May 30, 2013

Featured Array: UTA Airport Light Rail

UTA Airport Light Rail

Travelers everywhere know that leaving your car at the airport could end up costing a fortune, yet the only other option is hailing a cab. For Utah residents, the newly built UTA Airport Light Rail now allows travelers to avoid the extra fee and hassle of airport traffic and overnight parking. This 6-mile light rail carries more than a thousand passengers a day and connects them to Salt Lake City International Airport from the city’s downtown hub.

Having been granted $400,000 from Utah’s main utility provider, Rocky Mountain Power, UTA found solar to be not only a smart ecological decision, but also expense free.

When the time came to begin construction of the array, three bidding contractors presented their design to UTA, and all three proposed the Enphase System.

“All other microinverters simply cannot compete, being so new to the market. I’d rather have something that is tried and true on a project of this size and publicity, and that is Enphase,” said Marc Staker, project manager at Sunlight Solar.

Sunlight Solar, located in Salt Lake City, UT, installed the 67.6kW rooftop system on four of eight UTA Airport Light Rail platforms. Each platform consists of 72 Enphase microinverters matched with 235W modules and generates enough power to fully operate all functions of the stop, including lighting, ticket machines and electrical outlets.

Given that the canopies design required all solar equipment to be situated on the rooftop, choosing microinverters made perfect sense. However, it wasn't the microinverters alone that made Enphase the favored option: Enlighten monitoring was also highly desirable. In order to accept the money from Rocky Mountain Power’s Blue Sky program, precision solar monitoring was required, which made the Enphase System all the more attractive given its integrated monitoring.

Located on the site’s platform stops are four 32” inch, high resolution outdoor monitors set to display the Enlighten software. While waiting for their train, passengers can check the monitors to track the production value of the array, increasing public awareness of the impact of solar energy.

Being a public transportation site, safety issues were top of mind for the UTA. Working in conjunction with Rocky Mountain Power’s guidelines, the system’s disconnect allows fire and safety personel to securely switch all power off if needed. “Having the AC come off the roof instead of high voltage DC lines was key in decreasing safety risks. Essentially, we could treat it as a regular electrical device – power in, power out,” said Staker.

Entering the solar industry five years ago, Sunlight Solar believes solar power is the fastest growing solution for businesses to reduce their dependency on the electrical grid. Long-time proponents of microinverters, Sunlight Solar has installed over 60 sites with Enphase. While the majority of these are residential, Sunlight Solar pushes to bring microinverters into the commercial field.

“Although most commercial sites are string inverter centered, the UTA Light Rail gave us confidence to use Enphase in more commercial systems. We trust that an Enphase commercial trend will work really well for our customers,” said Staker.

System Summary
Client: Utah Transit Authority – Airport Light Rail
Location: Salt Lake City, UT
System Installer: Sunlight Solar Systems
System Size: 67.6kW
Modules: Trina Solar TSM-245W
Installation: 288 M215 Microinverters

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