Florida’s 3D Solar installs first Quick Mount QRail Racking System

QRail Quick Mount

Quick Mount’s QRail

3D Solar, a Florida-based solar contractor, and Quick Mount PV, a manufacturer of waterproof mounting and racking systems, announced today that 3D Solar has installed the nation’s first Quick Mount PV QRail Racking System. QRail is an innovative new rooftop racking system, with patented QClick and QSplice technologies that simplify and speed up installation. QRail combines with Quick Mount PV’s renowned waterproof mounts to create a complete, fully-integrated racking and mounting solution for installing solar PV modules on any roof.

3D Solar is so confident in the flashing system that it has decided to offer Florida’s best solar rooftop installation warranty of 25 years.

“Our installers have told us that this system makes the installation process easier, faster and more efficient,” said 3D Solar Owner and CEO David Ringo. “QRail enables us to better serve our customers, providing them with the best waterproof solar mounting systems in the industry. Quick Mount PV products are a great fit with our approach to solar: going above and beyond to ensure every job is completed to our highest standards.”

The patented QClick technology enables module clamps to easily click into the rail channel and remain in an upright position, ready to accept the module. QRail’s QSplice is the fastest, most efficient splice in the industry — a tool free, bonded, fully-structural splice that installs in seconds with no tools or extra hardware required. Read more about the system here.

“We’re thrilled that 3D Solar is installing solar rooftop arrays with our new QRail racking system,” said Quick Mount PV CEO Claudia Wentworth. “With QRail, we now have what our customers have been requesting: a comprehensive, cost-effective single-source solution for solar installation on all roof types. And because of the QClick and QSplice technologies, solar installers will find that QRail exceeds their expectations for quality and ease of installation.”

Download our free 2018 Residential Rooftop Report for more tips and install trends

— Solar Builder magazine

The Replacements: These solar mounts for tile rooftops cut labor costs, avoid OSHA issues

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mount

It’s always reassuring when solar technology moves faster than a federal regulator, even if it is a well-intentioned agency like the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In this recent case, a new crop of solar tile replacements that support rooftop mounting systems are eliminating the need for drilling, grinding or sawing cement tiles, an activity that generates harmful dust for workers when not controlled carefully.

Stuck in the Middle

OSHA came down with a new silica rule (29 CFR 1926.55, 1910.1000) in October that limits worker exposure to 50 micrograms of silica dust per cubic meter of air over an eight-hour time-weighted average. Penny-wise-and-pound-foolish solar companies that still choose the cheapest tile hooks requiring them to saw or drill cement tiles now must monitor worker exposure to silica dust and mitigate exposure through practices including mask use, wet-cutting and dust collection. Other more forward-looking solar companies will simply opt for the new tech and cut their BOS labor costs for a net job gain.

Sawing or drilling concrete roof tiles was the standard for installing rooftop PV mounting systems up until a few years ago. Now a number of tile replacement manufacturers say that their products are no more costly than most old-design tile hooks, are faster to install and save a roof tile at every penetration point. Saving tiles for an older roof is no small event. Cement tile costs around $7 per square foot, when a replacement with the same shape can be found, much less with matching fade.

“I’m not sure how much the new OSHA rules will drive the tile replacement mounting market or affect it, because the market will change more as companies see the benefits of saving time and cost,” reckons Andrew Wickham, the marketing manager for SnapNrack Solar Mounting Solutions.

SnapNrack’s tile replacement

SnapNrack’s tile replacements feature a base assembly for simply lagging the base into place and then sliding the riser shaft into position for the tile replacement flashing.

Color Me Impressed

Several replacement tile mount manufacturers suggest that their cement tile replacement product goes on faster than tile sawing or drilling.

“We are a bit more expensive than hooks, but there is far less labor,” says Jordan Pacheco, the director of product management at Pegasus Solar. “An installer that is grinding tiles might use four crews of five men, but we can do five crews of four men with our Lightspeed Tile Replacement.”

The U.S. market for rail-less residential solar mounting systems, the Pegasus specialty, is expected to grow by 67 percent from $240 million in 2016 to $400 million by 2022, according to GTM Research. The Pegasus tile replacement system, available in rail or rail-less mounting configurations, has undergone several refinements in design since it initially launched in 2014.

“The tile replacement technology is definitely faster, and some studies say 20 percent faster than grinding,” says Stri Zulch, the vice president of marketing at Quick Mount PV.

In a time trial in 2016, Quick Mount conducted an in-house test with three different products. The trials were conducted on a test roof, with eight mounts installed for each trial. The installers were third-party contractors, and Quick Mount PV timed and monitored the trials.

“Results showed that the Tile Replacement Mount was 26 percent faster than the Universal Tile Mount and 22 percent faster than Quick Hook,” the company reports. “The Tile Replacement Mount eliminates the need to cut tiles, resulting in the Tile Replacement Mount saving time. Although, there are a number of variables that affect installation times, the Tile Replacement Mount will save on average a minute per mount.”

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mount

Quick Mount PV’s Tile Replacement Mounts feature its patented Elevated Water Seal Technology for optimal waterproofing

Quick Mount’s Tile Replacement Mount comes with a 25-year warranty and features a universal base mount, which works with three flashing profiles including a flat tile, S-shaped tiles and W-shaped curved tiles.

“Once you see more of these large-scale installs, it will drive the market for tile replacements,” says Brandon Gwinner, the western region sales manager for SunModo. One of his customers using SunModo’s tile replacement on a large cement tile project in Hawaii with 2,800 support points, reports cutting project labor costs in half — with no tile breakage.

The SunModo tile replacement can be attached either by a single bolt into a rafter, like most tile replacement designs, or by four screws into the sheathing, in cases where a rafter is not reachable. The industry is now trending toward the sheathing-attached method since it is more reliable and is now proven, Gwinner notes. While his company specifies no less than 1/2-in. oriented strand board (OSB) sheathing, many home builders or roofers opting for cement tiles are upgrading the sheathing by using thicker OSB, if not structural-grade 5-ply plywood, he notes.

Here Comes a Regular

After the construction downturn resulting from the recession in 2008, roofing is on an upturn and expected to reach a global value of $95 billion by 2024, according to a September report by Global Industry Analysts.

Cement tile is the fastest growing segment of the global roofing market, with an estimated combined average growth rate of close to 7 percent by 2020, according to a recent study by Technavio. Recent hurricanes and other adverse weather have helped demonstrate the durability of cement tiles over asphalt shingles and over clay tiles, which are much lighter than cement tiles.

In the U.S. South and Southwest, where daily temperature highs and lows range widely, and air conditioning is a major use of electricity, cement tiles are a favorite because they can be used for cool roofs as well as for evening heat retention.

Tile replacements for cement tiles already are highly waterproof and manufactured with formable aluminum. But cement tiles also are evolving via nanotechnology. Nanotech coatings for cement tiles will provide additional benefits for protection against heat, mold, mildew, fungus and algae, according to Global Industry Analysts.

Overall, signs indicate that the U.S. adoption rate for tile replacements should accelerate. However, at the heart of the market is installer awareness and preference. “For the market to grow, installers will need more education about the advantages of tile replacements,” suggests Stella Sun, the marketing director for SunModo.

Charles Thurston is a freelance writer covering solar energy from Northern California. He is not to blame for all of the Replacements song references.

— Solar Builder magazine

PV Pointer: How tile hooks factor into safety, noise prevention, long-term leak protection

Quick_Hook

The two most common approaches to mounting PV arrays on tile roofs are “standoff” posts and tile hooks. Standoff posts tend to be stronger due to their simple column loading design, while tile hooks use a cantilevered loading configuration (think diving board), which deflects under wind and snow loading. A strong tile hook can be a great solution, and tile hooks have become the most common tile mounting method due to their lower cost, simpler installation process and attractive appearance since most do not need a visible tile level flashing.

However, not all tile hooks are created equally. Tile hooks come in two varieties: 1) structurally robust hooks, which cost a bit more, and 2) inexpensive bent metal steel hooks.

Structurally robust tile hooks are an excellent option for securing a PV array to a tile roof. These hooks typically feature a stiff aluminum cross-sectional design that minimizes cantilever deflection during heavy wind or snow events in an effort to protect against hook-to-tile impact damage. These structurally robust hooks are dimensionally sized to ensure sufficient “serviceability clearance” under the hook.

Inexpensive bent steel hooks have limited upward/downward load capacity. They often sit close to or right on the tile underneath. Even if the hook is adjusted to sit above the tile, these thin bent steel hooks are often too weak to deflect more than 10 to 20 lbs of downforce from causing contact with the tile. When winds reach critical speed, the entire array can chatter on the roof. This chattering noise is alarming and disconcerting to the homeowner, but bigger problems can arise over time as the impact of the weak hooks break tile, allowing excessive rainwater to flow underneath the tile. Since the underlayment is the ultimate waterproofing for a tile roof, this exposure to excessive water can accelerate degradation, ultimately leading to roof leaks.

RELATED: Residential Rooftop Report: How Microflashing leads to solar install savings

Wind driven rain will always find its way uphill between the tile and drip onto the deck, so the official tile flashing requirements found in the Tile Roofing Institute (TRI) Installation manual requires that all penetrations through the roof deck be flashed at the underlayment level. For example, the Quick Hook from Quick Mount PV includes a hooded underlayment flashing which protects the lag screw penetrations from rain water when sealed to the deck using underlayment bibbing or three coursing with asphaltic roofing cement and a reinforcing fabric. Some inexpensive bent metal hooks with vertical height adjustment have sharp corners that rest on the underlayment when adjusted to the fully downward position. These sharp corners dig into the underlayment at the point where the wind driven rain drips down onto the underlayment, and a flashing cannot fix this vulnerability.

Trimming the tile’s weather guard lug is a mandatory step to ensure the tile sits back down in its proper position. Some installers skip the tile trimming process, believing that the thin bent metal hooks are so thin that trimming is not required. However, when the lugs are not trimmed, the tile sits up on top of the tile hook, creating a ½-in. to ¾-in. gap between the tiles. This gap allows even more wind driven rain to reach the underlayment. Trimming the tile lug usually only takes 30-60 seconds using a “tuckpointing” diamond blade on a grinder.

A word of caution: OSHA has recently started enforcing a ban on dry cutting of tile due to silicosis risks. These new regulations regarding silica exposure require wet cutting of tile. To avoid dry cutting, installers are turning to metal Tile Replacement Flashing (TRF), which is a replacement for tile trimming altogether and an easy solution for OSHA compliance. Another benefit of using the TRF is that with every flashing installed, you have a matching tile left over to replace any of the tiles broken during the installation process.

Cutting corners with thin hooks and non-compliant deck waterproofing is a recipe for future leaks. Choosing a strong tile hook and flashing the deck-level penetrations using TRI-compliant flashing methods protects you and your customer’s roof. Your customers will thank you for years of leak-free performance.

Jeff Spies is senior policy director for Quick Mount PV.

— Solar Builder magazine

Creative financing completes 530-kW solar + storage install at San Diego retirement community

Paradise Village Retirement solar

Generations LLC added an expansive 527.8 kW photovoltaic (PV) solar + storage system on its resort style independent, assisted living and memory care community, Paradise Village, in San Diego’s South Bay. Combining solar with a behind the meter energy storage system, the energy enhancing project will produce approximately 1 million kWh of electricity per year, approximately 40 percent of the campus’ annual electricity usage. In addition, an estimated cost savings of $250,000 in both regular and peak demand usage will be provided from the hybrid solar and low-cost battery storage system.

Financing details

Generations LLC and NW Photon Energy (NWPE), both of Portland, Ore., partnered on the pro-ject which has been in development for three years. According to Kirk Cameron, President of NW Photon Energy, this project became viable as a result of four key factors.

1. The foremost was a healthy ROI with a payback of less than 5 years.
2. Helping Paradise Village gain control of its energy expenses and eliminate rising utility in-creases was the second factor.
3. Paradise Village’s qualification for a CPUC Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) rebate covered approximately 5 percent of the total project cost and
4. The final factor was Generation’s 10-year refinance of a previous $82 million construction loan through Fannie Mae’s Green Rewards program – the first Green Rewards loan backed by a sen-ior housing property. This refinance provided exceptional terms and a reduced interest rate which contributed to the aggressive ROI.

RELATED: Solving C&I Solar: How boutique financing is growing this underserved solar segment

According to Chip Gabriel, President of Development for Generations LLC, the business case for solar was clear to them from both a financial and environmental sense.

“With a large percentage of a residential housing community’s operating expenses originating from its energy usage, a sustainable approach to property management is crucial for the long term,” says Gabriel. “Adding solar was not only a financial decision but also one framed by the environmental impact that taking care of more than 400 residents creates.”

Generation’s commitment to solar is a continued example of their foresight and approach to property management. They have identified solar as a means to leverage underutilized roof space to improve operating efficiencies for their buildings.

The next phase in Generations’ energy management plan involves identifying additional solar project opportunities. The company recently contracted a third solar system to be installed by NW Photon Energy at its Linfield Village senior living community in Temecula, California.

Paradise Village System Overview

System General Contractor: NW Photon Energy
Solar System Installer: Horizon Solar Power (San Diego, CA)
Location: National City, CA
Layout: 394 units in seven four-story residential buildings
Array Capacity: 527.8 kW
Number of Panels: 1,466
Average Annual Production: 1,000,000 kWh
Tile Roof Mounting/Racking System: Quick Rack Rail-Free Mounting Systems
Flat Roof Mounting/Racking Systems: UniRac Ballast Flat Mount and Iron Ridge Attached

BTM Energy Storage System: Sharp Electronics Corporation’s Energy Systems and Services Group’s (Sharp ESSG’s) SmartStorage System. Capacity: 240 kW/324 kWh

— Solar Builder magazine

The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

Big leap for microinverters

APsystems SPI

APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter at SPI in Las Vegas. A groundbreaking design in microinverter technology, the YC600 will offer the highest peak output power, faster transmission speed and more modules allowed per string than comparable microinverters. A wider MPPT voltage range will result in a greater energy harvest for homeowners.

You’ll want to get the full scoop at booth 1745.

Streamlined Shutdown

Fronius

Fronius is launching a new generation of its Rapid Shutdown Box, which the company says will be the most convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 compliance, while enhancing overall rooftop and firefighter safety. The new generation includes two versions: the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and Quattro.
“Based on customer feedback, we implemented many improvements into this new generation of our Rapid Shutdown Box,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management at Fronius USA.

Directly connected to the inverter through the same conduit as the DC homeruns and powered by the array, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of components and eliminates the need for an external power supply. The low-profile design and the multiple mounting options allow for installation underneath the modules, ensuring a clean system look. In addition, the NEMA 4X rating ensures the box is built for severe outdoor conditions. MC4 connectors, spring-loaded terminals and generous wiring space make the wiring a breeze. The Rapid Shutdown Box also acts as a combiner box, removing the need for additional hardware. Booth 3943.

Lightweight, flexible power conversion

Ideal Power

Ideal Power invented a new kind of power conversion architecture that delivers on flexibility, allowing you to enable or disable any features depending on project needs. At SPI, check out its 30-kW Stabiliti Series power converters. These multiport, compact converters are smaller, lighter and dramatically reduce installation costs while increasing return on investment. Ideal Power recently partnered with NEXTracker to implement it in various PV sites throughout North America. Booth 1433.

A top rail clip to rule them all

Heyco solar rail clips

Heyco has been busy this summer, introducing several new clips and wire management accessories for the solar market. Newest to the lineup are the SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U, which are top rail clips for various racking manufacturers such as Unirac, Ironridge, Everest, SnapNRack, Solar Mount and other similar racking profiles. The SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U are suitable for the new Enphase Q Cable. At the booth, you can also enter for a chance to win a Google Home. Booth 4762.

Drive down carport costs

Baja Carports InterSolar 2017 Booth Models

Baja Construction always has a standout booth, and this year its in-house construction team will be installing its signature Baja Solar Support System design, the “Braced Single Post Support,” built with high-tensile light gauge steel to support 24 solar modules (7.8 kW). Included in the structure is an EV Station for the hot red Tesla parked underneath. Meet Baja’s in-house designers, engineers and project managers and also make certain to visit Baja’s sponsored lobby lounge for food and beverages. I’m sure you’re already there. Booth 4155.

Improve your grip strength

Ace Clamp solar mount
AceClamps are factory-assembled clamps with patented design features that allow strong connections to standing-seam roof panels without the use of set screws or any other loose parts that could damage the surface of the roof panel. AceClamp designs have been vibration tested during the development stage and incorporate special locking features to ensure that the bolts do not back out when subjected to vibratory loads from wind flutter and light seismic activity. Booth 809.

OMG Roofing solar mount

OMG Roofing Products has introduced PowerGrip Universal for mounting solar racking systems on commercial roofs. PowerGrip Universal is designed to reduce or eliminate ballast in solar racking systems, so there’s less weight, material handling and labor on the roof. Made of heavy-duty cast aluminum, PowerGrip Universal offers 3,300 lbf of tensile strength, 2,500 lbf of shear strength and 2,000 lbf of compressive strength. It’s one of the strongest anchors on the market. Booth 629.

Solar Connections

The Standing Seam Power Clamp from Solar Connections can attach to virtually any standing seam profile and draws its strength from patent-pending WaveLock Technology with optional two, three and five points of attachment. The top can be custom drilled and tapped to fit any bolt configuration. Offering ease of installation, the Silver Bullet set screws include a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength while also keeping the paint finish and seam free from harm. Additionally, the Standing Seam Power Clamp is available in standard mill finish aluminum material, making it an item you can easily keep in stock when the need arises. Booth 1569.

Reinventing the ground mount

Nuance Energy

Nuance Energy’s patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform could revolutionize ground-mounted solar projects. This earth anchor foundation system satisfies permitting requirements for virtually any site and soil type without the need for geotechnical reports or special inspections. It eliminates the need for heavy equipment or cement by enabling small, unskilled crews to install the entire platform quickly and easily using only handheld tools. Booth 2108.

Meet the 4G platform

Ginlong Solis inverter

Ginlong Technologies is now shipping its Solis 4G Platform. What you can see at SPI this year in booth 2427 is the Solis-1P(2.5-10K)-4G-US single phase string inverters, with high switching frequency; 2, 3 and 4 MPPTs designs; 97.8 percent peak efficiency (97.5 percent CEC); fan-less NEMA 4X / IP65 design, integrated AFCI; web-based and smartphone app monitoring, all under 44 lbs. The Solis 25K-66K-US three phase inverters are designed for all commercial and utility-scale installations with four MPPT designs and ultra-low start up volume that maximizes energy harvest. Booth 2427.

Five trackers to, um, track

SunLink TTD

SunLink’s TechTrack enables efficient load redistribution and allows the system to handle extreme wind with less steel, fewer foundations and lower cost. Now, TechTrack’s intelligent control system also delivers equally responsive control modes for snow, flood and O&M. The result is system level benefits, visible in SunLink’s Vertex data monitoring system. Rigorous testing to UL3703 further reduces permitting risk. Booth 3319.

Soltec

SF7 is the next-generation horizontal single-axis solar PV tracker from Soltec. Soltec says the SF7 enables up to 5 percent greater MW per acre than other trackers and does that with 54 percent fewer piles-per-MW, 15 percent less parts count and 58 percent fewer screw type connections than leading competitors. SF7 standard features include short tracker site-filling options, unique steep-slope tolerance of 17 percent NS, efficient self-powering and innovative cable management solutions for combining, fusing and protecting PV source circuits more economically. Booth 3640.

Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Turnkey Solar Tracker_2017

Solar FlexRack is launching its TDP Tracker with a new BalanceTrac design to increase energy yield and reduce balance of system costs. This TDP 2.0 Solar Tracker with BalanceTrac, optimized for 1,000- and 1,500-V modules, has greater rotational range of up to 120° and enables more modules per row (up to 90). The robust design delivers autonomous tables that increase site flexibility to maximize land use. Booth 2538.

AllEarth Renewable

AllEarth Renewables is showing off its new Gen 4 tracker which will be self-powered, to guard against the grid going down and will have expanded communication options, such as Wi-Fi, cellular and SD card enabled. It will come as a complete, pre-engineered system for easy, efficient shipping. Booth 626.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies is revealing the results of a recent TÜV Rheinland-backed independent report focused on solar tracker reliability. Array’s latest single-axis tracker, the DuraTrack HZ v3, is often touted for its reliability and lower cost of ownership. Array says DuraTrack HZ v3 is proven to be 300x less likely to experience catastrophic failure during wind events than more stow-reliant, single-row competitors. Booth 2919.

Page two has new on big-time collaborations, products for boosting performance, installing on shingles and more.

— Solar Builder magazine