In situ measurement of wind pressure loadings on pedestal style rooftop photovoltaic panels

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Department or Administrative Unit

Engineering Technologies, Safety, and Construction

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The installation of rooftop photovoltaic (PV) arrays is increasing throughout the US. Until recently, pedestal type PV framing systems for rooftops were basically designed using procedures from the ASCE7-10 Components and Cladding Standard for rooftop equipment. The 2011 Japanese Standard Load design guide on structures for photovoltaic arrays was useful in characterizing the pressure coefficients on rooftops, but the Standard employs different wind speed and importance factors, making its use in the US quite limited. Even the updated 2017 version is written for a different audience. Because rooftop pressure loadings are high due to flow separation, SEAOC and other organizations contracted boundary layer wind tunnel tests of panels attached to rooftops to ascertain if the ASCE7-10 equipment loadings were appropriate. The investigations resulted in new standards for pedestal-style arrays that appear in Chapter 29 of ASCE7-16. However, the new standards are limited to simple geometries and orientations, and the dynamics of the simply-supported thin PV plates do not appear to be considered. Questions regarding the ability of the boundary tunnels to simulate accurately the turbulence at the scale required for the attached panels have been raised. In response, very limited full-scale investigations in large-scale tunnels and in situ have been undertaken to calibrate the tunnel results. The results of this paper represent one of these calibration investigations. Specifically, in situ full-scale net wind pressure loadings on a rooftop PV array in a pedestal-style framing system located on the three story Hogue Technology Building of Central Washington University (CWU) in Ellensburg, Washington were measured. The CWU campus has a rural setting in a region with steady winds: Ellensburg is located in the Kittitas Breezeway portion of the Northwest wind power region. Indeed, the Wild Horse Wind and Solar Farm is located on the outskirts of town. The data described here were collected from April through August 2014. The measured net pressure coefficient time series were similar to those for rooftop pressure loadings for low-rise buildings described in the literature such as the Wind Engineering Research Field Laboratory at Texas Tech University (Ham and Bienkiewicz, 1998; Levitan and Mehta, 1992). The analysis of the net pressure time series data included an examination of the minimum, maximum, mean, and RMS values. Preliminary results suggest that the range of the values is larger than assumed in the ASCE7 Standard, and that the magnitude of the loadings vary considerably spatially over the multiple panel array. The pressure loading measurements are ongoing.


This article was originally published in Engineering Structures. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Engineering Structures


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