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We deliver real-world energy solutions today to build a sustainable tomorrow. - See more at: http://www.blueoakenergy.com/blog/#sthash.XOerM0Fn.dpuf

We deliver real-world energy solutions today to build a sustainable tomorrow. - See more at: http://www.blueoakenergy.com/blog/#sthash.XOerM0Fn.dpuf
We deliver real-world energy solutions today to build a sustainable tomorrow. - See more at: http://www.blueoakenergy.com/blog/#sthash.XOerM0Fn.dpuf
We deliver real-world energy solutions today to build a sustainable tomorrow. - See more at: http://www.blueoakenergy.com/blog/#sthash.XOerM0Fn.dpuf

PV Canopies: details, details, don’t bother me with details

February 12, 2016

When you shop for a solar carport or photovoltaic (PV) solar array canopy, it’s not like buying a car. The product isn’t even built yet, so it’s hard to envision how it will actually look. The key is in the details. 

As engineers, we notice quite a variance in detail during the planning and design stage, and we’d like customers to know a few things, too. You should be able to tell the difference between the Ford Focus and Tesla Model S, so to speak. The first step, as the customer, is to figure out your aesthetics goals. 

Prior to building, you should specify the minimum required aesthetics goals. This will help maintain your visual standards when the contractor is released on the job and is focused on achieving a lower cost of construction. The goal is an appealing structural design that meets the budget.   

Below are photos of two different solar carport projects. Notice the following differences:

  • Structure is painted (white) versus galvanization (silver coating)
  • The 2-column versus 1-column impact
  • One has superior module string management 

These initial visual impacts differentiate one system from another. But there’s more.

Notice that the modules are mounted in “landscape” (long edge attached) orientation in one design, and “portrait” (short edge attached) orientation in another. This decision affects the options for wire management, the amount of steel framing members used to mount the PV modules, the amount and overall cost of steel framing members, and the aesthetics of the final product. 

Another thing to note is the complexity and visibility of wiring entering the combiner box. In one carport we have a very clean column mounted box with an accessible safety disconnect. In another there are multiple combiners, and these are inaccessible and mounted at different heights with no visible safety switches. Lastly, notice that in one design the module wires are in tension across the connector, while in the other they are supported and hidden by the framing members.

As you can see, the devil can be in the details. Designing quality PV systems meant to provide 20+ years of service means that the consistency and simplicity of a design often translates to a more durable and serviceable PV system. Quality is the goal, but visual appeal will not go unnoticed. At Blue Oak Energy, we work to strike the necessary balance between quality, cost, and appealing structural design to maximize customer return on investment.

I hope this article highlights some of the important decisions you’ll want to consider when shopping for your next PV canopy.

 

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