As the solar industry matures, installers and building owners are thinking more carefully about the long-term O&M implications of roof-mount installations. In particular, they are considering the potential need to re-roof under a solar array.
Driving the possibility is the difference in expected lifetimes between commercial roofs, which can require replacement after 15 years, and roof-mounted solar arrays, which claim a lifespan of 20 years or more.
The variation in lifetimes means the racking removal and reinstallation process can be as important a consideration as the initial installation. No longer is it sufficient to evaluate mounting systems solely based on one-time labor requirements.
Instead, it has become imperative to add additional labor and logistics intelligence to the evaluation criteria, such as:
- How easy is it to remove one module? Several modules?
- How many operations are required to disassemble the entire system?
- Does it take as much time to reinstall the system as it did to install it the first time? (Remember, every minute the system is not generating power, it is not generating income, either.)
- Is it possible to stack the system components so they can be removed from the roof safely and without damage? If so, how complex is the methodology, and what packing materials are needed?
- How many fasteners are required? Are they standard? If fasteners are lost during disassembly, how difficult is it to procure more?
With long-term installation success in mind, the answers to questions such as these must be considered in choosing the optimal mounting system for a given project.
One of the most important considerations relates to the longevity of the racking supplier. With removal and reinstallation a possibility, it is important to be able to rely on project partners for assistance with the process whenever that time comes. And if proprietary parts are lost or damaged, it is essential to know that they can be replaced, even if that mounting system is no longer in production.
Simply, it is critical to not get caught unprepared. When choosing your next commercial rooftop mounting system, use these questions as a guide to avoid the financial pitfalls that have the potential to accompany the inevitable removal and reinstallation of a mounting system that has not been designed to facilitate the realities of roof maintenance.
By Marc Clark, managing director, SunLink, Canada