Fronius USA Expands PV Array on Headquarters Roof to 211 kW
Fronius USA recently hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of ITRAC, the Innovations Test Research And Application Center, significantly expanding the rooftop PV array above its 400,000-square-foot manufacturing plant and U.S. headquarters in Portage, Indiana. The PV system was expanded to 211 kW.
The facility, housing Fronius USA’s administrative, manufacturing, technical support and repair services as well, is now able to simulate real-life situations in the every evolving solar industry and capture research and data, as well as develop new solutions and technologies, all within the United States.
The privately-held, family-owned company started doing research outside of its international headquarters for the first time in its 70-year history when it opened its U.S. headquarters in Portage a few years ago. Fronius has since installed more than 500 modules on the roof in order to harvest the sun’s energy, boost its research capability and develop new products. The panel can generate up to 30 percent of the energy needed to run the facility, which includes corporate offices, a sophisticated welding lab and a solar inverter manufacturing area.
The Indiana Economic Development Corporation President Eric Doden was on hand Thursday, October 2, 2014 for a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the roof along with Director of Solar Energy for Fronius USA Thomas Enzendorfer and Martin Beran, Head of System Support Group for Fronius USA.
“People frequently ask why Fronius installed solar panels in the often snow-blitzed Northwest Indiana of all places, when the U.S. solar industry has largely clustered in California,” said Director Solar Energy Thomas Enzendorfer. “But the company’s goal is to make solar energy mainstream, which is why we chose the Midwest, America’s heartland.”
At the Portage facility, researchers can test the solar panels during all four seasons, when it’s overcast, and when they get sullied with light dirt from the nearby steel mills, Enzendorfer said. They have been positioning panels in different directions of the roof to test real-world conditions and compare the energy generation of flat roof panels with canted panels that actively follow the sun.
Beran said the array will help researchers make current Fronius products more reliable and develop new products, such as to store solar energy so it can be used when it’s dark.
“We started this project one and a half years ago and we learn as we go,” he said. “We mimic a residential system here. We mimic a commercial system here. We test with shading, with non-perfect conditions. As the industry develops, it’s important to show that solar makes sense in some not-so-perfect conditions.”
Fronius is constantly innovating and plans to even further expand its operations and array in the future, Enzendorfer said. Fronius USA also develops custom welding machines that have been used to weld steel to aluminum and that the electric car company, Telsa, utilizes in its production facilities.
“This is great, but it’s just the beginning,” Beran said.
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