After a storm like Michael or Florence, it may take weeks or months to fully restore electricity. Solar and energy storage technologies can help address immediate, short-term needs while building a resilient electricity grid for the future.

Designing Solar Arrays for Extreme Weather
Designing Solar Arrays for Extreme Weather

Sergio López, COO | Soltec

Tell us about Soltec.

Soltec is a leading manufacturer and supplier of single-axis solar trackers. Soltec’s global operations and workforce of over 750 people blend experience with innovation. The company has a track-record of 5.5 GW and manufacturing facilities in Brazil, China, and Spain, as well as offices in Argentina, Australia, Chile, Denmark, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, Peru, and the United States. Soltec is dedicated to innovation, product standardization, and customer success.

 

With recent Hurricanes hitting in the Southeast it is a time to discuss building and designing Solar arrays to withstand the extreme rain and winds that accompany these storms.  Do you feel the Solar Industry is properly addressing the need to build and design for Extreme weather?

Extreme conditions are common in PV tracking projects. They include hot and cold weather extremes, terrain, logistics, location, and assuring safe construction and operation. Customers are concerned with all these conditions and seek bankable partners whose technology handles a wide range of extreme parameters.

Extreme weather conditions have also led Soltec to design a new cabling protection system. The DC Harness StringRunner cable management system locates homerun cabling within the torque tube, furthermore reducing related material, parts, and installation operations.

 

Tell us about Dy-WIND and why Soltec undertook this project?

Dy-WIND is an innovative method for comprehensive dynamic analysis in tracker wind-design. Soltec has decided to undertake this project after several studies have shown that certain wind-design code standards applied to solar trackers are insufficient to design these structures reliably, as they do not consider the second order effects produced by the action of wind on the tracker.

Conventional wind tunnels use rigid models that do not consider fluid-structure interaction effects such as the aeroelastic response of the structure. These phenomena cause instabilities that can produce the collapse of the trackers. The structure and its components must be designed stiffer and more robust than only applying the unsafe and incomplete current wind regulations and standards.

With Dy-WIND, two types of wind tunnel tests are carried out to obtain the necessary aerodynamic parameters of scale models and precious results for the implementation of calculation methods that provide a realistic response of the behavior of solar trackers under the action of the wind.

 

Do you have any findings you can share from Dy-WIND? 

Every possible combination of loads due to the impact of meteorological agents has been checked. Our technical department considers the air tightness and adversity that may arise from rain and floods through geotechnical and field studies. This way, we optimize the installation depth or the structure reinforcement. Besides, our material is protected to avoid corrosion or other problems caused by rain or snow.

 

Wind is just one issue. With large amounts of rain often the ground becomes saturated, if you add wind to soft ground the foundations of these arrays are very vulnerable.  What can be done to address this issue?

Soltec’s SF7 Single-Axis Tracker manages extreme weather with standard features that include snow and flood level sensors that will activate a tracker positioning algorithm to make appropriate position adjustments. Standard positioning routines include a snow-dumping facility, flood-level alarm, and face-to-face washing orientation. This tracker position control facility further enables a yield density boost with our TeamTrack™ asymmetric backtracking control.

 

Can you give us any updates on how Soltec Arrays handled recent storms such as Florence & Michael?

At Estill, South Carolina, a 28 MW solar power plant featuring Soltec trackers suffered no damages for wind or water resulting from Hurricane Florence. The plant continued operational while in safety stow-mode.

Soltec works at the leading edge of solar tracker innovation, combining accurate wind-design numerical modeling and precise manufacturing processes to achieve reliable and efficient tracker structure stability. Moreover, with the highest and driest mounting of motor and controls, flooding vulnerability is greatly reduced. These field-testing lessons learned from Florence in Estill indicate Soltec is on the right track.

Hurricane Michael’s path didn’t go through any of our PV plants.

 

Why is it so important to keep Solar Arrays online after these storms?

After a storm like Michael or Florence, it may take weeks or months to fully restore electricity. Solar and energy storage technologies can help address immediate, short-term needs while building a resilient electricity grid for the future.

 
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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