APS microinverters the only solution for Hawaii shopping center

When owners decided to renovate a shopping center on the island of Oahu, Hawaii, their plans didn’t stop at the ceiling.

The expansive open rooftops at the multi-building complex offered perfect platforms for a new solar system to take advantage of the islands’ famous sunshine.

The 30-year-old shopping center on the Kamehameha Highway is an important commercial hub for the community, anchored by mainstays including Ross Dress For Less, 24-Hour Fitness and Foodland groceries. The center also offers an array of professional and financial services, popular retail outlets and eateries.

The project has become an ambitious proving ground for commercial solar power, and for APS microinverter technology – in terms of scale, and also because of Oahu’s nonstandard power grid voltages.

Three-quarters of the project operates at 277V AC, significantly higher than the 208V three-phase systems and 240V residential voltages standard in the continental US.

APS microinverters’ chip-based architecture allowed each unit to be specially programmed to easily accommodate the higher grid voltage – a flexibility built into each APS unit and unmatched by any other microinverter in the market.

“We’re the only microinverter that would work here,” said Tommy VanCleave, technical support manager for APS America. “We offered a technical solution that made this installation possible.”

In terms of scale, it is by far the largest domestic application of APS microinverter technology.

The system includes 3,046 PV panels by ReneSola, each offering up to 305W power output. The panel array is served by 1,523 APS YC500 dual-MPPT microinverters –- one for every two panels, representing significant cost savings and installation ease over other alternatives.

The proprietary APS microinverter design was also ideally matched to the large, 305-watt PV modules, and the greater AC output offered investors a significant ROI advantage over other inverters on the market.

Total system capacity is 929 kW, supporting the shopping center’s operations and putting power back into the local grid. Mall patrons are benefiting from Hawaii’s most abundant resource: the sun.

The project is now roughly 80 percent complete, with all 277V systems and one of two smaller 208V rooftop arrays now producing power.

The APS Energy Communication Unit software will provide real-time graphical monitoring of each rooftop system and individual PV modules within each array.

The early returns are strong — the system is actually outproducing the agreement between the shopping center and Pacific Power Renewables, putting more energy back into the system than originally envisioned.

“Overproduction – that’s great,” VanCleave said.