Innovative Electric Inc., Electrician, Baltimore, MD

Blog #15 – Solar and Energy Storage Systems

This journey has been long in coming. We have had many hurdles to overcome through our Engineering and Permitting process. Montgomery County Maryland has many requirements in just the submission of designs that were new. Then there was a challenge of meeting code requirements with the existing Schneider Equipment that was installed.

This is what we started with, a picture after we installed 2 new charge controllers that would charge the batteries that has been installed. The Owner has a 24kw ESS System using Schneider equipment, there 4 8KW DC XW Hybrid Inverters and that provides power to 3 sub-panels designed by the owner. The Owner, Fred Banner, owns Banner Power and they install these battery systems on an international basis. This is the first time they have contracted to have Solar Installed in conjunction with one of these battery systems and we are starting this process on the owners home and 1 other house they have done nearby. Each house had it own challenges that we have met.

In the Owners house there was changes that had to be done to the sub-panels and layout to ensure that everything was code compliant. We had to move wiring, replace a few breakers and properly install the main connection to the Utility with a line-side tap and service disconnecting means. The Entire system had to be traced out for operation so a One-Line Diagram could be made and understood by the Engineers. In most of these installs, the Engineers are usually out of State and require alot of detailed information so that they can approve the system that is being designed. Issues such as PV Load on the roof and roof construction are important, we dont want the roof to come crashing into the house during a blizzard because it all weighs too much with the snow on it. In addition, we also do not want leaks that may require future repair, so everything needs to be taken into account.

In the 2nd House, we had to change how the systems were fed as well as install the line-side taps and disconnecting means again. Over time some of the original setup had been changed and these changes put too much into one panel and caused issues on the battery system load. During our install we also had a Brand New Charge Controller from the PV system go bad. It would give us random GFCI Faults that caused extensive troubleshooting to the system. We had to verify that no such fault actually existed, however, since the charge controller has been changed, all the faults have disappeared.

We have learned alot through this process with paperwork as well, Pepco, the Utility in Montgomery County, would like to be the first on the Interconnection part for approval in this entire process. It makes sense, but that is not what happened on this project. In addition, learning the Montgomery County Automated system was a challenge, their eplans and eservices pages can only be accessed with Internet Explorer, Chrome will not return responses properly with their system. In addition, a multiple page PDF of all the drawings must be split up into individual pages with the appropriate digital signature from the Engineer on each page. These challenges all took time, but now, future jobs will be able to be processed smoothly and in a timely fashion

Our last part of the learning curve was the equipment manufacturer themselves. Schneider Electric makes all the charging controllers and Inverters and they have not cared up to this point about having a Rapid Shut-Down System as required by code. Their focus in this industry has always been the Storage side of it and a RSD System is not required for just a Battery System (ESS), so for them, they had no Engineering that would support any type of RSD communication with their system. It took Innovative Electric and Banner Power together, 3 tries before finding a solution to this issue. Problem is, even though we found a supplier for a Combiner Box that has a UL Listed Solid State Rapid Shutdown with Arc-Fault Protection, this supplier made us 2 boxes and is not making any more. We are hoping that in the future, Schneider’s new equipment in 2020 will have RSD Capabilities that mirror those for SolarEdge and Enphase.

Even though this project took awhile, I am glad that we can now position ourselves even better in the market by offering both Solar and Energy Storage In the Maryland, DC and Virginia Areas!!

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