PV Canopy for a Bocce Court - Independent Green Technologies

PV Canopy for a Bocce Court

Published on September 20th, 2016

Tom and Carol Godwin had solar energy in the back of their minds when they designed and built their house in 2010, but didn’t bring solar expertise onto their team until I entered the picture several years later. I found small, south-facing roof areas that were shaded by each other and nearby trees. Using the Solar Pathfinder, I identified the best site on their small, narrow property—at one end of their bocce court. A PV canopy over the court was a good fit. The couple installed a whole-house 12 kW generator when the house was built. With backup power already in place, a batteryless PV system seemed like an appropriate choice.

Tom is an investment planner, and PV made sense to him for stabilizing his electricity costs during retirement. He also wants to leave the planet in better shape for his great-great grandchildren. Mild peer pressure from close neighbors and friends, who have been using solar electricity for many years, was also a factor in the decision.

Building a freestanding structure added significant expense, but the Godwins ended up with more than twice the system the small roofs could have accommodated—plus better performance. Dana Brandt of Ecotech Solar designed the PV system, and his crew installed it in one eight-hour day. “I love that the structure not only supports the array but provides shade for the court. It feels like such a waste to build a ground-mount structure that does nothing but support the array,” says Dana. “Any time a ground-mount system can serve an additional purpose, such as a carport, covered storage, or shaded area, feels like a win to me.”

Architect Chris Keyser (who also designed Tom and Carol’s house) designed and engineered the post-and-beam structure to support the array and complement the house. Bill Chagnon of Crater Lake Building and his crew constructed the structure, using pre-made galvanized steel brackets and stainless lag bolts to tie the 6-by-10 rafters to the 6-by-8 posts. Set on top were 4-by-10 purlin timbers. Made from pressure-treated wood, the structure is expected to outlast the 25-year module warranty, giving the homeowners reliable electricity for decades.

The 5.7 kW array uses 20 SolarWorld 285 W modules on Unirac SolarMount racks, and a Sunny Boy 5 kW inverter. The inverter has SMA’s “Secure Power Supply” sunny-day backup capability. A subpanel and outlet was installed at the power center behind the bocce court, allowing some electricity use courtside.

The couple is pleased with the system’s production. Tom checks the meters daily, and reports seeing modest production even on cloudy days. This spring, the system produced up to 40 kWh per day. The system’s generation is zeroing out the couple’s 11 kWh per day average usage, and, since the system’s commissioning in April, a megawatt-hour of clean solar electricity has been made. When the system will be running net-positive, Tom may trade in his hybrid vehicle for a pure electric model.

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