Spray Polyurethane Foam and Photovoltaic Roofing Systems

Spray polyurethane foam and photovoltaic systems are increasingly utilized together as
a joint solution for energy savings. With the continued push toward sustainability and growing
movements, like net-zero-energy construction, SPF and PV systems are a logical combined solution for the generation of renewable energy, the conservation of heating and cooling energy, and the elimination of the structure’s dependence on fossil-fuel-consuming electricity sources. Regardless of whether net-zero energy is the end goal, SPF and PV combined in roofing can be quite effective for many structures. Here are some considerations when looking to join these two powerful systems on the roof of a building.

ROOFTOP PV INSTALLATION TYPES FOR USE WITH SPF

Installation of PV systems on SPF roofing will inevitably create additional foot traffic. It is important to protect heavily trafficked areas with additional coating and granules or walk pads.

Installation of PV systems on SPF roofing will inevitably create additional foot traffic. It is important to protect heavily trafficked areas with additional coating and granules or walk pads.


Rooftop PV systems can vary significantly in size. Large-footprint buildings can employ PV systems rated from 50 kilowatts to 1,000 kW or larger while residential rooftop PV systems are commonly 3 kW to 5 kW.

Rooftop PV systems may be installed on racks or adhered directly to the roof surface. When looking to combine PV with SPF, it is generally not advised to adhere or place the PV panels directly onto the roof surface. Solar heat and water can accumulate between the PV and roof coating which could negatively impact coating performance. Moreover, panels applied directly to a low-slope roof will not be properly aligned with the sun to achieve optimal performance.

Non-penetrating rack systems may be placed directly on a rooftop and held in place with ballast. Racks may also be installed with penetrating supports that require flashings. Each type provides advantages and disadvantages. For example, ballasted racks may block water flow and affect drainage while penetrations require leak- and maintenance-prone flashings. SPF is unique in that it easily self-flashes around penetrating supports.

PV EXPLANATION

PV cells are the basic unit used to convert light to electricity. Many PV cells are bundled together to make a PV panel, or module. PV panels are grouped electrically to create a PV string. Depending on the system size, two or more strings are combined to create a PV array.

The dominant type of PV panel used with SPF roofing is cSi, or crystalline silicon. cSi is a typically rigid panel with a glass and metal frame and may be applied, unlike other dominant PV panel types, via rack installation methods.

A PV system includes many components in addition to the panels. Components include racks, rails, rooftop attachment devices, grounding systems, wiring and wiring harnesses, combiner boxes, inverter(s) and connection to the main electrical panel. Components may also include control modules and storage batteries for off-grid PV system installations.

ELECTRICAL SAFETY

Photovoltaic panels must be handled and maintained with caution. Electricity is produced when a single panel is exposed to light; however, because a panel is not part of a circuit, that electricity will not flow until the circuit is complete. A worker may complete the circuit by connecting the two wires from the backside of a PV panel.

When maintaining a PV system, it may become necessary at some point to disconnect or remove an individual panel from a string or an array. The whole system must be shutdown properly as a precautionary measure to prevent shocks from occurring to workers and arcing between electrical connections. This “shutdown” procedure must be followed with precision as part of a lock-out/tag-out program. This procedure is provided by the inverter manufacturer. Under no circumstances should SPF contractors ever disconnect or decommission a PV panel or system unless they are trained and qualified to do so.

HEAT BUILDUP

Photovoltaic panels convert approximately 15 to 20 percent of light to electricity, leaving the remaining unconverted energy to be released as heat. Additionally, PV panels are more effective when their temperature drops. It is for these reasons that the majority of rooftop PV systems are installed to encourage airflow under panels, which reduces the temperature of the panels, improves conversion efficiency and releases heat effectively. Photovoltaic panels installed 4 to 5 inches above the roof will not change the temperature of the roof and, instead, provide shade to the surface of that roof. This additional shade may extend the life of SPF roof coatings.

LOAD

PV panels add weight to a rooftop and this must be factored into the design and installation. Existing structures should be analyzed by a structural engineer to determine if the additional weight of the PV system is acceptable.

Rack-mounted arrays with penetrating attachments are fairly lightweight at 2 to 3 pounds per square foot, and ballasted arrays add 4 to 6 pounds per square foot. However, with the latter, more ballast is utilized at the perimeters and corners of a PV array. Thus, localized loading from ballast may reach as high as 12 to 17 pounds per square foot, which must be considered. Most SPF roofing systems have a compressive strength of 40 to 60 psi.

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Converting Existing Carports to Solar Carports with Flexible PV Modules

Rooftop solar has become commonplace on commercial buildings and homes. Although a residential home often has sufficient rooftop area to power the home 100 percent with solar, this is not always true with multi-story commercial buildings, apartments and condominiums. The properties often do not have the necessary roof space to offset their energy needs with solar. This situation can also apply to low-rise buildings with high electrical usage, such as factories, big-box stores and warehouses.

The Miasole FLEX Series PV Modules

The Miasole FLEX Series PV Modules

Carports have become a standard feature on many commercial and multifamily properties. Even buildings without carports have parking lots with space for them. Carports provide users the benefit of shading cars and protecting cars and people from rain and snow. Carports keep cars cool, reducing the power required to air condition them when they’re started and reducing sun damage to the car finish. From an environmental standpoint, carports help migrate the heat island effect in which large concrete and asphalt parking lots absorb heat during the day and release the heat at night. This additional heat can drastically change local weather patterns, especially in metropolitan areas.

In recent years, building owners have been installing new carports with solar PV modules. These solar carports have all the benefits of traditional carports with the added advantage of producing clean renewable solar energy while reducing the need to add rooftop solar to buildings.

In many places, existing carports were designed and built with minimal steel support structures and the metal roof and deck panels are already spanning the maximum distance between supports to keep costs down. Most were built to meet the minimum local wind and live-load code requirements. With the cost of solar installations falling, utility energy costs rising and increased interest in improving the environment while reducing a building’s carbon footprint, building owners are interested in retrofitting their existing carports with solar modules. Unfortunately, many of these existing carport structures cannot support the additional 4- to 6-pounds-per-square-foot weight of standard crystalline PV modules and associated racking and rails. The only solution available to the owner is to structurally upgrade the carport or tear it down and replace it with a carport designed for the extra weight of solar. Even if the existing carport structure can support the weight, retrofitting the carport with solar can be technically challenging and expensive.

MiaSolé has developed two solar application solutions to solve the live-load limitations of many existing carports. MiaSolé manufactures a flexible lightweight high-efficiency (16 percent plus) CIGS-based flexible PV module weighing less than 9 ounces per square foot in two format sizes: the narrow-format FLEX-N series designed for traditional architectural standing-seam metal roof panels and the wide-format FLEX-W series. Both can be applied to the carport roof with a simple peel-n-stick adhesive.

Standing-seam Panel

Miasole FLEX-N on standing-seam metal panels.

Miasole FLEX-N on standing-seam metal panels.


Two roofers can easily apply the FLEX-N series to the existing carport metal panels:

  • Power wash the roof.
  • Wipe down the areas where the FLEX-N modules will be applied with rubbing alcohol.
  • On the standing-seam metal panel (16- to 18-inches wide) lay down the module.
  • One roofer lifts up the module at the j-box end, removes the release film from the adhesive and sets the module down.
  • The second roofer at the other end lifts up and supports the module.
  • The first roofer continues to remove the release film and lays down the module, rubbing the module with his hand to ensure full contact.
  • Once the module is fully adhered, both roofers use a silicone roller to bond the module to the metal pan surface.

Trapezoidal Rib Panel

Although architectural standing-seam panels are frequently used on carports, the 7.2 trapezoidal rib panel is the metal roof industry’s most commonly used corrugated roof panel for carports. Nearly every major metal roof and steel building manufacturer offers a 7.2 rib panel type profile.

The 7.2 corrugated rib panel is economical, strong and aesthetically pleasing while offering excellent spanning and cantilever capabilities, making it an excellent choice for carports and walkway canopies. The 7.2 rib panel with its long-spanning performance helps lower costs by reducing the number of purlins and structural steel needed. The ability to use long metal panels and fastening with exposed fasteners on slopes as low as 1:12 greatly reduces labor costs.

Installing the Miasole FLEX W on a 7.2 Metal panel

Installing the Miasole FLEX-W on a 7.2 metal panel.

Working with several major metal roof manufacturers such as McElroy Metal and one of the solar carport leading builders, Baja Construction, MiaSolé modified the adhesive patterns on the MiaSolé FLEX-W, the large-format PV module originally designed for low-slope single-ply roofs. The new adhesive pattern makes it simple to bond the MiaSolé Flex-W module directly across the standard 7.2 corrugated rib profile. By eliminating the need for racks and rails, the powerful 360-watt FLEX-W PV module can be rapidly installed by just two roofers over any existing carport or walkway. With a low-slope roof canopy, solar orientation—the direction the carport is facing—is less critical.

Two roofers can easier apply the FLEX-W series to the existing carport metal panels:

  • The existing carport is power washed to remove any dirt and debris from the metal roof surface.
  • Any loose panel fasteners are tightened and missing fasteners replaced.
  • The areas where the FLEX modules are to be installed are cleaned with rubbing alcohol.
  • The FLEX modules are laid down across the corrugated ribs, and the adhesive strips are aligned with the ribs.
  • On one end, the roofer lifts up the module, peels back the adhesive release film, lays the module back down on the 7.2 panel ribs and presses down to bond the module to the ribs.
  • The second roofer on the other end repeats the same process.
  • Both roofers finish bonding the module by rolling the adhesive areas with a silicone roller to ensure complete adhesion to the metal panel.

MiaSolé FLEX series PV modules make it possible to economically convert existing carports with live-load limitations into new solar carports without having to make any major structural modifications. Even on new solar carports, the MiaSolé FLEX series modules can reduce labor and construction cost by reducing the need for heavy steel support structures and allowing longer metal panels with fewer support purlins.

The peel-and-stick adhesive system reduces labor costs while speeding up installation time. Unlike conventional rigid crystalline panels, the flexible MiaSolé FLEX modules work over curved roof structures for solar carports, solar walkways and solar awnings.

The Growing Solar Industry Demands Certified Solar Roofing Professionals Complete Installations

During my 35 years in the roofing industry and seven years as a solar photovoltaic (PV) professional, I have noticed several issues that often arise during rooftop PV installations.

  • It is important to spend time with customers, ensuring they are educated and informed prior to choosing a PV system for their project.
  • Installers must understand and implement proper safety practices for rooftop work. Often, roof-mounted PV installations are best completed by individuals who have experience with the hazard exposures of roofing environments.
  • Quality products that fulfill the applications’ needs and specifications must be installed.
  • Attention to installation details is often overlooked, yet is a fundamental aspect of successful solar installations.
  • Customer satisfaction is best achieved with frequent communication, like regular progress reports and follow-ups.
  • The dynamics of today’s solar market require diversification, qualification and excellent service to meet PV project demands.

The Certified Solar Roofing Professional (CSRP) credential is overseen by Rosemont, Ill.-based Roof Integrated Solar Energy, or RISE. RISE evaluates and certifies solar roofing professionals for knowledge about critical roof system construction and maintenance practices necessary to support successful rooftop solar-energy installations. Achieving the CSRP credential matched our company philosophy of ensuring a roof-mounted PV installation will not adversely affect a roof system’s performance.

As a member of the first group who earned the CSRP credential, I clearly understood the potential benefits to my company and, more importantly, what this would mean to my customers. I believe becoming a RISE CSRP, and being recognized by an independent organization, provides credibility and a competitive advantage in the growing and demanding PV marketplace. The additional training and education needed to achieve and maintain the CSRP credential is specific to the related tasks involved in rooftop solar installation.

The CSRP credential helps assure homeowners, business owners, architects and developers that their new PV project is up to the task. These owners expect and deserve to know that all aspects of the project (solar, roofing, electrical, design and several other important factors) are being addressed to achieve a successful integration of their PV and roofing systems. By choosing a CSRP, they are assured their projects will be handled by the most capable professionals.

Once earned, there are several requirements to maintain the CSRP credential. These include continuing education to keep up with the latest in PV and roofing technologies, as well as engaging in other professional activities, such as presenting at industry trade shows or other public forums.

Meeting these requirements continues to enhance my career. It also affirms to our customers that I am well-informed about the fast changing solar industry, including best business practices, application methods and technologies. Therefore, I’m very capable of meeting their expectations and demands. Maintaining my CSRP credential also helps me contribute more directly to my company’s success by keeping other employees informed.

There are a lot of so-called solar professionals out there who do not have the proper credentials, experience or knowledge to properly install a PV system. They may inadvertently negatively affect a customer’s roof performance and service life, as well as the performance of the PV system.

We recently have experienced an increase in calls for roof repair services. When we first visit these projects, it is immediately evident an installer failed to properly integrate the roof, waterproofing and electrical details when installing the solar PV system. Unfortunately, I have seen leaks, fires and inoperable systems—all of which harm the roofing and solar industry’s reputation. A CSRP could have helped address these issues for the customer upfront and thus avoided incurring additional expenses above the original installation, as well as other economic losses from an inoperable PV system.

Calling a CSRP puts you on the right path to a quality installation. Often, it is said good business practices go a long way, and I have found this to be spot on. I have always been proud of the work my company provides its customers. And earning my CSRP credential fostered a stronger desire to reach for higher standards in the roofing and solar industry. I am looking forward to providing rooftop PV services and representing the CSRP program for many years to come. I know that by being a CSRP, I am ensuring my customer’s roof installations will continue doing their primary job: protecting buildings from the elements.

Learn More

Become a Certified Solar Roofing Professional today!

Standards for Testing Solar PV Modules and Panels

For more than a decade, the demand for grid-connected solar installations in the U.S. has been on the rise, in part, because of economic and legislative incentives that encourage and often subsidize the installation of photovoltaic (PV) modules for residential and commercial applications. In the interest of improving energy efficiency, property owners, including businesses and homeowners, are turning to their roofs to support the PV systems.

Solar PV panels are installed on a roof by a mounting or racking system. Building-integrated PV modules replace the roofing material and become a part of the roof.

Solar PV panels are installed on
a roof by a mounting or racking
system. Building-integrated PV
modules replace the roofing material
and become a part of the roof.

A U.S. Solar Market Insight report published this year by the Solar Energy Industries Association, Washington, D.C., found that grid-connected solar electric installations were producing 13 GW of energy through the end of 2013—enough to power nearly 2.2 million homes in the U.S. That’s equivalent to 4,751 MW of solar PV installed in 2013.

There are two main types of PV modules that are being installed on steep- and low-slope roofs today: PV modules that are secured to the roof by a mounting or racking system and building-integrated PV modules (BIPV) that replace the roofing material and become part of the roof. The variety of components and installation techniques lends itself to closer scrutiny in testing each PV module.

ANSI/UL 1703

For more than a decade, manufacturers of flat-plate PV modules and solar panels have had their products tested and certified to meet the ANSI/UL 1703 regulatory standard to ensure their safety, performance and reliability before entering the market.

However, following recent field failures in which fire impacted the module differently than anticipated because of the way it was installed or interacted with the roof, as well as how the PV performed in extreme weather conditions, the ANSI/UL 1703 standard was updated for fire-resistance testing and classification requirements.

The changes to ANSI/UL 1703 require that testing for PV systems not solely be based on the rating for the individual modules, but instead that it takes into account a combined system rating. Stand-alone PV modules and PV modules with mounting or racking systems in combination with the roof covering must receive a fire rating, denoted by Class A, B or C. However, the same testing procedures do not apply for BIPV systems. They will continue to be tested to ANSI/UL 790, “Standard Test Methods for Fire Tests of Roof Coverings”.

Fire resistance testing, such as Spread of Flames and Burning Brand tests, on solar PV roofing installations are tested in a lab and in the field.

Fire resistance testing, such as Spread of Flames and Burning Brand tests, on solar PV roofing installations are tested in a lab and in the field.

Because of the changes to the ANSI/UL 1703 standard, manufacturers will be required to incorporate new and different testing procedures or potentially need to re-test previously tested products to comply with the standard. A PV panel will be required to obtain a classification “type” with construction review and testing, in addition to obtaining a fire rating for the PV system, which incorporates a module, mounting system and roof covering. The California State Fire Marshal announced the changes to ANSI/UL 1703 will go into effect in California starting Jan. 1, 2015, while changes to the code are set to go into effect in all states and other countries by Jan. 1, 2016.

THIRD-PARTY TESTING

Several solar PV manufacturers regularly work with companies, like Intertek, to ensure the quality and safety of their products, processes and systems. Intertek is one of the four Nationally Recognized Test Laboratories, including UL, CSA and TUV, recognized by Washington-based OSHA to conduct the ANSI/UL 1703 and ANSI/UL 790 testing in the U.S. Intertek has testing labs in Middleton, Wis., and Menlo Park, Calif., among others sites in the U.S. At Intertek, fire-resistance testing for steep-slope roofs is conducted using a “typical” roof as defined in the standard, which consists of 15/32-inch plywood (Spread of Flames) or 3/8-inch plywood (Burning Brand), 15-pound felt and Class A three-tab asphalt shingles. An alternate construction for the Spread of Flames test is to use any classified rolled asphalt membrane, mechanically secured over a non-combustible deck/material.

Low-slope roof testing has a slightly different construction, and the Spread of Flames test is the only test conducted. The low-slope roof consists of a 15/32-inch plywood substrate; 4 inches of polyisocyanurate insulation; and a single-ply, mechanically attached membrane. This membrane is required to have demonstrated a Class A fire rating. A typical membrane used for the testing is a 0.060-inch-thick EPDM roofing membrane.

Fire-resistance testing is just part of the rigorous testing criteria for PV modules; test requirements for the module’s power output, grounding, accelerated aging and conditioning, thermal cycling, UV exposure, and high humidity/freeze tests are also part of the performance testing process. To properly test and certify PV products for the solar market, third-party performance testing ensures independent verification of warranty claims, endurance, output, and functionality in a variety of climate or conditions.

ETL ListedProducts certified by Intertek will receive the ETL Listed Mark, which is required by the U.S. National Electrical Code for the sale of PV systems. Intertek certification provides assurance to roofing contractors, architects, and building owners that a product has not only been tested and met the necessary requirements, but also continues to do so even after installation. Further, Intertek’s ETL markings have long been recognized by regulatory bodies as a leading indicator of proof of conformance and quality for products throughout the U.S. and Canada. Code officials and inspectors, retailers and consumers across the U.S. accept the ETL Listed Mark as proof of product safety and quality. Today, the ETL Mark is the fastest-growing safety certification in North America and is featured on millions of products sold by major retailers and distributors every day.

PHOTOS: Intertek

Learn More

For more information about the testing and certification process, download Intertek’s free white paper: “Photovoltaic Panel and Module Fire Resistance Testing: Comprehensive Guide to ANSI/UL 1703” at Intertek.com/energy/photovoltaic.

MORE ABOUT INTERTEK

In December 2013, Intertek acquired York, Pa.-based Architectural Testing Inc. to become one of the world’s largest quality-solutions providers to the building and construction products’ industry worldwide. From code compliance, performance testing, product inspection, certification and building verification services, Intertek offers its customers everything needed to get their product to market quickly and efficiently by offering total solutions. With a total network of more than 1,000 laboratories and offices and more than 36,000 people in more than 100 countries, Intertek supports companies’ success in the global marketplace by helping customers to meet end users’ expectations for safety, sustainability, performance, integrity and desirability in virtually any market worldwide. For more information about Intertek’s building products’ business, visit Intertek.com/building.

High-power Density Flexible PV for Standing-seam Metal Roof Systems

Miasole has released its new FLEX 01-N PV module for architectural standing seam metal roof systems.

Miasole has released its new FLEX 01-N PV module for architectural standing seam metal roof systems.

Miasole, a company of Hanergy, has released its new FLEX 01-N PV module for architectural standing seam metal roof systems. The Miasole FLEX N series PV module is the roofing industry’s first high power density flexible PV module with a power efficiency of 15.5 percent. The FLEX module’s high performance self-adhesive provides a simple peel-n-stick installation method with the industry’s first 25-year adhesion guarantee.

The Miasole FLEX module fully adhered to the metal roof systems eliminates the need for racking and mechanical attachment or penetrations. The FLEX PV module low profile has the same wind uplift rating of the roof system design, making FLEX the best solar choice for high wind zones. Weighing less than 0.7 lb/sq ft, FLEX is idea for roofs with low load capacity and buildings in high seismic areas.

The Miasole FLEX N Series module can be purchased from leading metal roof manufacturers already factory laminated to their metal panel for immediate roof top installation using standard construction practices. FLEX modules can be installed in the field by the contractor. FLEX modules simplify project logistics, reduce labor costs, and installation time.

Berkeley Lab: Price of Solar Energy in the U.S. Continues to Fall

The price of solar energy in the United States continues to fall substantially, according to the latest editions of two annual reports produced by the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab).

A third Berkeley Lab report, written in collaboration with researchers at Yale University, the University of Texas at Austin and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), shows that local permitting and other regulatory procedures can significantly impact residential photovoltaic (PV) prices.

According to the second edition of the Utility Scale Solar report, larger utility-scale solar projects in the United States have made great strides in delivering competitively priced renewable electricity in recent years.

“The price of electricity sold to utilities under long term contracts from large-scale solar power projects has fallen by more than 70 percent since 2008, to just $50/MWh on average within a sample of contracts signed in 2013 or 2014 and concentrated among projects located in the southwestern United States,” explains Mark Bolinger of Berkeley Lab, one of the report’s authors.

Meanwhile, the average, up-front installed price of utility-scale PV projects dropped by more than one-third since the 2007-2009 period, and average project-level performance has also increased recently.

The report tracks data on installed project costs or prices, operating costs, capacity factors, and power purchase agreement prices. It focuses on ground-mounted solar projects larger than 5 MW in size, and covers both PV and concentrating solar power.

“With the growth in this segment of the solar market in recent years, we are now able to systematically review actual market data to directly observe what large-scale solar projects cost to build, how they are performing, and at what price they are selling electricity,” notes report co-author Samantha Weaver.

According to the latest edition of Tracking the Sun, an annual PV cost tracking report produced by Berkeley Lab, installed prices for residential and commercial PV systems completed in 2013 fell by roughly $0.70 per watt (W) or 12 to 15 percent from the prior year.Tracking the Sun VII_cover

“This marked the fourth consecutive year of significant price reductions for residential and commercial systems in the U.S.,” explains Galen Barbose, one of the report’s authors. Within the first six months of 2014, prices for such PV systems in many of the largest state markets have continued on their downward trajectory.

The continued decline in PV system pricing is especially noteworthy given the relatively steady price of PV modules since 2012. In recent years, reductions in the installed price of PV systems have been driven largely by the falling price of PV modules, but that dynamic appears to be shifting. In particular, the report points to the increasing importance of reductions in soft costs – which include such things as marketing and customer acquisition, system design, installation labor, and the various costs associated with permitting and inspections.

As module prices have fallen, industry and policymakers have increasingly targeted soft costs for further reductions. As Berkeley Lab’s Naïm Darghouth, another of the report’s authors, notes, “The fact that system prices have continued to fall, despite the flattening of module prices, suggests that the various initiatives targeting soft costs are beginning to bear fruit.”

The two Berkeley Lab cost-tracking reports released today also highlight the wide variability in PV system pricing, detailing the installed price differences that exist across states and across various types of PV applications and system configurations. For example, roughly 20 percent of all residential systems installed in 2013 were priced at or below $3.90/W, while an equal proportion was above $5.60/W.

Based on a third Berkeley Lab report released today, How Much Do Local Regulations Matter?, some of this variation in residential PV pricing is driven by differences in local permitting and other regulatory procedures.

In particular, based on data from Vote Solar and Berkeley Lab, variations in permitting among cities can drive differences in average residential PV prices of as much as $0.18/W, or $900 for a typical residential PV installation. Based on data from DOE, meanwhile, variations in not only permitting but also a wide range of other local procedures (interconnection, planning and zoning, net metering and financing) can drive even-larger PV price differences among cities: two different statistical models estimate maximum city-level average price differences of $0.64/W and $0.93/W, or approximately $3,000 for a typical PV system.

“A variety of efforts are underway to make local procedures less onerous, and more conducive to solar market growth,” explains Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab. “These results highlight the magnitude of PV price reductions that might be possible through streamlining burdensome local regulatory procedures.”

The three reports, along with related summary slide decks, 2-page fact sheets and data files (as applicable), are available for download. Upcoming webinars on these reports will be announced in the near future.

Solar Market to Grow 75 Percent by 2019

Led by China, the solar industry will grow at a CAGR of 8.3 percent from 37.5 GWp in 2013 to 65.6 GWp in 2019, but emerging trade disputes involving the Asian giant, as much as global policies, cast a shadow over short-term prospects, according to Lux Research.

China became the biggest solar market in the world with 11.8 GWp installations in 2013, and has been key to faster-than-expected global recovery. Since the competitive bankruptcy-ridden cost environment of 2012, module supplier margins have increased, with most Tier-1 suppliers topping 10 percent toward the end of 2013 and 15% in the first quarter of 2014.

With solar now fairly common in most parts of the world, it reaps the rewards of direct incentives but also faces uncertainty due to pressure on trade activity with China,” said Matthew Feinstein, Lux Research Senior Analyst and the lead author of the report titled, “Solar Market Size Update 2014: Reform for the Long Haul.”

“Furthermore, as an increasingly commonplace electricity source, most major markets are dealing with some combination of these dynamics, complicating the status of policy globally,” he added.

Lux Research analysts evaluated the growth trajectory of the solar industry, besides weighing policy and other challenges. Among their findings:

Growth is fastest in the Americas. At a CAGR of 16.3 percent, the Americas will be the fastest-growing region in the world as its new installations market nearly triples from 5.3 GWp in 2013 to 15.4 GWp in 2019. The U.S. will pace the rest of the Americas, growing from 4.7 GWp to 11.7 GWp but South America will grow 10-fold to 2.5 GWp in 2019. The Asia-Pacific region will grow at a lower 8.2 percent CAGR but will account for over 50 percent of global demand, led by China, Japan and other emerging markets.

Cost cuts will be sustained. With cost cuts critical to the sustained growth of the industry, incremental increases in efficiency are on course from technologies such as passivated emitter rear contact (PERC), heterojunction with intrinsic layer (HIT) and selective emitter (SE). System costs will drop by between $0.36/Wp for utility-scale and $0.60/Wp for residential by 2019. This will translate to a 20 percent cut in total system costs.

X-Si remains technology of choice. Crystalline silicon (x-Si) will dominate the solar market through 2019 even though other module technologies such as copper iridium gallium diselenide (CIGS), copper zinc tinc sulfide (CZTS), cadmium telluride (CdTe) and thin, flexible, epitaxial silicon (epi-Si) have the potential to become major threats in the future. X-Si, with an 84.6% market share, will grow from 31.6 GWp in 2013 to 55.7 GWp in 2019, growing at a CAGR of 8.45%. CdTe and CIGS will be a distant second – growing to 4.8 GWp and 4.2 GWp, respectively, in 2019.

The report, titled “Solar Market Size Update 2014: Reform for the Long Haul,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Intelligence service.

French Kings, Solar Power and Sustainability

Louis XIV is not a frequent reference point in today’s discussions about the world’s energy and sustainability paths. However, this longest ruling French monarch (1643-1715) was known as the “Sun King” as he often referred to himself as the center of the universe and was enamored of the sun itself. He also was the builder of Versailles, the construction of which was viewed as very innovative for its day with gardens and roads that Louis XIV arrayed in a pattern to track the sun’s movements.

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

With this in mind, it is not such a stretch to understand why the organizers of the 2014 International Solar Decathlon chose the Versailles grounds in which to hold this extraordinary exhibition, from which I have recently returned. The 15-day exhibition featured more than 20 universities from around the world, with Brown University/Rhode Island School of Design and Appalachian State University as the two U.S. competitors.

During each day of the competition, the entrants were subjected to judges’ inspection to assess performance in categories, such as architecture, communications (ability to literally tell their house’s story to press and visitors), energy efficiency, engineering and construction, and sustainability.

PIMA’s sponsorship of Appalachian State and the providing of polyiso insulation by Atlas Roofing to ASU demonstrated the role high-performance insulation plays in the future of the built environment.

However, it is not individual product performance that most impresses the visitor to these extraordinary homes. Yes, they all make exceptional use of the solar power generated by their installed PV systems (they are limited by the rules to only 5 kWh of electricity production from which they must run refrigerators, air conditioning, washers and dryers) and each home has an array of innovative products. But it is the synergistic result of the products’ application combined with the unbelievable ingenuity of the students and professors that excited me the most.

2014 International Solar Decathlon PHOTO: SDEurope

The “decathletes” at the 2014 International Solar Decathlon in Versailles, France. PHOTO: SDEurope

Some buildings were representative of new construction. For example, the ASU entrant was a modular townhome with the potential to assemble into a collective urban building.

In addition, recognizing that existing buildings are the greatest energy challenge, the effort to improve our world’s retrofit capabilities truly caught my eye. For example, the Berlin Rooftop Project focuses on abandoned rooftop space in that city to create studios for younger urban dwellers, while the Dutch (Delft University) addressed the poorly insulated townhomes that make up over 60 percent of Dutch homes by applying a “second skin” while including a garden capability within the home.

The several days I spent at the event were educational, but nothing was more inspiring than speaking with the students themselves. Be they from Chile, France, Germany, Japan, the United States or any of the other countries involved, their passion was compelling. The intellect and commitment of these future architects, engineers, designers and urban planners to finding sustainable solutions for the planet gives me a distinct optimism for our future.

A Minneapolis Neighborhood Plans to Bring Solar, Vegetation and Bees to its Rooftops

As part of its commitment to maintain and enhance the physical, social and economic environment of its Minneapolis neighborhood, the Southeast Como Improvement Association (SECIA) has begun a program in which it is matching the owners of buildings with low-slope roofs to solar and green roof providers, as well as beekeepers.

The Southeast Como neighborhood is surrounded by industrial buildings and essentially is the last of Minneapolis’ industrial hub. A community resident who considered the industrial buildings’ rooftops wasted but valuable space approached SECIA about partnering with Minnesota Community Solar. The for-profit organization builds large solar arrays in locations ideal for generating solar power—like roofs—and works with utilities so any Minnesota ratepayer can have access to solar energy. While SECIA’s Executive Director Ricardo McCurley was researching that option, he met a green-roof consultant who is part of the Minnesota Green Roofs Council, a nonprofit that supports green roofs in the state. In addition, Minneapolis recently eliminated permit requirements to maintain beehives in the city above 1 story.

“It occurred to me we should just play matchmaker,” McCurley says. “Let’s get a bunch of options on the table and match them to local property owners.”

After receiving a $3,000 grant from Minnesota’s Clean Energy Resource Teams, an organization that connects individuals and their communities to resources that will help them implement community-based clean-energy projects, SECIA began surveying the neighborhood. “We have an intern who currently is looking at aerial images of roofs and doing rough estimates of square footage, as well as collecting contact information for building owners,” McCurley notes. “Then we’ll be contacting all these property owners in person and via telephone and asking them questions about their flat roofs, like ‘Are you planning to reroof any time soon? How is the stormwater management on your property?’”

If the property owners show interest in learning more about sustainable options for their rooftops, SECIA will invite them to a luncheon that McCurley compares to speed dating. “We’ll have different providers of the various technologies at the luncheon, so they can talk about options,” he says. “Then if we make a match, we’re going to help the property owner through the process of finding grants to make it more affordable for them.”

McCurley thinks the program will be a success if just one property owner opts to install solar panels, a green roof or beehives. But he hopes for many installations and to make more connections within the neighborhood to expand how roofs are used. “We’re big into urban agriculture in the neighborhood,” McCurley explains. “Wouldn’t it be cool if one of the green roofs connects with a farmer who would lease the green-roof space?”

Although the program currently is in its infancy, McCurley is certain it will increase Southeast Como residents’ awareness about the benefits of green roofs, solar arrays, bees and even trees. “We’re dealing with the emerald ash borer here in the Twin Cities, particularly in our neighborhood. We’re already losing a lot of our tree canopy,” he says. “If our residents’ buildings were shaded by a beautiful ash tree and now they’re not, they’re going to feel that in HVAC costs. So what are the options to make a building more efficient? This program provides many great options!”

Want to Be Involved?
If you’d like to assist in the Southeast Como Improvement Association’s mission to bring solar, vegetation and bees to its rooftops, email Rooftops@comogreenvillage.info, SEComo@secomo.org or call (612) 676-1731.

Zurich Helps Risk Managers Understand Challenges and Solutions of Photovoltaic Systems

As businesses across the world increasingly are turning to green technology for lowering energy costs and reducing their own carbon footprints, Zurich is working to help risk managers understand the risks associated with photovoltaic (PV) solar panel systems and how they can protect themselves from those risks. Key information related to the risks and challenges and recommended solutions was recently released in a Zurich RiskTopics white paper on photovoltaic systems, available at RiskTopics – Photovoltaic Systems.

Photovoltaic systems are designed to supply usable electric power for a variety of purposes, using the sun as the power source. When installed on or integrated into existing building components, the systems have unique characteristics that can introduce a variety of potential challenges and risks.

“Solar PV system use has increased three-fold over the last three years, which means more and more businesses need to understand the risks associated with them in order to help protect their property and business operations,” said Mike Widdekind, Technical Director – Property for Zurich Services Corporation. “We have developed the Photovoltaic Systems RiskTopics white paper specifically to provide detailed information to help our customers make necessary decisions about hazards associated with PV operations.”

Fire-related risks are among the top challenges associated with PV systems. They have more fire ignition sources and present more opportunity for fires to occur beyond the reach of standard fire protection and fire detection systems. Also, when a building fire requires firefighting activities, firefighters typically turn off all sources of electric power to the building. However, when PV systems are involved, a complete shutdown of electric power may not be possible since the PV panels continue to generate current from either daytime sunlight or even night time fire service scene lighting.

Risk managers also need to be aware of unexpected structural loads not anticipated by codes and standards such as snow or ice loads that accumulate in shaded areas below panels. When PV panel systems are installed on low slope – or flat – roofs, snow accumulations on panels will melt which can refreeze and may develop into unexpected ice accumulation, and over time might event result in building collapse.

In addition, PV solar panel systems can be vulnerable to wind loads and susceptible to damage caused by wind borne debris. Zurich has been especially involved in the impact wind has on solar panels through its active participation as a member of Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s (IBHS) Research Advisory Council. At Zurich’s recommendation, IBHS is currently testing the impacts of wind on solar panels and will apply the learnings from the study to help customers build more resilient communities around the world.

Zurich’s RiskTopics white paper identifies unresolved challenges as well as provides possible solutions to issues related to PV systems, and recommends that commercial building managers and risk managers try to avoid the installation or integration of photovoltaic systems onto or into buildings until the challenges and risks associated with this system are fully understood and addressed.