Solar SpeedRack has solved a number of technical challenges for installers with its new product for flat and sloped roofs, the HRS160 hybrid solar racking system. But perhaps the most pressing challenge it solved was one of perception.
The company’s shared-rail system was being compared to traditional racking systems according to price per rail, and that just wasn’t an accurate assessment, according to vice president Michael Salvati.
Solar SpeedRack manufacturers a shared-rail system, meaning two rows of modules use just three rails. The middle rail is shared by modules above and below it. Traditional racking systems use four rails to mount two rows of modules.
“If you look at the whole picture of installation, the cost is very competitive,” Salvati said.
Nevertheless, the company was moved to develop a hybrid system, which can be used in traditional or shared-rail configuration. In traditional format, the system remains “aggressively priced,” Salvati said, but the savings go further once the consumer has been introduced to the product.
“We can save money in various ways. The first multiplier is we can share rails, so you’re saving on material costs and roof penetrations,” Salvati explained. “Another is the Solar SpeedFoot, a non-penetrating, or floating, roof attachment.”
The Solar SpeedFoot, which will be offered with the HRS160, doesn’t actually float. Instead, the rubber foot mounts to long, sometimes 12-ft spans of rail and simply sits on a roof, distributing weight from of an array without additional roof penetrations.
Penetrating attachments secure the array to a roof and protect against uplift forces, like wind. The Solar SpeedFoot, which attaches with an L-foot and is made from recycled rubber, supports downward forces, like snow. Solar SpeedRack claims the SpeedFoot can reduce roof penetrations up to 60% in conjunction with a shared configuration.
Solar SpeedRack has also developed a proprietary rail clip that allows the hybrid and traditional configurations using the same rail, or for the system to be used as a complete shared rail system.
“Other companies claim they can do a hybrid configuration, but the installer only has a quarter inch of surface to mount a panel to, or the shared rail instructions are not clearly defined” Salvati said. “This clip offers a nice ledge or platform to install the panel while keeping costs low.”
One more challenge solved was the common limitation on where installers could place a splice bar, which is a structural member that keeps adjacent lengths of rail mechanically/electrically bonded together. Often, installers are required to follow a structural equation of the interior span for a safe zone of the spliced area. The HRS160 has a zero limitation on where it can be placed along the rails, taking the guesswork out of the equation.
Installers can choose to mount array in portrait or landscape orientation, in traditional or shared-rail configurations, or any combination thereof.
“We believe [hybrid systems] will be the latest and greatest trend,” said Shane Shamloo, CEO at Solar SpeedRack. “First the industry had clamps, then integrated grounding, and then rail-less. Now we will have hybrid racking, which adds versatility and we feel is really the only other way installers will be able to cut racking cost and installation time.”