Case study: Winter-ready PV system to produce over 80% of Wisconsin manufacturer’s energy

Wisconsin-based manufacturer Ongna Wood Products is a fourth-generation family company that manufactures wooden pallets, crates and boxes. The company had invested in a new pallet-making machine that, while increasing its productivity, would also significantly increase its power consumption. Solar power was an interesting option, but with Wisconsin’s long winters, overcast skies and temperatures ranging from 100°F to -25°F, it was not sure that solar could be a viable option. Fortunately, local installer Arch Electric was less than ten miles away in Plymouth and had extensive experience of solar generation in Wisconsin.

Ongna Wood Products is now forecast to save approximately $57,000 in energy costs and offset 338 metric tons of CO2 annually following the installation of a 389-kW SolarEdge DC-optimized PV system at its production facility in Sheboygan Falls. The rooftop array is comprised of 1,037 solar modules, each paired with SolarEdge Power Optimizers for maximum energy production at the site – despite challenging cold weather conditions typical to Wisconsin.

“The fact that SolarEdge is an established, leading supplier in the solar industry with a proven track record gave Ongna Wood a lot of confidence,” says J. D. Smith, business development coordinator, Arch Electric. “At the same time, Arch Electric has been around for twenty years, and has built its business on developing solar solutions specifically for the Wisconsin climate. The combination of the two companies’ expertise and experience reduced the risk factor for Ongna Wood and gave them confidence to invest in solar.”

As a company focused entirely on meeting the needs of its Wisconsin-based customers, Arch Electric designs all its projects to maximize solar energy production throughout the year. For the Ongna Wood install, it decided to mount the solar modules on bespoke racking that changes the mounting angle from the industry standard of 10-degrees to 22-degrees. This shift compensates for the lower sun angles as well as making it easier for snow to slide off the modules without intervention, enabling greater power production.

This dedication also led to Arch Electric’s decision to specify SolarEdge’s Power Optimizer solution for all its installations. SolarEdge’s Power Optimizers attach directly to solar modules and enable independent operation, meaning the underperformance of one module, for example due to snow or cloud coverage, will not impact the others on the same string. This will ensure Ongna Wood Products will benefit from greater year-round energy production.

As a company working with wood and heat, safety was also a crucial consideration for Ongna Wood. “The company liked that the SolarEdge Power Optimizers give it the ability to monitor each solar module for performance and faults, which helps minimize risk and maximize lifetime efficiency, and that, with SolarEdge’s SafeDC feature, there is a simple way to shut down power to the array to enable safe roof repairs, access by firefighters, and general maintenance to deal with snow and ice,” Smith explains.

Further contributing to building trust in solar power are SolarEdge’s warranties: 12 years for inverters and 25 years for Power Optimizers. “The long warranties add another level of assurance and further lower risk by ensuring the system will continue to work at optimum efficiency over its lifetime,” adds Smith.

All of these advantages gave Ongna Wood Products the confidence to make the investment in solar power. The SolarEdge system is expected to produce over 80% of the site’s energy needs, and is forecast to achieve a return on its investment in just 4.4 years.

“Ultimately, it’s the financial evidence that sells solar systems to companies like Ongna Wood Products,” Smith concludes. “Sustainability is a bonus, but SolarEdge’s technology with Arch Electric’s local expertise makes solar energy a viable business proposition – even in Wisconsin.”

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