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Utility-Scale Solar Power Plant Fundamentals

February 28-March 1, 2023 | Phoenix, AZ

Sponsored by EUCI

Click Here to register $1495.00

Utility-scale solar power plants now constitute the largest number of facilities under development in the power sector.  Industry experts confirm that trend will hold and 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
  • Design and development elements
  • An understanding of component function and selection
  • Site selection
  • Operational optimization

Register today to benefit from a broad review of development and capital cost deployment – coupled with energy production modeling techniques – that 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 to reduce risk for 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
  • Identify procurement considerations
  • Assess resource planning for solar and technological advances
  • Define core financial modeling elements



8:30 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. Mountain Time

8:30 – 9:00 a.m. :: Overview and Introductions

9:00 – 10:45 a.m. :: Solar Building Blocks

  • History of solar technologies and industry overview
  • Line diagram of PV plant
  • Photovoltaic solar modules
  • DC electrical – string and conductor sizing, protection
  • Inverter types and design considerations
  • AC collection and system protection
  • Transformers
  • Power plant control (SCADA) and monitoring
  • Other BOS components
  • PV math – data sheet on components

Torrey Graf, Vice President & Chief Engineer, Fast Grid

10:45 – 11:00 a.m. :: Morning Break

11:00 a.m. – 12:30 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
  • Procurement considerations
  • Evaluating storage

Kyle Burns, PV Senior Electrical Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. :: Lunch Break

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. :: Owner’s Engineer, Testing and Commissioning

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

Joshua Ahrens, Project Manager – Power Generation, Burns & McDonnell

3:00 – 3:15 p.m. :: Afternoon Break

3:15 – 4:45 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
  • Supplier considerations
  • Module warranty and degradation
  • Quality, reliability and testing protocols
  • Role of third-party certifications
  • Inspection services

Drew Powers, Construction Project Manager – Solar, Burns & McDonnell

4:45 p.m. :: Program Adjourns for Day



8:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m. Mountain Time

8:30 – 10:00 a.m. :: High-level Assessment of Underlying Conditions, Preparations, & Milestones

  • Review of project elements (acquisition process)
    • Regulatory
    • Technical
    • Commercial
  • Project development scenarios (alignment)
    • Stages
    • Qualification details
  • Diligence layers and sequence
  • Guidelines
    • Examples of technical review and analysis
    • Applying regional overlays
    • Interconnection access and timing
    • Real estate matters
    • Permitting

Erin Baker, Director – Development, Vesper Energy

10:00 – 10:15 a.m. :: Morning Break

10:15 – 11:30 a.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
  • Review of energy production inputs
  • Overview of operational costs

Martin Gonzalez, PV Senior Electrical Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

11:30 a.m. – 12:30 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
  • Responding to RFP solicitations
  • IRR, NPV and other metrics

Katheryn Bohn, Project Manager – Solar & Storage, Avantus

12:30 – 1:30 p.m. :: Group Lunch   

1:30 – 3:00 p.m. :: Solar + Storage

  • Drivers
  • Configurations
    • AC coupled
    • DC coupled
  • Site considerations
  • Equipment considerations
    • Components
    • Technologies
    • Electronics
    • Package solutions
  • Solar + storage design and planning sequence

Jason Barmann, Energy Storage Technology Manager, Burns & McDonnell

2:30 – 2:45 p.m. :: Afternoon Break 

2:45 – 4:15 p.m. :: Thinking with the End in Mind: Linking PV Plant Design Considerations to O&M

This segment explores linkages between key decisions made during the initial design phase and their impact on life cycle operations and maintenance (O&M) costs to better inform “thinking with the end in mind.” Given the accelerating investment in solar PV by electric utilities — and their emphasis towards holistic costs over the life of the plant, as compared to maximizing return on upfront capital expenditures — this is an increasingly important aspect in optimizing solar power plant design.  Yet, sound advice is not always followed.  Therefore, the discussion will also consider the consequences on an operating basis of how to deal with plant condition and performance issues when the design and development team doesn’t follow O&M team guidance.  And, it will examine how the O&M team can effectively communicate its preferences to the design and development team in a fashion that can may circumvent the internal minefields that sometimes bedevil inconvenient truths. 

Lynsey Tibbs, Director – Asset Management, Silicon Ranch

4:15 p.m. :: Course Adjournment


Joshua Ahrens, Project Manager – Power Generation, Burns & McDonnell

Joshua Ahrens is Project Manager for Power Generation at Burns & McDonnell.  He has nearly two decades of experience in project and engineering management and structural engineering for conventional power and photovoltaic solar power projects.  Mr. Ahrens’ experience has been almost entirely in the energy industry including both conventional and renewable power projects starting with his support of a large Air-Quality Control Project, leading into several utility-scale solar projects.  He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from Arizona State University and a Master’s degree in Engineering Management from the University of Colorado.

Erin Baker, Director – Development, Vesper Energy

Erin Baker a Director of Development for Vesper Energy, a developer, owner, and operator of renewable energy and energy storage facilities across the U.S.  The company has more than 3,000 megawatts in the development pipeline.  Ms. Baker has more than a decade of experience specializing in renewable energy development and manages the project developer’s eastern region team and portfolio.  She has long been involved in Women in Renewable Industries and Sustainable Energy (WRISE, formerly WoWE) and has served as a Board member of the Chicago Chapter from 2017-2021.  Prior to starting her professional career, Erin received her B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and M.S. in Ecosystem Science & Management from Texas A&M University.

Jason Barmann, Energy Storage Technical & Strategic Partnerships Manager, Burns & McDonnell

Jason Barmann is Energy Storage Technical and Strategic Partnerships Manager at Burns & McDonnell Engineering in the electrical group of the Energy Division.  His responsibilities include the evaluation and design of utility scale energy storage solutions, technology development and evaluation, battery pilot project coordination, consulting services, evaluation of battery manufacturing capabilities/facilities, project management, electrical system design, equipment procurement and contract management. Mr. Barmann’s experience includes Lithium-ion, Flow, and other storage technologies.

Katheryn Bohn, Project Manager – Solar & Storage, Avantus

Katheryn Bohn is Project Manager of Solar & Storage at project developer Avantus.  She joined the firm in 2021. Previously she spent seven years at Burns & McDonnell, first as Assistant Mechanical Engineer then as Staff Mechanical Engineer. She also filled brief engineering assignments at Phillips 66 and Eaton Corp.  She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and a Master’s degree in Engineering Management from Penn State University.

Kyle Burns, PV Senior Electrical Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

Kyle Burns is a Senior Electrical Engineer in the Solar Energy Group at Burns & McDonnell. He previously worked an active NASA mission prior to pivoting focus to renewables where he has 10 years of experience in the solar industry. Mr. Burns leads the PV electrical design of various solar EPC projects contracted by Burns & McDonnell. In addition, Mr. Burns has been the technical lead for equipment selection and procurement of inverters, DC and MV cable, and DC collection systems for various utility-scale PV projects. Mr. Burns other areas of expertise include detailed electrical PV system design, PV System owners engineering, battery energy storage design, PV plant performance analysis and project management.

Martin Gonzalez, PV Senior Electrical Engineer, Burns & McDonnell

Martin Gonzalez is a senior electrical engineer in the Solar Group at Burns & McDonnell. He has nearly two decades of experience in a variety of roles related to the design and construction of PV systems.  Mr. Gonzalez has been responsible for the design of residential, commercial, and utility scale PV systems, in addition to various other renewable energy projects. He provides on-site support for the installation, testing, and commissioning of PV systems and PV system monitoring equipment.  He has worked on some of the largest and most lauded solar projects in the nation, including serving as the the owner’s engineer on the largest solar PV project in the United States – the 580-MW Solar Star.  Mr. Gonzalez has developed a strong understanding of PV system design and operation, equipment selection, electrical installation best practices. He assists with PV system troubleshooting, testing, and maintenance, in addition to performing design reviews in an owner’s engineering role.

Torrey Graf, Vice President – Engineering, FastGrid LLC

Torrey Graf is Vice President of Engineering at FastGrid LLC, which he joined in 2022.  He has 12 years of electrical engineering experience across both traditional power and utility-scale solar generation, as well as deep experience in large-scale energy storage. In addition to building and leading multidisciplinary teams at Burns & McDonnell, Mr. Graf has served as engineering and project manager on more than 4 GW of solar and 2 GW of energy storage projects across the United States. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Electrical Engineering from Arizona State University.

Drew Powers, Construction Project Manager – Solar, Burns & McDonnell

Drew Powers is Construction Project Manager for Solar projects at Burns & McDonnell.  He has worked for the EPC over the past decade, filling several roles of increasing responsibility at the firm.

Lynsey Tibbs, Director – Asset Management, Silicon Ranch

Lynsey Tibbs is Director of Asset Management at Silicon Ranch. She has a decade and a half experience as an engineer in the energy sector.  Skilled in power generation with a focus on solar energy, specifically managing nearly a gigawatt of installed solar.  Ms. Tibbs is versed in project and contractor management having overseen one-half billion dollars of solar installations.  Besides her role in solar project implementation, she also has served the company as a solar project engineer and forecast analyst.  Before joining the organization, she was Solar Operations Project Manager at Southern Power Company.


Central Arts Plaza
1850 N Central Ave
Phoenix, AZ 85004