Most US rooftops can take the weight of solar systems

By Jodi Delapaz

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, April 28, 2016 - The Energy Department's Solar America Cities program found that a primary barrier to solar adoption is the difficulty and cost of obtaining construction permits for rooftop solar installations because of structural issues. A three-year study led by Sandia National Laboratories to address the problem concludes that most U.S. rooftops in good repair can hold the weight of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems.

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According to Sandia structural engineer Steve Dwyer, many code officials aren't familiar with solar technology and lack the training to evaluate how a solar PV system might affect roof structure. “So they bring structural engineers into the permitting process, adding time and money for the system owner and the solar contractor. Often, they then deny engineering certification for solar PV installations on wood roofs, declaring the structures too weak.”

Sandia's study concluded that the actual load-bearing capacity for residential rooftop structural systems is several times higher than the calculated values.

Sandia hopes engineers and permitting officials will use the study's results when they make decisions about rooftop strength and solar PV applications, increasing the number of safe, cost-effective rooftop solar PV installations.

“There is a misperception in the building industry that existing residential rooftops lack the strength to carry the weight load of rooftop solar photovoltaic installations,” says Dwyer. “Most existing well-built wooden rooftops can support PV system loads.”

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