Christopher LaForge and Chris Brown teach the “Utility Scale Commercial & Industrial Solar and Storage Series” starting next week.

I asked them to share what they’ve been up to this summer. Not surprisingly, they’ve been busy training, designing PV systems, developing solar plus storage projects – helping to grow the industry. Here are their updates, in their own words:

Christopher LaForge: Upgrading Solar in the National Parks

I’ve been excited to consult with the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore (Nat. Park system) and help them update their many systems (one on each island) and teach them about solar O&M best practices. The systems are all 10 to 15 years old and we’re updating three for starters.

This conversation began about 2 and ½ years ago when I was contacted by Garyck Hoenig (the Lead at AINL) about training his crew. It gook the 2.5 years for Garyck to get funding for the training so it was this year that it happened.  

In early July I started with a site visit with Kodi Drinken (Building and Utilities Supervisor) and Fabina, Dylan and Myran. We visited Stockton, Rocky and Sand Islands assessed the systems and started planning.

The plan was that we’d have Kodi order equipment that we chose to upgrade Sand and Stockton and then start the training with two days. So when late august arrive and the equipment was in had we started the training. Day 1 was ½ classroom and ½ on Sand Island. Day 2 was working to get the Sand Island system upgrade finished and up and running. We combined 2 systems arrays on the island and combined the battery banks into one to power  a new charge controller/inverter package – the Flexpower 1 from Outback.

I taught them about the basis of good design and system upgrades and the plan is to have the crew update the system on Stockton and for me to show commissioning practices there and finish up with teaching O&M best practices on day three some time in the near future.

The crew is great and very engaged in making better systems and running them.  So many offgrid systems present a great teaching opportunity for me.  It has been great to train a motivated crew and have the chance to improve the Islands systems.

Chris Brown: Developing Solar + Storage Projects

Over the summer I joined the team at Hanwha Q CELLS as the Sr. Manager of Project Development in the Energy Solutions division. We are working to develop and acquire solar plus storage and stand alone storage projects.

My focus is on projects in the Northeast and am actively looking for acquisitions and co-development partners with projects in New York and New England. Q CELLS is best known as a solar module manufacturer, with one of the largest solar manufacturing plants in the United States and number one market share in residential and C&I solar modules. Late last year Q CELLS acquired a bay area startup software company, Geli, who creates energy management software to control C&I and utility scale battery energy storage systems.

Q CELLS is positioned to offer both hardware and software for solar and storage systems at the residential, commercial and utility scale. My role is focused mostly on mid market distributed generation projects in the Northeast. The Q CELLS energy solutions team is active nationwide but key markets are Hawaii, California, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Maine. We approach the market primarily through co-development channels; in other words we partner with developers with active pipelines to help bring projects from conception to operation.

Our goal for these projects is to be the owner and operator of the solar and storage facilities, but in the cases where other parties want to own the project, we are happy to supply equipment and provide other financial products to help secure those investments. 

Photos: Christopher LaForge