As the world becomes more concerned with energy efficiency and greener practices, solar power is thriving. In fact, the third quarter of 2013 saw a 35% increase in solar power in the U.S. over the same period in 2012, and it was the second largest quarter in the history of the U.S. solar market, as seen in this article.
Recognizing this, we at Knickerbocker Roofing were very excited to attend the recent Solar Power International convention which took place on October 21-24 here in Chicago. It proved to be highly educational!
It is clear that while the U.S. is one of the leaders in solar power use, this is a global industry. Though we understand that solar panels are often installed on roofs, we found that there are also many land-based solar farms around the world.
Specifically, there are two types of solar panels: Crystalline and thin cell, although crystalline is currently the more effective choice. Crystalline panels are installed on roofs via different varieties of racking systems. Depending on the size and weight of panels and the specific roof assembly, these racking systems may be installed on top of the roof system or secured through the roof itself (secured to the structural roof deck directly). The choice of racking systems is usually determined by the type of roof: flat or steep, or at ground level.
There are many benefits of installing solar panels on the roof of your building. They take advantage of open spaces that are often underutilized, while providing power directly to the building. Additionally, in most states, any extra power that isn’t used can be sold back to the electrical grid/utility company. And while they are primarily used for commercial and government buildings, as these see the financial benefits more than residential properties do, homeowners do find environmental benefits from solar power installations.
Of course there are certain things to pay careful attention to when installing a solar panel system on a roof. Of paramount importance is the integrity of the roofing system itself, regardless of whether the system is installed on top of or through the existing roof assembly. Also important to keep in mind is that installation of the system must allow for maintenance of the existing roofing system, and needs to be kept away from flashings and perimeter edges. Remember that the solar panel system will need to be removed when the roof needs to be replaced, so do not incur the expense of the solar system without first determining the expected life of the existing roof system.
Once installed, it must be kept in mind that there is now electrical equipment on the roof, posing a potential fire hazard and possible obstruction for firefighters, so be aware of this as well.
As solar power use grows, we expect to see much more of it being utilized, and its benefits being recognized.