The solar industry has progressed tremendously since Concept Clean Energy Vice President Ryan Park entered the space almost two decades ago. Prices for solar panels have dropped significantly, efficiency has improved tremendously, and the technology continues to advance year after year.
“We are now providing targeted solutions for the challenges growers and shippers have, Park said.
He said the company has developed new products—such as the Solar Tub and PowerShingle—that address specific challenges and allow an operation multiple opportunities to reduce its reliance on the public power grid, and even move toward becoming energy self-sufficient, or at least be able to operate in times of power outages or controlled shutdowns. In short, Park reiterated that the solar business has moved toward being solution focused rather than just placing panels on the roof of a packing shed or removing crops to facilitate an installation.
He illustrated the company’s advances by discussing a couple of their newest products. He called the PowerShingle an innovative system that features waterproof panels that serve as the roof itself. The panels lock together allowing any shed on a ranch to become a solar energy provider. He said Concept Clean Energy can take a standard steel building and turn it into a solar system for a relatively inexpensive cost…with 30 percent of that cost offset with a tax credit and the rest being able to be written off in one year.
He added that the PowerShingle system can be combined with gas generators and batteries to achieve grid and energy independence. That has become increasingly important as controlled power shutoffs have become commonplace.
The Solar Tub is another Concept Clean Energy innovation that allows for easy installation. Park explained that the stand-alone unit is akin to a free-standing basketball hoop attached to a base that is filled with water for stability. The Solar Tub is basically the base that attaches to the panel. It is built of a high-strength, non-corrosive material that has been engineered to withstand 100 mph winds. The Solar Tub creates somewhat of a portable installation that allows systems to fit in very small spaces.
“The days of pulling out acreage for a solar installation are over,” said Park. “You can use corner slivers or place them in unused areas in your yard.”
The Solar Tubs can also be created as floating panels that can reside on a farm’s reservoir.
Park said both of these new products have been designed to allow growers and packers to take open land within their workspace to create a solar installation and help “zero-out” their energy bill. “The development of clean energy continues to move forward and is now more affordable and easier than ever,” he said.
Park noted that the company recently did a Solar Tub installation of 2150 panels that provided a 600 kW system for the user. “We used 10 of their guys, four of our guys and an electrician and installed it in four days.”
He added that the panels themselves are more efficient, even to the point that some collect solar power from the underside capturing the reflected light off the ground. Because of the increased efficiency of the systems and the lower cost of installation, the Concept Clean Energy team is convinced that utilization in the ag space is going to accelerate quickly in both the short and long term. He added that financing solar installations is also becoming easier, removing another past impediment for some operations.
Park said Concept Clean Energy has become an advocate and a sponsor of the Western Growers Center for Innovation & Technology because it wants to help move the industry forward as it considers and adopts new technology.