New Way To Install Solar With No Holes For Racks

We missed it earlier this year when Solar Energy Management put out word [PDF] of a fascinating and very different way to put a solar power system on a big roof. But a story this week in the Sarasota (Fla.) Herald-Tribune about another such installation has the technique – in which urethane sprayed onto the roof holds solar array stands upright, making it unnecessary to actually penetrate the roof – in the news again.

We’ll get into the potential benefits of this, but first check out the video of the initial installation, a 50-kilowatt job done back in January at the SunTrust building in St. Petersburg, Florida.

There are other nonpenetrating solar possibilities out there – you can see some of them here – but they don’t appear to be nearly as perfect for Florida.

For one thing, now and again Florida sees a nasty hurricane roar through: Solar Energy Management says its system can withstand wind loads in excess of 200 mph. Obviously, if that verifies, it’s a huge plus.

Another benefit the system could offer that we hadn’t thought of: “With Florida’s substantial rain fall, Solar Energy Management offers this solution to clients who are concerned about roof penetrations and who may need a new roof.”

According to Solar Energy Management, the distributed load foamed-in attachment system was designed by a local structural engineer after the building’s owner, Wallace Welch & Willingham Insurance, expressed concern about conventional ballasted or mechanically attached solar racking systems. Solar Energy Management said.

This innovative attachment method was presented to the directors of Wallace Welch & Willingham. It was unanimously voted that their building would be the very first in the world to implement this method of attachment for solar modules. In addition, the new spray foam urethane roof has ancillary benefits, such as adding additional insulation to the roof, and the white granular roof coating reflects heat from the sun.

Things must be working out pretty well with the system, since as the Herald-Tribune reported, a second installation is in the works in Manatee County right now, and a third installation is expected before the end of the year.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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