From Commercial Rooftops to Microgrids, Azimuth Energy and Free Island Energy Value Enphase Systems

Jun 03, 2015

From Commercial Rooftops to Microgrids, Azimuth Energy and Free Island Energy Value Enphase Systems

As the president and co-founder of solar development and EPC firms Azimuth Energy and Free Island Energy, Marc Lopata takes his job very seriously. He strongly believes his companies have an obligation to deliver best-in-class solar energy systems while also ensuring the solutions he installs are the safest and most reliable for his customers.

A professional engineer himself, Marc always strives to achieve the right balance between a well-conceived system design, proper equipment selection and expert workmanship in the hundreds of commercial, industrial, governmental, community and microgrid projects that his companies have successfully completed.

From the U.S. to the Caribbean and beyond, Marc’s preferred solar photovoltaic (PV) inverter platform is the Enphase microinverter system. “We do a lot of complicated solar engineering; we have an excellent engineering team, and we’re not afraid of the tough jobs,” explains the hands-on company executive and NABCEP certified installer. “A few years back, my team performed a comprehensive engineering study of all the module level power electronics (MLPE) options on the market, weighing all the factors, and Enphase emerged with the best value proposition overall.”

“Enphase requires less design effort—no DC means simpler design and installation—and it’s easier to teach to installers new to solar,” he notes. “Troubleshooting with the Enlighten monitoring system is also much easier, operations and maintenance (O&M) costs are lower, and the 25-year warranty is the best in the industry. We see 5-6% more energy harvest with Enphase systems compared to string and central inverter systems.”

Free Island Energy builds remote renewable energy projects with solar and hybrid microgrids. These diesel-displacing installations now account for about half of Marc’s business—a number he expects to grow significantly over the next few years. The challenges of working in these isolated and extreme weather-prone sites provide even more reasons why he prefers Enphase systems.

“We see all the Enphase system benefits seen by Azimuth and then some,” he says. “For a Free Island job, if a microinverter fails, a local worker can replace it with a screwdriver. If you have a string or central inverter fail, you need to fly in a trained technician to fix it.”

The ruggedness of Enphase microinverters factor into his analyses as well, since the units are NEMA-6 enclosed and sealed to protect against moisture and humidity. That is something no string or central inverter can claim, according to Lopata. This capability could prove crucial when a major tropical storm or hurricane tests the integrity and reliability of the Free Island microgrids.

A consummate solar professional, Marc raves about Enphase’s Enlighten web-based monitoring system, which displays performance data and offers remote trouble-shooting capabilities. He’s also excited about a new “knob” that will be included on his Enlighten Manager dashboard for several of Free Island’s Caribbean and Central American projects. The additional measurement tool will monitor vegetation growth around the arrays to help O&M crews schedule upkeep of lush tropical flora that could impede the solar panels’ ability to harvest sunlight.

In addition to fulfilling his companies’ mission of cleaning up the environment and fighting climate change through the deployment of low- or no-carbon energy technologies, Marc is proud of how his projects create jobs and boost the economies of “where the work goes on.” He also finds deep satisfaction when he tackles challenging engineering problems and successfully executes on customers solutions. “I love to go back to completed jobs and see how happy our clients are,” he says.

Marc Lopata is one of many installers across the world choosing to power their businesses with Enphase microinverters. Here's just a few reasons why they're turning to Enphase over string systems.

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