Airlifting PV modules for C&I solar projects


From pv magazine Australia

In July, Epho Commercial Solar airlifted solar systems onto 12 separate rooftops at the Woolworths headquarters in greater Sydney. How did they do it? Well, they did what any of us would do when we’re stuck in a bind – they called in a helicopter.

Woolworths was looking to reduce its emissions by installing a 572 kW solar system atop its massive Norwest Support Office in Bella Vista. However, Epho Managing Director Oliver Hartley told pv magazine Australia that due to the uniquely complex factors of the project, “a cost benefit analysis was made and the helicopter scenario ended up being not only competitive but also enabled the whole system to be lifted to all 12 sub roofs (and various mechanical plant decks) within the space of eight hours.”

Hartley estimated the same undertaking with cranes would have taken more than three days, and caused “extensive traffic management, and thus increase disruption to the public and staff.”

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Epho now believes that small helicopters will be used more regularly for complex installations like the one at the Woolworths Norwest Support Office. Without thinking outside the box, such complex installations may have been canceled in the past, but now it has been shown that there is a viable option.

Airlifting modules is reserved for special cases, if only because they bring their own raft of challenges, says Hartley. “For instance the buildings need to be entirely vacated which may not be easily achievable in some cases. For simple projects (single roof with suitable access), scissor lifts or mobile cranes are likely to remain the mainstream preferred installation methodology for solar projects,” he adds.

This said, helicopters are helpful. Installation times are drastically reduced, and because the equipment is lifted to exactly where it needs to be, manual handling is reduced and therefore worker safety is increased.

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