Fresh eyes are valuable every now and then. That was the position New York Manufacturing found itself in when it was approached by a large building products company to assist with its wire management needs. Their solar installations were continually plagued by one common theme: wire management. Like many other solar companies before them, their only choice was to manage wire using PVC cable trays or an extremely labor intensive EMT conduit. PVC can become brittle in a strong UV environment and it’s also a liability in fire prevention scenarios. Surely there was something better.
New York Manufacturing actively sought out feedback from dozens of solar installers, electricians and roofing experts. Based on the industry’s input, the company started to piece together a solution. The number one feature sought out was the ability to have an open tray, drop-in system. While electricians and installers love their job, they do not enjoy the hurdles of pulling wires. Electricians also expressed a need to armor wires from damage whether it be physical, weather or pesky rodents.
The result of these conversations was, Solar Raceway, has grown to become a complete wire management solution for the solar industry. Let’s look and see how it addresses the issues.
Pop the top off
So, something tough that both protects wires and doesn’t require wire pulling. It sounds like a bad riddle but after seeing Solar Raceway, the solution seems obvious.
The material choice was easy. To hold up in the wide variety of environments and elements that PV systems are exposed to, anodized aluminum extrusion was the best choice — a material with a high salt rating that is light weight and recyclable that will last years past the life expectancy of the modules themselves.
With Solar Raceway, the only bill of material items needed are the base, the bottom tray and the cover. Each component is designed to snap and lock into each other. Once the base is attached you would then snap the bottom tray into position. Now it’s time to drop your wires in and snap the top cover in place. Done.
The closed system is secure, while offering protection from the elements and rodents, but the top can be quickly removed for maintenance access. Picture an installer snapping in the trays, laying out the wiring of the entire system, testing everything and then snapping in the covers as a final step. Even if you don’t wait until the end, or find a connector issue down the road, the covers can be popped off to address any issues.
Versatility is another key benefit of the system. “We wanted it to be designed so that it can go up a wall vertically,” says Sal Anselmo, president of Solar Raceway. “We have a slot within the raceway in which the supplied wire retainer clips can be located, so you can take it from the roof, go off a rise area and continue, even install it upside down.”
The tough exterior doesn’t mean rigidity. Chad Carta, COO of Solar Raceway, says the Raceway comes in three sizes (1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 in.), two lengths (8 and 12 ft) and is agnostic to racking and module selection. So, there are many options in terms of layout. The size will depend on how you are using the raceway and what fill ratio will be needed. The 1.5-in. size was launched this year and came about due to a demand from smaller arrays and cross-between. On the other end, if you need 5 in. of diameter, two systems can be run side by side to accommodate that need.
“Some installers use it as a pure conduit replacement because they are tired of pulling wires and run it all the way down the back of the array,” Carta says. “Or some use a larger size and run perpendicular to the array where all of the wires that clipped on the backside of the panel feed to one central tray that will run back to the inverter.”
The Solar Raceway is already moving beyond rooftops. One no-brainer segment is carports if for no other reason than the aesthetics and how easy it is to install upside down. But it’s also finding a home in ground-mount systems.
“We’ve been surprised by the interest in ground mount applications,” Carta says. “These are projects that need to meet certain codes depending on the state or village, and they don’t like hanging wires or leaving them unprotected. This system protects the wires, so they don’t have to put a fence around the site. We were able to reduce the wire management for a large ground-mount system by 50 percent — run right down the middle, tied in with the rubber grommets and then just a short lead from the J-boxes.”
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— Solar Builder magazine