Using Curved Steel in Supporting Solar Roofs

The installation of curved roofing designs has been increasing lately for many reasons.  Curved roofs are aesthetically pleasing, as well as serving to benefit architectural design in a practical way.  With the increasing demand for alternative energy sources, many are turning to solar panels which can be mounted on their roofs to passively collect energy, thereby reducing electricity costs for both private homes and commercial businesses.  Traditionally, on flat roofs in the northern hemisphere, solar panels are mounted in a southern facing direction so they can get the most exposure during the mid-day hours.  Although some studies are showing that an east-west alignment may offer more steady and consistent power as opposed to one large influx.

A further alternative is the use of solar panels on a curved alignment which can track with the path of the sun across the sky.  In order to efficiently support such structures, curved steel can be implemented in the design process.  One such example of curved structural supports used for solar panels is at the Plantronics corporate facility in Santa Cruz.  This installation will see approximately 80% of its corporate facility electricity costs offset by upgrading the solar panels which also provide shade over the company parking lot using curved steel supports.

Rectangular tubes rolled the hardway offer the necessary structural support for the solar panels, while also providing a complementary service.  The curved roofs of the parking lot structure offer shade to employee cars from the hot California sun.  It is both a practical solution to the company’s energy needs and offers some relief for employees returning to their vehicles at the end of a hot day.  The multi-million dollar investment is expected to pay for itself within 10 years of installation.

Conventional solar arrays using flat panel layouts could have also been used.  However, looking at the end results of this project, the curved steel roof supports offer many benefits.  As mentioned previously, the curved roof can allow for exposure on a more consistent pattern.  Further, the curved roof design allows for covered parking which accommodates vehicles of differing heights.


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