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Publication numberUS20090194098 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 12/362,671
Publication dateAug 6, 2009
Filing dateJan 30, 2009
Priority dateJan 31, 2008
Publication number12362671, 362671, US 2009/0194098 A1, US 2009/194098 A1, US 20090194098 A1, US 20090194098A1, US 2009194098 A1, US 2009194098A1, US-A1-20090194098, US-A1-2009194098, US2009/0194098A1, US2009/194098A1, US20090194098 A1, US20090194098A1, US2009194098 A1, US2009194098A1
InventorsNeil V. Placer
Original AssigneeBp Corporation North America Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Solar Module with a Frame for Mounting a Solar Panel
US 20090194098 A1
Abstract
This invention relates to a frame for mounting a solar panel, where an angle frame member has a generally L-shaped cross section. The highly contoured frame member includes a riser element and a span element, where the riser element includes a straight section below an arcuate section bending towards the inside of the angle frame member. This invention also relates to solar modules, arrays of solar modules and methods of mounting solar modules, all having a highly contoured frame member.
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Claims(21)
1. A frame for mounting a solar panel, the frame comprising:
at least one angle member, the at least one angle member having a length and a generally L-shaped cross section transverse to the length, the at least one angle member comprising a span element connecting generally perpendicular to a riser element, the riser element having a generally straight section extending from the span element and an arcuate section extending from the generally straight section; and
a flange in combination with the at least one angle member for receiving at least a portion of the solar panel.
2. The frame of claim 1, wherein the arcuate section bends inward toward an angle of the at least one angle member.
3. The frame of claim 2, wherein the arcuate section extends through an angle of at least about 120 degrees.
4. The frame of claim 2, wherein the arcuate section extends through an angle of at least about 150 degrees.
5. The frame of claim 1, wherein the at least one angle member includes at least one attachment boss disposed with respect to the at least one angle member for receiving at least one fastener.
6. The frame of claim 5, further comprising at least one rectangular member in combination with and mating with the at least one angle member.
7. The frame of claim 6, wherein the at least one rectangular member and the at least one angle member form a butt joint attached by at least one fastener and the at least one attachment boss.
8. The frame of claim 1, further comprising a connection channel formed in the span element along at least a part of the length of the at least one angle member to receive a portion of an anchor for mounting the frame to a structure.
9. The frame of claim 8, further comprising:
mounting rails receiving the anchor from the at least one connection channel and mounting to the structure in an end mount orientation with respect to the solar panel.
10. The frame of claim 1, wherein the at least one angle member has a mass per unit length of less than about 700 grams per meter.
11. The frame of claim 1, wherein a center of mass of the at least one angle member generally aligns with an inside edged of the flange to resist a bending moment.
12. A solar module for anchoring to a structure, the solar module comprising:
a solar panel including at least one solar cell disposed between a transparent sheet and a backing sheet;
a frame for mounting the solar panel including at least one angle member, the at least one angle member having a length and a generally L-shaped cross section transverse to the length, the at least one angle member comprising a span element connecting generally perpendicular to a riser element, the riser element having a generally straight section extending from the span element and an arcuate section extending from the generally straight section; and
a flange in combination with the at least one angle member for receiving at least a portion of the solar panel.
13. The solar module of claim 12, wherein the at least one angle member includes at least one attachment boss.
14. The solar module of claim 12, wherein the riser element and the span element have a thickness of between about 0.5 mm and about 3.5 mm.
15. The solar module of claim 12, wherein:
the at least one angle member has a height of between about 30 mm and about 80 mm; and
the at least one angle member has a width of between about 10 mm and about 50 mm.
16. The solar module of claim 12, further comprising:
at least one rectangular member in combination with and mating with the at least one angle member.
17. The solar module of claim 12, wherein:
the solar panel has a perimeter edge and a rectangular shape with a length greater than a width;
angle members disposed along the length of the solar panel and rectangular members disposed along the width of the solar panel to bound the perimeter edge of the solar panel; and
a sealant applied to at least a portion of the perimeter edge and the frame.
18. An array of the solar modules of claim 12, anchoring on a structure comprising:
a plurality of solar modules disposed on a structure in an end mount orientation.
19. A method of mounting a solar module of claim 12 to a structure, the method comprising:
providing a solar module having a frame, wherein the frame includes at least one angle member with a contoured shape; and
attaching the solar module with respect to the structure.
20. An extruded member for mounting a solar panel to a structure, the extruded member comprising:
a first linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first linear portion extending generally horizontally;
a first arc portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the first arc portion extending from the second end of the first linear portion and curving upwards from the first linear portion until the second end of the first arc portion aligns generally perpendicular and above with respect to the first linear portion, the first arc portion having a length about one tenth to about one half the length of the first linear portion;
a second linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the second linear portion extending generally vertically and above from the second end of the first arc portion and having a length about one tenth to about equal to the length of the first linear portion;
a second arc portion having a radius, an angle, a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the second arc portion extending from the second end of the second linear portion and curving inwards toward the first end of the first linear portion with a radius about one tenth to about twice the length of the first linear portion and an angle of at least about 120 degrees until the second end of the second arc portion generally vertically aligns with the first end of the second arc portion, the second arc portion having a length about one quarter to about twice the length of the first linear portion;
a third linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the third linear portion extending generally horizontally from the second end of the second arc portion and towards the first end of the first linear portion, the third linear portion having a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of the first linear portion;
a fourth linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the fourth linear portion extending generally vertically from and above the second end of the second arc portion and having a length about one tenth to about one half the length of the first linear portion; and
a fifth linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, the first end of the fifth linear portion extending from the second end of the fourth linear portion toward the first end of the first linear portion and generally parallel with respect to the third linear portion, the fifth linear portion having a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of the first linear portion.
21. The extruded member of claim 20, further comprising:
a first curved finger extending from the first end of the first linear portion toward the second linear portion forming a first c-shaped body; and
a second curved finger extending from second arc portion and the third linear portion toward a first end of the first linear portion forming a second c-shaped body.
Description
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This patent application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 61/024,992, filed on Jan. 31, 2008, and is related to U.S. design patent application titled CONTOURED SOLAR PANEL FRAME MEMBER, filed Jan. 31, 2008 (Applicant's Reference No. SL1328D). The entire content of these U.S. applications is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention relates to solar module frames for mounting solar panels to a structure.

2. Discussion of Related Art

Solar technology seeks to convert energy from the sun into electricity and reduce demands on conventional sources of electricity, such as fossil fuels. The need for renewable energy sources exists in areas with temperate climates and areas with winter climates.

Solar cells convert sunlight into direct current. Typically, multiple solar cells are positioned between a transparent sheet and a backing sheet to form solar panels. Solar panels are usually rectangular in shape and of a convenient size for handling and mounting on a roof or other structure.

Solar panels are typically somewhat flexible and are set in a supporting frame. Conventional supporting frame designs allow bending and/or twisting of parts of the frame when under load, such as, from wind loading and/or snow accumulation. Weather-based stresses can permanently damage the solar panel.

Solar modules mounted on the shorter sides of the rectangular shaped solar panel have a span the length of the solar panel. This mounting arrangement under load has a downward deflection at the center of the span with twisting and/or spreading of the frame. The load on the solar panel may cause the frame to fail as a portion of the solar panel comes out of or disengages from the frame, requiring replacement of the solar panel.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One object of this invention is to provide a solar module with a highly contoured frame for mounting to a structure. There is a need for a frame that can withstand wind and snow loading, for example, according to the IEC 61215, Second edition standard, without failing and while not increasing the mass of the solar module over conventional frames.

These and other objects of this invention are accomplished at least in part with a frame for mounting a solar panel that includes at least one angle member. The angle member includes a length and a generally L-shaped cross section transverse to the length. Each angle member includes a highly contoured shape with a span element connecting generally perpendicular to a riser element. The riser element includes a generally straight section extending from the span element and an arcuate section extending from the generally straight section. The frame includes a flange in combination with the at least one angle member for receiving at least a portion of the solar panel.

The invention further comprehends a solar module for anchoring to a structure with a solar panel including at least one solar cell disposed between a transparent sheet and a backing sheet. The solar module includes a frame for mounting the solar panel including at least one angle member with a length and a generally L-shaped cross section transverse to the length. The at least one angle member includes a span element connecting generally perpendicular to a riser element having a generally straight section extending from the span element and an arcuate section extending from the generally straight section. The solar module includes a flange in combination with the at least one angle member for receiving at least a portion of the solar panel.

The invention also includes an extruded member for mounting a solar panel to a structure including a first linear portion extending generally horizontally and having a length, a first end and a second end.

The extruded member further includes a first arc portion having a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the first arc portion extends from the second end of the first linear portion and curves upwards from the first linear portion until the second end of the first arc portion aligns generally perpendicular and above with respect to the first linear portion. The first arc portion includes a length about one tenth to about one half the length of the first linear portion.

The extruded member includes a second linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the second linear portion extends generally vertically and above from the second end of the first arc portion. The second linear portion includes a length about one tenth to about equal to the length of the first linear portion.

The extruded member further includes a second arc portion having a radius, an angle, a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the second arc portion extends from the second end of the second linear portion and curves inwards toward the first end of the first linear portion with a radius about one tenth to about twice the length of the first linear portion and an angle of at least about 120 degrees until the second end of the second arc portion generally vertically aligns with the first end of the second arc portion. The second arc portion includes a length about one quarter to about twice the length of the first linear portion.

The extruded member further includes a third linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the third linear portion extends generally horizontally from the second end of the second arc portion and towards the first end of the first linear portion. The third linear portion includes a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of the first linear portion.

The extruded member further includes a fourth linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the fourth linear portion extends generally vertically from and above the second end of the second arc portion. The fourth linear member includes a length about one tenth to about one half the length of the first linear portion.

The extruded member further includes a fifth linear portion having a length, a first end and a second end, where the first end of the fifth linear portion extends from the second end of the fourth linear portion toward the first end of the first linear portion and generally parallel with respect to the third linear portion. The fifth linear portion includes a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of the first linear portion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The above and other features and objects of this invention are better understood from the following detailed description taken in view of the drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a top sectional view of a solar module, according to one embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 2 is a sectional side view of an angle member, according to one embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 3 is a sectional side view of a rectangular member, according to one embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 4 is a partial sectional side view of a solar module, according to one embodiment of this invention;

FIG. 5 is a top view of an array of solar modules, according to one embodiment of this invention; and

FIG. 6 is a sectional side view of an extruded member, according to one embodiment of this invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The invention, as shown in FIG. 1, is directed to solar module 14 including frame 10 for holding and/or mounting solar panel 12. Solar module 14 may include any suitable device or mechanism to convert or transform electromagnetic radiation into electricity. Electromagnetic radiation broadly includes visible light, infrared, ultraviolet and/or any other portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, such as, for example, radiation emitted from a sun and/or a star.

Electricity broadly includes direct current, alternating current, low voltage, high voltage and/or any other suitable movement of electrons for transmission, storage and/or work. Often, solar modules 14 produce direct current which may be transformed to alternating current, such as, by an inverter.

As shown in FIGS. 1 and 4 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, solar module 14 may include solar panel 12 with solar cells 56 or photodiodes, transparent sheet 58 or top cover, backing sheet 60 or bottom plate, adhesive or glue, diodes or electrical current modifiers, electrical wiring or harnesses, electrical connectors or plugs, solder joints or unions, batteries or storage cells, and/or any other suitable item or member to make electricity.

Solar panel 12 may include any suitable size and/or shape. Typical dimensions of solar panel 12 may range from fractions of one meter to several meters, such as, for example, a rectangle having a width of between about 0.5 m and about 3 m and length of between about 1 m and about 5 m.

Generally, solar panel 12 can be carried or maneuvered by one person without additional powered lifting equipment. The size of solar panel 12 can be a function of various factors including, but not limited, to material strength, material cost, weather loading, location, and/or any other suitable variable impacting design. According to certain embodiments of this invention, solar panel 12 can be between about 0.75 m and about 1.1 m by between about 1.5 m and about 1.7 m. According to other embodiments of this invention, solar panel 12 can be about 1.7 m by about 1.0 m.

Solar cells 56 may include, without limitation, single-crystal silicon, polycrystal silicon, multicrystal silicon, ribbon silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, thin film and/or any other suitable photovoltaic form or element to covert electromagnetic radiation. Typically, any suitable number of solar cells 56 may be arranged within solar panel 12 in series configurations, in parallel configurations and/or in combinations thereof, such as, about 10 solar cells 56 to about 150 solar cells 56, for example. According to certain embodiments of this invention, solar panel 12 includes sixty solar cells 56. According to other embodiments of this invention, solar panel 12 includes seventy-two solar cells 56.

Transparent sheet 58 includes at least a portion that can pass at least a substantial amount of the desired wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation for capture and/or conversion by solar cells 56, for example. Transparent sheet 58 may include glass, plastics and/or any other suitable transmissive substances. Generally, transparent sheet 58 can withstand some deflection or bending before cracking or failing. According to certain embodiments of this invention, transparent sheet 58 includes float glass.

Backing sheet 60 may include metals, plastics, laminates, wood members and/or any other suitable materials to at least partially isolate and/or support solar panel 12. According to certain embodiments of this invention, backing sheet 60 can be any metallic foil and/or polymeric material, such as, aluminum (Al), copper (Cu), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high density polyethylene (HDPE), polypropylene (PP), Tedlar®, Teflon®, Tefzel®, fluorinated films and/or any other suitable material. Backing sheet 60 may include laminated and/or layered structures, such as, for example, Tedlar®/PET/Tedlar® and/or Tedlar®/Al/Tedlar®.

Suitable adhesive materials or glues may be used to join or laminate transparent sheet 58 and/or backing sheet 60 with solar cells 56. Generally, adhesive materials can withstand the working temperature ranges of solar panel 12 and may be at least moisture resistant.

As shown in FIG. 1 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, solar module 14 may include frame 10. Typically, frame 10 holds, mounts, affixes and/or disposes at least a portion of solar panel 12. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame 10 extends around, bounds and/or traces a perimeter of solar panel 12. Frame 10 generally imparts at least some structural rigidity to solar module 14 and may provide convenient mounting or anchoring points to affix, attach and/or anchor solar module 14 to structure 16, as shown in FIG. 5, for example. Frame 10 may also raise or elevate solar module 14 from a surface of structure 16, such as, to allow air circulation for cooling of solar cells 56, thereby improving efficiency and/or reliability.

Frame 10 according to certain embodiments of this invention meets or exceeds the IEC 61215, Second edition standard, while having no significant mass increase or change in overall dimensions of solar module 14 compared to conventional frames, not shown.

Compliance with the IEC 61215, Second edition standard allows solar module 14 to withstand loadings, such as, from wind and/or snow accumulation without failure of components. Compliance with the IEC 61215, Second edition standard prevents failures by allowing only minimal twisting or bending of frame members. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame 10 withstands at least 2400 Pa pressure when end mounted. According to other embodiments of this invention, frame 10 withstands at least 5400 Pa pressure, when end mounted, for example.

Typical failure mechanisms of solar module frames under load and/or burden include downward deflection or bowing and/or include twisting or bending of frame members, particularly of the lengthwise members. Twisting of the members may result in a spreading or an increase of the frame width until at least a potion solar panel 12 dislodges or pops out of at least a portion of flange 22 of frame 10.

Suitable materials for frame 10 may include aluminum, aluminum alloys, steels, stainless steels, alloys, polymers, reinforced polymer composites and/or any other suitable relatively lightweight and durable substance. Materials can be further treated, such as, for example, painted, galvanized, powder coated, anodized and/or any other suitable technique for improving form and/or function of frame 10. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame 10 includes 6005-T5, 6061-T6 and/or 6063-T6 aluminum alloys.

Lap joints, butt joints 38, dovetail joints, mortise and tenant joints, miter joints and/or any other suitable union may form frame 10 from combinations the same and/or different shaped members. According to certain embodiments of this invention and shown in FIG. 1, corners of frame 10 are made or constructed by at least partial butt joints 38, where an end of one member contacts in combination with and/or mates with a side of another member. Butt joints 38 may allow for quick fabrication of frame 10 with minimal labor, for example. Also, butt joints 38 can allow moisture to drain from members to prevent damage by freezing and/or corrosion.

Frame 10 forms corners or angles that may include fasteners 36, such as, for example, screws, bolts, nuts, dowels, washers, rivets, biscuits, cements, glues, epoxies, glazing, welds and/or any other suitable mechanical and/or chemical attaching mechanisms. According to a certain embodiments of this invention, fasteners 36 include at least two machine screws at each corner of frame 10. Fasteners 36 may be counter sunk to minimize protrusions from frame 10, such as, to create a smooth perimeter.

Solar panel 12 may be placed in frame 10 with further assistance of calking, glue, adhesive sealant 62 and/or other gasketing material in, on, around and/or between at least a portion of frame 10 and at least a portion of solar panel 12, as shown in FIG. 4 and according to certain embodiments of this invention. Typical adhesive sealants 62 may include butyl polymers, silane polymers, modified silane polymers, silicone polymers, urethane polymers and/or any other suitable relatively water impermeable substance. Adhesive sealant 62 may include water barrier properties, sticking properties, attaching properties and/or structural functionality. Adhesive sealant may further improve snow and/or wind loading levels of solar module 14.

Typically, frame 10 includes one or more members having a cross section taken transverse to a length. Common manufacturing methods for frame members may include casting, extruding, milling, machining, stamping, pressing, molding and/or any other suitable mass production process. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame 10 comprises extruded aluminum members.

Frame members can be any size and/or shape needed to perform the desired functions of frame 10. Typically, but not necessarily, a frame member has a length generally equal to a side of solar panel 12. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame members have a height of between about 30 mm and about 80 mm and a width of between about 10 mm and about 50 mm. According to other embodiments of this invention, frame members have a height of about 50 mm and a width of about 32 mm.

Frame members may have wall portions with any suitable thickness or dimension. According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame members have a thickness of between about 0.5 mm and about 3.5 mm. According to other embodiments of this invention, frame members have a thickness of between about 1.5 mm and about 2.4 mm and more specifically about 1.75 mm. Varying thicknesses of the frame member profiles are possible and maybe beneficial for providing additional strength in some parts and/or reducing mass in other parts, for example.

Generally, outside corners of frame members can be rounded, smoothed, radiused, chamfered and/or remain sharp. Similarly, inside corners of members can be rounded, smoothed, radiused, chamfered and/or remain sharp. According to certain embodiments of this invention and as shown in the FIG. 6, sharp corners break, for example, in about 0.40 mm radius or are chamfered, for example, by about 1.0 by about 1.0. Generally, eased corners reduce residual stresses from stress risers created during the manufacturing process, for example. Additionally, eased corners can improve safe handling of materials during installation, operation and/or maintenance, for example, by providing surfaces without sharp edges that could cause lacerations.

According to certain embodiments of this invention, frame members include a cross section with an ergonomic design or shape to further assist gripping and handling of frame members.

Members of frame 10 may include angle members 18 and rectangular members 20, as shown in FIGS. 1-4 and according to certain embodiments of this invention. Combinations of different shapes of frame members can facilitate fabrication, installation and/or lower the cost of solar module 14.

As shown in FIG. 2 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, angle member 18 forms a generally, but not necessarily, open cross section. Open cross sections may prevent accumulation of water that could damage frame 10. Angle member 18 may include an L-shaped, a substantially L-shaped or a generally L-shaped cross section, including at least one curved portion on a vertical and/or a generally vertical section. As used herein, L-shaped refers to any relatively two sided shape or configuration with each side perpendicular, generally perpendicular and/or substantially perpendicular with respect to the other. L-shaped cross sections with a curved portion of this invention can offer improved load bearing strength over flat shapes and/or reduce twisting or torsional movement of angle member 18, for example. Angle member 18 generally can impart structural rigidity to frame 10, particularly along a length of solar panel 12 and as shown in FIG. 1.

As shown in FIG. 2 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, angle member 18 may include at least one riser element 24 that for the sake of convention and description extends in a vertical, a generally vertical and/or a substantially vertical orientation with respect to solar panel 12. Riser element 24 can have any of the physical characteristics and/or dimensions described above for members of frame 10. Generally, but not necessarily, riser element 24 forms straight section 28 and arcuate section 30. Straight section 28 may be below arcuate section 30, for example. Straight section 28 includes a linear, a generally linear, and/or a substantially linear section of the cross section. Arcuate section 30 includes a curved, a generally curved, and/or a substantially curved section of the cross section.

Arcuate section 30 may include any suitable angle θ and/or combination of angles to form a suitable radius and/or profile. According to an embodiment of this invention, arcuate section 30 bends or contours inward toward the inside angle of angle member 18. Other forms are possible and may include a concave shape, a convex shape and/or a combination of concave and convex shapes. Any suitable radius and/or combination of radii are possible for arcuate section 30, such as, from between about 0.1 mm and about 20 mm, for example. According to certain embodiments of this invention, the radius of arcuate section 30 is about 10 mm.

Arcuate section 30 may include any suitable angle θ, such as, at least about 120 degrees, specifically at least about 150 degrees and more specifically about 180 degrees. Generally, but not necessarily, curved or arcuate section 30 begins and ends in the same substantially vertical plane. Other designs with longer and/or shorter end points for arcuate section 30 are possible.

The highly contoured shape and/or S-shape formed by arcuate section 30 and the other elements of the angle member 18 may be referred to as a cobra profile or a cobra head shape. As viewed in cross section, angle member 18 has the shape of a cobra snake poised to strike, for example. The highly contoured shape of the cobra design imparts strength without adding additional mass while resisting a bending moment, such as, meeting and/or exceeding the IEC 61215, Second edition standard.

Angle member 18 can have any suitable mass per unit length, such as, to provide sufficient strength and resist failure. According to certain embodiments of this invention, angle member 18 has a mass per unit length of less than about 1000 grams per meter, particularly less than about 700 grams per meter and more particularly less than about 650 grams per meter.

According to certain embodiments of this invention, a center of mass for angle member 18 aligns or resides in an inside edge or plane of a top of flange 22, such as, to resist a bending moment. Placing the center of mass or centriod further towards the inside of frame 10 may reduce twisting, bending and/or failure of the frame members, when under load, for example. According to certain embodiments of this invention, the center of mass is moved inward using differing thicknesses in the parts of the frame member, such as, span element 26 having a thickness of about 2.4 mm and riser element 24 having a thickness of about 1.75 mm or about 1.4 times the thickness in the bottom horizontal section, for example.

As further shown in FIG. 2 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, angle member 18 may include at least one span element 26 that for the sake of convention and description extends in a horizontal, a generally horizontal and/or a substantially horizontal orientation with respect to solar panel 12. Span element 26 can have any of the physical characteristics and/or dimensions described above for members of frame 10. Generally, but not necessarily, span element 26 forms a linear, a generally linear, a substantially linear and/or a straight segment of the cross section.

Riser element 24 and span element 26 may connect or meet in any suitable location and at any suitable angle. According to certain embodiments of this invention, riser element 24 and span element 26 may form about a right angle, such as, in a perpendicular, a generally perpendicular and/or a substantially perpendicular connection or corner. According to other embodiments of this invention, riser element 24 and span element 26 form a round corner and/or a curved radius, such as, for example, forming a smooth rounded edge.

Angle member 18 may include one or more extending lips, projections, ribs and/or ridges from the cross section of any suitable size and/or shape, for example, to aid in attaching or mounting angle member 18 to structure 16 or providing additional stiffness and support.

Angle member 18 may include at least one flange 22 in combination with angle member 18 for receiving at least a portion of solar panel 12. Flange 22 can form a groove, a lip, a channel, a recess, an edge, a clip and/or any other suitable holding or anchoring structure for solar panel 12. According to certain embodiments of this invention, flange 22 includes a two-sided or a three-sided channel open toward an inside of the frame 10 for mounting at or along a perimeter of solar panel 12. Other shapes for flange 22 are possible. Flange 22 may also be referred to as a glass groove, for example.

Flange 22 may include any suitable shape and/or dimensions. A depth of flange 22 or top to bottom distance may typically accommodate and/or allow a thickness of solar panel 12 to form a friction fit and/or an interference fit, for example. Alternately, flange 22 may allow for the additional gasketing and/or adhesive sealant 62 as discussed above. Flange 22 can have any suitable width or side to side dimension. According to certain embodiments of this invention, a depth of flange 22 is between about 2 mm and about 12 mm and more particularly about 5.5 mm.

According to certain embodiments of this invention, the width of flange 22 is between about 5 mm and about 25 mm. According to other embodiments of this invention, the width of flange 22 is about 11 mm, in the horizontal direction of flange 22, such as, shown in FIGS. 2-3.

As shown in FIG. 2 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, angle member 18 may include at least one attachment boss 34. Attachment boss 34 can have any suitable size and/or shape to assist or hold the joint or union of members of frame 10. Attachment boss 34 may run or be along at least a portion of the length of a member of frame 10. According to certain embodiments of this invention, attachment boss 34 receives at least a portion of fastener 36. Attachment boss 34 can have a generally square shape and a width of approximately a diameter of fastener 36, such as, for example, where the threads of fastener 36 interfaces with and/or threads into the walls of attachment boss 34 to form a connection.

Attachment boss 34 may be tapped and/or threaded during fabrication or installation, but generally can be cut by fastener 36, for example, such as, with a tapered screw during assembly. Attachment boss 34 is not limited to straight or square shapes, but also may include curved forms. Attachment boss 34 may be located at any location with respect to angle member 18, particularly along an outside and/or an inside of the cross sectional shape. According to certain embodiments of this invention, at least two attachment bosses 34 are generally located with respect to L-shaped cross section of angle member 18, such as, at an end of span element 26 and below flange 22. Attachment bosses 34 may further improve structural rigidity of frame 10, by reinforcing and/or stiffening angle member 18, particularly with respect to twisting forces.

Rectangular member 20 may include any suitable size and/or shape, particularly to compliment and/or mate with angle member 18. As shown in FIG. 3 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, rectangular member 20 includes a generally rectangular cross section having sides which may further be strengthened by cross members. Cross members may also aid or assist fastener 36 when forming a joint or union, such as, to form a pilot or guide, for example. Rectangular member 20 typically, but not necessarily, forms a closed shape.

Rectangular member 20 may have any of the details and/or characteristics discussed above with respect to members of frame 10. A cross section of rectangular member 20 may have a width of about 11 mm and a height of about 50 mm, according to certain embodiments of this invention.

Rectangular member 20 may include at least one flange 22 and/or at least one attachment boss 34 along at least a portion of the length, as discussed above with respect to angle member 18. Rectangular member 20 may include one or more extending lips, projections, ribs and/or ridges from the cross section, for example, to aid in attaching or mounting rectangular member 20 to structure 16 or providing additional stiffness and support. Rectangular member 20 may be used along a width of solar panel 12, such as, to form butt joint 38 with angle member 18, as discussed above.

FIG. 4 shows one embodiment of solar module 14 with angle member 18 opposite rectangular member 20, such as, may occur with solar panels 12 having an odd number of sides, for example.

According to certain embodiments of this invention and as shown in FIG. 4, angle member 18 may include at least one connection channel 40 along at least a portion of the length and typically, but not necessarily, formed by and/or in span element 26. Generally, at least a portion of anchor 44 can be slid or moved along connection channel 40. The sliding feature of connection channel 40 can allow flexibility and/or adaptability in mounting and field erection, such as, when dealing with an irregular roof on structure 16. Connection channel 40 may save significant labor costs while avoiding drilling additional holes into frame 10. Connection channel 40 may also provide additional structural and/or reinforcing features to members of frame 10, such as, to improve twisting resistance or strength.

According to certain embodiments of this invention, connection channel 40 prevents axial rotation of anchor 44 with respect to frame 10. Rotation can be prevented with the shape of connection channel 40, for example, with walls 42 to stop a head of a hex bolt from turning in connection channel 40 and eliminate the need for a wrench to hold the bolt head.

Anchor 44 may include any of the objects or materials described above with respect to fastener 36 and/or may include profiled shapes specially adapted to a particular outline of connection channel 40. According to certain embodiments of this invention, anchor 44 includes stainless steel and/or any other suitable corrosion resistant material.

This invention further may include one or more mounting rails 48. Mounting rails 48 may include any suitable size and/or shape, such as, for example, a box, a channel, a tube, a bar, a beam, a H bean, an I beam and/or any other attaching form. According to certain embodiments of this invention and as shown in FIG. 4, mounting rail 48 has an I-shape. The I-shape may allow for mounting solar modules 14 next to each other by placing one solar module 14 on each side of the vertical web, such as, to accept anchor 44.

Frame 10 of solar module 14 may include one or more end caps 64 or corner pieces, as shown in FIG. 1 and according to certain embodiments of this invention. End caps 64 can be any suitable size and/or shape to prevent moisture and/or debris from accumulating within a portion of a frame member, particularly members forming butt joint 38. End caps 64 may include at least one drain or aperture, for example, to allow condensation drainage from frame 10. End caps 64 can be any suitable material, such as, injection molded plastic and/or stamped aluminum, for example.

According to certain embodiments of this invention end caps 64 can be pushed or inserted at least partially into both sides of the end frame 10, such as, rectangular member 20 at butt joint 38. Typically, end caps 64 lessen or remove sharp corners, hide fasteners 36 and/or improve aesthetics.

A plurality of or multiple solar panels 14 may be mounted to structure 16 in any suitable number or arrangement to form array 46. Array 46 may include solar modules 14 disposed upon mounting rails 48. Generally, a design of array 46 may seek to maximize a number of solar modules 14 on a structure 16. Solar modules 14 may be abutted next to each other except for thermal expansion and/or drainage tolerances. Alternately, spaces or gaps may remain between solar modules 14, such as, to allow personnel access across a roof. Often, but not necessarily, array 46 of solar modules 14 can be mounted in a grid of rows and/or columns, such as, on top of a building.

As shown in FIG. 5 and according to certain embodiments of this invention, solar panels 14 can be arranged in an end mount orientation 50 or configuration with respect to mounting rails 48. End mount orientation 50 can allow a minimal number of mounting rails 48 for a given number of solar panels 14. Typically, but not necessarily, end mount orientation 50 includes placing mounting rails 48 generally along a direction of roof drainage, to prevent accumulation or damming of water.

Solar modules 14 can be placed or mounted lengthwise and/or widthwise across mounting rails 48 and frame 10 to anchor mounting rails 48 with anchor 44. According to certain embodiments of this invention, end mount orientation 50 supports solar modules along the width or the shorter side, resulting in a span of the length of solar module 14. End mount orientation 50, for example, may include attaching at angle member 18 or rectangular member 20 by overlapping lengthwise with mounting rail 48.

Alternately, an intermediate mount 52 or middle mount configuration is also shown in FIG. 5. Intermediate mount 52 can locate or place mounting rails 48 along any suitable interior position of a length or a width of solar module 14, such as, for example, about a quarter to about a third of the length from each width edge. Intermediate mount orientation 52 may include more mounting rails 48 for a given number of solar panels 14 than end mount orientation 50. Other mounting configurations are possible.

According to certain embodiments of this invention and as shown in FIG. 4, an installed unit may include frame 10 and/or mounting rail 48 in combination with at least one brace 54 or foot. Typically, but not necessarily, brace 54 includes adjustment and/or leveling capabilities for placing mounting rail 48 with respect to structure 16. Brace 54 can have any suitable size and/or shape, such as, generally T-shaped.

This invention also relates to a method for attaching solar module 14 to structure 16 including the steps of providing solar module 14 having frame 10 with at least one angle member 18 having a contoured shape, and attaching solar module 14 with respect to structure 16. Other steps are possible, such as, leveling, aligning, sizing and/or any other suitable action to affix the solar module.

According to certain embodiments of the method of this invention, the method includes mounting solar modules 14 with frame 10 having connection channel 40 to structure 16. The steps of the method may include sliding, inserting, moving along, and/or engaging at least a portion of anchor 44 into connection channel 40 and tightening, securing, connecting and/or any other suitable action to affix or dispose frame 10 to structure 16.

According to certain embodiments of this invention and as shown in FIG. 6, a side section, a side frame extrusion and/or a side rail of frame 10 may include extruded member 68 for mounting solar panel 12 to structure 16, such as, in a lengthwise direction. As shown in FIG. 6, the cross section of extruded member 68 may include a generally two legged shape with an open structure having a perpendicular, a substantially perpendicular, and/or a generally perpendicular outline.

When referring to the dimensions, shapes, and relative orientations, such as, the angles of the portions for extruded member 68 with reference to FIG. 6, such references to the dimensions, shapes and relative orientations of such portions are with respect to the cross section, as shown in FIG. 6.

Extruded member 68 may include first linear portion 70 having a length, a first end and a second end. First linear portion 70 may extend horizontally, generally horizontally and/or substantially horizontally, for any suitable length, such as, between about 10 mm and about 100 mm, particularly between about 20 mm and about 50 mm and more particularly about 30 mm.

Extruded member 68 may further include first arc portion 72 having a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of first arc portion 72 may extend from the second end of first linear portion 70 and curve upwards from first linear portion 70 until the second end of first arc portion 72 aligns generally perpendicular and above with respect to first linear portion 70. First arc portion 72 may include any suitable length, such as, a length about one tenth to about one half the length of first linear portion 70.

Extruded member 68 may further include second linear portion 74 having a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of second linear portion 74 may extend generally vertically and above from the second end of first arc portion 72. Second linear portion 74 may have any suitable length, such as, a length about one tenth to about equal to the length of first linear portion 70.

Extruded member 68 may further include second arc portion 76 having a radius, angle θ′, a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of second arc portion 76 may extend from the second end of second linear portion 74 and curve inwards toward the first end of first linear portion 70. Second arc portion 76 may include any suitable radius and angle θ′, such as, a radius about one tenth to about twice the length of first linear portion 70 and angle θ′ of at least about 120 degrees until the second end of second arc portion 76 generally vertically aligns with the first end of second arc portion 76. Second arc portion 76 may include any suitable length, such as, a length about one quarter to about twice the length of first linear portion 70.

Extruded member 68 may further include third linear portion 78 having a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of third linear portion 78 may extend generally horizontally from the second end of second arc portion 76 and towards the first end of first linear portion 70. Third linear portion 78 may have any suitable length, such as, a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of first linear portion 70.

Extruded member 68 may further include fourth linear portion 80 having a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of fourth linear portion 80 may extend generally vertically from and above the second end of second arc portion 76. Fourth linear portion 80 may include any suitable length, such as, a length about one tenth to about one half the length of first linear portion 70.

Extruded member 68 may further include fifth linear portion 82 having a length, a first end and a second end. The first end of fifth linear portion may extend from the second end of fourth linear portion 80 toward the first end of first linear portion 70 and generally parallel with respect to third linear portion 78. Fifth linear portion 82 may include any suitable length, such as, a length about one tenth to about three quarters the length of first linear portion 70.

According to certain embodiments and as shown in FIG. 6, extruded member 68 may include first curved finger 84 extending from first linear portion 70 generally toward second linear portion 74 and forming first c-shaped body 86. Extruded member 68 may further include second curved finger 88 located with respect to the intersection of second arc portion 76 and third linear portion 78 to form second c-shaped body 90. C-shaped bodies 86, 90 may accept, mate and/or combine with fastener 36, as generally discussed above regarding attachment boss 34.

According to certain embodiments of this invention, solar module 14 exceeds the strength of the conventional design by at least twice and more specifically by more than about 2.25 times. This improved strength includes resistance to bending or bowing, particularly with loading at the center of an end mount orientation 50. The torsional movement or twisting under load can be improved to reduce possible spreading of frame 10 and failure of solar module 14. The improved strength of frame 10 according to certain embodiments of this invention exceeds the IEC 61215, Second edition standard for wind and snow loadings.

While in the foregoing specification this invention has been described in relation to certain preferred embodiments, and many details are set forth for purpose of illustration, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that this invention is susceptible to additional embodiments and that certain of the details described in this specification and in the claims can be varied considerably without departing from the basic principles of this invention.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8186111Dec 5, 2008May 29, 2012Lumeta Inc.Profile roof tile with integrated photovoltaic module
US8601755Feb 3, 2012Dec 10, 20131541689 Ontario Inc.Solar panel supports
US8895837 *Mar 9, 2012Nov 25, 2014Hulk Energy Technology Co., Ltd.Solar cell module
US20130125984 *May 23, 2013Hulk Energy Technology Co., Ltd.Solar cell module
US20140026941 *Jan 4, 2013Jan 30, 2014Samsung Sdi Co., Ltd.Solar power generating apparatus
US20140076399 *Mar 7, 2013Mar 20, 2014Hulk Energy Technology Co., Ltd.Solar cell module structure
DE102012005416A1Mar 14, 2012Oct 18, 2012Solon SeRahmenartige Halterung für ein Solarpaneel mit einer Kabelhalterung
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EP2511960A2Mar 14, 2012Oct 17, 2012Solon SeFrame-like holder for a solar panel with a cable holder
WO2011023777A2 *Aug 26, 2010Mar 3, 2011Schüco Tf Gmbh & Co. KgDevice, system comprising at least two devices of this type and method for equipping a photovoltaic system
WO2011031248A2 *Aug 28, 2009Mar 17, 2011Petra Solar Inc.Kit for mounting a photovoltaic assembly
Classifications
U.S. Classification126/704
International ClassificationF24J2/46
Cooperative ClassificationH02S20/00, H02S20/23, Y02B10/12, F24J2/5205, F24J2/5211, Y02B10/20, F24J2/464, H01L31/048, Y02E10/47, Y02E10/50
European ClassificationF24J2/52A4E, F24J2/52A4B, F24J2/46C, H01L31/042B, H01L31/048, H01L31/048B
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jan 30, 2009ASAssignment
Owner name: BP CORPORATION NORTH AMERICA INC., ILLINOIS
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:PLACER, NEIL V.;REEL/FRAME:022180/0439
Effective date: 20080204