Solar Solutions

Bracing your solar facility against extreme weather

The rise in global temperatures over recent decades has led to a notable increase in the number of extreme weather events.

In fact, according to the World Meteorological Organization, the number of global, weather-related disasters has increased five-fold over the past 50 years.

The potential for solar energy to reduce harmful carbon emissions and slow down global warming has led to huge demand over recent years. Utility-scale solar farms are now common place in most countries world wide and their development and scale is increasing rapidly.

Solar power plants are situated in a diverse range of locations, from deserts in the UAE to vast swathes of land in the rural United States. This geographical spread means that the utility-scale solar farms themselves are vulnerable to the same extreme weather events that solar energy is intended to help mitigate.

Research by Sandia National Laboratories combined real-world solar data with advanced machine learning to study the impact of severe weather on US solar farms.

The report concluded that wildfires, blizzards, floods, hurricanes and hailstorms all pose direct risks to solar farms, both in terms of costly damage and also can lead to reduced output.

The findings correspond to a report by renewable energy insurance specialist, GCube1, which found that severe weather events are the cause of most solar insurance claims.

But while severe weather is inevitable in some locations and increasingly common in others, catastrophic losses need not become the norm.

No site can be 100% risk free, but EPCs and developers can take action to minimise risk. Structural bracing is one key measure that can lead to huge cost savings by preventing or reducing structural damage.

Improve the strength and stability of your solar applications

Whether a facility is vulnerable to heat, wind, snow or seismic activity, almost all locations are subject to some kind of external force which can impact frames and panels.

Bracing is a long-established technique which is commonly used in the construction of steel frames, and can prevent stress from external forces such as seismic activity and wind.

Bracing solutions which are engineered to improve the strength and stability of your solar applications, can prevent the damage that can commonly occur on solar developments.

The scale of the problem

Although snow, storms and flooding events feature most frequently in the headlines, stress from other continuous external forces can also have a potentially damaging effect on photovoltaic frames and panels over time.

For example, seismic movement and heavy rainfall can create serious foundation issues which can cause piles to move vertically or laterally causing the frame to become misaligned.

Moderate to heavy winds, heat exposure, and even interference from wildlife, can also cause frames or racking to distort, twist, or misalign, which again will impact the frame as well as the panels.

Can bracing help to reduce risk?

Bracing is used in the construction of steel frames to resist external forces. Tension-only bracing is effective as it utilises the high tensile capacity of wire rope. By resolving the lateral forces into a tensile force, the bending moments within the frame members are reduced.

Bracing also reduces the lateral movement of the top chord by restraining it back to the foundation points. Excessive lateral movement can cause strain in the solar modules, resulting in micro-cracks which can negatively affect performance and lead to failure.

Without a bracing system, the frame will resist lateral forces through a combination of sway in the vertical members, and diaphragm action through the modules. This creates internal stress within the plane of the solar module, causing the formation of micro-cracks.

Mitigate risk through bracing

The risks to solar power plants are likely to increase as extreme weather events become more frequent, and if left unchecked, this could lead to devastating losses. To protect their assets, EPCs and developers should look to mitigate risk through bracing, which is a simple and inexpensive way to minimise damage from weather events and other external forces.

At Gripple, we offer a range of lightweight solar frame bracing kits which offer the same high performance tension as heavy steel bracing using a fraction of the materials.

Our PV Solar Bracing Kit is designed to reduce the moments in steel frames - reducing the deflection and stress on the steel by transferring forces applied to the top of structural legs into reduced moments at the bottom.

The kits are quick to install on site using just hand tools with minimal training necessary, and are easy to handle compared to heavy steel sections. 

Thanks to the inclusion of our Dynamic tensioner joining and tensioning the bracing wire take just seconds and is significantly faster and simpler than using turnbuckles or other traditional wire joining techniques.

For over 30 years, we’ve been developing and manufacturing high quality bracing systems. Our innovative kits are tried and tested in critical infrastructure projects around the globe, including airports, power plants, highways and major developments.

Based in the UK, we operate from 15 locations across North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania, which allow us to supply customers worldwide.

Discover our Solar Bracing Kits

Our new lightweight wire rope bracing kits can use just 7% of the steel compared with traditional steel bracing and have been tried and tested in demanding seismic, civil and blast protection applicat

Tags: Solar Solutions

Why use Gripple?

  • Significant time and cost savings on your project
  • Aesthetic solutions for greener environments
  • A lightweight system which minimises health and safety concerns
  • Innovative, patented solutions designed by an in-house team of engineers
  • Considerable reductions in packaging, vehicle movements and embodied CO2
  • A range of support services at every stage of your project, provided by a dedicated technical team