New Solar Carport Design Allows 72 Panels To Be Installed In One Day

solar carpark

Don’t you wish rooftop solar was this easy? 72 panels installed in a day.

This is cool: PVDynamics in South Australia has come up with a fast, low-labour way to put solar panel roofs on outdoor structures such as pergolas and car parks.

Installer Corey Evans of Exceed Solar (a SolarQuotes client) sent us the video below of the car park installation he put together using the PVDynamics system.

Architect and director of PVDynamics, Andrew Ferris, took the time to talk to SolarQuotes about the company’s invention.

Ferris told us the “big idea” in the company’s Series 100 solar roofing system was to create a shade structure that can pay for itself over time.

At the same time, he said, while solar power technology – the panels and the inverters – keep getting cheaper over time, labour gets more expensive. So PVDynamics wanted to streamline the installation.

“Normally solar panels are taken to a location, positioned on an installation, and hand-clamped onto the framework individually,” he said.

That process requires a lot of handling, and a lot of attention to individual panels.

“It’s also difficult – to clamp the panels into position, you have to lean over the panels to reach the clamp.”

Often in such structures, you end up with installers “sitting more on the panels and walking up and down the panels”. This can crack the panels, often invisibly to the naked eye, and Ferris said manufacturers don’t respond well to a warranty claim when you send back a failed panel that has a boot-print on it!

“In our system, you slide the panels into the rails from one location. It could be three panels or six – we’ve done a structure of three two-metre panels, it was very easy.

 

“The panels slide into position, and the clamping mechanism is operated from underneath the rail. Everything is done from underneath the rail.”

Alas, since the installer works from underneath the structure, the PVDynamics system isn’t suitable for the rooftop PV market – but even so, there’s a potential for household applications in carports and pergolas.

As well as reducing the labour required to install panels on a structure, Ferris said the company’s three years of development work also focused on cable management and waterproofing.

“We have a cable management system built-in, a series of clips that clip into our rails, so you don’t need a screwdriver. It’s all trying to make the installation much faster.”

In tipping us off to the story, Exceed Solar’s Corey Evans stated:

“it’s a really good system, it took two of my guys one day to install 72 panels. They just slot in – to me, it seemed really quick, really easy.”

Evans said the speed and ease of installation makes the system highly scalable for the installer.

PVDynamics also thought about lighting, Ferris said:

“We have incorporated into our railing system LED lighting, with polycarbonate cover strips – so if the customer wants lighting, it can be included.”

At this stage, only a handful of installs are complete, so each job is pretty bespoke; but Ferris stated ultimately the aim is to turn the system into mass-producible kits.

“The rail itself is made in Australia – we have one piece that has come from China, but we can easily get it made here. All the extrusions are done in Australia … and we’re looking to export.”

I asked about wind loading, because that’s a big challenge for any outdoor structure.

Ferris said PVDynamics hired Arup to engineer the product, and that the roofing system is engineered (and has been tested) to survive in cyclonic regions.

In the commercial application, Ferris said, there’s another advantage over just having solar panels on the roof of a building.

“These are a very visible sustainability statement”, he said. “If you put something on the roof, it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

In, for example, a Bunnings car park, the owner’s intentions are much clearer to its customers.

“And because they’re waterproof, you have the option to collect the water as well … it gives architects and designers the tools to incorporate solar into a building process, in a way that would add value to the design.”

About Richard Chirgwin

Richard Chirgwin is a journalist with more than 30 years' experience covering a wide range of technology topics, including electronics, telecommunications, computing and science.

Comments

  1. Hi Richard – do you know what panel’s they’re using that don’t have the white backing?

  2. Why didn’t we think of this!, oh hang on we did.
    Great to see people copying our ideas.
    A crew of 3 can install 325 modules per day with our EcoPort System.
    Will be interested to know the $/W installed price.

  3. this is a great idea.
    The support rails are probably a little more expensive than others but speed but ease and speed of installation should compensate.
    The system could probably be adapted to roof tops by turning the rails upside down and fastening from the top and one side. If that isn’t feasible, a redesign of the fastening system to allow it to be done from one side would be needed.,

  4. Michael Linkenheil says

    Well DUH! Was it not suggested on this blog some YEARS ago that the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of setting up an array ANYWHERE was to use recycled scaffolding YES! IT WAS! By me!
    (and let’s not forget the ‘variation on a theme’ depicted in a newsclip found on Google under ‘Calamity Jill’. THAT set-up has been there for about THIRTY years! (Along with an ingenious water-pump on a par with a hydraulic ram , though it pumps to higher heads.)
    …….. WAKE UP AUSTRALIA!!

  5. Michael Linkenheil says

    …. as for ‘wind-loading’, consider 450Watts of panels mounted on a minibus doodling down the highway at up to 150 kmh. Most of what are treated as problems by the bean-counters aren’t.

  6. Liz Harris says

    Solar shade like this will become more and more needed as climate change makes parking out in the sun less popular, therefore killing two birds with one stone. Huge potential in a hot sunny country like Australia.

  7. The panels go on in a day, but on a solar carpark those poles are 2M deep – with council permits, concrete , cages and excavation – that’s where the time is.
    We build solar carparks also – a bit different – enclosed structures to keep the birds out- the public love them and the business gets to provide shade for free. This series 100 system Richard has come across- looks good. I hope more businesses take the plunge into the solar carpark space – it pays off

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