In August 2009, Third Sun Solar (No. 135 on the Solar Power World 2014 Top 400 Solar Contractors list) installed a roof-mounted array at the Wayne National Forest headquarters and welcome center in Nelsonville, Ohio.
The 51.6-kW array consists of 302 panels and is projected to supply 19% of the center’s energy usage. Third Sun Solar acted as the specialty contractor for the project, and partnered with The D.J. Group, a service disabled veteran-owned small business general contractor, for a portion of the project.
The architect of the welcome center wanted the building to reflect a turn-of-the-century style coal tipple as an homage to the community’s mining history. The design, coupled with the client’s goal of putting as much solar on the building as possible, posed specific challenges to the installation team.
“The building itself has a relatively steep roof, and anytime we’re working on a steep pitch, it becomes that much more important to follow safety best practices,” says Geoff Greenfield, president of Third Sun Solar. “We used equipment as well as harnesses and ropes to complete the installation efficiently and safely.”
“We ended up doing a solar installation on multiple angles facing multiple directions,” he continues. “We designed [the array] around multiple string inverters, so each could have its own maximum power point tracking calculation. By using multiple string inverters instead of one central inverter, we were able to get maximum power out of the array.”
Additionally, the installation is achieving one of the center’s mission goals: public education. There’s a kiosk inside the welcome center entrance that explains how the electricity is generated and displays up-to-the-minute readouts of how much power is being produced. Likewise, the enormity of the array puts solar in the minds of passing Ohioans.
“It’s located right along the major highway that goes from Columbus to Athens, so everybody sees this striking solar array,” says Greenfield. “That helps us undo old myths about solar and [proves] that solar really works in Ohio. Anytime anybody sees solar, it encourages the industry as a whole.”