Mr. Kulkarni, you have successfully completed the rooftop solar project for Jnana Prabodhini Trust. Could you give us a brief overview of the project?

Kulkarni: Headquartered in Pune, Jnana Prabodhini is a public charitable trust working in the field of education and other socio-economic upliftment programmes. Our firm Udyamshree Engineering was entrusted to study the electrical base across rural area of Solapur, Maharashtra. We have rigorously studied the condition that varied between 10 Watt to 125 kW under difficult climatic conditions.

Why did you opt for Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP)?

Kulkarni: In general, a solar panel can last for almost 25 years. However to ensure this longevity there is a need to match the life span of the mounting structures. Traditionally mounting structures made of metals or coated metals do not reach this desired life being corrosive in nature and need repainting and GI coating for extended life of above 10 years.

On the other hand, high-definition, engineered plastics cannot withstand high wind load.

Thus the ideal option was FRP due to its high mechanical strength, non-corrosive nature, light-weight and durability. We have carried out tests to ensure structures shear, tensile and bending properties.

The structure also required insulative properties in order to isolate the panel from the ground where metals are not the right choice.

Also the use of riveting joints and alloy based caps in place of welded joints make the structure a long lasting and ideal option to match the life span of the panels.

Mr Kanade, did you face any challenges?

Kanade: Use of FRP increases the overall project costs by 10-12%. FRP mounting structures for solar rooftop deliver at least 3 times higher durability than the conventional metal structures.

However, being a manufacturer of top quality glass fiber components, we feel extremely poor awareness of composites and new technology products in conventional market are the major challenges.

Where did you set up the project?

Kulkarni: We set up a solar facility of 16 KW with required capacity of 12KW on a school rooftop. Now the school has become totally independent in terms of power consumption with 24 hours electricity is being sourced from rooftop supply including elevator and water pumps etc. All the concerned safety measures were taken care of as the installation being hanging or projected in nature.

Can you tell us about the uniqueness of this installation?

Kulkarni: The approximate requirement of the roof top space was about 160 sq. meter, in a conventional solar power plants of 16 kW capacity. It was suggested to use the minimum roof top space for PV panel mounting at JP Solapur.

We, therefore went for hanging PV panel support structure, which rested on the roof top parapet.

It was a challenge to design a sturdy support structure in order to withstand high wind speeds. This is designed to withstand 300 km/h of wind speed.

Secondly, the structure members should be serviceable. The maintenance of PV panels mounted on it should be easy. Since it was a school, it should be safe and restricted to the students.

The major advantage was saving in inter row spacing. We were successful in installing a very good shadow free pattern for mounting and finally saving more than 75% of roof top area.

Is this model replicable?

Kulkarni: In this project, parapet wall mounting was advantageous since it saved roof top space. It was erected on the parapet wall in a suspended manner and can be successfully replicated subject to certain parameters like avoiding coverage of the panel with shadows of other buildings and trees etc. reducing its efficiency. Also due care about safety measures needs to be taken if it is suspended on the outer sides.

How do you look at the demand status?

Kanade: Due to ever increasing demand in renewable energy projects, it would be great to have special channels and members engineered to the requirements of solar mounting structures. We see great potential in this case stud as many housing societies are being converted to solar and can work with such a model and also save space. As such, we are quite optimistic about the positive growth.

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