One essential component of a solar panel system is racking. In this article, learn about PanelClaw, a racking manufacturer specializing in flat roof solar setups.
PanelClaw company overview
Based in Andover, Massachusetts, PanelClaw is a flat roof solar racking provider with more than 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of solar projects deployed worldwide, spread over more than 9,000 individual projects. They have completed solar installations ranging from 5 kilowatts (kW) to 20 megawatts (MW).
Importantly, properties that are typically good candidates for PanelClaw’s equipment are commercial buildings. While there are residential properties that have flat roofs, it is more common to find flat roof space on large commercial spaces that house large and small businesses alike. For the majority of residential solar panel installations, standard rooftop racking is likely the best solution for safely mounting rooftop solar panels.
PanelClaw product options
PanelClaw offers two main racking systems: the clawFR Platform and the Polar Bear III HD. The newer clawFR Platform will eventually replace the Polar Bear III HD and become the sole product for the company.
PanelClaw’s most recent product, the clawFR platform, is designed to be easier and quicker to install than their classic racking product, the Polar Bear III HD. Panels can be single- or double-tilted at 10 degrees, and a 5 degree option is in the works. The system is available in ballast only, fully attached, or hybrid configurations. All clawFR configurations come with a 25-year product warranty.
One of the main selling points of the clawFR system is the design considerations for simplified operations and maintenance (O&M) procedures. With walkway access between rows of panels and a simple single panel replacement process, PanelClaw makes it easy to effectively and efficiently monitor and service flat roof solar installations racked with the clawFR system.
Polar Bear III HD
The second offering from PanelClaw, the Polar Bear III HD product line, is set to be phased out in 2019 in favor of the clawFR option. Since PanelClaw introducted the Polar Bear III HD in 2014, over 800 MW have been deployed. It has options for 3 degree, 5 degree, and 10 degree tilts, as well as fully ballasted or hybrid attachment options. The 10 degree and 5 degree options have 25-year warranties, while the 3 degree setup has a 10-year warranty offering.
Solar panels on flat roofs require special racking solutions
Many commercial properties have flat roofs that don’t seem to be ideal for solar panel installations at a first glance. In fact, flat roofs are a great place for solar panels with the help of racking products like those from PanelClaw.
Why do flat roof solar installations need these special racking setups? When you install a solar array on a slanted residential rooftop, the panels are already tilted more directly towards the sun, allowing for more solar electricity production than if they were lying flat. Additionally, mounting solar panels at an angle is especially important in areas where it snows for all or part of the year. This is because snow can block sunlight from hitting solar panels; with tilted solar installations, snow will naturally slide off the panels, re-exposing the solar cells to sunlight.
In some cases, flat roofs offer advantages over tilted roofs
Flat roofs can even offer some benefits over tilted roofs for solar panel installations. First, labor costs can be competitive with or lower than the installation pricing for slanted roofs. This is due to the ease of movement for solar installers – on a flat roof, workers can simply walk around and place components where they need to be. Tilted roofs require extra safety equipment and logistical considerations, which can add time and complexity to an installation.
Second, many solar panel installations on flat roofs typically don’t require any roof penetrations. Instead, panels can be mounted using a weighted racking system, known as a ballast system. Rather than using drilled holes in the roof to secure the equipment, a ballast system uses heavy weights and gravity to keep panels from moving.
And third, a flat roof allows for more choice when it comes to choosing the angle you want to install your solar panels at. On a slanted roof, the angle of your roof restricts the tilt of your solar panel system. Conversely, flat roofs allow installers to design racking systems that are tilted to exactly the right angle for maximum energy production. As a rough guideline, the optimal angle for a solar panel installation in the U.S. is approximately equal to the latitude of the property.
Compare your solar options today
Whether you have a flat roof, sloped roof, or no roof space at all for solar panels, solar can work for you. By registering on the EnergySage Solar Marketplace, you can receive quotes tailored for your property from qualified, pre-vetted installers near you. Get started today with an instant estimate of your solar potential and estimated savings!