New, no-penetration solar panel mounting system for gable rooftops: SolarPod

Home owners with old or delicate sloped/gable roofs often hesitate to install solar panels on their roof. They worry that penetrating the roof may lead to water leakage or that they may have to resort to costly replacement of roofs just to install PV. A US-based solar company reckons it has the perfect solution.

SolarPod, a Minnesota-based solar installation and engineering company has designed a new mounting system suitable for gabled roofs that satisfies roof loading standards without any need for penetrating the roof to secure the mounting.

The mounting system, dubbed ‘SolarPod Crown’ works by wrapping around the peak edge of the roof. The system minimises wind loading by using an aerodynamic structure and by distributing the panel load across a larger area of the roof.

Gable roofs are the most common roof type in the US and Europe, where their steep angle allows water and snow to easily run-off the roof, while also allowing space for an attic or even an extra floor. In addition to being one of the least expensive roof designs, they are also easier to install. However, if not carefully designed, gable roofs can cause heavy winds to lift or even peel the roof off its frame. Although gable roofs are not as common in Australia (since snow and rain run-off are not big issues here), they are still widely used.

The mounting system was originally designed in response to the need of a customer with a gable roof. “The home owner in Sunnyvale”, says CEO Mouli Vaidyanathan, “challenged us to place solar on his roof with the criteria: (1) the home was over 60 years old and needed a new roof in a few years, (2) wanted a modular solar system design to expand for later and (3) least penetrations so he can easily remove and place the solar system.  We rose to that challenge.”

SolarPod SideImage credit: SolarPod

The patent-pending system was developed by Mouli Vaidyanathan, who has a PhD and is a professional engineer as well as a NABCEP-certified solar installer.

The company claims the system is modular and able to adapt to various panel orientations and can be designed around vents and other roof extrusions (see pictures above). More importantly, SolarPod Crown is being advertised as do-it-yourself solution to solar installation with potentially huge time and cost savings for home-owners who prefer to install the panels themselves or through their local electrician – without the need for professional installers.

Although designed primarily for the US market, it’s very possible that a similar system may satisfy Australian roof and electrical safety standards and expand the reach of the PV market to gable roofs. Plus, with labour costs accounting for about 8% of the net cost of a PV system in 2013, the savings potential for such a system are not insignificant.

Top Image Credit: SolarPod

© 2014 Solar Choice Pty Ltd

Nitin Nampalli

Nitin is a regular contributor to Solar Choice News with a focus on solar PV technology. He holds a Master of Engineering Science in Renewable Energy from UNSW and a Bachelor of Science degree in Microelectronic Engineering from Rochester Institute of Technology, New York. He is currently a PhD candidate researching solar photovoltaics at UNSW. In addition to his studies, he has also worked extensively in solar PV research.
Nitin Nampalli