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Avoiding pitfalls in rooftops

Vinay Goyal, Apr 21 2017, 0:05 IST
prerequisite Before installing, developers must have a strong familiarity with wire management plans.

prerequisite Before installing, developers must have a strong familiarity with wire management plans.

Installing a ballast-based rooftop system may look easy at the outset, but needs a thorough understanding of the technical aspects such as stability, orientation and load-bearing capacity of the structures while installing.

While solar rooftop installations have been growing at a rapid pace in the country (at a compounded annual growth rate of 90%), it is important to be aware of the best practices to be followed when installing a rooftop ballast-based solar system, to avoid any major accident, especially during thunderstorms. Some common mistakes developers or customers make during installations are:

Load not placed as per design


The age and height of a building will reveal the load-bearing capacity of the ballast to be placed on the structures. When the design of the structure is not considered while placing ballast load, it will lead to roof damage or easy elevation of the panels by wind. Improper load placement of ballast on the structures creates tilting and instability of the structures. Uneven
distribution of load per square feet of area of the roof can cause roof to collapse.

Design changes not considered during installationInitial design of the structure is one of the most critical parts of a project. Project designers try to create designs that increase energy output and keep lower project costs. However, when the initial design is not considered. It leads tol Misalignment of the structures with respect to direction, further leading to reduction in power generation.
Improper placement of the structure in terms of degree and tilt angle, which again, leads to low power generation.

Not accounting for wind dynamics

Mostly, developers oversee the wind factor while installation of a ballast type structure. Based on the location and the geometry of the building, the height and total exposure of the system, wind factor should be considered. Both sustainable wind speed and high wind speed should be evaluated while installing. Flaws can lead tol Instability of the installed structure, leading to lower power generation.

Breakage of structure or photovoltaic modules during high winds.l Improper ballast and structure ratio, which impacts the stability of the system and can get elevated during thunderstorms.

Improper wire management

In order to complete projects quickly, developers tend to leave behind wires without any proper routing. This often leads to l Cables getting pinched between mounting structures and the panels getting exposed to the metal edges.
Cables getting short circuited when they come in contact with water.l Power loss due to loose connections or faulty wiring.Roof drainage system not in placeGradient areas around the walls help standing water to drain during rainy season. Most of the time, the installers do not consider these changes, which causes drainage issues on the roof and eventually leads to
Higher risk of corrosion of the structure.

Increases the risk of leakages on the roof.Growth of small plants and moss, which affects the power generation.

Once the solar structure has been installed, it becomes difficult to repair a roof with drainage issues. Hence, it is best to address and tackle these issues prior to the installation.

Not having a maintenance planFor optimal usage and output, basic maintenance and inspections is essential. Installers should also to make sure that rooftops remain in good condition. The panels should not be covered in dust, or be sitting in a pool of stagnant water. Also, they must ensure all penetrations made when mounting racks and panels are properly sealed. Therefore, for a proper return on investment and to avoid such issues, regular maintenance of solar rooftop structures and solar panels is mandatory.

To ensure successful installation of a ballast type rooftop system, it is recommended that installers/developers and customers should discuss rooftop conditions including design and roof drains. Before installing, developers must have a strong familiarity with wire management plans, and also provide roof replacement and repairs, and follow up maintenance services. With greater integration of clean energy in our lives, there is an increased need to use the right techniques to draw optimal output out of these highly efficient solar systems.

(The author is CEO, GangesInternationale)

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