Extruded Aluminum Support Structures Hold up Solar Collectors at Colorado Prison
LINTHICUM, Md.--Sapa Extrusions's North America business unit, one of two entities in Sapa's recently reorganized Extrusion Americas unit, has established itself as a major player in manufacturing for the renewable energy industry. The company is known for its pioneering work with Acciona SA and Gossamer Space Frames on the landmark Nevada Solar One power plant, a 64-megaWatt, concentrated solar power (CSP) plant that came online in 2007 as the third largest solar generating station in the world and the largest to be built in North America in 17 years. Sapa worked closely with Gossamer to fine tune the design and manufacturing process for a tight-tolerance Organic Connector space frame technology that was used to support the solar collectors at Nevada One. The project represented the first use of an aluminum space frame design as the supporting structure of a solar thermal power plant. (See Contract Manufacturer Finds its Place in the Sun).
Another solar application had the company supplying extruded aluminum for a turnkey hot water heating system at the Federal Correctional Institution in Englewood, Colorado. Collecting solar energy during the day and storing the energy in a 15,000-gallon tank allows hot water to be delivered to the prison's showers, kitchen, laundry or wherever hot water is needed, even when the sun is not shining. The solar heated system came online in May and is said to be greatly reducing the prison's natural gas consumption.
Sapa extruded and fabricated the frames at its Phoenix plant. The company supplied 12,500 total pounds of extruded aluminum for the project, which consists of 160 parabolic collectors comprising 22,720 square feet of collection surface area. Sapa worked with Abengoa Solar Inc., to modify the collector frame design so that it could be manufactured primarily in extruded aluminum, instead of galvanized steel. At just 78 pounds, the total weight of the aluminum portion of each frame has reportedly reduced shipping and construction costs, as well as construction time, compared to an all-steel frame. The project was overseen by Abengoa under contract to Johnson Controls Inc.
For solar power projects, Sapa Aluminum manufactures extruded aluminum structural components used in utility-scale CSP plants and commercial photovoltaic (PV) installations. For wind power generators, the company produces extruded and fabricated internal assemblies, as well as structural components used in towers. Bus tube, bus bar, and electrical connectors for power distribution are some of the components supplied by Sapa to the growing wind power industry.
For both wind and solar projects, Sapa offers full engineering, project management, and logistics support; metal sourcing; and the ability to develop tailored alloys. Allan Bennett, vice president of solar markvt development for Sapa Extrusions Americas, breaks the company's strengths down into three main categories: its capabilities, its network of manufacturing facilities, and the sustainable, environmentally benign nature of the products that it uses for renewable energy projects. Sapa, he says, is a one-stop shop that offers vertically integrated operations, from metal sourcing and casting to contract manufacturing and JIT delivery. Its extensive network of extrusion, fabrication, and finishing facilities throughout the U.S. enables manufacturing in more than one location. And at a time when the sustainability of products used for renewable energy projects is becoming important, the company can provide information on the amount of recycled content in its extrusions and its carbon footprint. "We're green product friendly," says Bennett. "We produce and use primary-grade aluminum billet made with more than 70% recycled content."
By manufacturing domestically, Sapa offers customers cost advantages arising from efficient utilization of recycled material. Its multiple manufacturing locations reduce shipping costs and offer better inventory control. The company is also able to help customers reduce total costs through metal sourcing and hedging, and through extrusion design assistance to optimize product performance. The company can also lower total cost, Bennett says, by providing high-quality sub-assembly production or finished component manufacturing, procurement of needed parts, kitting of manufactured and sourced components, and JIT delivery.
"We are part of the third largest integrated aluminum supplier in the world with a presence in more than 40 countries," says Bennett. "Common systems and knowledge sharing across the entire global network allow for fast start-ups and consistent high quality at all facilities. Our international network of facilities makes Sapa an excellent choice for a global partner."
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