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DIY Solar Panels: Scalable Mounting System

Posted by Don Adams

After completing a few of the solar panels on our massive DIY project,  it was finally time to think about permanently mounting some of these panels here at work. Fortunately, the building here has a clean shot south with no obstructions from horizon to horizon, so it is an ideal location. The roof is metal with only a slight pitch. Existing holes and hardware that were used in the original building installation could be used for the installation points of the solar panel mounting system.

 

The mounting system is made of unistrut material. www.unistrut.com This type of material is also available from other manufacturers/vendors (such as Beeline) and can be found at electrical construction suppliers as it is used a lot in industrial electrical installations.

 This stuff is basically a grownup version of an erector set.

 

The unistrut construction allows for rapid prototype and flexibility being a channel material that bolts together using spring nuts, bolts, and “L” pieces to fabricate mounting frames.

 

Here's the basic upright design that can be used either for a roof with a slight pitch or even ground based that will keep the panels at about a 45 degree angle. All you have to add are the horizontal rails at what ever length you need. In our case, we went with the full 20 foot length to mount up a full 1KW array of 5 panels. If you already have a roof with a pitch of 3o to 45 degrees that is facing south, all you will actually need are the horizontal pieces for mounting.

 


This was the single panel version that we used as "proof of concept" to start building the larger array.

Here's the list of materials we selected from unistrut:

P4100T - “U” channel (low profile – slotted)

P4010 – Spring Nuts (½ x13) [for the frame]

P4006 – Spring Nuts (1/4-20) [for mounting panel to frame]

P1026 - “L” brackets 

Plus MISC Bolts, Washers, Locks, Nuts


One of the "NUTS" can be seen assembling the array: 

 

We also decided to add a wire hold down in case we got a good wind coming in from the north. I think we have things reasonably secure at this point.

All of these panels are going into a grid tie inverter to back feed the grid and we are now permanently supplying power seven days a week. As more panels are built, we will just start adding to the system. It's only a small amount of power now, but it's a start!!!

originally posted on Earthineer back in 2012