Florida solar arrays survive Hurricane Ian

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Hurricane Ian, the fifth strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the continental United States, crossed Florida in late September 2022. A Category 4 storm hit Fort Myers, Florida particularly hard, killing more than 125 people. flood.

Millions were disempowered, but there was a bright spot Babcock Rancha 100% solar-powered community outside Fort Myers that survived the hurricane almost unscathed. national news It has shown the strength and success of well-designed solar projects when tested in the midst of incredible natural disasters.

More solar projects were successfully realized on the other side of the storm after 155 mph winds.florida solar companies advanced green technology We are assessing the damage (if any) to our portfolio of projects in the Fort Myers area, said Vice President Clint Sockman. solar power world About what the team saw.

The two AGT projects described here suffered some damage. Mercola Market in Cape Coral is a three-story health food store and office building with a flat roof array and solar carport. There was no visible damage to the carport, but he did have a panel bump on one corner of his flat roof project. At a beverage distribution warehouse in Fort Myers, JJ Taylor Distributing lifted panels and rails into one corner of his array of flat roofs. The O&M team was able to isolate the damaged section and continue generating power with the rest of the array.

SPW: As a solar installer and post-construction maintenance provider, how would you react when extreme weather is announced in the region?

Stockman: We send out emails before the storm hits to let people know it’s coming. Depending on the severity of the storm, it may be wise to go ahead and ride it out by powering down your system. For rooftop systems, it’s a good idea to check drains or other suitable methods to make sure nothing is clogged. Check with the people who were under the direct route.

Two of the largest C&I projects have taken a hit: Mercola Market and JJ Taylor Distributing. I emailed and called both. As soon as NOAA starts posting satellite or aerial imagery (very quickly this year), you can virtually start assessing damage literally the next day.

Once the storm has passed, what will you do with the damaged solar arrays under AGT’s control?

The first task is to always protect the safety of human life and the safety of buildings. We will stop there and if there is any damage, we will get something safe for daily operation. We will then consider final repairs and revert if necessary. All connections and terminations, inverters, and enclosures should be checked, even if the assets are fine. These events have an enormous amount of vibration. Mercola’s carport was intact. You see, nothing happened. However, when I started looking deeper, the bolts vibrated loose and were clearly out of torque marks and mechanical settings. They certainly took the punch, but they couldn’t take it again without dealing with it.

Two flat roof projects had damage to the panels and rails, but they noticed no damage to the roofing membrane itself.

Commercial roofing is usually torn all around and windows are breached, causing negative pressure to explode from inside the building. There were no perimeter violations in these two buildings. The solar project was designed to the latest code, either the Miami-Dade or the Florida Code. We used a reinforced fixation pattern and examined the surrounding sheet metal details to prevent internal pressure failure.

Many of the modern ones, designed to current building codes, have done pretty well. Many of the older and at-risk assets really weren’t. The devil is in the details. Good design usually works, whether it’s roofing or solar power.

What’s next for Mercola and JJ Taylor’s solar array?

JJ Taylor has been rebuilt from previous catastrophes.It was a new construction and general contractor construction [solar] Then about four years ago a Category 1 hurricane hit and blew it all away. We were hired to go in and rebuild. Performance was clearly much better, but it still had an isolated corner pickup and lost about 40 modules out of thousands. We’re looking into forensics.

Sections of two arrays are replaced. Both are minor in the grand scheme of arrays. Engineering has changed as most modules are not commercially available today. It will probably take a month or two to complete the design and permits. Both are running at 90% capacity. All I had to do was take that inverter offline. The JJ Taylor project is his one of 30 inverters. This is the beauty of redundant design and the use of modern string inverters. A small portion of the array can be taken out to sustain assets and generate energy.

What will you get out of this hurricane event?

PanelClaw performed very well. Both projects used the PanelClaw rack system. We put a lot of faith in their wind tunnel testing and panel certification. Many people design a rack system but do not make sure that the modules have the frame strength to accommodate the rack system. They cannot be treated as separate components. It should be an integrated system. We’ve stressed that many times over the last 10 years, having been in Florida and exposed to high winds.

Beyond that, it’s just doing yearly maintenance in preparation for the storm. Both of these systems are under preventive maintenance contracts. Our technicians come out in front of the Hurricane every year to inspect all bolts for proper torque settings, inspect all enclosures and address this proactively. we are in florida We are exposed to strong winds several times a year. A severe 70 mph thunderstorm won’t blow you away or cause serious damage, but it will stress the array and can loosen things up. We strongly recommend that all customers consider preventative maintenance at least once a year.

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