Tour Highlight: Pilot Solar Farm Offers Lessons Learned

It is a bit ironic to visit a solar farm on a foggy, overcast morning, but you have to take whatever weather you are given – in New Orleans in early February. At least it wasn’t raining, which was definitely in the forecast just the day before.

Monday morning, Feb. 4, a group of about 20 DistribuTECH attendees loaded a bus and headed out on just one of several technical tours being offered of a solar farm within the New Orleans city limits. The site was a 1-MW solar PV station with a 500-kW/500 kWh distribution grid-tied battery.

This pilot facility, owned by Entergy, is a living R&D project. The intent is to evaluate the ability to store and deliver solar energy to the electricity grid when customers need it, not just when the sun is shining.

This site covers 11 acres and cost $6 million to develop.

Entergy broke ground on this solar farm in February 2016 and it was operational in just a few months. The site consists of the PV array, with more than 4,000 solar panels; the GP Tech inverters/converters; and a LG Chem Li-OH storage battery.

The solar array is equipped with single-axis trackers so the panels can move, i.e. track the sun. This allows the company to generate about 20% more power vs. static panels, according to Benjamin Byboth, senior project manager, engineering with Entergy.

The battery features a 10-year warranty and is anticipated to have a 30-year life.

Ultimately, Entergy hopes to use the lessons learned to help it build a 100-MW solar array. Byboth says that site would require about 12,00 acres.

One lesson that may not apply to a new/different site: Byboth says two panels at the pilot site have required replacement due to … bullets coming down after they were fired by New Year’s revelers in New Orleans.

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Elizabeth Ingram is senior editor of Hydro Review and HRW-Hydro Review Worldwide magazines and conference committee chair for HydroVision International. She has nearly 20 years of experience in the magazine publishing industry, with more than nine of those spent in hydro.

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