Altenergy's "System Smart" Approach To Solar Power

With 23 years in the electrical trade, 14 years as a Master Electrician, and 11 years in the solar industry, Matthew Huffman knows his batteries.

“I realized how green these batteries really are when one of the executives picked up a battery plate and ate it.”

Altenergy's Master Electrician and Lead Installer was attending a training session at the Pittsburgh headquarters of battery manufacturer, Aquion, when he learned of the executive's telling demonstration.

He explained that battery back-up systems have traditionally been the “weak link” in solar power  systems.

“They have the shortest life span of any of the components and pose the most potential for a catastrophic failure. The Aquion battery product goes a long way towards reducing these two problems.”

Huffman toured the Aquion factory, participated in training exercises, observed the company’s extensive product testing measures, and even helped hand assemble some of the batteries. Altenergy's team of installers, project managers, system designers, and equipment procurers go the extra mile to “know” their products and be able to customize turn-key solar pv systems that will serve each client's individual needs.

“It's not just a job for them, it's a passion about doing the right thing.”

Altenergy recently designed and installed Aquion battery back up solar pv systems for two customers in Virginia.

“I grew up with depression era parents; we didn't waste anything,” says Mark Smithberger, a retiree and Altenergy solar client in Swoope. “The [Aquion] batteries are ultimately more efficient.”

Smithberger wanted a solar pv system that was both cost effective and sustainable to compliment his energy efficient country home. He elected to include Aquion battery back up so that he could live comfortably and independently, without having to solely rely on the grid for power or compromise his environmentally friendly lifestyle. Altenergy customized a roof-mounted 6.825kW battery back up system complete with (21) Hyundai 325W panels, a Schneider Electric Inverter and Charge Controller, and (12) Aquion batteries.

His system provides enough power to offset his electrical usage on a regular basis; the addition of battery back up allows him to retain power for critical electrical loads—refrigerator, well pump, heat system, basic lighting—in the event of a grid outage. Smithberger says he heavily relied on advice from Altenergy—Huffman, Altenergy's battery expert, and Project Manager Joe Moore—when purchasing his system.

“It's not just a job for them, it's a passion about doing the right thing,” says Smithberger in his review of his experience with Altenergy. “It [the project] was done on time, done right; I expect those things.”

“We are extremely pleased with it [the solar pv system], and plan on continuing to use the batteries in
the future,” says Gallahue.

Altenergy also installed a 4.48kW battery back up system  for Greer & Associates Vice President, Mike Gallahue, in Covesville. The pole mounted array includes (16) SolarWorld 280W panels, a Schneider Electric Inverter and Charge Controller, and (7) Aquion batteries—an energy storage system that Gallahue is personally familiar with. In partnership with the Building Goodness Foundation,

Gallahue served as project manager for a construction effort in Tom Gato, Haiti, building, solarizing, and providing Aquion battery back up for a women's health clinic.
Altenergy incorporated Aquion's green technology into Gallahue's own battery back up system. The pole mounted element of the array also allows Gallahue to manually adjust the tilt of the panels to shed snow or to find the best sun oriented direction based on the season.

“We are extremely pleased with it [the solar pv system], and plan on continuing to use the batteries in the future,” says Gallahue.

Designing an average solar pv system involves considering the electrical needs of the client, the location and direction of the array, solar product availability, and any additional client requested or Home Owner's Association required design elements such as panel color or array visibility. Altenergy's Lead Designer, Casey Wilson, says that battery back up systems in particular involve a lot of customization.

“We design battery back up systems for worst case scenarios,” says Wilson.

Battery back up systems are sized based on the frequency and amount of clients' daily electrical usage, as well as the amount of electricity they are interested in backing up.  Wilson says that most battery back up systems are designed for one day of “autonomy,” meaning that they could support a days worthof basic electrical needs.

Clients like Smithberger and Gallahue also have specific preferences for high quality and environmentally conscious technology. Aquion utilizes Aqueous Hybrid Ion AHI technology—the company's batteries are saltwater based and free of heavy metals and toxic chemicals. The batteries are also long lasting, low maintenance, easily recycled,  non-flammable, non-toxic and non-caustic, and they are also equipped for “daily deep cycling.” They are also the first and only batteries to be Cradle to Cradle certified. This certification  requires that a product meet certain standards for “material health, material re-utilization, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.”

Matt Maroon, Aquion's Vice President of Product Management, says “Aquion batteries are the safest, most sustainable batteries in the world.”

Altenergy's use of Aquion batteries in Smithberger's and Gallahue's systems made solar work for them.