Star School Off Grid Solar

Perhaps one of our most interesting projects was the power upgrade to the STAR School located on the outskirts of Flagstaff, Arizona.

The STAR School is unique because it is and always has been totally off the grid. Founded in 2001, it’s the oldest off grid K through 8th grade school in the country.

You can check out this schools unique history, and their mission, here.

Having been off grid powered for more than 20 years meant the school had gone trough a lot of solar power revisions and upgrades over the years, and in 2023, it was time for another one, and Done Right Electrical, Inc. was able to be a part of a major rebuilding and upgrading of the schools electrical power system.

We started by clearing an area and building a level and compacted field to add one hundred eight 370 watt solar panels mounted to three separate Tamarack ground mounts. During this phase of construction, we encountered some unique and challenging soil conditions that required us to develop a specialty method of boring holes in extremely loose soils. Additionally, we built in house the temporary casings and modified augers required to move the project forward until specially designed sand foundation anchors could be delivered for the rest of the ground array. The sand anchors themselves were load tested prior to installing the ground mount structure on them to insure they held their place and wouldn’t move or shift. Again, we did this testing in house, and even tested a few of the anchors beyond test specifications to see if we could get them to move. They didn’t even budge at well over 3 times their design pull pressure.

Some of the final construction of the array structures took place in August when the sun and heat made work difficult, so we shifted our operations to night shifts using temporary lighting we designed and built ourselves to run off of our solar-powered job trailer that was parked adjacent to the jobsite.

Once the ground array was completed and installed, the school had an additional 40KW of solar power to add to the approximately 40KW of functioning solar power they already had, bring their total solar production capacity to an impressive number of over 80kw.

To harness all that solar production and add extra AC current capacity to the power system, we added 3 more SolArk 12K inverters to the schools existing six. But we could not just add the new inverters-the entire electrical room had to be redesigned and torn apart and rebuilt to house the extra inverters and the 12 new Fortress E Vault Max batteries that would be replacing the systems aging lead acid battery bank.

Early in the design phase of the project, Done Right Electrical, Inc. was heavily involved if figuring out a way to make all the new equipment fit in the small existing electrical room in a way that was functional, safe, and useable. The entire room, as well as all the solar power systems supporting electrical distribution system had to be removed and rebuilt. Our background in commercial 3 phase power systems came in handy, and we developed a plan to not only rebuild their inverter room, but fit more power into it in a manner that was safer and easier to work on, and better looking too.

After completely removing all of the old solar power system from the inverter room, we installed an extensive array of new conduits, gutters, AC combiner panels, surge suppressors, battery power distribution, data cables, inverters, and batteries. When we were done, we had installed over 6 thousand feet of various types of electrical wire in the inverter room alone.

The finished system is a 208/120 3 phase system with an impressive continuous inverter output capacity of 81KW. The inverters are fed power from the 80KW backup generator when needed via a 3 phase 400A AC combiner panel. The inverters output is combined via a matching 3 phase 400A combiner panel, which then feeds a new 400A bypass switch, which allows for emergency or maintenance generator-only powering of the entire school when needed.

Once the new system was completed and commissioned by Done Right Electrical, Inc. , the schools reliance on the backup generator dropped drastically, and the brown outs and black outs that had become an increasing issue due to the aging lead batteries and over worked inverter system vanished.

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