Written by John Shimkus
With solar energy having finally reached price-parity with coal, entrepreneurs have been scurrying to get into the solar install market as quickly as possible. Electrical contractors by the hundreds are suddenly offering solar power solutions to residential and commercial buyers. But with the cost of solar panels so low and competition between installers so high, it has now become a juggling act to find the lowest-cost balance of system components like inverters, electrical cables, and a commodity that often goes unnoticed: solar pv racking systems.
Yes, the very structure that holds a solar panel to the roof or on the ground is something taken for granted by many, but solar racking systems can comprise a large part of the overall cost of installing a solar power array. Whether it’s on the roof or on the ground, the mounting racks that keep those panels from blowing away with the wind require intensive engineering calculations and are highly regulated; and the competition to have the lowest-cost least-hassle racking system on the market is fierce.
There are literally dozens of solar racking systems for pv installers to choose from, coming in all shapes and sizes, and made of everything from aluminum to plastic. But there are some very important factors to consider when choosing a racking system. Sure, the cost of the system is probably the first thing an installer will take note of, but other factors of equal importance are how long the system takes to put together, the corrosion resistance and overall lifetime of the system, the maximum wind speed the system can withstand, and so much more.
In this racking system “race,” non-penetrating ballasted systems have worked their way to the top of the list, especially for flat commercial rooftop solar installations, due to their speedy install time and low price. Ballasted racking systems require no penetrations to be made in the roof membrane, and are held in place by the weight of strategically placed cinder blocks. Penetrating the roof membrane to bolt down a racking system is very labor intensive, and bypassing this step greatly reduces the overall cost of the install.
Enter Genmounts ballasted solar racking system, by Renewable Energy Holdings. In 2006, business owner Mike Strizki, a veteran in the solar power installation biz, made international headlines by developing the world’s first solar hydrogen house, powered off-grid by renewably generated hydrogen energy. While hydrogen technology has been slowly working its way to the forefront, Strizki quickly realized that his engineering genius could be rewarded more immediately in the solar installation market.
Strizki conceived of Genmounts initially for use with thin-film solar panels as they became an increasingly popular choice for solar installations in the mid-2000s. The problem with thin-film at the time was that the panels were about four-times less efficient than the more common mono and poly-crystalline panels. To Strizki, this meant that the racking system he was designing had to be four-times cheaper to balance the cost of the overall solar array. Ideas to cost-reduce the system included: integrated electrical grounding to reduce the need to run copper wire from panel to panel, a simple top-down design requiring only a screw-gun for assembly, and custom manufacturing each order to accommodate any tilt angle and bolt directly to the pv panel frame. Thus, Genmounts ballasted racking system was born, and when the cost of mono and poly-crystalline pv panels dropped in recent years, Genmounts quickly made its way to the top as the lowest-cost racking system on the market.
“I’ve been in the solar installation business for over a decade and I grew increasingly frustrated with all the different racking systems I had used,” says Renewable Energy Holdings President Mike Strizki. “Finally, I decided to take my knowledge of the shortcomings of all the other systems and develop a proprietary racking design that fixes these problems. Genmounts is hands down the easiest and lowest-cost design out there, and we’re constantly improving and developing new products to stay competitive in this unpredictable market.”
Time-lapse video of 171 kW rooftop solar installation using Genmounts ballasted racking system:
In just a few short years, Genmounts has become the ballasted racking system of choice for some of the industry’s leading solar power installers.
"I've been impressed with every aspect of Genmounts and their team,” says Founder and CEO of Sunlight Electric Rob Erlichman. “Their pre-sales support has been excellent and the product is a breakthrough. The customized tilt is unique, integrated grounding is a major labor-saver, and the overall value is raising the bar for the solar racking industry. I bet Genmounts' competitors are nervous and they should be!"
Renewable Energy Holdings is preparing to release its Genmounts pole-mounted racking system for ground-mount solar installations later this year, incorporating many of the same advantages featured in the Genmounts ballasted rooftop system. The company predicts the new product will dramatically reduce the system cost and installation time for utilities-scale solar power plants. Be sure to visit the Genmounts exhibit at Intersolar North America in San Francisco July 9-12!
Genmounts ballasted racking system:
For more information on Genmounts, contact: