Understanding Rooftop Solar Panel Mounting Systems

Solar Power

The mounting system is the base of the solar system. Rooftop solar panels must be attached to a metal racking system, which is secured to the roof. Without a well-designed base, the performance and return on investment (ROI) of the overall system is at risk.

Mounting System Basics

The racking system on which the panels are mounted can vary greatly. There are numerous design types and attachments mechanisms. Usually made from stainless steel or aluminum, mounting systems come in a variety of designs including tilt frame, flat roof-mounted or flush attachment on sloped roofs. Mounting rails can be ballasted with weights on top of the roof, attached to the roof with clamps or bolted into place through leak-proof roof penetrations.

Solar panel mounting categories

The roof’s age, slope, and roofing materials will dictate which design options and attachment mechanisms are possible. Also, building and shading obstructions such as HVAC vents, mechanicals, trees, and nearby buildings limit the roof area that can be utilized for the solar installation and thus the mounting system needs to be designed around these obstructions.

Leaving spaces for shade obstructions. Image – Hilton Fiji Resort & Spa, Denarau Island, Fiji.

Unique roof conditions must be analyzed to determine the best design style, among the diverse options. Roof material is the first determining factor. Different racking systems are needed for flat EPDM rubber, stone or asphalt roofs versus sloped metal roofs or wood roofs covered in shingles or clay tiles.

A good mounting system should be easy to install, made from a quality, rust-free materials – or materials with sufficient corrosion protection (such as galvanized steel) – and should effectively protect a system’s cables. In addition, it must be designed to withstand your region’s harshest weather conditions.

Storm Resistant Designs

Ensuring power generation continues during, or immediately following a major weather threat is mission-critical for many essential businesses. Constructing a storm-hardy power generation structure depends on the mounting design.

The right solar mounting system, if installed correctly, will provide the structural support a solar system needs, in order to protect it from wind and other damaging weather conditions. For example, the distance between the panels and the tilt angle of the panels can make a big difference with regard to wind tolerance levels and overall structural strength.

Insurance companies may request technical specification documentation upon the commissioning of a new solar system. Although no building or structure can be guaranteed 100% stormproof, obtaining engineering certifications stating the tolerances is a good idea. For example, in tropical areas receiving documentation stating your investment was designed to withstand a Cat 5 cyclone will provide some peace of mind.

Designing for Maximum Energy Performance

The directional facing, tilt angle and elevation of a solar system can dramatically impact the amount of energy generated. Therefore designing the mounting system to maximize energy performance is a key determinant of ROI, over the system’s 20+ year lifetime.

Again, the style of roof, amount of available space, the overall size of the installation and shading considerations need to be taken into consideration. Traditional high profile south-facing systems have long been the norm. Now east/west low profile systems or even flat non-directional panel installations are becoming more common. Additionally, mounting systems can sit on separate sub-frames or tilt legs to provide the ideal inclination for a given location and roof circumstances.

Conclusion

Balancing design considerations, optimal energy production levels, ROI and structural integrity requires expert calculations and industry knowledge. Therefore it is necessary to have a skilled and experienced solar developer perform a thorough site inspection to determine your rooftop solar panel mounting options and optimal design.

Vision Energy Solutions (VES) has the expertise needed to assess your unique project circumstances and provide recommendations. Contact our team to discuss a cyclone-resistant solar power system for your home or business.

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