weather. Delays, delays.

So, finally after weather improved and final workmanship was completed, we could schedule the City of Derby inspection (which Derby delayed a week due to scheduling conflicts). When the electrical inspection was done, we scheduled to have the meter work done (which UI delayed for a week due to scheduling conflicts). Now with meters in place - we can schedule a witness test of the entire system.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Solar Panels in Final Testing

Cold weather has impacted the 3rd parties who must test the solar array.

We had a very cold winter in Derby, CT this year with lots of snow and prolonged sub-freezing cold periods. This has impacted the testing and 3rd party verification of the array since the roof is accessed from the north facing slope which is in the shade most of the day with the low winter sun, causing snow or frost to linger and make it unsafe to climb. Also, the inverter and associated equipment is in a courtyard where snow sheds off a standing seam roof - see the photo to the right to see the look after a partial snow-slide. Safety is not an option in putting this solar array together, so we had to wait out mother nature.

The photo-voltaic array has been operational, and only testing has been complicated by the weather. The interconnection agreement has been signed with the utility, and it calls for 3rd party verification of equipment attaching to their infrastructure. They also have to witness a test that the system will automatically shut-off in case of a local area power failure. Although the system is fully functional, I am prohibited from even running it in parallel to the electric utility's system - so I must wait.

The utility additionally relies on local building inspectors to confirm that the work interior to the private property is done to code and they have issued a "CO" or "Close-Out" (sometimes called a Certificate of Occupancy) of the work. Derby's electrical inspector is part-time 1day per week, thus far he has only inspected the AC side of the system, and the DC side of the inverter requires access to an area where this snow was causing hazard (snow guards were planned to be installed once this roof access activity was finished). Also the building inspector must say the structural work was completed according to the structural engineer's design (I hired a 2nd structural engineer to inspect the work as the building inspector asked me to provide that verification - besides the welders license that my employee had who did the work).

There have been NUMEROUS questions about our array and when it will be throwing out electricity, how much power is generated, etc. We will have a webpage to dynamically present that data, but till then I offer the following photos taken when we briefly tested the system. During the 5min of operation at 3pm (sun getting low in the sky), the air temp was mid 50's, sunny sky clear with no clouds. Input was DC 375Volts at 178Amps. Output was AC 61.3Kw.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

U.S. Green Building Council

IDA International Inc. has joined the U.S. Green Building Council.

Several of our recent projects have attained LEED ratings for their construction methods. IDA has long held the same beliefs and practices upheld by the USGBC, and our membership with them formally indicates our support of their ideals.

The USGBC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit membership organization with a vision of a sustainable built environment within a generation. Its membership includes corporations, builders, universities, government agencies, and other nonprofit organizations. USGBC is dedicated to expanding green building practices and education, and its LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating System™.