How to Secure Solar Panels Against Environmental Forces
Technological advances have turned solar power into a viable alternative energy source on both the individual and industrial level. People everywhere are discovering that the installation of solar panels on their homes can significantly diminish their carbon footprint and slash domestic energy bills. But making large-scale solar energy generation a reality presents more of a challenge.
Obviously, the cost of “solar fields” is significantly higher, while the logistics of large-scale energy transmission and storage are, to put it mildly, complex. However, one of the most persistent and unexpected challenges is attempting to secure and stabilize large numbers of panels.
Even in sun-rich states like Arizona, solar panels are subjected to a lot of environmental abuse. Strong storms and flying debris can cause huge amounts of damage, and when wind speeds increase, these panels are as vulnerable as any other freestanding structure. Keeping these pieces firmly rooted into the surface ensures they can stay upright and serve their purpose.
Use Helical Piles to Keep Your Panels in Place
Considering that, this year alone, the U.S. solar market is expected to grow by 119 percent, the need is immediate for a universally viable and scalable solution to secure solar panels. Contractors notice the trend, too. Using helical piles as the foundation for solar panel structures can safeguards this expensive equipment against the most common and severe environmental threats.
Here’s how installing helical piles can keep your panels where they’re supposed to be:
- Strengthens the panel against uplift: A helical pile is essentially a long pipe with regularly spaced helixes that is driven deep into the ground and attached securely to the solar panel. Unlike most driven pipe and I-beam piles, helical piles can withstand uplift forces due to expanding soil or uplift due to wind because the helixes keep it fixed firmly in place.
- Shorter lengths will cut down on costs: Because helical piles develop their load capacity via bearing on the helix plates, they don’t need to be as long as other types of driven piles. That makes them less expensive and easier to install, while still providing the performance and the assurance engineers and installers require.
- Easier to remove:On average, solar arrays have a life span of only 20 to 25 years. Therefore, if solar panels are to be the power source of the future, moving arrays from one site to another is going to become a regular occurrence.
Helical piles can be “unscrewed” from the ground and either reused or recycled. This is impossible to do with a concrete drilled-shaft foundation, which only elevates the long-term cost of generating solar power.
- Easy to install in small spaces:Harnessing the power of the sun can be done with a large network of smaller arrays to power entire neighborhoods, campuses, or business districts.
Helical piles are uniquely suited to these smaller arrays because the cost and installation burden is minimal when compared to the alternatives. Solar energy initiatives that generate less than 1 megawatt can still take advantage of the structural security helical piles bring to larger arrays.
Mounting solar panels on helical piles is not a developing strategy. It has already been tested, refined, and implemented on solar arrays across the country and the world. Time and experience shows this approach mitigates the hazards of the weather while optimizing the installation and maintenance process.
To learn a lot more about helical piles, contact an expert at Hubbell Power Systems, Inc.
Gary L. Seider, P.E., is engineering manager of Hubbell/CHANCE® civil and utility helical products. Hubbell Power Systems manufactures a wide array of transmission, distribution, substation, OEM, and telecommunication products used by utilities.
With four U.S. patents and more than 40 years of industry experience, Seider oversees the company’s civil construction and utility application/project engineering staff. His team assists owners, engineers, and contractors with technical assistance, guidance, and recommendations for the proper use of CHANCE helical anchors and piles and Atlas Resistance® products.