The efficient use of roof surfaces for photovoltaic (PV) systems has become one of the fundamental challenges in the area of renewable energy. On the one hand, safety must be ensured for the people who work on roofs. On the other hand, exploitation of the available area must be optimised, in order to generate as much electricity as possible. This is where (intelligent) fall protection systems and appropriate planning come into play.
The requirements for clearance areas to ensure safe working, as well as for maintenance routes, must be taken into account in order to allow the optimum positioning of PV systems. The discussion about the competition for space has a greater significance, especially when it comes to using roof areas both for solar systems and for the safety of people working on these roofs.
In this wiki post we dive deeper into the aspects of competition for space, and we investigate how the integration of fall protection systems contributes decisively to mastering the challenges of use of space on roof surfaces. We consider the importance of holistic planning, and discuss how the safety requirements can be harmonised with the maximum surface efficiency for PV systems.
For fall protection systems and PV installations, competition for space represents the contest which arises between this equipment and other installations on the roof. It indicates the necessity for compliance with legally required minimum separations and product-specific requirements, in order that both efficiency and safety can be ensured.
Complex requirements in a restricted space
The size of the roof plays a decisive role in the positioning of PV systems and other installations. On smaller roofs, even small separations can have significant effects. For example, greened flat roofs with PV installations require minimum separations between modules and green areas, as well as larger row separations, and this results in a reduction of the number of modules installed.
The separations for fall protection systems also affect the space available for PV installations. In the DACH countries, the usual fall risk area is defined as being within 2 metres from the fall edge. This means that using the surface right up to the roof margin (i.e. up to the fall edge) is difficult or impossible. This therefore increases the competition for space.
Strategic planning taking these aspects into account is therefore essential, in order to ensure the best possible exploitation of the available area. Allowing for separations and safety equipment is therefore quite complex.
When planning the occupation of the roof surface, it is also important to take the following data into account:
- Zones for wind and snow loads
- Guardrail categories
- Pitch of roof
For flat roofs, certain areas like ridges and valleys of the insulation must also be kept clear, and this increases the challenges in optimally exploiting the available area.
Especially for flat roofs with gradient insulation, not every surface is suitable for the installation of PV modules or other equipment. Professionally grounded reasons have to be made in order to ensure the best possible exploitation of space and the integrity of the roof.
Intelligent fall protection is the key to the efficient use of space
The fall protection system plays a decisive role in the optimum exploitation of the available roof surface for solar equipment and other installations. The choice between different types of safety equipment, such as guardrails or lifeline systems, has a direct effect on the area available for the PV installation. Here, different aspects must be taken into account, including
- Roof configuration
- Performance of the PV system
- Safety on the roof
New technological solutions help to meet the challenges of space utilisation, and to efficiently fulfil the requirements for fall protection systems: There is almost no competition for space when the fall protection systems used are installed directly onto the substructure of the PV equipment:
Rail System TAURUS
Curves, pitches, sloping positions, and of course straight runs: the TAURUS rail system is as versatile as the potential areas of application.
The strong and flexible rail system TAURUS
The system provides continuous fall protection along the entire run of rail, regardless of where the fall-risk areas are located or how they are arranged.
Lifeline Systems AIO
Our powerful AIO lifeline system provides a reliable and versatile solution.
The powerful lifeline system that offers a whole host of variants
Whether on a flat or pitched roof, in an industrial environment, in the energy industry, on poles, or in other application areas, the topic of fall protection is ever-present.
Already come across competition for space in practice?
In 2018 we interviewed Michael Duss, marketing manager at BAUDER for utility roofs - roof greening, fall protection, and photovoltaics. In terms of competition for space, he recommended planning in good time with the involvement of all interested parties, in order to avoid retrospective modifications. Even if they are possible, such modifications generally require increased expense and effort.
Even though difficult to achieve in practice, said Duss, the objective of maximising area used for PV systems is made even harder. And once entangled with optimum PV exploitation, safe working (if it is even feasible) then becomes an additional project which is dreaded or even avoided. And yet the objective is to protect life and limb.
It is gratifying that the upswing in photovoltaic installations, and thus the corresponding awareness for all circumstances, has grown. Currently, large-scale projects pay increasing attention to holistic planning: A project like the Locher Brewery in Appenzell, Switzerland has an exemplary function for avoiding competition for space.
Holistic planning for maximum efficiency and safety
It soon becomes clear: The early and holistic planning of PV installations which include a comprehensive safety concept is essential. As early as the planning phase, architects, planners, roofers, solar system installers, and safety specialists like INNOTECH need to work together to exploit the roof areas to the maximum, so that from the outset there is “no room” for competition for space.
Efficient use of the available space can be achieved when safety equipment, shading, maintenance routes, and other relevant planning factors are taken into account, as well as rainwater management, statics, and structural integration. Holistic planning in advance draws attention to competition for space, minimises potential constraints, and enables safe and efficient installation of PV systems.