Melink Solar & Geo Awarded U.S. Department of Energy Grant

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Cincinnati, Ohio — Melink Solar & Geo, Inc., a solar PV and geothermal engineering company, has been awarded grant funding by the United States Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE). This funding will enable Melink to accelerate the research and development of its next-generation Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System, which stores energy using thermal batteries. The system can potentially reduce the installation costs of geothermal heat pump systems, which represent a significant energy savings opportunity for the U.S. with widespread implementation. The system’s prototype is currently heating and cooling Melink’s new Net-Zero Energy HQ2 facility in Milford, Ohio.

Melink Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System
Melink Solar & Geo has been awarded an innovation grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for its Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System. A system prototype is in operation at its Milford, Ohio, headquarters.

“Our company is developing a Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System to minimize the need for expensive ground loops. Instead, we are mimicking the thermal energy storage capacity of the water inside such ground loops with phase change materials (PCM),” said Steve Melink, founder and CEO. “Melink is piloting the first prototype at our Net-Zero Energy headquarters, and we are now developing next-generation prototypes for eventual commercialization. With our third U.S. Department of Energy grant, we are committed to mainstreaming this technology for the benefit of the entire HVAC industry.”

The funding is part of an ongoing innovation project with the DOE, which encourages small businesses to advance innovation at federal agencies. Melink received the recent funding because its Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System demonstrated technical feasibility during the first phase of research. Melink Solar & Geo’s team of engineers, designers and researchers have worked collaboratively with the University of Dayton, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and industry partners to design a more cost-effective energy efficient HVAC system.

“This funding from the DOE is the result of a multi-year effort wherein a group of intelligent and highly dedicated people have proven that the system has merit, and I’m excited to say that the Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System is just one part of our growing platform of Net-Zero products,” said Seth Parker, vice president and general manager of Melink Solar & Geo.

The two-year funding awarded by the DOE will be used to finalize engineering and early commercialization of the Hybrid Geothermal HVAC System. For more information about the system or Melink Solar & Geo, please visit https://melinkcorp.com/geothermal or contact [email protected].

About Melink Solar & Geo

Melink Solar & Geo is a national provider of renewable energy and efficiency solutions for commercial buildings. They provide consulting services and turnkey management of solar and geothermal projects to help businesses of all sizes reduce energy consumption and produce clean and sustainable energy for their facilities. The company recently opened a Zero-Energy building on its campus, featuring new thermal storage technologies being tested to further mainstream geothermal HVAC for commercial use. Melink Solar & Geo is affiliated with Melink Corporation, which provides energy efficiency solutions for commercial buildings.

Q&A: What Is Net Metering?

If you are considering solar for your commercial building, an important concept to understand is net metering, whether it applies in your state, and how it works with your utility company.

What is Net Metering?

Net metering is a billing incentive that offers credits to the owner when a solar PV system produces more electricity than consumed. Any excess power generated through solar feeds back into the utility grid, thus qualifying the owner for a “credit” on his or her electric bill. Think of “debits” as energy used from the grid, or any electricity that solar power cannot cover during a given period.

What is net metering? Day to night graphic of energy flow from solar panel to grid
This animation illustrates the flow of energy production when electricity is used over the day and night. During the day, the owner generates credits when the building’s solar panels produce more power than needed (net metering). The meter spins backwards, and excess electricity gets sent to the grid. At night, the building’s electricity needs aren’t fulfilled by solar due to lack of sunlight. Its power is therefore sourced, or debited, from the grid.

How Does Net Metering Work?

  • Credits = Power produced by solar
  • Debits = Electricity consumed from the grid

The net of these two is how net metering functions, factoring in whether the owner is charged for grid usage, or owed credits for solar production.

Think of the daily variations of energy usage in the typical home. Assume that residents typically consume most of their electricity in the mornings and evenings, before and after work. If there is little or no solar production during the time when electricity is needed, energy will come from the grid. Hence, debits — or the costs one would otherwise see on the utility bill.

Solar energy systems usually hit peak production in the afternoon when sun exposure is maximized. So, what happens to all the solar generation during the day if the power is not used or needed? The excess solar power spins the meter backwards and sends energy to the grid. Hence, these credits serve to help offset your electricity bill.

Why is Net Metering Important?

Net metering ensures the owner is credited for those natural swings in daily production. Depending on your building’s energy usage and time of peak demand, net metering can help maximize the owner’s savings from solar power. Understanding net metering laws can help determine the ideal size of the PV system, after factoring in daily, weekly, monthly, or annual estimated energy usage.

If you are considering switching to solar, these net metering regulations should guide the solar company to design your system in the most cost-effective way. After evaluating your electricity usage, the solar provider should factor in net metering compensation to get the best return on your investment, depending on how much PV generation you prefer.

How Does Net Metering Compensation Work?

Forms of compensation will vary by state and utility company. Generally, the owner should be charged only for the net electricity used by the end of the month. In some instances, if more power is generated by solar than consumed over a month or year, the utility will roll over those credits to the next period. In other scenarios, the consumer will be compensated at the retail or wholesale rate at the end of a given cycle.

Consumers must elect to receive credits in a contract with their utility provider. Tariff sheets, or compensation rates, are provided by the utility and explain whether solar overproduction results in the following:

  • Monetary bill credits
  • Check payments
  • kWh credits to offset future consumption from the grid

It is important to fully understand your state’s policies regarding net metering compensation. EnergySage explains how net metering rules can vary: “If you do generate more electricity than you use in a year, utilities in some states will let you carry credits over into future years, while others will reduce your credits.”

Do not let credits confuse you for cash payments, unless you live in a state that allows for that type of compensation. While you can stock up on credits to cover power you may need from the grid throughout the month or year, do not assume the utility companies will be sending a check covering the full retail rate.

Does Every State Have Net Metering?

While net metering is authorized in most states, there are different approaches to how they distribute credits, assign eligible technology, and handle capacity limits. The National Conference of State Legislatures expands on state-specific laws and advises one cannot make assumptions about compensation without digging into state rules. For example, “California credits excess generation to a customer’s next bill at retail rate. After a 12-month period, customers can choose whether to roll credits over indefinitely or receive a payment for credits at the wholesale rate. If no option is selected, credits are granted to the utility with no customer compensation.” In this case, the owner can opt in for credits at the end of the year, but it will be at the wholesale rate. Month to month, however, they receive credits at the retail rate.

Net metering policies were originally intended for areas with lower solar adoption. As more and more states become reliant on clean energy, we can expect some changes to occur. Regardless of your state or utility’s current policy, it’s important to understand how different factors can affect your long-term savings when installing solar panel systems.

Does Net Metering Eliminate Utility Bills?

A common misconception is that if you can attain Net Zero Energy for your building, you will not receive a utility bill. This is false, as the owner is still tied to the utility company in some capacity. If you are producing a lot of solar power, the building consumes the amount of electricity needed, and the remaining power shoots back onto the grid. Credits are accumulated through net metering and impact whether your utility bill is $0, or a lesser amount than in the past.

Sure, you may owe less to the utility, and the bill may look different depending on how much energy solar can offset. However, in most cases, solar will supply as much electricity as possible, and the remaining power is met by the grid.

How Does Net Demand Work?

The following chart shows a live example of how net metering works when savings occur with solar PV generation. These daily variations in current demand (debits), layered against solar PV power (credits), result in the building’s net demand. 

The solar energy system at this site overproduces during the first two days since there is ample sunlight and little demand. The utility is crediting the owner’s account for that overproduction, which is then used to offset the bill when the system is under-producing.

Net metering occurs in the areas that display overproduction from solar. Excess electricity causes the meter to spin backwards. In these cases, solar generates more power than the actual usage. That excess power is sent back to the grid, while “credits” accumulate on the account.

Savings occur in every green area where solar produces power. For example, although the system is not overproducing during the last day, solar is still helping to offset part of the demand costs, or “debits.”

Net Metering in Office Building

WEEKEND: On Saturday and Sunday, the building load is very low. Solar power is generated throughout the day with plenty of sun, which causes a lot of energy to be exported to the grid (accumulating credits). Credits are being used up at night while there is still some electricity load.
MONDAY: The building energy load spikes, causing debits on the account. Solar generation doesn’t show a consistent curve since it’s cloudy outside. For the most part, the building is pulling power from the grid (at a reduced rate), and energy is exported for a small amount of time in the middle of the day.
TUESDAY: A nice, sunny day. In the morning, the building starts pulling power from the grid as the energy load shoots up when workers arrive. Then, the load from the grid starts to slowly reduce as some of the electricity is produced by the solar array. Then, eventually, the building exports power back to the grid (accumulating credits), before the cycle reverses again.
WEDNESDAY: No net-metering occurs because of the lack of sun. However, the load from the grid is reduced and savings still occur. The net of the debits and credits appears in the middle.

To download the chart, click here.

How Do I Learn More About Net Metering?

Net metering can be a confusing subject. The experts at Melink Solar & Geo can help you navigate the jargon and determine the best solution for your business. Contact us today.

Tariffs Impacting Growth of U.S. Solar Industry

The growth of solar in the United States continues to be prohibited by tariffs placed on the industry in 2018. However, despite the tariffs, the commercial solar growth forecast is not all doom and gloom.

Tariffs and the Commercial Solar Industry

While tariffs may be prohibiting the overall solar industry from quickly growing in the U.S., the commercial sector is experiencing steady growth.

Wood Mackenzie reports costs for utility-scale solar engineering, procurement and construction (EPC services like what Melink Solar offers) fell by more than 50% from 2013 to 2019 in the U.S. Moreover, Business Energy Investment Tax Credits (ITC), as well as state and federal financing programs, available for commercial projects can offset the tariffs’ impact.

Likewise, a business’ investment in solar can reduce its carbon footprint by 10% to 100%, lock in its energy rate for the next 30 years, and support its long-term corporate social responsibility goals.

Understanding the Tariffs

The tariffs impacting the solar industry vary by amount and regulation.

Section 201

The most well-known solar tariff is Section 201 of the Trade Act of 1974. Section 201 composes a four-year program targeting imported solar crystalline silicon photovoltaic modules, These tariffs — starting at 30% and dropping by five percentage points each year through 2021 — were designed to boost U.S. manufacturing and to lock out unfair competition from foreign countries, primarily China.

Section 232

Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 declares a 25% tariff on steel and 10% tariff on aluminum. In turn, this increases the cost of solar racking, wiring, and ground mount posts.

Section 301

Lastly, Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 taxes U.S.imports from China. In regard to solar, the tariffs target companies that manufacture products with semiconductors from China. This plays into solar inverters and modules.

The Tariffs’ Impact

Ultimately, the tariffs have slowed the flow of lower-cost product available to U.S. developers, keeping the overall cost of solar projects cost-prohibitive to many, especially in the residential sector. Consider the average homeowner: the higher cost of a home solar project due to tariffs does not make the technology as easily attainable.

In fact, according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, solar modules imported into the U.S. are 45% more expensive than those sold into Europe and Australia.

The tariffs (and the resulting lost projects due to the cost of investment) equate to 10.5 gigawatts in missed solar energy installations, according to the U.S. Solar Industries Association, the leading solar trade association in the U.S.

The Future of U.S. Solar Tariffs

At this time, approximately 98% of solar panels and their components are manufactured outside the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service. In light of the tariffs, many solar manufacturers are circumventing the restrictions by cutting prices and moving production factories from China to Section 201-exempt countries such as Mexico and the Philippines.

Currently, the U.S. administration is conducting a midterm review of the tariffs. Experts suggest that a complete removal of the tariffs would result in a 30% drop in solar pricing, potentially creating an influx of large-scale solar projects for developers.

Re-Deployable Commercial Solar Systems

There are many barriers for property owners who are considering adding commercial solar capabilities to their buildings. Barriers may include installation cost, installation time, debt financing, and structural integrity of the roof. To help combat these obstacles, solar installation providers are trying to find the best ways to reduce hurdles and make commercial solar photovoltaic (PV) more appealing.

For instance, a few companies around the globe are rolling out re-deployable solar “pods,” modular systems that can be set up in a fraction of the time compared to traditional solar installs.

One such company is Scatec Solar, a Norwegian developer specializing in emerging markets. Scatec has designed a 200-kilowatt (kW) containerized solar PV system. Crews can install about one megawatt (MW) per week in this fashion. According to Scatec, the most cost-effective lease contract would have a power-purchase agreement period around 10 years. However, for higher rates, this could be shortened to as little as two years. Once the period is up, the panels can be removed and deployed elsewhere.

Another example involves the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), which has announced funding for an Australian startup, Solpod. As part of their re-deployable solar strategy, Solpod will run a trial of re-deployable systems at 25 sites for a total of 2.5 MW. Additionally, Solpod’s racking system is fixed to the roof with an industrial-strength adhesive, eliminating the need to make rooftop penetrations or to install heavy ballast blocks on the roof.

Re-deployable commercial solar system on business rooftop
Re-Deployable Commercial Solar System on Rooftop
Photo Credit: Solpod

Potentially, this design could sway a concerned building owner’s perspective, especially if the roof needs replaced in a few years or if they plan to move locations. Solpod’s product can even be chartered for a period to match a business’ lease, if renting their space.

So what does this mean for the future of solar? Simply put, these modular, re-deployable solar systems could be a groundbreaking install method for commercial properties everywhere.


Solar Industry News Updates: November 2019

Quickly catch up on the latest solar industry news…

Bifacial Solar Panels:

In January 2018, the Trump Administration introduced new trade tariffs targeted against China. The tariffs started at 30% and are set to step down by 5% every year until they expire in 2022. In June, the U.S. removed the 25% tariff on bifacial solar panels, as there is no major U.S. manufacturer producing them; therefore, there is no industry to protect. Four months later, the Trump Administration announced that effective October 28, 2018, the exemption would be rescinded.

In the latest twist, Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has successfully won a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the withdrawal of the Section 201 import tariffs exemption on the importation of bifacial solar modules. The TRO is effective for 14 days through Nov. 21 unless the court rules on the matter earlier.

Bifacial modules offer the potential for lower LCOE (Levelized Cost of Electricity), due to higher module output with both sides of the solar panel generating electricity. Learn more about bifacial modules and Melink’s testing.


SunPower:

SunPower announced on November 11 that it plans to spin off its manufacturing business with a nearly $300 million investment by China’s Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor. The move would effectively split the company into two: one part focused on overseas solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing, the other focused on distributing and installing solar panels and energy storage.

Ultimately, the partnership with Tianjin Zhonghuan Semiconductor to manufacture modules will form a new company, Maxeon Solar, that will be headquartered in Singapore. You can read more about this development here.


PV Patent Infringement:

Hanwha Q Cells attempted to shut competitors out of the U.S. market by filing a complaint in March that Longi Solar, Jinko Solar, and REC Group were all infringing on a patent filed in 2008. It now appears that all three companies will emerge victorious, as the case is now stayed with a judgment of non-infringement expected in the coming weeks, according to a filing from the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Hanwha does have a few avenues to challenge the outcome, and the company stated in an email that it plans to “immediately appeal” the determination to commissioners once possible.

Capture Reflective Light – Bifacial Solar Panels

Traditional solar modules are designed to capture as much light energy as possible on one side and convert that into electrical power, while any residual light is reflected away.  A recent innovation in solar panel technology allows for light to pass through areas in the module and is re-captured on the back side for increased efficiency. These are known as bifacial solar panels.  Many of these panels have a slim profile and limited framing dimensions to increase the surface area and collect as much energy as possible. 

An ideal application for these new solar panels are on top of white membrane roofs, already designed to reflect light, to increase the efficiency of the total array.  In a study conducted by a leading solar panel manufacturer, LONGi, panels were found to be 10-12% more efficient in baseline comparisons.  Depending on the field application the efficiency gains can be as dramatic as 27% when combined with a tracking system to follow the path of the sun throughout the day. 

A key benefit in analyzing the use case is the reduction in the overall array size, racking requirements, and balance of system components as more power can be produced per Sq/ft as compared to traditional systems.  While these bifacial solar panels carry a slight cost premium today, this can typically be more than accounted for in efficiency gains and array size reductions.  Additional applications could include building integrated solar installations and wall mounted solar to increase efficiencies with building reflective surfaces.

Melink Corporation is deploying bifacial solar panel technology at its new HQ2 building. This will help to further offset the buildings energy usage and drive to net-zero energy footprint. The modules will be part of an enhanced parking lot solar canopy that will include car charging stations for electric vehicles.  In addition to our own building, several arrays that are currently in development by the Melink Solar team include bifacial module technology. 

Solar PV Material Efficiency

With innovations such as bifacial solar panels, solar windows, and solar shingles, it is certainly an exciting time for the industry. In today’s fast-paced market, it is important to adapt quickly to consumer demands. These inventions have been made to tackle efficiency and aesthetic concerns associated with traditional solar PV installs. For those who don’t particularly care about the look of their solar system, efficiency is everything. Bifacial modules collect light from the front and back of the panel and can yield an additional 10% in electricity production compared to monofacial modules with concrete or vegetation undercovers, and 30% with a more reflective undercover. Despite our ability to capture both direct and reflected sunlight, we are limited in the efficiency of our PV material used today.

The most widely used PV material is crystalline silicon. Silicon cells utilize a p-n (positive-negative) junction to drive the flow of electrons. Conventional solar cells only use one p-n junction and have an efficiency limit known as the Shockley-Queisser limit. For a single p-n junction in silicon this limit is 32%, which is impossible to reach due to practical reasons such as reflection and light blockage from the thin wires required to run across the cell surface. The limit comes from a variety of factors including recombination of electron-hole pairs, spectrum losses, and impedance matching. Silicon has a band gap of 1.1 eV, which is the energy required to excite an electron into a free state so that it can move through the material and contribute to electrical current. This means that any photons from the sun with less energy than the band gap will not create a free electron, including radio waves, microwaves, and most infrared photons. Any photons with more energy than the band gap will create a free electron with high energy but most of the energy will be lost through heat as the electron moves through the cell. These spectrum losses account for a staggering 52% reduction in the amount of sun energy that can be converted into electricity.

So, what can be done about the confusingly inefficient, yet most widely used material for solar PV energy production? There is hope, stemming from some of the most cutting-edge research with semiconductors. There are various thin film solar cells such as cadmium telluride (CdTe) or gallium arsenide (GaAs) that have proven their worth with high efficiencies. CdTe gives silicon a run for its money on a cost/watt basis, but cadmium is toxic, and telluride is not very abundant. There are also multijunction cells that aim to tap into the portion of the spectrum that single junction cells cannot by using layers of materials with varying band gaps. Quantum dot solar cells have been getting a lot of attention as you can tune their band gaps to certain levels to capture the desired spectrum. However, they still lack in efficiency and need much more research to get where they need to be for practical use.

Perhaps one of the most promising emerging solar PV materials is the perovskite solar cell. Perovskites are a crystal comprised of an organic molecule, a metal, and a halogen. These are found in nature, but a synthetic perovskite has been created with inorganic atoms and an organic polymer. Contrary to silicon fabrication techniques, this technology can be made at low temperatures and does not require a glass cover. A pure perovskite cell now has an efficiency of 24% and a silicon-perovskite cell has an efficiency of 28% compared with the 25% of a solely silicon cell. While this is exciting news, there is a lot of work that needs done to make these advanced solar cells commercially viable. As solar power generation becomes more prevalent in our society, we need to continue to seek out better ways of implementing it. With value deflation occurring in areas with an abundance of solar, another install may not always be the solution. Value deflation is not happening everywhere, but a few million dollars in advanced PV research could eventually result in an enormous payback in our fight against fossil fuel reliance.

Solar PV Module Prices About To Drop Over 30%

Over the last five years, commercial Solar PV prices have dropped by 58%, making the renewable source of solar energy more accessible to the average consumer. And with recent news from China, we know solar module prices are about to plummet once again. Earlier this year, you might have heard about the recent tariff on solar modules and thought to yourself that now may not be a good time to invest in solar for your business, but that is simply not the case now. The Chinese government recently announced an abrupt withdrawal of support for their solar PV market, which will lead to installed capacity decreasing by 30-40% this year. China has halted approvals of new subsidized utility-scale solar plants and will limit the amount of smaller-scale distributed generation installed by shrinking subsidies it provides to solar generators.

The reduction in installed capacity is expected to be around 20 gigawatts. To put this into perspective the U.S. only installed 10.6 gigawatts of solar in 2017! This decision by the Chinese government is going to cause a huge global oversupply of modules. Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) has predicted this surplus in available modules will result in a 34% decline in multicrystalline solar module prices. This will likely completely counteract the 30% tariff implemented earlier this year and we are expecting to see the results of this in Q4 of 2018 and Q1 of 2019.

The Chinese government’s abrupt withdrawal of support for China’s solar PV industry is going to flood the global market with lower priced solar PV modules. If you want to take advantage of these ultra-low prices while there is more supply than demand, you will need to start your planning now. To receive trusted and certified assistance, contact us today for a free quote and financial analysis.

Melink develops vast solar farm for NC country club

For Immediate Release

CINCINNATI – Dec. 1, 2016 – Melink Corporation has completed development of a 5.25 megawatt solar farm in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metro region.

Located on land owned by Rock Barn Country Club & Spa in Conover, the photovoltaic array began operating Nov. 18. The vast array comprises 16,948 solar panels on 28 acres.

All of the electricity produced by the solar farm will be sold to Duke Energy. The system is expected to generate more than 7.3 million kilowatt hours of clean energy – enough electricity to serve 500 homes annually – in its first year of operation. The system has an expected life of up to 35 years.

“We are very grateful for the opportunity to have partnered with Rock Barn’s owner, Don Beaver, on this project,” said Steve Melink, founder and CEO of the Cincinnati-based company that provides energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for the commercial building industry. “At 5 megawatts, it is our largest solar PV project to date. And being located in North Carolina, it allows us to show our national capabilities. Solar power is the way of the future and we are proud to be helping lead the way.”

Bill Parrish, vice president of Rock Barn Properties, added, “We explored development opportunities on some of our land that was otherwise unbuildable for commercial or residential, and identified this project as a good economic return and an environmentally friendly investment. Through our subsequent due diligence process, we identified Melink Corporation as an outstanding partner for our solar project.”

Rock Barn Properties is the owner/operator of Rock Barn Country Club & Spa, which includes two signature championship golf courses, 485 residences and an equestrian center.

Construction of the solar farm began in November 2015 and concluded in June, despite record precipitation in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of North Carolina in November and December. The solar farm has just received final regulatory approval to begin operations.

To learn more about the solar project and see the array from an aerial viewpoint, click here. You may learn more about the country club at Rock Barn Properties.

To schedule an interview with Steve Melink, please contact Marketing Manager Luci Feie at 513.965.7300 or [email protected].

ABOUT MELINK

Melink Corporation is a global provider of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions for the commercial building industry, with four business offerings: HVAC Testing & Balancing, Intelli-Hood® Kitchen Ventilation Controls, Solar PV Development and Geothermal HVAC. For 30 years, the Cincinnati-based company has been helping organizations save energy, increase profits and make the world a more sustainable place. Melink’s corporate headquarters is LEED Platinum and Net-Zero Energy, and its vehicle fleet consists of all hybrid and electric cars. To learn more about Melink Corporation, visit Melinkcorp.com or call 513.965.7300.