Why Choose a Fabric Structure for Off-the-Grid Applications?

Sustainability and alternative energy are trendy buzzwords. Beyond corporate social responsibility, some industries and locations are unable to cost-effectively utilize the traditional power grid. The infrastructure for these off-the-grid operations must be rugged and energy efficient to fully take advantage of alternative energy sources.

Increasingly, solar power (supplemented in some places with wind turbines) combined with battery storage and a back-up generator system is supplying enough energy to completely eliminate the need for expensive grid-connectivity. Combining a renewable power source with energy-efficient buildings allows reliable business operations in even the most remote locations – including far northern areas and mining sites.

Fabric structures seal tightly around openings and the fabric has non-conductive properties, making them an energy-efficient building choice. Whether your goal is to go completely off the grid or simply to abate the kilowatt hours pulled from the grid, fabric structures with building-integrated rooftop solar power are an effective choice.

Solar Panel Basics for Off-The-Grid Applications

There are two primary types of solar panels on the market today: crystal silicon modules encased in glass and aluminum frames, and thin-film panels which can be laminated onto a flexible sheet material. Glass solar panels are mounted on racking above the fabric building roof while flexible panels can be attached directly onto the fabric roof or wall.

Standard crystal silicone solar panels are currently cheaper and more efficient than flexible panels, but the simplified installation and reduced labor cost roughly equalizes the installed price of either type of solar panel.

Fabric structures are suitable for a wide range of off-the-grid applications. Download a brochure to learn more.

Rooftop PV has several benefits compared to groundmount solar installations. Placing the panels on the roof protects them from theft and vandalism, and keeps them above shadows caused by trees and other buildings. PV panels are basically maintenance-free, designed to withstand adverse events including hail and include a 20-year warranty against defects.

The design flexibility of a steel framed fabric building allows solar panels to be mounted at the optimum angle and orientation for sun exposure and account for the additional system weight. This dead load must be factored in with other loads including wind, snow and rain. Like other top level requirements, the decision to opt for rooftop solar must be taken at the design phase before construction begins.

Case Study: Solar Ship Hangar

Solar Ship Inc., a developer of hybrid aircraft and aerostats that provide services to remote locations, needed a new hangar to assemble and store their massive buoyant vehicles. The building specifications included a self-reliant photovoltaic power package, which allows the building in Brantford, Ontario, to operate off-grid without traditional utility power.

Legacy Building Solutions partnered with Solar Ship to design and install a clearspan hangar measuring 176 feet wide by 230 feet long. The building is 60 feet high at the eaves with a peak height of 82 feet. The rooftop solar array can produces an estimated 58 megawatt-hours of energy each year.

Of course, Legacy buildings are adaptable to traditional hangars as well. Learn more.

Situated on both the east- and west-facing sides of the rooftop is a 52-killowatt array of 100 260-watt standard PV modules mounted on aluminum racking. Combiner boxes with full arc fault circuit interruption (AFCI) compliance are located between the array and the system electronics, which reside in a containerized power room at ground-level featuring inverters, battery storage and automated back-up power management.

The PV system supplies power to the company’s onsite loads, including 24 high-bay, 300-watt light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and motorized hangar doors. Other loads include the battery management system, containerized office HVAC, fire suppression, small tool and instrumentation operations, video monitoring, air blowers and electric vehicle charging.

Check out all the specifications of the Solar Ship hangar.

“We operate in remote regions around the world, and this project offers a template for cutting our operational reliance on fossil fuels,” said Lewis Reford, head of Solar Ship’s Powercamps division. “There is no reason for buildings not to incorporate PV power in their top level design requirements, based on what our Brantford hangar project has shown us.”

Other aspects of the fabric structure increase the efficiency of the Brantford hangar. The steel framing members of the roof were designed to run parallel to the solar panels, preventing uplift and enhancing stability of the entire structure.

“We really appreciate the translucency of the fabric,” said Reford. “During the day, there is enough sunlight inside the building to operate without additional lighting. It’s like getting the benefit of a skylight without the added cost.”

The building also uses a passive ventilation system, consisting of mesh soffits at eave height for intake and RV-3000 exhaust vents at the peak.

locations, needed a new hangar to assemble and store their massive buoyant vehicles. The building specifications included a self-reliant photovoltaic power package, which allows the building in Brantford, Ontario, to operate off-grid without traditional utility power.

Legacy Building Solutions partnered with Solar Ship to design and install a clearspan hangar measuring 176 feet wide by 230 feet long. The building is 60 feet high at the eaves with a peak height of 82 feet. The rooftop solar array can produces an estimated 58 megawatt-hours of energy each year.

Of course, Legacy buildings are adaptable to traditional hangars as well. Learn more.

Situated on both the east- and west-facing sides of the rooftop is a 52-killowatt array of 100 260-watt standard PV modules mounted on aluminum racking. Combiner boxes with full arc fault circuit interruption (AFCI) compliance are located between the array and the system electronics, which reside in a containerized power room at ground-level featuring inverters, battery storage and automated back-up power management.

The PV system supplies power to the company’s onsite loads, including 24 high-bay, 300-watt light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures and motorized hangar doors. Other loads include the battery management system, containerized office HVAC, fire suppression, small tool and instrumentation operations, video monitoring, air blowers and electric vehicle charging.

Check out all the specifications of the Solar Ship hangar.

“We operate in remote regions around the world, and this project offers a template for cutting our operational reliance on fossil fuels,” said Lewis Reford, head of Solar Ship’s Powercamps division. “There is no reason for buildings not to incorporate PV power in their top level design requirements, based on what our Brantford hangar project has shown us.”

Other aspects of the fabric structure increase the efficiency of the Brantford hangar. The steel framing members of the roof were designed to run parallel to the solar panels, preventing uplift and enhancing stability of the entire structure.

“We really appreciate the translucency of the fabric,” said Reford. “During the day, there is enough sunlight inside the building to operate without additional lighting. It’s like getting the benefit of a skylight without the added cost.”

The building also uses a passive ventilation system, consisting of mesh soffits at eave height for intake and RV-3000 exhaust vents at the peak.

In May 2016, Solar Ship’s hangar was awarded Game Changer Project of the Year by the Canadian Solar Industries Association (CanSIA) for using a reliable and cost-effective system that advances the future of building-integrated distributed generation. Learn more about the award.

In our ever-more-connected world, there are still practical reasons for leaving the power grid. When it is necessary to operate using only renewable power sources, choosing the right infrastructure is critical. Partnering with a builder experienced with solar panel installation and efficiency can make the difference between running with adequate power or being forced to shut down operations due to lack of power.

Are you looking for an energy-efficient building? Whether you are going off the grid or trying to reduce your carbon footprint, Legacy Building Solutions can help. Contact us.