Solar Power World, Written by: Kelly Pickerel
Bifacial solar panels are picking up steam, especially in ground-mount conditions or on flat, white roofs where sunlight can easily reflect onto a panel’s backside. Even in not-so-ideal conditions, bifacial modules are stand-out products not requiring grounding (since they’re dual-glass and frameless) with a higher lifetime power yield. And when companies like Trina Solar provide an industry-high, 30-year power warranty, why not bring these panels to residential rooftops?
The issue has been in how to successfully (and effortlessly) mount these frameless panels to sloped planes. One company has spent the last four years and $1.5 million in DOE funding to find a solution. California’s SMASHsolar set a goal to eliminate complexities and high-skill activities from the roof and provide an easy way to install unique modules. Thus, the snap-in SMASHmount product was born.
“The first invention [was] an installation process where you don’t build a big structure on the roof or really anything on the roof—a streamlined, very intuitive, very low skill installation process,” said SMASHsolar CEO Troy Tyler. “From that came the actual product development—the snap-together system that’s preassembled in the factory.”
SMASHmount consists of two primary parts: the solar panel and the foot assembly. The entire system ships together, with eight SMASH snap locks pre-installed on the module. Modules snap onto the feet, which penetrate into the roof. Essentially a two-step process, a SMASH system is even easier because rafter attachment isn’t necessary.
“Rafter attachment is a high-skill activity. Many penetrations miss the rafter or don’t hit the center line that code requires. It’s an imperfect activity,” Tyler said. “We’re using a bolted connection through the decking. Most decking-attached systems are screwed through the decking. We use a bolted connection with a toggle on the backside of the decking and a stainless-steel hex bolt on the top. We call it the ‘secured decking attachment.’”
Using this lax installation technique, the assembly feet are attached to the modules on the ground, and the full system is lifted onto the roof and bolted to the decking—an easy snap-in assembly on the ground, and then a direct attachment to the roof.
“This is really a new category of mounting,” Tyler said. “We have rail systems and rail-less systems, and now we’ve come out with a new category of direct-attach. There is no mounting, no construction on the roof before the module gets attached.”
Tyler said SMASHmount is module agnostic, although the company is working with current module manufacturers (namely Sunpreme and Trina Solar) to ship direct. Also available to SMASH customers are clips for wire management, electronics brackets to support power optimizers or inverters and optional trim for the perimeter of the system. The company has an innovator program for installers that provides engineering and sales support for those wanting to be the first to install SMASHmount systems.
SMASHsolar is only supporting composition shingle roofs at this point, but there are plans to expand into other roofing types and getting involved with commercial or carport applications. As demand for bifacial and frameless modules expands, all types of installations will need applicable mounting systems.
“Both [frameless and bifacial modules] are wanting one key element to be successful—a robust and easy-to-install mounting system. We’re supporting both,” Tyler said. “It really opens up these markets for these higher power modules.”