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Ladder? for ground mounted array

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  • Ladder? for ground mounted array

    I have a ground mounted 10KW array. I'm sure that others know better what I'm talking about, so please forgive me if I use incorrect terms.

    The panels are mounted on tracks that have slots in them. The bolts that hold them down have a rectangular end on them that slide into the tracks and then turn to hold the panels down.

    It get's really windy here. My record high wind since I been here is well above 60mph. The wind rattles my array pretty well. The prevailing wind is from the NW, meaning that the wind is blowing on the underside of the panels at an angle pushing them up. Twice this year the bolts have loosened/twisted so that they have come out of the track. No major damage, but once one bolt is loose the panels it was holding really start to bang. The first time it tore one of them almost completely off the array.

    Anyway, the company that installed the system is great and have come out both times within days to correct the issue. I'm glad they are there for me, but I would really like to take care of what I see as a minor issue without needing to call them. I have never been here to see them do the repairs.

    While I understand the mechanism and what I would need to do to fix it, what I don't know is how to get up there to turn the nut. Is there some type of a special ladder I can use to climb up the front of the array? I'm nervous about just leaning my ladder against the panels, not for safety, but because I don't want to scratch them.

    On top of repairs, I'm quite sure that it would be far better for me to get up there once or twice a year to check them than to wait for them to come loose and see them banging in the wind.

    Thanks for any insight.

    ~JH

  • #2
    A 60 MPH wind (actually, the forces such wind can invoke on an array is below what a good array design can withstand.

    How old is the array ?
    Are there local required building codes that address wind design ?

    That the company has had more than one call back for loose panels is troubling and may well be a smoking gun for design problems or at least installation problems.

    First things first: If things are rattling loose, something, maybe several things could be amiss. That is a potentially unsafe situation. Get it fixed. I'd guess you'd rather not wait around for a panel to take off in the wind and damage property or people. There may be a design flaw caused by a misinterpretation of the design conditions, or perhaps some compounded design error, or the array was not built to the design drawings and calcs.

    While it's always a good idea to inspect periodically, I'm pretty sure most folks do not, and I don't hear of a lot of panels getting airborne.

    Besides, it's probably not going to happen that you inspect the array after every wind event, nor should you need to with a fit for purpose design and installation.

    Comment


    • #3
      My real guess is that the bolts that have come loose where not properly installed in the first place. Like I said, they come and deal with it but they I don't know if they checked the others or just fixed the one that came loose. I am cutting the installers a lot of slack. I was here when they installed it. It was December 2017. It was raining. The wind was blowing an 20+ and it was 45 degrees (f) outside.

      But I would like to give all of these bolts a once over myself, there is nothing like doing things yourself. I'm generally a DIY guy, I would have put this in myself I I could, but there are some things beyond my abilities and resources.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by hube2 View Post
        My real guess is that the bolts that have come loose where not properly installed in the first place. Like I said, they come and deal with it but they I don't know if they checked the others or just fixed the one that came loose. I am cutting the installers a lot of slack. I was here when they installed it. It was December 2017. It was raining. The wind was blowing an 20+ and it was 45 degrees (f) outside.

        But I would like to give all of these bolts a once over myself, there is nothing like doing things yourself. I'm generally a DIY guy, I would have put this in myself I I could, but there are some things beyond my abilities and resources.
        Suit yourself, but more than one callback for the same issue with (as it reads to me anyway) things still not right means to me that something is wrong with the design or something is less than safe and professional with the installer and so the fixes they attempt.

        Comment


        • #5
          Do an inspection yourself and see if you spot anything obvious. Take notes and call them about it. Tell the company you are concerned since it has happened twice and you would like to know what their long term plan is.

          Perhaps they can have someone come look at it with you and determine if there are more issues.

          You could also see about having a third party come and inspect to see what they find/suggest.

          It sounds like you'll continue to have issues and something wasnt done correctly the first time around. Probably better to follow up on it sooner than later. It's not your fault the weather was crappy when they installed it.

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          • #6
            That's why I want to get up there and look at it myself.

            Yes I can call them again and make them come out and check it all over. Or I can call someone else and ask them to look at it. Or I can just get up there and check it, which I'd prefer to do before I start bitching at the installers or calling a 3rd party. There is nothing like seeing it with my own eyes.

            Sorry, I'm really not that uptight about it. When I see something loose I get out there in the wind an put a temp fix in place (heavy wire to strap it down) and call them. I have to deal with this company for the next 20 years and I'd really prefer not to become the customer that they hate and make them not want to fix things.

            But I still haven't gotten the answer that I was looking for.

            How do I climb up the front of my array without potentially damaging it so that I can see how the rest of the bolts are situated and potentialy get a socket on them?

            I can do neither of these things from the ground.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by hube2 View Post
              That's why I want to get up there and look at it myself.

              Yes I can call them again and make them come out and check it all over. Or I can call someone else and ask them to look at it. Or I can just get up there and check it, which I'd prefer to do before I start bitching at the installers or calling a 3rd party. There is nothing like seeing it with my own eyes.

              Sorry, I'm really not that uptight about it. When I see something loose I get out there in the wind an put a temp fix in place (heavy wire to strap it down) and call them. I have to deal with this company for the next 20 years and I'd really prefer not to become the customer that they hate and make them not want to fix things.

              But I still haven't gotten the answer that I was looking for.

              How do I climb up the front of my array without potentially damaging it so that I can see how the rest of the bolts are situated and potentialy get a socket on them?

              I can do neither of these things from the ground.
              You don't.

              Comment


              • #8
                I never lived there, but have driven by Niagara Falls (NH to IL) enough times in Jan
                to have a few weather stories. Please do not climb the front of your array. Mine
                could fry you if anything broke, and oh yea, damage could happen.

                I am wondering if you want to DIY or leave everything to the installer? A ground
                mount lends itself to more options if you want to do something. Clips sliding off
                when the wind gets serious, not a surprise to me. Sure clips in slots save installers
                time, but the DIY array here has 4 SS bolts with oversized washers securing each
                panel to drilled holes, with double nuts to form a lock that will never come loose.
                My panels would have to rip their frame apart to go anywhere.

                If you have micro inverters, or optimizers, having snow on a few inaccessible panels
                may not be a big problem. With a simple string inverter(s), every panel can
                potentially have a big impact.

                As usual the installer put up the cheapest mount to hold that many panels, leaving
                you with some problems. If you count the space in front that must be unobstructed
                to avoid shadows, you will realize that several low mounts actually take no more
                ground space. That is the method here, with numerous advantages. The most
                obvious is that any panel can be reached from the ground, whether cleaning snow
                or adjusting fasteners. My panels are always clear by the time the sun hits them.

                Apparently your panels have a lot of ground clearance. You need that so that snow
                falling off does not build up and need to be moved farther away. A problem with
                all the panels tight together, is snow from the top must slide across all the panels
                to get to the ground, and the pile can get pretty high. Here there are horizontal
                gaps between, 6 or 8 inches, so the snow need not slide so far, and the pile in
                front gets a lot less snow. The slots reduce manual clearing efforts by more
                than half, eliminating it in some cases.

                Lower arrays have another advantage if you want to make the investment. They
                are far easier to balance and change tilt twice a year. That has the dual purpose
                of more optimum energy collection summer and winter, and much better snow
                rejection in winter. This 6KW array has proved out these ideas over a winter and
                a half. Bruce Roe

                18ArrayR.JPG

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                • #9
                  So, speak of the devil. I got a call from the supervisor about what they found when they here on Monday. So, these bolts are marked on the top with a grove that indicates the direction of the bottom so that you have a visual on when they are in the correct locked position. It appears that the bolts that have come loose were marked incorrectly, a manufacturer defect. And since this has now happened twice that they checked all of the remaining bolts to ensure that they were actually locked into place properly. So the installers used the visual indication that they were installed correctly probably unaware that they weren't.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by bcroe View Post
                    ... A ground mount lends itself to more options if you want to do something. Clips sliding off
                    when the wind gets serious, not a surprise to me. Sure clips in slots save installers
                    time, but the ...
                    I've actually been looking at the panels and the mount and there are holes for bolts on the underside of the panels that could be used attach additional clamps to more firmly attach them to the rails. Something I am giving serious thought to, just for my own piece of mind, even if all the current bolts have now been checked and corrected where necessary. I strap everything down here a lot more than most people would think to do, but then most people have not had the roof pulled off their house (labor day 1998). I don't know what the winds were that day, it was before I got my weather station and started tracking it.

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                    • #11
                      Putting weight onto solar panels increases the risk for micro-cracks inside
                      the wafers .

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