RBI Solar acquires balance of system provider SolarBOS

RBI solar Logo
RBI Solar, Inc. sent word that it has acquired California-based SolarBOS, Inc., a market leading provider of PV electrical balance of systems (BOS). As a single source provider of solar racking systems, RBI Solar will look to integrate SolarBOS’ products to more completely throughout its lineup.

Founded in 2004, SolarBOS brings deep understanding of solar electric systems, DC and AC applications, and experience in design and flexible manufacturing. The company’s focus on developing reliable, innovative and cost effective solutions has been the driving force behind its success. Over the years, SolarBOS has designed and perfected many BOS solutions, including Disconnect Combiners and Recombiners, Arc Fault Circuit Interruption (AFCI) Combiners, Rapid Shutdown solutions, AC Combiners, Wire Harnesses, and Overmolds.

RELATED: Some solar carport install cost basics from RBI Solar

SolarBOS will be a perfect match for RBI Solar, a leading solar mounting solutions supplier in the United States. As a single-source provider, RBI takes responsibility for the design, engineering, manufacturing and installation of the most efficient ground mount, canopy, roof mount and ballasted racking systems in the marketplace. With 85+ years of experience in the commercial design-build specialty structures market, the company provides value from project conception to substantial completion.

— 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 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.


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

Intersolar North America Showcase: Here’s what to see at this year’s trade show

APsystems: True three-phrase microinverters

APsystems YC1000

APsystems boasts an industry best-selling 3-phase solar microinverter and the industry’s first true 3-phase (phase-balanced & phase-monitored) unit, the YC1000-3. This model handles 208V or 277Y/480V grid voltages with 900 watts maximum output, 95 percent peak efficiency and comes with ZigBee communication and integrated ground. At 480V up to 11 units (44 modules total, 60- or 72-cell) can be linked in a single 15A circuit, and up to 14 solar modules (7x YC500s) in a string with a 20A breaker. Designed to operate from -40 F to 149 F degrees. Ten and 25-year warranties are available. Booth 9245.

Boviet Solar: Debuting two new solar modules

Boviet Solar

A new 290-W, 60-cell polycrystalline diamond-cut PERC solar module is one of the newest products from Boviet Solar’s full PERC production line completed in 2016. Also on display will be the new 300-W monocrystalline PERC Smart Module designed to harvest 25 percent more energy. In addition to free, 24-hour monitoring per module, the Smart Module also has module-level voltage shutdown to offer greater installer and firefighter safety. Booth 8317.

Ciel et Terre: Making floating PV happen in the U.S.

hydrelio floating solar

Ciel et Terre has completed large-scale floating PV systems in various market applications and countries, showcasing FPV as a real alternative to traditional PV in roof-top and ground-mounted systems. In the past year, the organization increased its U.S. reach with its first public utility project in Orlando, alongside its local Florida representative D3 Energy and in partnership with the Orlando Utilities Commission. Ciel et Terre installed a 31.5-kWp floating solar system on the OUC’s storm water storage reservoir, a dead water space at the facility, and is expected to generate up to 51,000 kWh per year. Booths 9744 and 9745.

Eaton: Control system to simplify microgrid deployment

Eaton microgrid system

Designed for critical applications requiring secure, efficient and reliable power, Eaton’s newest solution is engineered to deploy stand-alone power systems using existing and new assets with the adaptability to easily meet future needs. The system incorporates Eaton’s new Power Xpert energy optimizer controller and provides a modular, scalable approach to microgrid control, as well as accompanying services, such as microgrid feasibility studies, total system design, control system deployment, integration with existing third-party generation assets and critical loads, project implementation, commissioning and system start-up, and ongoing maintenance. Booth 8310.

EcoFasten Solar: New standing seam metal roofing application


EcoFasten Solar has launched its newest product, SimpleBlock, a solution designed specifically for standing seam metal roofing applications. The versatile SimpleBlock provides a variety of options through compatibility with any rack manufacturer’s connection points (L-feet, posts), and will fit any double-lock standing seam. When used in conjunction with EcoFasten’s Mid-Clamp, SimpleBlock becomes a rail-free racking system featuring integrated bonding. The system meets and exceeds all known building codes and is UL 2703 listed, with product compliance determined through rigorous, uncompromised testing per UL 2703: First Edition. Due to such an overwhelming response to this innovative system, EcoFasten Solar is gearing up for high volume manufacturing to meet industry demand and will also be unveiling additional configurations for more seam options soon. Booth 9433.

Fronius: Offering its next generation solar solution


Fronius introduces its next generation of solar systems to the industry, the Fronius Smart Solution. This satisfies all needs for residential and commercial systems: flexible system design, shade mitigation, NEC compliance, high performance and state-of-the art monitoring while keeping the number of components low and installation easy. The Fronius Smart Solution combines the benefits of traditional MLPE such as microinverters or DC optimizers with the ease of installation and cost-effectiveness of string inverters. The Fronius Smart Solution is the combination of cell-string optimized modules, the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box, a Fronius SnapINverter, the optional Fronius Smart Meter and the Fronius Solar.web online monitoring portal. Check it out for yourself at the Fortune Energy booth. Booth 8519.

Heyco: A solution for every cable need

Heyco solar clips

Heyco’s new Edge Clips are ideal for use where holes cannot be used and adhesives are not acceptable due to temperature issues. If these won’t work, check out Heyco’s new SunRunner Vidrios, which are designed to mount directly onto the glass panel with compression force only — perfect for frameless PV modules. If neither of those pique your interest, check out Heyco’s SunBundler. Though not new to Heyco’s offering, the Heyco SunBundler has been receiving a lot of attention due to its 20 year warranty and unique design. Check them out at the CED Greentech booth. Booth 8311.

Ideal Power: The latest in power conversion innovation

Ideal Power

Ideal Power’s newest Stabiliti Series power conversion system is a grid-resilient 30-kW advanced power conversion system for system integrators and project developers who need to efficiently connect distributed energy resources to the grid. Stabiliti is the next generation of Ideal Power’s patented Power Packet Switching Architecture (PPSA) technology and incorporates numerous new features and benefits for commercial and industrial customers. The Stabiliti Series is available in two versions: dual port AC-DC bi-directional and multi-port AC-DC-DC bi-directional. Ideal Power’s John Merritt will be speaking on July 10 from 12-12.30 p.m. at the ‘‘Islands, Mini-Grids, Microgrids & Energy Storage’’ session. His talk will explain how solar-plus-storage systems can become microgrid-enabled with multi-port conversion technologies, creating energy resilience and reducing reliance on backup generators. Booth 8110.

JLM Energy: Patent-pending ‘microstorage’ technology

JLM Energy Phazr

Phazr, the first in JLM’s MicroStorage family of products, is mounted seamlessly behind the solar panel. Phazr is designed for large-scale, solar-plus-storage applications and is also perfectly suited for smaller residential and commercial installs. The simultaneous nature of electron flow is unique to JLM’s patent-pending technology. This is included in JLM’s energy technology bundle and is operated by Measurz software, which continually observes energy usage patterns and utilizes a variety of strategies to maintain a pre-set budget determined by the customer. Booth 8134.

Pika Energy: Partnership with Panasonic on solar smart battery


Panasonic Eco Solutions North America and U.S.-based inverter manufacturer Pika Energy Inc. are partnering to offer a DC-coupled solar smart battery — Harbor 10P/15P — that will begin shipping in late 2017 and is available for pre-order today. The solar-ready Harbor Smart Battery combines Panasonic’s Lithium-Ion battery modules and Pika Energy’s power electronics in a slim, floor-standing, wall-mounted enclosure to provides 10 kWh or 15 kWh of usable energy and up to 6.7 kW of continuous power. Booth 8318.

Preformed Line Products: Speeding up rail-less mounting

Preformed Line Products

Maneuvering mounting rails can be the most demanding part of installing rooftop solar modules. But now installers can avoid that — and mount modules faster and easier — with the POWER DISK rail-less mounting system from Preformed Line Products. POWER DISK is a unique roof attachment that can go anywhere on residential rooftops. It does not need to be secured to rafters. Install solar modules in four simple steps: 1. Snap chalk lines. 2. Mount POWER DISK bases anywhere on the roof deck. 3. Set solar modules in place. 4. Spin the disks to vertically adjust height to roof undulations. Booth 9449.

Quick Mount: New series for comp/asphalt shingle roofs

Quick Mount

Quick Mount PV engineered its patented Elevated Water Seal Technology into an integrated L-foot and flashing for cost-effective, super-fast, single-bolt installation with unparalleled waterproofing. The L-Mount Series comes in single- and double-slot options for maximum versatility and works with all leading racks. L-Mounts are designed for simple lag-bolt installation onto existing composition/asphalt shingle roofs. The L-Mount features a 9-in. by 12-in. aluminum flashing with alignment notches and rounded corners to easily slide under shingles and speed installation. No shingle cutting required. Like all Quick Mount PV products, the L-Mount meets or exceeds roofing industry best practices and comes with a 25-year warranty. Available in mill or black finish. Booth 9411.

RBI Solar: Ground mount, ballasted, roof mount and canopy solutions

RBI solar Logo

RBI Solar is one of the top turn-key solar mounting solutions suppliers in the United States for ground mount, ballasted landfills, roof mounts and canopy/carport structures. As a single-source provider for commercial and utility-scale PV projects, all responsibility for the design, engineering, manufacturing and installation of the most efficient PV Racking systems in the marketplace is completed in-house by the RBI Solar Team. Committed to providing value from conception to completion, RBI Solar’s customers receive cost-effective and durable racking solutions for each project site to aide in reducing the overall project costs. Booth L9008.

SimpliPhi: Plug-and-play storage

SimpliPhi - AccESS - 300 DPI

Developed in partnership with installers, SimpliPhi Power’s AccESS has been installed in a variety of locations, including a commercial “glamping” resort, Flying Flags, and is positioned for hundreds of residential installations in partnership with Civic Solar’s SGIP projects. The AccESS provides power security that is safe, reliable, non-hazardous and efficient. The fully integrated solution includes the SimpliPhi award-winning battery technology, Schneider Electric inverter charge controller, associated power electronics and overall system management. Pre-programmed software settings and performance monitoring complete the solution. Booth 8124.

Smappee Plus: New advanced energy monitoring

Smappee Plus

Now entering the U.S. solar market, Smappee Plus is the latest innovation from Smappee’s burgeoning energy monitoring solutions which have seen widespread adoption across Europe since 2012. The product combines Smappee’s patented NILM (Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring) technology with submetering clamps to measure real-time energy use from appliances throughout a user’s home including those with variable output or similar energy consumption patterns, giving previously undetectable transparency to energy use. Head to the Impress Lounge across the street from the Moscone Center for more info.

Solar-Log: Enhanced PV monitoring portal allows for more installer services

solar log pv monitoring

Solar-Log’s new WEB Enerest is an enhanced PV monitoring portal that works in combination with Solar-Log’s data loggers to offer better monitoring and more efficient optimization of solar power usage. The new Solar-Log WEB Enerest portal is available in three different service levels and price classes to respond even more precisely to the differing needs of individual customer groups. The most advanced XL package allows installers and service providers to centrally monitor their entire fleet from one portal. This premium version provides near real-time visualization of plant error messages which can be quickly evaluated and managed. The portal allows the operator to remotely configure the Solar-Log®device, customize the portal design, and define plant owners’ access to the yield and plant information. Automated reports, integrated weather data comparison and the option to combine several plants with one account are just some of the comprehensive functions. Booth 9121.

SunModo: Debuting new solar awnings to shield windows, generate energy

sunmodo awning

The concept is simple: Replace traditional metal and fabric awnings with solar-power-generating panels that provide necessary protection from the elements while also replacing traditional electricity usage. That concept is coming to the marketplace as the SunShield awning system. It is being introduced by SunModo, a company that makes durable, easy-to-install professional racking systems. The SunShield awning system features a durable triangular aluminum frame as structural truss; and expands to a 35-degree tilt angle once installed. This compact triangle frame design easily accommodates both 60 and 72 cell solar panels. What’s more, SunShield opens the awning industry to 30 percent tax credits and provides a substantial new canvas for solar power generation. Booth 9539.

Tabuchi America: Expanded storage capacity


Originally launched in the United States at Intersolar 2015, Tabuchi America is debuting the 2nd generation model of its Eco Intelligent Battery System (EIBS). Tabuchi’s all-in-one, easy-to-install system includes a 5.5-kW solar inverter and stackable 6-kWh lithium-ion batteries. The Tabuchi EIBS has the intelligence to maximize a homeowner’s savings in real time across different electricity tariffs. This DC-coupled system will meet advanced inverter requirements and will be 9540 compliant. Booth 8121.

Trojan Battery: AGM battery designed for solar installs

Trojan Battery

Trojan Battery Co. is launching a new line of maintenance-free, true deep-cycle absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries specifically designed for solar and other renewable energy applications. The new Trojan Solar AGM line is manufactured in the U.S. Offering a three-year warranty for stationary applications, and tested to an eight-year design life under IEC 61427 standard for solar batteries, this initial release includes a wide range of Trojan Solar AGM models. With its non-spillable design, the new Trojan Solar AGM batteries enable installers to customize the use and position of the batteries in customer applications. Booth 8128.

— Solar Builder magazine

Park-onomics: Best practices for constructing cost-effective carport projects

solar carport construction

One thing is for sure about carports: they stand out, both aesthetically and in the budget. A carport, more so than a ground-mount or rooftop system, is about making a statement. How big of a statement will be reflected in some significant increases in cost — but this shouldn’t affect the overall value proposition of a well executed carport project.

To start, a bare bones carport system will be about 80 cents per watt (compared to an ideal ground-mount system going in at 15 to 25 cents a watt). This low-cost system, according to C.J. Colavito, director of engineering at Standard Solar, will be an exposed galvanized steel structure with no raised collars, an 8-ft, 6-in. clearance and the lightest gauge material that’s still structurally sound, with no snow guards, no lighting, no decking and no water management. Those costs would include delivery, excavation, erection and module mounting. Additional structural and aesthetic choices will drive up costs — the more pimped out, the more costs will go up, reaching $1.50 per watt or more.

“From the top end carport to the bottom end could be double or triple the cost in dollars per watt,” he says.
These are all decisions dictated by the customer, many of whom love the curb appeal and functionality of a standout carport that really becomes an extension of the site’s design, building architecture and company branding. But there are several installation best practices that will improve the delivery and value of a carport project for your customer by reducing the chances of surprise cost escalations.

Getting deals done

Carports make a ton of sense in two areas in particular: 1) out west, where temperatures are high and shading can be just as valuable as electricity, and 2) the densely populated northeast where swaths of open land are all but gone or will cost a ton to acquire. Plus, local incentives can be a big driver. The Maryland Energy Administration, for example, has had a grant program in place for three years offering a certain dollars per watt for supporting deployment of parking canopy systems versus using up valuable green space.

Standard Solar is a full-service, vertically integrated developer, EPC and OM provider with aspirations to develop its own fund for financing projects. At the moment, the Standard team connects projects to financing through a network of partners they have worked with in the past. Colavito says the financiers they work with are more interested in the reputation of vendors and material suppliers than ever before, especially when it comes to a carport job.

“In the past, they didn’t even look at the stuff, but I think the financial industry in general has smartened up and changed and adjusted,” he says. “They are now asking about specific materials, equipment and suppliers, focusing on modules and inverters, and have dug a little bit into the mounting systems too, especially for carports.”

RBI Solar’s CP-P truss design holds up 1,776 solar panels at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. This 515-kW project is part of a Somerset County effort to provide renewable energy sources to businesses and residents.

RBI Solar’s CP-P truss design holds up 1,776 solar panels at the TD Bank Ballpark in Bridgewater, N.J. This 515-kW project is part of a Somerset County effort to provide renewable energy sources to businesses and residents.

Understand the soil

Soil conditions dictate so much about a carport project and can start to really drive up costs, which, again, can just not be afforded with an already costly investment. So, doing all you can to understand and adjust for soil conditions ahead of time is a big win.

Soils with 2,000-lbs-per-ft bearing pressure will only need 10-ft foundations at 3-ft diameter with rebar and concrete. But poor or rocky soil can get expensive very quickly.

“We had one with organic peat soil that had to go down like 25 ft, and we had to look at spread footers,” Colavito says. “Another we had to go down 17 ft because the first 5 ft was all fill and wasn’t stiff, good bearing soil for supporting.”

This is why Colavito strongly urged for spending more upfront for quality geotech reports — and a lot of them.
“We have determined that it makes more sense to spend more money on the geotech soil analysis up front to go deeper and have more borings and be more thorough with it than it does to bare bones it, get it cheap, get five to six borings for a parking lot and say that characterizes the geotech for the whole lot,” Colavito says. Standard Solar now makes sure to get multiple borings for each array canopy, which could be dozens of borings depending on project size. Consider one on each end of every canopy structure. “We have even talked about having one for every other foundation just to make sure we fully characterize the system.”

RELATED: Solar carports will spread across the country as costs decline 

Understand the lot

The layout of the parking lot is what it is and will dictate a lot of what does and doesn’t work about the project. Making an effort to know all you can about the site before installation will save you time, headaches and money.
RBI Solar has a carport solution and is seeing a steady flow of projects these days. In their experience, permitting often causes delays in startup. Site access and project phasing/scheduling are key to creating and maintaining a good work flow. Proper equipment to handle larger structural components is key as well.

RBI Solar says staying with consistent geographies can make design, engineering and materials more consistent and cost-effective. Making use of aisle or “T” structures is more cost-effective than perimeter or “L” structures, for example.

“A lot of parking lots are challenging due to existing configurations, but if more aisle structures can be used along with common geometry, then pricing can be better,” says Michael Slack, project manager and structural engineer with RBI Solar. “Also, consideration needs to be given for hitting parking stripes.  It can sometimes be more cost-effective if there is no restriction on hitting stripes. This allows for better optimization and use of materials as well as fewer foundations.”

A successful plan starts with understanding how the parking lot is used — are delivery trucks coming through? Where? What about garbage trucks driving in to empty dumpsters? Do you leave a lane uncovered and shrink the energy footprint of the system or adjust clearance to 14 ft? Also understand the local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) codes, and how it treats fire access lanes and access to the buildings.

Big reminder: Have a detailed survey and a private utility locator. The ground underneath a parking lot is a mine field of every service running to and fro around the parking lot and to the nearby buildings.

“We just did a project where there was a 36-in. gas pipeline running underneath our customer’s parking lot, and we were supposed to put a couple of array tables there — a couple hundred kW — and we had to eliminate it,” Colavito says. He recommends coordinating your foundations and layout with some cushion, a foot or so from every obstruction, within reason, if you can.

The value of structures

This leads right into the structure chosen for the project. Designing the system to have some cushion and adjustability will require a structure that allows for that on-the-fly flexibility.

Slack says RBI Solar’s carport solutions are flexible and cost efficient. Along with its in-house design and engineering, they help contractors evaluate site layouts and develop a solution that is most efficient for the project.

“We optimize our structural design to manage not only structure costs, but overall project costs, which is key to a successful installation,” Slack says. “Our structures do not require field welding and are shipped ready to erect and bolt together in the field. Our installation crews and in-house project management are there to ensure successful construction of the carport structure.

Another solution that can help minimize costs for certain projects is a structure with longer spans. Most posts are 20 to 30 ft apart, so about every other parking space, but some longer span systems can go about 40 to 50 ft.

Be sure to work with a supplier you can trust and closely manage construction. Colavito notes that an underrated part of carport aesthetics is quality workmanship. How well are modules mounted? Are they aligned? Any novice can look up getting out of their car and notice weird alignment issues, or a bunch of sloppy-looking wire hanging everywhere and just assume someone messed up. Suddenly, this multimillion-dollar project looks like it was slapped together.

“Aesthetics do run the full range depending on options, but you can make the base model stuff look pretty good,” Colavito says.

Chris Crowell is the managing editor of Solar Builder.

— Solar Builder magazine

Next-gen ground-mount solution from RBI Solar makes its debut

RBI Solar recently unveiled its latest solar racking system, the RBI Solar next generation ground mount solution, after it achieved ETL Classification from Intertek to UL Standard 2703. This new model underwent a rigorous testing regimen for bonding and grounding to pass the UL 2703 Standard, which became effective on July 28, 2016.

The RBI Solar next generation ground mount solution was specifically designed to make solar installation more affordable for commercial and utility-scale PV projects. New innovations to the solar racking system include a wider selection of component parts, including an economical upright post and top chord engineered to bear the load while using less steel. Without sacrificing strength where strength is needed, this new system also reduces costs by incorporating a more streamlined production process.

This new ground mount solution has multiple foundation designs to be compatible with a variety of site-specific soil and ground conditions. Structural components are also available to match wind and snow loads. All of these innovations are focused on reducing the overall cost of the racking system. The RBI Solar next generation ground mount solution is manufactured at one of the company’s five locations and will begin shipping at the start of the second quarter of 2016.

RELATED: SPI Preview: Four fixed-tilt mounting products to see 

As more building officials, jurisdictions and inspectors become aware of UL 2703, solar racking system compliance has become essential for developers and EPC contractors. RBI Solar continuously tests for UL bonding and grounding compliance with different PV module manufacturers. This commitment to testing enables RBI Solar’s customers to have confidence that the racking solutions they provide meet the codes and standard requirements even in the jurisdictions with highly stringent plan review processes.

“We’re really excited about the potential of the RBI Solar next generation ground mount solution for our customers,” said Bill Vietas, General Manager at RBI Solar. “The advancements to this system are going to provide even better return on investment for solar systems.”

— Solar Builder magazine