The NASA Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) supported Sollega by providing a Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) wind study to determine the amount of ballast needed for each InstaRack. The goal of SATOP is to help small businesses apply the technical expertise derived from the US space program. Made up of an Alliance of more than 45 space companies, universities, colleges, and NASA centers, SATOP finds professionals within theses companies who volunteer their time and expertise in solving the challenges brought forth by the inquiring businesses.
The goal of the project was to study the airflow and estimate the forces around solar panels and the InstaRack installed on a roof. Sollega needed to determine the uplift and sliding forces for its ballast system. Every panel will not create the same pressure difference between the top and the bottom and therefore, it is important to know its detailed variations. A map of these pressures help to optimize the distribution of ballast load to minimize the unnecessary dead weight on the roof.
This study allows us to see the most critical locations that require a specific amount of ballast. We discovered the forces involved and we saw that these forces do not exceed 5,400 Pa. After detailed analyses, we determined that the most critical locations are on the sides and at the edges of the array particularly with non-normal wind. The study also showed that the middle portion of the array required very little ballast. The turbulences and vortices that are created along the edges of the panels will not create a large lift force if ballasted properly.