Free Solar Farms

How Are Solar Panels Supported?
December 30, 2013 Steven Bushong : 0 Comments
Article By GameChange Racking
Solar PV installations require support structures, commonly referred to as racking or mounting, to secure the panels to the ground or building roof. For ground mounted structures racking may be mounted onto foundations that are driven (I beams, channels or posts), or screwed (helical piles and earth screws). Ground systems are either fixed tilt or track the movement of the sun, either in one axis or two axes. Roof top racking are either ballasted with concrete pavers resting on ballast trays, or attached with penetrations onto the roof of the building, or fastened to metal seams with clips. There are also hybrid systems which are principally ballasted but also have attachments to compensate for seismic issues or where roof pitch typically exceeds 5 degrees. The size of installation, available surface area, type of incentive and utility program, building type and ground conditions predicate which system will be used.
Photo Courtesy of GameChange Racking
Photo Courtesy of GameChange Racking
Industry Trends
Post driven racking continues to dominate the market in terms of total installed MW since most utility scale projects are traditionally mounted on driven piles. Installation cost are low so long as refusal (rock hits preventing piles from being able to be driven, requiring drilling and concrete) rates are minimal. Earth screws are seeing increasing use in rocky areas, and helical piles are proving cost effective in certain areas where sandy and high water table conditions require piles to be very long to avoid pull out, and therefore unpractical.
Many policy leading states are encouraging deployment of solar PV in non-virgin areas, trying to push developers away from farm fields or clearing forests. These include landfills, brownfields, rooftops and parking lots.
Ballasted ground PV racking systems which rest on the ground and require no penetrations are utilized for brownfield and landfills. The traditional large block precast systems which have historically been very expensive and have negatively impacted project economics, often making landfill and brownfield projects unfeasible. Innovative solutions are beginning to emerge which are much more cost effective by using longer, slimmer precast blocks, or standard concrete pavers and pour-in-place products which move concrete purchase cost closer to the installation site, reducing overall system cost.
Parking lots are another plentiful source of land which can be leveraged to provide additional income to owners. Carport structures are currently expensive because they require large steel beams to handle the loads of long spans and must be designed with high safety factors. Additionally, the foundations are typically large reinforced concrete slabs which are installed mostly underground, requiring extensive excavation work which is not only costly but also disruptive to the parking lot usage which construction is underway. Carports costs are steadily decreasing, enabling carports to generate superior returns on investment and to become increasingly widely deployed.
Challenges For Racking Providers
Solar racking providers must continue to innovate not only on the costs of their racking systems, but also by reducing parts counts and integrating wire management to reduce labor and BOS costs for customers and improve project economics. The challenge for vendors increases as project owners demand increasing warrantee lengths, often as long as twenty years, and other bankability requirements which in the past were more focused on inverters and modules, and are increasingly being required of racking suppliers. Racking systems must stand the test of time through harsh environmental conditions such as extreme wind and snow loads and corrosive environments. Tomorrow’s leaders in the racking industry will be those companies which can innovate to provide solutions which are simple and cost effective and yet meet loading and longevity requirements.
GameChange Racking

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