Plastic mounting racks molded for South Bend, Ind.-based Kanzo Inc. are helping the solar energy industry shine brighter to a small, but important, degree, according to President Nick Kanczuzewski.
The fasteners, which are made of polycarbonate with extreme ultraviolet stabilization (PC-XUV) at 21st Century Plastics Corp. in Potterville, Mich., are designed to tilt solar panels 12.5 degrees on flat rooftops. That's slightly more slant than other racking systems and it produces more electricity, Kanczuzewski said in a telephone interview.
Kanzo rack users will get an additional 22,000 kilowatt/hours per megawatt (MW) per year compared to 10-degree racking systems, which is a common tilt in the industry, Kanczuzewski said. (One megawatt can power 164 houses.)
“In general, in the United States we have found 12.5 degrees to be the most efficient angle,” he said. “It gets you the most production out of your module. I can't say we're the only one that has 12.5 degrees, but I don't know of any other so it's relatively unique.”
Also, unique: using PC. Most solar racking systems are made of metal but a few plastics, namely polyethylene, acrylonitrile styrene acrylate (ASA) and polyphenylene oxide and polystyrene (PPO/PS), have made inroads in the last five years. Plastic racks cost less, don't corrode, and are lightweight for shipping and handling at job sites.
Kanzo started out using ASA but switched PC in an attempt to blaze a new trail, Kanczuzewski said. The company is going for UL 2703 certification and is in line to have the first classified polymer-based rack to meet the industry standard that regulates the structural and mechanical integrity.
“They do some crazy weather testing from extreme cold to extreme heat. They cycle it back and forth like 20 times, holding it at certain temperatures like -30° to 180° [F],” Kanczuzewski said. “Other materials like ASA and polyethylene can't handle it. They deform, but polycarbonate has the thermal capabilities to handle those extremes.”
To get to this point, Kanzo partnered with researchers at Chase Plastics, a resin distributor based in Clarkston, Mich.; Omni Plastics LLC, a custom compounder in South Bend; and a wind testing firm in Colorado.
“They did complete studies and our racks work in wind speeds up to 90 mph,” Kanczuzewski said.
The Kanzo system is geared toward big warehouses, distribution centers and manufacturing facilities with roofs that have 0-3 degrees of pitch. The mounting system is made up of the PC rack and a pair of stainless steel clamps. The rack has a tray to hold a ballast block — usually 34 pounds of concrete — and that anchors down the system.
Breaking into the market