Microinverters Raise the Roof for Greenhouse Solar Power
Entrepreneur David Ruby operates six acres of greenhouse facilities that grow fresh produce for thousands of Ontario residents. To offset his direct electrical costs, Ruby explored several alternative energy options until ultimately choosing solar as his facility’s new power source.
Commercial Project Chooses Enphase
Before the launch of Ontario’s feed-in-tariff (FIT) program, Vine Fresh Produce, Ltd., had considered installing a net-metered solar system to offset the facility’s direct electrical consumption. Once the feed-in-tariff was put into effect, however, it became much more beneficial to sell electricity back to the grid through solar PV. Vine Fresh Produce was then awarded a 2MW contract,making their three-phase system the largest rooftop installation under the Ontario FIT program. Interested in the viability of using microinverters in a large commercial system, the owner of Vine Fresh Produce contacted Sentinel Solar, known for their successful track record of incorporating Enphase microinverters into large-scale projects.
Removing Design Obstacles
The design of the greenhouses left a “sawtooth” style roofline, with a peak that shades the bottom row of every roof during certain times of the day and year. Additionally, the system’s racking and modules needed to be integrated into the overall structure of the building in order to minimize materials and the weight load on the roof itself – a challenge that would have proved impossible with a string or central inverter system.
Vine Fresh Produce’s unique system structure provides Sentinel and their customer full access to each module and inverter from inside the greenhouse. The exposed underside of the array enables accessible operations and maintenance repairs without scaling on top of the roof.
While string inverter installations are complex and involve hazardous high voltage DC lines, which are often prone to issues of production loss, Enphase’s low voltage AC wiring was ideal from both a simplified design and a safety perspective.
For a site as large as Vine Fresh Produce’s 2.3MW system, being able to track its health and maintenance was a key component in choosing Enphase. The owner was looking for a distributed architecture where any small outage would not result in large power production losses. He also wanted the ability to monitor the system remotely and to accurately pinpoint any performance issues. Plus, Enphase’s 25-year warranty also protects the system over the long-term should any performance issues need addressing.
With the Enphase System and Enlighten’s remote diagnostic capabilities, Ruby can rely on his system for maximum energy harvest even during those times when the peak of each roof creates unfavorable shade.