What is Lightweight PV?

Lightweight PV (LPV) is any full system that uses next-generation lightweight modules, significantly fewer attachment hardware components, and time-saving installation methods to effectively reduce roof loads and installation costs

The LPV program offers a unique collaboration opportunity to major stakeholders in the PV industry and seeks to create standard, roof-integrated lightweight PV products that can be manufactured quickly and cost-effectively. Our focused approach to reduce overall system costs, by reducing balance-of-system (BOS) hardware and labor costs, and deploy innovative BOS hardware that penetrates weight-restricted markets will help more commercial building owners invest in solar energy.

PVMC has four ongoing LPV projects:

Market Analysis

Evaluating the market potential for roof-mounted LPV in high-value US regions

  • At PVMC, LPV is defined as any system that weighs less than 3 lbs./ft2 (distributed) and reduces or eliminates the use of racking and ballasting components. The LPV Market Analysis project is designed to evaluate and quantify the deployment potential for next-generation LPV systems. It has three objectives: (1) identify and prioritize the most viable U.S. states for rooftop PV, (2) determine the LPV potential (sq. ft.) in commercial and industrial (C&I) segments in the top 5 states, and (3) within one of the most attractive states, determine the serviceable available market (SAM) for a specific building and roof type.

Mounting Mechanisms

Developing and testing new mounting mechanisms for LPV systems

  • Mounting mechanisms are the means by which PV systems are attached to roofing materials. This project involves developing innovative, lightweight, and low cost mounting mechanisms for flexible and rigid PV modules for membrane (e.g., TPO, EPDM, PVC) and metal roofing systems. Each mechanism undergoes rigorous accelerated testing procedures to qualify it for outdoor deployment. These procedures include subjecting the LPV systems to a panel of tests, including temperature cycling, humidity freeze, damp heat, and wind. Each of the mechanisms is then graded based on test results, weight, reliability, cost, serviceability, ease of installation, aesthetics, etc.

    Mounting Mechanisms

    PVMC also works with standards organizations in the PV and the roofing industries to enable standardization of mounting mechanisms and associated reliability testing procedures. The goal of the standardization activity is to reduce barriers for widespread adoption of the innovative mounting concepts.

Prototype Demos

Deploying LPV systems to evaluate installation costs, system reliability, and PV performance

  • Prototype demonstration refers to the outdoor deployment of innovative mounting mechanisms that have been processed through the Mounting Mechanisms project. For each of the mounting mechanisms, PVMC deploys 2-4 kW prototype PV systems on its rooftops in Albany, NY. The rooftops are comprised of a variety of common membrane and metal materials. PVMC evaluates installation costs (materials and labor) of the PV systems via time-and-motion studies of the actual installations and analysis of detailed bills of materials (BOM). Throughout the course of the project, the effect of the mounting mechanism on the electrical performance of the system is evaluated. Finally, any failure modes of the outdoor systems are documented and validated with the failures observed in indoor accelerated testing (as seen in the Mounting Mechanisms project).

Integrated Module Packaging

Reducing LPV deployment costs via targeted module characteristics and module and materials integration

  • The PVMC Integrated Module Packaging project utilizes a BOS Cost Analysis Tool, developed by PVMC, to determine the installation costs for commercial PV deployments with a particular focus on flat membrane roofs and system capacities exceeding 250 kW. The analysis projects labor and material costs related to module attributes including form factor, sacrificial membrane integration, cabling advancements and other characteristics. Large form factor modules using a sacrificial membrane attachment method are integrated at PVMC and BOS cost reductions are validated through installations.
  • Intergrated Module Packaging