Reliable walkways play a key role in accessing and properly maintaining rooftop accessories
The “green movement” is no longer a trendy catchphrase; it is a tangible industry with tremendous potential. Its growth can largely be linked to such recent developments as catastrophic weather events, gas shortages, crude oil cost increases, war, the events of 9/11, and even the recent oil spills off the coast of China and in the Gulf of Mexico.
There is a recommitment to building smarter: using recycled construction products, finding and using sustainable clean energy sources, as well as recent breakthroughs in technology that make this all possible and affordable. Also the United States government has given significant tax incentives for LEED certified projects and has begun retrofitting many of its own Naval facilities with solar panels as well.
For these reasons, the installation of photovoltaic cells is on the rise. This is true for both new construction and the retrofitting of existing roofs. Of course, the idea of harvesting nature’s prized possessions is not new. For more than a century, residents of Bermuda have used roof systems to catch rainwater to store in cisterns for later use. Think of all the unused roof space here in the U.S. that could be collecting clean, sustainable energy from the sun…it’s staggering.
Photovoltaic cells are a very important technology for reasons other than the obvious environmental benefits. As a domestic source of energy, it lessens our dependency on foreign oil and contributes to the nation’s energy security. As a relatively young and high-tech industry with government backing and incentives, it helps to create new jobs and strengthen the economy.
With more companies investing, researching, developing and marketing solar panels, the equipment is becoming more affordable and available. Cambridge, Mass.-based GTM Research, a research, market analysis and consulting firm, commented on the future prospects of the utility scale of PV cells: “Utilities in the United States already have signed contracts for 5,400 megawatts worth of photovoltaic power plants that will be built by 2014, with another 10,100 megawatts in negotiation. Additionally, the U.S. utility-scale photovoltaic market is expected to grow from $1 billion in 2010 to $8 billion by 2015. The global PV industry is increasingly turning its attention toward the U.S. utility PV market as a driver of global demand over the next five years. Indeed, conditions appear right to support massive growth.”
A recent analysis from Bloomberg New Energy Finance suggests that the U.S. market for solar photovoltaic and solar thermal generation will grow annually by 42 percent, to reach 44 GW by 2020. This will require more than $100 billion of investment.
“By the middle of this decade, the U.S. retail solar market will be driven by fundamental, unsubsidized competition, which should transform the U.S. into one of the world’s most dynamic solar markets,” said Milo Sjardin, Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s U.S. head of research.
This demand also dictates the need to safely access and navigate rooftops in order to install and maintain the growing amount of solar equipment. Other than the safety concerns, avoiding roof penetrations is always preferred for any kind of metal standing seam roof. These issues are both successfully addressed with the Metalwalk rooftop walkway system and available OSHA and IBC compliant safety handrail, by Design Components Inc.
Using S-5! non-penetrating clamps, the proven and tested Metalwalk system not only protects the metal roof from damaging foot traffic, but more importantly provides a safe, stable, non-slip walking surface for workers maintaining roof mounted PV cells, HVAC units or similar equipment.
Metalwalk can also be pitch corrected for traversing higher roof pitches and can be supplied with a powder coat finish to match painted roof panels. Optional features include: 4-inch high toeboards, self‑closing safety gates and attachments to fixed rib panels. The system is lightweight, requires no additional sub-framing, installs quickly and easily, and can integrate with roof hatches or fixed access ladder systems.
Nathan Plaxco is a Technical Sales & Marketing representative with Design Components. For more information, visit www.rooftopwalkway.com