Achieving Net Zero Energy: ASHRAE’S Journey

Have you ever seen a sea of solar panels over a parking lot or above a building you visited? If you answered, not really, you are not alone. Although, Georgia’s rank is 11th in the nation for total solar production, most of it is utility scale. Unfortunately, offices and business buildings fall behind the national average. Companies like ASHRAE however, are helping change the Georgia commercial solar installation landscape. Here is their journey. 

The Founding of ASHRAE

ASHRAE, founded in 1894, is a not-for-profit global society advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for the built environment. A key component for achieving net-zero energy (NZE) performance was installing a solar system capable of producing close to 100% of the yearly energy consumption. 

Commercial Solar Installation Process

The process began with taking actions to bring down the total energy usage and conserving the maximum amount of energy possible. The second step is a competitive bid process where solar installation firms submit their proposal and work in conjunction with the ASHRAE team. All in all, Creative Solar USA, was chosen to design, permit, install and complete the project. While ASHRAE initially thought they were going to have to clear part of their land to make room for the solar panels, Creative was selected in part because of their penchant to use every possible existing surface available while minimizing the environmental footprint. 

Designing a Commercial Solar Array

Creative Solar designed a combined system of 332kW, divided in three main sections. ASHRAE had enough space to install 186 kW of PV on a ballasted rooftop mount. Ballast mounts typically slant at 10 degrees while cinder blocks under them give them resistance to airlift. The majority of flat roofs and slightly sloped roofs can support ballast mounts. These mounts last 25 years and can endure Georgia’s weather.

Rooftop Ballast Mount Solar System

The second set of panels consisted of a 65 kW system on a south-facing hill adjacent to the building. This location allowed for a tighter placement of panels allowing for maximum efficiency. Ground mounts can go on flat pieces of land and slanted as well. 33 degrees in Georgia is optimal for maximum production in the state of Georgia. This angle is subject to change depending on what part of the globe the system is on. The slope allowed narrower spacing between rows than usual and higher energy density. A similar concept to a sports field bleachers. Racking for this section was provided by PLC.

Solar Installed on Parking Lot

The third set of panels are a 81 kW ground mount installed on an unused section of their parking lot. The sky is the limit when installing solar on a business land. The southern row of this section gets a shade calculation for the entire year to see production losses. Our software aurora solar and suncatcher app allows us to accurately predict the sun’s path.

Covering Unused Parking Lots with Solar Panels

Unused parking spots are phenomenal opportunities for solar as these resting pieces of land can become a revenue-generating asset. The typical Georgia commercial solar installation project has a double-digit ROI and a 4-8 years payback. It can also serve as a concrete example of the company’s environmental commitment. The loan for the project came from United Community Bank. United Community Bank is a local bank, with an internal renewable division and an understanding of the value of solar.

Materials for the Commercial System

The Systems consist of 885 panels manufactured by Renewable Energy Company (REC) panels. They have a 25-year production warranty. Wiring is with SolarEdge inverters and allow 24/7 monitoring of the solar panels. With little to no maintenance, ASHRAE can safely monitor and measure how much energy production they are producing. ASHRAE can even be notified any of minor system issues with the wiring.

This project is a prime example of creativity, ingenuity, environmental stewardess, and sound business practices.

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