Serving the energy industry for over 30 years
By - Jon Brown

Utility-Scale Solar Power Plant Fundamentals
Design Optimization, Planning & Procurement
May 16-17, 2019 | Austin, TX

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Utility-scale solar power plants now constitute the largest number of facilities under development in the past few years.  Industry experts confirm that trend will hold and perhaps even accelerate as the demand for renewable energy resources escalates. Thus, the pool is expanding of project developers, investors and utilities who must understand how to plan, develop, and interconnect these plants to the existing electric grid.

This course is designed to familiarize attendees with the key elements of planning solar power plant resources as well as design and development elements, including an understanding of component function and selection, site selection, and operational optimization. A broad review of development and capital cost deployment, coupled with energy production modeling techniques, will provide course participants with the basics of cost-of-energy analysis and how design decisions can impact overall plant economics. Solar industry practitioners will also review procurement best practices, along with design and equipment procurement considerations for mitigating risk for long-term asset owners.

Learning Outcomes  

Attendees at this course will:  

  • Discuss the fundamentals of solar utility-scale generation and its distinctive requirements on transmission and distribution systems  
  • Review fundamental design and system integration requirements of utility-scale and large-scale commercial solar projects  
  • Assess cost estimating and EPC considerations
  • Evaluate independent engineer’s (IE) role and functions
  • Examine energy modeling fundamentals
  • Analyze design optimization considerations
  • Evaluate risk assessment, risk allocation, and performance guarantees
  • Describe third-party installation review, testing and commissioning
  • Discuss linking O&M considerations to PV plant design
  • Identify procurement considerations
  • Assess resource planning for solar and technological advances
  • Define core financial modeling elements



EUCI has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).  In obtaining this accreditation, EUCI has demonstrated that it  complies with the ANSI/IACET Standard which is recognized internationally as a standard of good practice. As a result of their Authorized Provider status, EUCI is authorized to offer IACET CEUs for its programs that qualify under the ANSI/IACET Standard.

EUCI is authorized by IACET to offer 1.3 CEUs for this course and 0.7 CEUs for the workshop.


Instructional Methods

PowerPoint presentations and test cases will be used to present course information.

Requirements for Successful Completion of Program

Participants must sign in/out each day and be in attendance for the entirety of the course to be eligible for continuing education credit.


Thursday, May 16, 2019

7:30 – 8:00 a.m. :: Registration and Continental Breakfast 

8:00– 8:15 a.m. :: Overview and Introductions

8:15 – 10:30 a.m. :: Solar Building Blocks

  • History of solar technologies and industry overview
  • Photovoltaic solar modules
  • DC electrical – string and conductor sizing, protection
  • Inverters types and design considerations
  • AC collection and system protection
  • Transformers
  • Power plant control (SCADA) and monitoring
  • Other BOS components

Torrey Graf, Senior Solar Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

10:30  – 10:50 a.m. :: Morning Break

10:50 am – 12:15 p.m. :: Power Plant Design & Engineering Component Evaluation/Specification/Optimization

  • Site studies
  • DC design
  • AC and medium voltage collection
  • High voltage and interconnect
  • SCADA and instrumentation
  • Spacing design
  • GIS
  • Inverter loading and tradeoffs
  • Row spacing and tradeoffs
  • Metrics and myths for evaluating optimal plant designs – lowest cost of energy and AC capacity factors
  • Evaluating storage

Brett Pendleton, Technical Manager, First Solar

12:15 – 1:15 p.m. :: Group Luncheon

1:15 – 2:30 p.m. :: Cost Estimating and EPC Considerations

  • Site screening – what makes a cheap solar site?
    • Terrain and soil conditions
    • Hydrological impacts
    • Environmental mitigation
    • Labor and site access
    • Interconnection location
  • Site surveys to reduce site risk
  • Construction permitting
  • Costs associated with the power system
    • Civil works and site preparation
    • Modules and DC collection
    • Inverters and AC collection
    • HV and Substation
    • Other balance of system/plant costs
  • “Soft” costs

Torrey Graf, Senior Solar Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

2:30 – 3:30 p.m. :: Independent (Owner’s) Engineer Role and Functions

This presentation will address the elements of an independent (owner’s) engineer’s role and the related concept of commissioning and how they should be executed:

  • Development phase support
  • Permitting phase support
  • Interconnection request
  • EPC request for proposal (RFP) support
  • Construction/commissioning support
  • Support during operations
  • Verify that applicable equipment and systems are installed according to the contract documents, manufacturer’s recommendations and industry accepted minimum standards
  • Verify that installing contractors perform adequate operation checkout
  • Verify and document proper performance of equipment and systems
  • Verify that the operations and maintenance (O&M) documentation left on-site is complete
  • Verify the owner’s operating personnel are adequately trained

Matt Brinkman, Solar Business Unit and Regional Practice Manager, Burns & McDonnell

3:30 – 3:45 p.m. :: Networking Break

3:45  – 4:30 p.m. :: Procurement Considerations

  • Supplier considerations
  • Module warranty and degradation
  • Quality, reliability, and testing protocols
  • Role of third-party certifications
  • Inspection services
  • Crafting the RFP solicitation

Austin Quig-Hartman, Senior Technical Manager, First Solar

4:30 – 5:15 p.m. :: Energy Modeling Fundamentals

  • Overview of available modeling tools
  • Evaluating weather data
  • Module mounting and shading
  • Overview of modeling losses
  • Mechanics of generating an accurate energy model
  • Energy tests, capacity tests, and performance guarantees

Brett Pendleton, Technical Manager – Business Development, First Solar

5:15 p.m. :: Program Adjourns for Day

Friday, May 17, 2019

7:45 – 8:15 a.m. :: Continental Breakfast

8:15 – 9:15 a.m. :: Risk Assessment, Risk Allocation, and Performance Guarantees

  • Risk assessment and identification
    • Best practices
    • Natural hazards
    • Contingent exposures
  • Risk allocation
    • Developer
    • EPC contractor
    • Vendor and supplier
    • Interconnection
    • Customer
    • Lender and equity finance
  • Insurance market
  • Bonds, surety and guarantees

Daren Gretz, Senior Vice President, Aon Risk Solutions

9:15 – 10:15 a.m. :: Core Financial Modeling Elements

  • Overview of development timeline and costs
  • Overview of operational costs
  • Review of energy production inputs
  • Review capital cost inputs and bid evaluation
  • Own vs. procure analysis
  • Evaluating storage

Austin Quig-Hartman, Senior Technical Manager, First Solar

10:15 – 10:30 a.m. :: Morning Break

10:30 – 11:45 a.m. :: Resource Planning for Solar and Technological Advances

  • Accurately assessing solar resources in the enterprise long-range plan
  • Resource planning best practices
  • Solar resource modeling assumptions
  • Grid reliability services through solar
  • Outlook and value proposition for solar + storage

Brett Pendleton, Technical Manager – Business Development, First Solar

11:45 4.m. :: Course Adjourns


Solar + Storage

Wednesday, May 15, 2019 


Over the past several years, the storage and solar sectors are more or less following a similar production trajectory – technology is advancing and costs are declining – bringing both into the power industry development mainstream.  Their operating characteristics are complementary.  So, while they’re both deployed in independent installations, increasingly they make even more sense in certain scenarios when paired together.

This introductory workshop will examine the circumstances under which solar and storage may be productively combined to improve the performance and economics of a project.  It will consider storage deployment in an original solar plus storage build scenario and in a scenario where storage is retrofitted to an existing solar installation.  Cost and value metrics will be evaluated.  Other factors evaluated will be how to size a battery system for solar, an investor cost/benefit scorecard (or decision matrix), use cases, internal rate of return (IRR) for different types of installations, and solar plus storage RFP best practices.

Learning Outcomes

  • Discuss how to determine the feasibility of a solar plus storage project
  • Examine components to determining value proposition
  • Assess the establishment of value metrics
  • Evaluate the typical configurations of solar plus storage
  • Review use-case scenarios
  • Identify solar plus storage RFP best practices


12:30 – 1:00 p.m. :: Registration and Continental Breakfast 

1:00 – 4:45 p.m. ::Workshop Timing

  • Determining the feasibility of a solar plus storage project
    • How to marry the two technologies
    • Where it makes sense
    • Project/site-specific considerations
    • Evaluating greenfield and brownfield implementations
    • Evaluating typical configurations of solar plus storage
    • Independent systems that are not co-located
    • AC-coupled systems that are co-located but do not share an inverter
    • DC-coupled systems that are co-located and share an inverter
    • Tightly DC-coupled systems charged entirely by solar power that share location and at least one inverter
  • Use-case scenarios
  • Components to determining value proposition for …
    • Vertically integrated utilities
    • Assets bid into wholesale electricity markets, weighing
      • Energy
      • Capacity
      • Ancillary services
  • Establishing value metrics
    • Intrinsic value calculation of solar plus storage vs cost of other resources (mostly natural gas-fired peaking plants)
    • Solar w/dedicated storage vs storage that contributes other services to the grid
    • Internal rate of return (IRR) assessment for types of storage systems
    • Solar levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) vs solar plus storage LCOE
  • Solar plus storage RFP best practices

4:45 p.m. :: Workshop Adjourns


Matt Brinkman, Solar Business Unit and Regional Practice Manager, Burns & McDonnell

Matthew Brinkman is the Solar Business Unit and Regional Practice Manager at Burns & McDonnell. In that capacity, he supports the company’s solar project managers and technical teams through: allocation of resources to projects, consulting with clients related to project execution models, performance testing requirements, contract review and negotiations, performance testing, and changes in the solar market. His team has worked on some of the largest and most lauded solar projects in the nation, including serving as the Owner’s Engineer on the largest solar thermal plant in the world (392 MW Ivanpah) and the largest solar PV project in the United States (580 MW Solar Star). Mr
Brinkman started his career at Burns & McDonnell in 1994 as a civil engineering co-op while attending North Dakota State University. In 2004, he permanently transferred to Phoenix, Arizona, and moved into a project manager role. In 2006, he was asked to start the Energy Global Practice in the Phoenix office, which has grown to the largest Energy presence in all Burns & McDonnell regional offices. In 2008, he set up the solar business unit, which has established Burns & McDonnell as a premier Owner’s Engineer in the solar market. In 2013, Mr. Brinkman was named a member of Burns & McDonnell’s Principal Group, a senior-level leadership group within the company. Among the industry recognition he has received, he was appointed by Governor Janet Brewer to serve on the Arizona governor’s Solar Advisory Task Force.

Torrey Graf, Senior Electrical Engineer – Solar Group, Burns & McDonnell

Torrey Graf is a senior electrical engineer in the Solar Group at Burns & McDonnell. responsibilities include providing electrical design, value engineering analysis, construction monitoring, commissioning/performance field engineer and energy production modeling for energy, government, municipal, and various other projects. Mr. Graf has developed an understanding of solar inverters for the PV market – both for established and emergent technologies – as well as a deep expertise in the operation of PV power generation and their systems.

Daren Gretz, Senior Vice President – US Renewable Energy, Aon Global Power

As a senior executive for property and casualty, Daren Gretz is a team leader for US Renewables and US Central Region within Aon Global Power. He brings 20 years of insurance and risk management experience working on project finance, development, construction and operations for global companies. He specializes within the power sector including renewables, traditional power, biofuels, energy, infrastructure and utilities. Daren’s diverse project experience includes due diligence, contractual risk transfer, program design, implementation, benchmarking, risk control, claims advocacy and risk management. This expertise is effectively applied to a portfolio of assets including solar, wind, storage, hydro, geothermal, biomass, waste to energy, biofuels, coal, natural gas, transmission and other infrastructure.

Brett Pendleton, Technical Manager, First Solar

Brett has more than seven years’ experience in the solar industry and is the technical Manager for First Solar’s Business Development team. Mr. Pendleton’s responsibilities include interfacing with both module buyers and EPC firms on the value and technical integration of First Solar module technology, working from origination through contracting. Areas of focus include PV system design, energy modelling, financial optimization, and module reliability. Prior to joining First Solar in 2015, Mr. Pendleton
worked as a Project Design Engineer at SunPower.

Austin Quig-Hartman, Senior Manager – Origination, First Solar

Austin Quig-Hartman has more than 14 years of experience in the solar industry. As Senior Manager for Origination at First Solar, he oversees technical aspects of the firm’s US business development organization from origination through contract execution. Prior to joining First Solar in 2014, he managed the design team at SunPower.


AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center

1900 University Ave

Austin, TX 78705

Reserve your room:

please call 1-512-404-1900

Click here to book online

Room Block Reserved For:

Nights of May 13 – 16, 2019

Room rate through EUCI:

$209.00 single or double plus applicable taxes
Make your reservations prior to April 13, 2019.

Venue Information

Getting to and from the hotel:

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