Repowering and Upgrading Aging Solar Installations

repowering solar

When solar modules reach end-of-life there is a lot more to replacing them than just swapping out the panels. Like everything else in this world that is technology-related, things are getting smaller and more energy efficient while becoming much more powerful.

re-powering solar utilities When it comes time to swap out the modules in a solar array that has stood for fifteen to twenty years, they will be replaced by modules that generate two, three, or four times the energy production of the original technology. This represents an enormous opportunity for utility-grade solar plants to increase capacity and revenues, and even tap into the lucrative market of excess solar power battery storage to provide clean power after sunset.

As an example, a 100-megawatt solar farm can be repowered into a 250-megawatt plant to meet growing electrical demand – that’s a 250% increase in energy production in the same footprint.

This also means upsizing the cable conveyance system as well as the DC inverters to handle the increased energy throughput, and perhaps adding a battery energy storage system (BESS).

The trouble is, excavating the old cables buried in trenches underneath each of row of modules and replacing them with higher ampacity cables is expensive, labor intensive, and dangerous, if not impossible. Even if it were feasible to safely squeeze a backhoe and earth moving equipment between the rows (modules are typically spaced four feet apart), operators run the risk of damaging module support posts, racks, and cement footings.

Further, burying the new cables does nothing to solve the problem of derate, the conversion of energy into heat that occurs when cables are bundled or buried. Solar plants will still have to install larger cables to support the new throughput rates of their repowered system while accounting for derate (inflating expenses), and they will still lose a percentage of metered energy production to heat when the new cables are buried (reducing revenues).

So, for example, if a solar plant using 300 Kcmil cables is planning to double its capacity, it would need to bury 750 Kcmil cables to safely carry the current that could be handled by 600 Kcmil cables without having to account for derate. That’s a lot of extra copper.

Snake Tray has a better way.

Repowering Solar Installation with Snake Tray

Re-powering Solar Installations with the Solar Max XLSnake Tray’s Solar Snake Max XL above ground cable conveyance system is the ideal solution to repower and upgrade today’s utility-grade solar plant. It allows solar plant owners to dramatically increase energy transference without tearing up the ground or suffering the effects of derate. It leverages existing infrastructure to reduce costs and lays the groundwork for battery storage. Here’s how:

  • No digging. Rather than excavating old cables, they are cut and capped at ground level, leaving the ground as undisturbed as possible. Tensioned messenger wire is anchored to pilings at the ends of each row and the Solar Snake Max XL system of brackets and spacing trays or “clicks” are mounted to the same posts used to the support the solar modules, and then on to the interconnection area.
    When the old inverters are replaced with higher capacity units, those are also wired above ground to eliminate derate going into and coming out of the inverter.
  • Maximize cable ampacity. Use thinner cables to their full capacity and save 25% to 40% on cable conveyance costs over an entire project.
  • Simplified cable loading. The Solar Snake Max XL above ground system slashes the labor costs and time required to repower a solar installation by up to 30%. Install up to 22,000 feet of cable in a single day!
  • Increased energy throughput. The Solar Snake Max XL system maintains NEC 310.15 compliant cable spacing over the entire length of a run, eliminating derate. The heat of electrical friction naturally dissipates into the surrounding air, maintaining the highest possible energy throughput and increasing daily energy harvest up to 30-watt hours per meter over traditional trenching or above ground cable bundling methods.
  • Facilitates battery storage. With all the extra energy created by today’s more powerful solar modules, utilities are looking for ways to store surplus power – something that wasn’t even a consideration 20 years ago. The answer is a battery energy storage system (BESS) that holds excess power generated during the day and releases it to the grid at night. It too must be equipped with cables large enough to handle the increased loads. The Solar Snake Max XL system is the perfect solution for routing high ampacity cables carrying power to and from battery storage.

Utilities are finding the room to add a BESS in the space previously occupied by the old inverters. As these devices have shrunk from the size of a shipping container to a small car, that has created room to install a BESS conveniently alongside them in the original footprint.

Keep Your Solar Plant Future-ready with Snake Tray

It’s really quite simple: Generating more power? You’re going to need bigger pipes to channel it wherever it needs to go…to an inverter…out to the grid…to a BESS. The trenchless Solar Snake Max XL system is by far the most economical, fastest repowering solution for existing solar plants. With cable spacing trays that support up to 36 cables ranging from 350 Kcmil to 1250 Kcmil, Solar Snake Max XL keeps your plant future-ready for upgrades as solar technology continues to improve.

With the entire cable plant moved above ground it will be easy to repower again when solar module capacity doubles in 10 years – using the same Solar Snake Max XL system.

Repowering with Snake Tray not only increases energy transmission capacity to match the production of today’s solar modules, but our exclusive free-air cable conveyance system also increases performance over the existing cabling infrastructure for a better ROI. Repower your solar plant with Snake Tray and gain up to 30 watts per hour per meter while reducing your cabling expenses! Contact us to learn more.

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