Tennessee solar farm will power plant, serve R&D needs

Energy management company Schneider Electric switches on 1-megawatt array that can be configured for two different voltages.

Energy management services and technology company Schneider Electric has installed a 1-megawatt solar farm in Smyrna, Tennessee, that will accommodate about 25 percent of the energy needs for its manufacturing plant there. It is the third such site for Schneider Electric in the state of Tennessee.

But that's not the most notable thing about the installation: the technology being used at the location can actually accommodate different voltages, 1000VDC and 600VDC. That means the company can use it to test how different voltage scenarios might effect energy consumption in a real-world business environment.

Jeff Drees, U.S. Country President for Schneider Electric, said:

"The issues around reliability and availability of energy sources couple with today's rising energy costs are driving increased awareness for the benefits of alternative energy sources. Schneider Electric sees renewable energy sources -- particularly solar energy -- as a key driver in addressing today's energy challenge. Through this investment, we hope to serve as an example for other businesses and provide a test bed for the development and design of solutions that enhance the deployment of renewable energy."

The array should be capable of producing up to 1.3 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually; it represents a $6.25 million investment that was partially funded by a federal tax credit and by the TVA Generation Partners Program, which will pay Schneider a premium on any electrically that the company is able to sell back to the utility company. As you might expect, the project includes an array (no pun intended) of the company's own technology. There are 2,500 panels spread across six acres.

Notably, the farm can operate at either 600V or 1000V. In the latter configuration, the array will use fewer parallel connections and reduce some of the energy that is lost due to resistance. Schneider plans to test the benefits of dual-voltage extensively with an eye toward how the technology might be used as part of its own energy management and energy performance contracts.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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