MVE Group receives a 2023 Excellence In Construction Award
MVE Group received an ABC Keystone Excellence In Construction Award for our GSM Industrial solar project.
MVE Group received an Excellence In Construction award on November 9, 2023, at the Harrisburg Hilton, sponsored by the Associated Builders and Contractors Insurance Trust.
Receiving the award, pictured left to right, Rick Griffith, VP of Sales, Gerald Chernich, Project Manager, Roger Brubaker, Director of Construction Services
GSM Industrial Solar Project Details
- Size of project: 886-kW; 96,258 SQ FT
- Scope of work: Installation of 1,828 – 485-watt solar panels, solar racking, and electrical components
- Length of project: 7 months
- Nature of facility: Industrial Steel Fabrication
- Form of contract: Design-Build
- Percentage of labor self-performed: 100%
MVE Group had the opportunity to partner with GSM Industrial to design and install a solar array on the roof of their building. This project was an excellent example of how teamwork and innovation paved the way to the successful completion of this project.
MVE Group and GSM share commonalities in how we both design, build, and are tasked with sometimes returning to the drawing board and finding an innovative solution that will provide a quality product for our customers. While adversity is never something you look forward to, you discover your strengths and learn something about yourself. MVE Group and GSM Industrial forged a relationship as we found ways to overcome obstacles and create solutions to glaring problems, leaning on our strengths.
Scope of Work
We designed and built an 886-kW solar array on the existing roof which offset 92% – 95% of their energy usage. GSM was able to take advantage of generous rebates from PPL Electric Utilities Corporation as well as tax credits and Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) to reduce the cost of their PV System by more than half. The GSM Solar PV system will generate power for the next 30 years but will have paid for itself in less than five years.
The new normal
A hurdle encountered was the global supply issue which created the inability to complete the installation within the projected schedule. Lead times turned from weeks into months and even upward of a year. Materials were utterly unavailable with no lead time. As frustrations mounted in waiting, innovation provided solutions to keep the job going.
Back to the drawing board
GSM Industrial has an extensive flat rubber roof. The rubber found on flat roofs like GSM Industrial can vary in the material the rubber is constructed of. MVE Group chose the mounting system for their specific type of roof, and we discovered that even GSM Industrial’s sister company, GSM Roofing, could not obtain the rubber material needed to weld the SolarStrap Racking System GSM Industrial roof. The decision was made to change from the planned SolarStrap system to a ballasted racking system. Thankfully, it was not too late to cancel the SolarStrap racking order.
Pictured: SolarStrap System (L) Ballasted Racking System (R)
Plan B was set into motion as we decided to use a ballasted system that requires cinder blocks to hold down the solar racking to the roof. This is also a non-penetration mount system equal to the initially designed one. The ballasted system has a substantial amount of additional weight compared to the SolarStrap system. MVE Group had to verify with structural engineers that the roof of GSM Industrial was sound and that we could utilize the structural supports under the roof to carry the additional weight. The roof was inspected, and we were able to begin the installation.
The racking and solar panel installation proceeded as planned during this project phase. MVE Group decided to change the wire management system that was pre-approved by the township to try a cable tray type system. The cable management system carries the conductors from the inverters to the solar disconnect. Using this type of wire management system in this application was a first for us. The township approved it, and it proved to be more efficient and something to consider for future solar installations.
Pictured: Cable tray carrying conductors. Pictured: Cable tray sealed after construction
PPL Electric Utilities Corporation had to upgrade GSM’s service to accommodate their solar production. Installing a new transformer and updating GSM to the current electrical code was part of this process. Unfortunately, PPL was also experiencing long lead times on their equipment. GSM had two separate meters that monitored the electricity for office and plant usage with the meters located in the plant area. This setup was no longer permitted according to the PPL code. The second meter was removed to gain valuable wall space and provide GSM with one utility bill.
Pictured: Existing Double Meters
Their high amperage current transformer (CT Cabinet) was also out of code in the plant area. Replacing the CT cabinet would have been a significant task, and luckily for us, the CT cabinet itself was grandfathered in. MVE Group was responsible for stripping the cabinet and changing all the CTs, rack, and the remaining components. Upgrading the cabinet components would need to be accomplished in one day during the outage. More about that later.
Pictured: Existing out-of-code CT Cabinet
The ever-present supply chain issue delayed the 1200A 3R solar disconnect. Initially, we were to receive the disconnect in June 2022. The delivery date was prolonged until we were finally given a date of February 2023. To get GSM Industrial up and running so they could utilize what they paid for, we scoured the country for a used unit to install temporarily. No 3Rs were to be had, but we did find a used NEMA 1 in Minnesota that we could use as a substitute. Working with the inspector, he allowed us to seal a few openings so that the NEMA 1 was in a condition to use outside until the 3R arrived. Due to PPL having issues getting a transformer, we thought we might be fortunate to get our new NEMA 3R solar disconnect in time, but PPL received the transformer earlier than expected. The substitute disconnect allowed us to get our customer functional several months earlier than it was shaping up to be. Approximately four months later we received and installed the new NEMA 3R solar disconnect.
Pictured: Temporary Solar Disconnect
Developing a suitable spot to interconnect the solar into the service conductors was a bit of a challenge. GSM was able to custom fabricate an “L” shaped junction box for us to make the final taps. This custom fabrication led to other opportunities for GSM to create products for other solar projects.
Pictured: (L) Custom Fabricated Junction Box (R) Completed Junction Box
To maximize the potential of GSM Industrials PV system, we utilized as much of the roof as possible. We designed a PV system that sits 6’ from the roof edge around the entire perimeter. OSHA requires that our safety barrier be set back 15’ from the roof edge. If you go outside the perimeter, you must wear fall protection.
Kevin Stoltzfus, MVE Group Safety Director, frequently visited and developed a training video to identify the potential safety hazards and the expectations for using fall protection, as well as training on how to use the equipment, i.e., raptor carts.
Pictured: Kevin Stoltzfus during the safety video production
GSM Industrial provided and operated a crane to place the solar material onto their roof. We ensured everyone involved was aware of the hazards and utilized spotters to keep everyone safe. GSM Industrial allocated a level spot to park our all-terrain lift to transport our employees to the work area. Due to the position of the all-terrain lift, GSM Industrial disconnected an overhead door to ensure no one accidentally ran into the lift by using the door.
With 99% of the challenges worked out, we completed the solar installation on the roof and prepared for interconnection. This would require significant resources to complete this task in one day.
Remember the CT cabinet that was mentioned earlier? This is the time that MVE Group would need to gut the cabinet, install all new components, and bring it to code. We would not normally do this during a shutdown as we tie the solar PV system to the grid.
Not only did MVE Group have its challenges, but PPL also had their work cut out for them as they installed the new transformer and worked inside the plant to bring the metering system to code. PPL assisted with the changeover by providing their line, construction, and meter crews on-site the day of the outage.
Pictured: CT Cabinet (L) Before (R) After
The changeover was indeed a team effort with everyone pitching in where needed.
Now that the solar array was ready to go online, we scheduled a drone flight with thermal imaging capabilities to alert us to potential solar panel, electrical, and equipment issues. This, along with the commissioning of the PV system, holds MVE Group accountable for providing a quality installation.
MVE Group recognizes that the success of this project is shared with our partners at PPL and GSM Industrial, who were terrific to work with. GSM Industrial went beyond what was required by providing crane and fabrication services to MVE Group. GSM also offered to let our team use their facilities in excessive temperatures.
GSM Industrial understood the challenges we were against with the global supply chain issue and was very gracious.
Construction started in early March of 2022; without supply chain issues, the solar PV system should have been online by the end of July 2022. Utilizing the temporary NEMA 1 disconnect allowed us to bring the solar PV system online by the end of October 2022. The system passed the final inspection and was granted a PTO (Permission to Operate) by PPL. The NEMA 3R disconnect was replaced upon arrival.
Pictured: Permanent Solar Disconnect
The challenges, teamwork, and innovative solutions that brought this project to completion were examples of what can be achieved when everyone works toward a common goal. In the eyes of MVE Group, this makes the solar installation at GSM Industrial our project of the year.