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

Case study: How Solar Gain chose the rail-less mounting for a 630-MW commercial project

Solar Gain’s Vice President of Commercial Operations Tim Graunke was looking for a new rooftop mounting solution at the 2016 Intersolar Conference in San Francisco.

“We were about two months away from starting a major project,” Tim said.

In the weeks following InterSolar, Graunke worked with Roof Tech Sales Director Tim Vaughn to finalize a contract. By early September 2016, Solar Gain began using RT E Mount AIR to install an extensive 630-kW system at WorldMark Windsor Resort, a 10-acre vacation ownership property operated by Wyndham Worldwide Corporation in Sonoma County, California.

Roof Tech E Mount Air

The project has nine three-story buildings housing its timeshare units, all with asphalt shingle roofing at varying angles, a fact that made it all the more obvious to choose a rail-less mounting solution.

Between September and late December, when the project was completed, Vaughn continued to be the main point person for Solar Gain, but Roof Tech’s Business Development Manager, Milton Nogueira, also played a big role.

“Milton visited the Windsor project numerous times over those four months to provide us with on-site tech support and guidance,” said Graunke. “All our questions were answered quickly, and overall we had a totally positive experience working with Roof Tech.”

The system experienced a severe weather test early on. “When we began the project last September, California had been in a five-year drought,” he explained, “but over the following months, Sonoma County was hit with record amounts of rainfall.”

Graunke noted that previously, Solar Gain had always used flashing that slides between roof shingles. “That can sometimes compromise the integrity of the roof,” he explained, “but we did our due diligence and felt confident that Roof Tech’s butyl rubber flashing was the right way to go.”

Solar Gain Project Manager Max Chellemi concurred. “Once you install RT E Mount AIR, it’s completely watertight,” he said. “There were times when those rooftops had to be left with only the mounting hardware and no PV panels, but we didn’t have a single leak.”

Mounting with butyl rubber: How Roof Tech gets a leak-proof seal

— Solar Builder magazine

We look at the pros and cons of rail and rail-less PV mounting systems

Quick Mount PV’s E-Mount Lag

Photo: Quick Mount PV’s E-Mount Lag

Should you go with a rail or rail-less PV mounting system on your next installation? Depending on who you ask, you will get strong opinions for both. I liken the choice to dieting. Don’t eat meat! Actually, don’t eat carbs! No, it’s sugar that’s the killer! Milk is bad! You need milk!

The commonality here, at least to me, is everyone is right, and no one is right. What works for one person or project may not work for another, and maybe the answer is a little bit of all of the above. The real key is knowing what you need, what you prefer and the attributes of your available choices.

All systems have their pluses and minuses, and depending on the job at hand or your business plan, either could be the right solution for you and your customers. So, when, where and why would you go in one direction or another?

Reasons for Rails

For starters, it is easier to start. Rails involve a lower learning curve. You can get a crew trained on system installation fairly quick, and part of the reason for this is a more forgiving layout. SunModo, which offers all types of systems, says that on a straight-forward roof, your layout time is reduced.

“Our railed systems are flexible to accommodate complicated roof conditions and crooked roofs,” says Stella Sun, marketing director for SunModo. Its EZ Roof Mount can accommodate both rafter and decking applications.

The most ideal applications, according to Jason Xie, president at Magerack, is a large, simple array layout or a crooked roof. “A roof with a lot of obstacles — vents, stack, etc. — can present issues,” Xie says.

Look for low to moderately pitched roof applications in the 8 to 44 degrees range. Railed systems will require more engineering on steep slope pitched roof applications, 45 degrees or greater, according to SunModo.

“All rackless systems don’t use rails. That’s a time savings, but if the number of attachments is higher, if the parts costs are higher, or if there are still fiddly little parts that need adjustment, the overall costs are higher — not lower,” says Barry Cinnamon, founder of Spice Solar. “Installers should carefully account for all parts, including roof attachments.”

Some of the benefits aren’t inherent in the general rail system, but have been built in to select products. PV Racking, for example, has eliminated the need for clamps on the roof, which increases the speed of installation and save 20 to 30 percent in labor time. Its elongated L-Foot allows for faster and easier rail alignment too.

Reasons to Share

Shared rail solutions use rail to hold the modules in place, but reduce components elsewhere, such as mid and end clamps. As Shane Shamoo, president of Solar Speedrack, explains it, shared rail systems cover the entire side of the module, and the module frame becomes “bonded” to the rails and reduces the strain on the module.

“Because the rails are shared, a two-up installation would require only three rails as compared to four for a standard mid and end clamp system,” he says. This provides its own unique nimbleness for either landscape or portrait installations on all roof types. Shared rail also requires fewer roof penetrations, lessening the potential of a “floating” penetration.

SunModo says shared rail is great when modules are in landscape and the rail has to be run E-W and you cannot clamp to the short sides of the module, or when the rail has to be run N-S and the module must be in portrait. Less than ideal shared rail applications would be those with sagging trusses, uneven shingles, uneven roof framing or any other situation that would cause difficulty creating perfectly level rows of rail.

“Since we offer a shared rail system that does not require clamps, the first rail automatically aligns the first row of panels, which eliminates the need to straighten panels and speeds up the installation,” says Devin Paris of PV Racking’s shared rail system. Some systems come with rail spacers to allow for fast and easy spacing between the rails, eliminating the need to pull a measurement between each rail.

Reasons for Rail-less

As you might expect, the benefits of a rail-less solution come from not having rails. I know, I really blew the cover off that one, but it’s worth understanding those benefits: Rail-less products are compact, easy to handle and cheaper to ship.

“A rail-less system provides the suppliers the opportunity to cut manufacturing and shipping costs, and the installers are limiting time on the roof with fewer components to handle and install,” SunModo noted.
Milton Nogueira, business development manager with Roof Tech, notes that it is easier to handle any increments of PV modules, which also opens up more possibilities such as any pitched roof top with asphalt roofing, roofs with less space or roofs with lots of obstacles.

Rail-less mounting can be much quicker, but installers must know what they are doing as there can be a steeper learning curve.

Rail-less is also good for mounting in landscape, but less ideal for portrait orientation, says SunModo. Xie recommends avoiding rail-less on crooked roofs, higher wind areas and tile roofs. Nogueira says he would avoid discrepant roof surfaces with variations over 1 in. You’ll always want to consider the extra attachment points you are adding — the more attachment points, the lower the point load and the less impact on the attachment due to thermal contraction and expansion.

 

System Profiles: Residential Rooftop

SunModo Sundock Rail-free anchor system

SunModo Sundock Rail-free anchor systemThe SUNDOCK Rail-free system offers universal end and mid clamps, which reduce inventory, and allows for snapping in the downslope panel edge as installers work their way up the roof. This means no more reaching over modules to tighten the mid clamps. Finally, the system offers post-module assembly leveling for height adjustments after the modules are installed.

  • Material: Aluminum and stainless steel
  • Flashing included? Yes
  • Certifications: UL 2703 (Pending)
  • Warranty: 20-year

Roof Tech’s E Mount AIR (Gen II)

Roof Tech’s E Mount AIR (Gen II)The E Mount AIR Gen II, has improved features from its predecessor such as IBC 2015 and IRC 2015 compliance, increased warranty terms, fewer parts count, preassembled clamp kit, higher level of adjustability, PE stamped letters and an integrated flashing system. They are fastened with wood screws for direct deck attachment. Roof Tech systems are 100 percent weatherproof certified by the International Code Council Evaluation Services for durability and water resistance and can be installed in about half the time when compared to a conventional lag/rail system, according to the company.

  • Material: Anodized aluminum
  • Flashing included? Yes
  • Certifications: UL 2703, ASTM 2140, ICC ESR-3575
  • Warranty: 20-year

PV Racking’s PV Stealth

PV Racking’s PV StealthPV Stealth is designed with ease and flexibility in mind. Its “clamp-free” design allows for a faster installation of panels, fewer parts and vertical and horizontal adjustability. The big pitch from PV Racking is to remove clamps from the equation and simply lay your panels into place.

  • Material: 6000 series aluminum
  • Flashing included? Optional
  • Certifications: CSA UL 2703
  • Warranty: 15-year

Everest’s CrossRail Shared Rail System

Everest’s CrossRail Shared Rail SystemCrossRail Shared Rail uses fewer rail resulting in fewer roof attachments. This means you can save money on labor, material and reduce time on the roof. To simplify installation, its Slider Kit provides North-South adjustability for easy module alignment. In addition, its structural Rail Connectors allows for safe and quick preassembly of rails on the ground. As an integrated grounding system, CrossRail Shared Rail only requires one lug per sub-array.

  • Material: Aluminum, stainlesssteel hardware
  • Flashing included? With EverFlash Kits
  • Certifications: UL listed
  • Warranty: 12-year

Solar Speedrack’s HRS160 Hybrid Racking System

Solar Speedrack’s HRS160 Hybrid Racking System The HRS160 Hybrid Racking design allows the installer to mount the rails in standard or shared rail configurations. This paired with its Solar SpeedFoot, a non-penetrating solar roof mount, yields increased savings on solar installations. The Solar SpeedRack focus is fewer roof penetrations and reduced components for faster install times.

  • Material: Various materials
  • Flashing included? Optional
  • Certifications: UL 2703, UL 1703, PE Certified
  • Warranty: 20-year limited

MageMount Rail-less Solar Mounting System

MageMount Rail-less Solar Mounting SystemThis system has separate components for module connections and roof attachments. The roof attachment solutions cover all roof types including composition shingle roof, tile roof, stone-coated steel tile roof, etc. All mounting components, including roof attachments, are self-bonded and grounded with one grounding lug. The system is flexible, making it easy to adjust the roof attachments’ lateral position and module height.

  • Material: Aluminum alloy, stainless steel
  • Flashing included? Yes
  • Certifications: UL 2703 and Class A Fire Rating
  • Warranty: 25-year limited

— Solar Builder magazine

Distributor point of view: Border States discusses benefits of Roof Tech’s rail-less system

As product manager for clean energy products for Border State’s southeast region, Jim Woods is the appointed champion for growing the company’s solar business. During his 17 years with Shealy Electrical Wholesalers before its 2016 merger with Border States, Woods had gained considerable experience working with residential and commercial solar customers. In fact, he spent his last six years at Shealy as director of clean energy.

“My job at Border States is to support our existing sales force in the field,” explained Woods. “About half of our business is with residential customers, with the remaining market split between utility and commercial clients.”

Border States was founded in 1952 with a primary focus on the electric utility industry. Headquartered in Fargo, North Dakota, the company currently supplies products and services to a wide range of construction, industrial, and utility customers. Border States also distributes solar inverters, panels, modules, and accessories for all phases of renewable energy projects. Today, Border States is one of the nation’s largest employee-owned companies, with more than 2,200 employee-owners and 97 branches in 18 states. In August 2016, Border States acquired Shealy Electrical Wholesalers, expanding its reach to include 17 additional branches across North and South Carolina.

As is the case with so many solar distributors, Border States had previously sold mostly railed mounting systems to their solar installers. But since discovering the benefits of rail-less systems, Woods has eagerly introduced his customers to RT E Mount AIR.

“With Roof Tech, it’s so much easier to transport the parts to our installers because they’re so compact. It’s not easy to get 20’ rails down the road on a truck!” he said. “We get the product delivered faster, and the speed of installation is a huge benefit. We focus on the quality of our customers’ experience, and if we can save them time, it makes us the heroes.”

Woods noted that even the old timers who used to insist on “railed systems or nothing” are taking another look at the benefits of rail-less mounting solutions. “At first they claim that it’s never going to work,” he said. “But once they see how much faster and easier a job goes with RT E Mount AIR, they understand that rail-less systems can really save them time and trouble.”

Woods added that RT E Mount AIR now makes up about 50 percent of Border States’ mounting system sales.

 

— Solar Builder magazine

Case study of Roof Tech rail-less mounting staying strong through hurricane season

Roof Tech E Mount Air

Solarize Financial was founded in late 2014 and operates from its headquarters in Mount Pleasant, S.C., just outside Charleston. After working with a nationwide solar provider for many years, Petersen believed he could provide a more individualized experience for customers ready to make this important lifestyle change.

Today, Solarize serves both residential and commercial customers throughout the Carolinas. All services are provided by their in-house team, which uses a proprietary engineering process to tailor PV systems to each job. His team works to provide transparency throughout the project, and encourages open communication as the key to providing the best solar experience in the marketplace.

In Solarize’s territory, hurricanes and wind force are huge concerns, which made Steven Petersen, project director of Solarize Financial, shy away from rail-less mounting for awhile.

“Initially, I thought Roof Tech RT E Mount AIR couldn’t possibly be as strong as railed systems,” he says. “But the first time I used it, it became clear that E Mount AIR is far less intrusive on the roof, and doesn’t compromise the integrity of the roof the way railed systems can.”

In the fall of 2016, Petersen had occasion to appreciate the real strength of E Mount AIR when a major meteorological event affected his region.

RELATED: How are solar trackers holding up in hurricane season? NEXTracker sends an update 

Staying strong in the face of Hurricane Matthew

Tropical Storm Matthew formed near the Windward Islands in late September 2016 and soon became a Category 5 hurricane. Matthew went on to leave a path of destruction and the coastal areas of North and South Carolina were especially hard hit. Although Matthew was downgraded to a Category 1 by the time it made landfall on the coast of South Carolina on October 8th, high winds and storm surges caused major damage across the region. Petersen remembers that day well.

“Wind gusts were well over 100 miles per hour,” he recalled. “Anyone in the business of installing PV systems had real cause for alarm.”

By that time, Solarize Financial had installed RT E Mount AIR on about 200 homes – about 1.5 megawatts in all. “Every panel installed using E Mount AIR stayed securely in place during Matthew,” he said. “Not one of those homeowners had a single problem with their PV system. It was really impressive.”

Now Roof Tech is part of every Solarize Financial proposal package.

“I’m very confident in our bids, and our engineering always exceed the customer’s expectations,” he explained. “Now every proposal includes an eight-page piece on Roof Tech products, so that customers can learn for themselves why rail-less PV systems are often preferable to railed systems for residential projects.”

Even before deciding to close with Solarize, customers are given the advantage of a proprietary process to design the perfect PV system for their home, completely complementary.

“We provide schematics that show every part of the system, from inverters and panels to mounting hardware,” he said. “Then we prepare two simulations using our advanced software system.”

RELATED: Mounting with butyl rubber: How Roof Tech gets a leak-proof seal 

Keeping up with demand in a growing solar market

Petersen explained that South Carolina was fairly late in embracing the benefits of solar, but is moving quickly to catch up. “In terms of incentives, our state went from being number 50 among U.S. states to being in the top five,” he said. “Now, the market is growing exponentially.” As he looks ahead, Petersen is confident he’ll continue to use Roof Tech products. “E Mount AIR is faster to install, less expensive, and far more esthetic on the roof. I may have been skeptical at first, but now I’m definitely a believer.”

 

— Solar Builder magazine