Ground-Mount Vendors and Systems

for Commercial and Utility Applications

The large-scale ground-mount installation market segment presents tremendous opportunities. In U.S. Solar Market Insight Report: 2014 Year in Review, GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) project 8.1 GW of new PV capacity in 2015 and forecast that large-scale ground-mount installations will comprise approximately 5 GW of that. However, the development of large-scale ground-mounted PV power plants has become increasingly competitive and cost sensitive. These pressures have been driving changes in racking system design, materials and deployment.

Racking systems for commercial and utility PV plants are just that—systems. Effective designs balance materials and manufacturing cost, component count and shipping cost with speed of installation, adjustability for varied site terrain and foundations, and, of course, durability. For this article, I researched the wide range of ground-mount racking vendors and product lines that are available to project developers and integrators in the US. I include background information on the vendors themselves and overviews of their solutions for commercial and utility array fields. With a few exceptions, all the products presented here are scalable for large projects.

AP Alternatives

AP Alternatives / 419.267.5280 / apalternatives.com

Headquartered in Ridgeville Corners, Ohio, AP Alternatives was founded in 2008 and launched its racking systems and related services in 2010. Its offerings include UL-listed racking system design and manufacture, as well as preassembly services intended to improve quality control and decrease installation time in the field. AP Alternatives’ mobile assembly lines can be moved anywhere in the US and set up to prepanelize modules on racking cartridges or sections. Depending on the model, each cartridge uses helical anchors, four posts (individual cartridges share adjacent east-west posts) and stainless steel cable bracing to support four 60-cell (MOD 60), three 72-cell (MOD 72) or 10 thin-film (MOD FS) modules. AP Alternatives’ GPS-guided anchor drivers can simultaneously drive two posts (north and south). Modules are electrically bonded during prepanelization, and a prewiring option is available. AP Alternatives also operates a separate division, Ready Rack, that offers racking systems for commercial and utility projects where field assembly is preferred over preassembly.

Applied Energy Technologies (AET)

Applied Energy Technologies (AET) / 586.466.5073 / aetenergy.com

A division of The Applied Group, AET was founded in 2009 and is headquartered in Clinton Township, Michigan. Its racking product family includes UL 2703–listed pitched roof and ballasted flat-roof systems. AET’s solution for ground-mounted commercial and utility PV plants is the Rayport-G Eco ground mount. AET designed the system to use a single row of driven posts for anchoring, but helical- and screw-pile foundations, as well as a ballasted option, are also available. Installers mount modules in two-high portrait orientation, and an adjustable plate installed between the post and strut allows for ¾-inch height adjustment per post. A brace installed between the post and strut provides structural rigidity to the racking system. Top-down clamps offer integrated module-to-racking system electrical bonding to the requirements of UL 2703. AET provides a full layout and loading analysis for each Rayport-G Eco ground-mount project.

Brilliant Rack

Brilliant Rack / 678.280.7453 / brilliantrack.com

Lilburn, Georgia–based Cantsink launched Brilliant Rack in 2014. Cantsink dates back to 1988, when it originally served as a foundation repair specialist for residential and commercial projects. It developed a manufacturing division in 2000 to produce helical piles for foundation stabilization. In 2010, the company shifted its core focus and manufacturing facility to anchoring systems for large-scale ground-mounted PV projects. Brilliant Rack is introducing a turnkey UL 2703–certified racking solution that is compatible with Cantsink’s helical piles, as well as driven piles and ground screws. The galvanized steel racking system uses a single-row post system in conjunction with a tilt beam (strut) and brace for a triangulated structural configuration. To simplify installation, the assembly process requires only two bolt sizes and a single nut and washer size. Brilliant Rack’s design includes three-axis installation tolerance and is compatible with east-west grades of up to 10%. Brilliant Rack also offers geotechnical testing, engineering and installation services.

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