1.2 Outdoor

1.2.1. Outdoor Work Areas

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.1. Outdoor Work Areas

Specifications: Suitable area for mounting PV array, south-facing level grade area with no shading; close proximity to electrical services and classroom preferred.

  • Mockups and workstations
    • Pitched roof surfaces with a variety of locally appropriate roof surfaces
    • Flat roof surfaces with OSHA safety rail or boundary system
    • Ground mounts for fixed, horizontal-tracker, and adjustable-tilt systems
    • Wall areas for mounting and wiring various PV equipment and components

Lab construction: Common framed mockups and fixtures are strong and affordable.

Suggested Quantity:  Sufficient number for class size, activities and available space

Importance Rating: Essential

Comments: Often lab construction can be completed cooperatively on campus through other technology classes. For instance, a construction class might frame all of the mockups, with materials provided by the PV department. Portable frames and racks might be fabricated by a metals class, providing benefit to both the students who build the rack and to the PV class that will install the array. Another budget-conscious approach is to ask local contractors to donate time and labor to build the lab facilities.

1.2.2. Storage Area      

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.2. Storage Area


  • Secure areas and cabinets for storage and inventory of all training equipment
  • Special padded racking system to store PV modules safely between each use and built as required

Suggested Quantity: One or more storage areas.

Importance Rating: Essential

Comments: Storage containers are an affordable alternative to permanent storage, and can also double as support for a flat-roof installation area.

1.2.3. Battery Area       

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.3. Battery Area


  • Dedicated area for battery installations and safety equipment
  • Adequate clearance and ventilation
  • Location adjacent to safety shower and eyewash

Suggested Quantity:  minimum of one (or as required for the level of instruction)

Importance Rating: Desirable.

Comments: Proper battery containment reduces hazards and allows for multiple use of areas. Sharing modules between mockups helps keep the cost down.

1.2.4. Roof Mockups/Structures            

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.4. Roof Mockups/Structures


  • Free-standing roof structure mockup for installing 2 to 4 kW PV array
  • Standard 24” OC wood truss construction with 4”, 12 pitch or less and greatest height below 6’ from ground level (to avoid having to use fall protection)
  • Smaller roof structures installed on lockable castors for mobility

Roofing Flats: Build on site.

Suggested Quantity: At least one pitched area (more would be better), one flat roof area, and 4 to 6 roofing flats (flat sections of roofing for ease of PV panel installation).

Importance Rating: Essential

Comments: Approximately 100 sq. ft. is required for each kW DC rated PV array. Exact roof dimensions required can be determined after selecting the PV array. The PV system electrical BOS and inverter can be located on the panel in back of the roof or attached to it.

1.2.5. Mounting Demonstrations            

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.5. Mounting Demonstrations

Specifications: Small demonstration area for several types of PV array mounting designs – including mounts for shingles, tiles, metal, and composition roofing as well as pole mounts, racks, trackers and other ground mount options (as appropriate).

Suggested Quantity:  Based on size and location of demonstration space available. Minimum 3 to 4 roofing flats with locally popular roofing types, complete with anchors and flashing for practice installation exercises

Importance Rating: Desirable, but not essential.

Comments: See mechanical and structural hardware (Section 2.1.6).

1.2.6. Mobile PV Training Units              

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.6. Mobile PV Training Units

Specifications: Prepackaged trainers and small lab rolling units or larger mobile training units, trailers, and demonstrators that are custom made or fabricated.

Suggested Quantity:  Appropriately sized units, based on size and location of demonstration space available; minimum 3 to 4 roofing flats with locally popular roofing types, complete with anchors and flashing for practice installation exercises.

Importance Rating: Desirable (may be essential for certain situations).

Comments: These can be very beneficial for programs that use several locations for training throughout the week or term. Mobile units can be fabricated to meet the needs and scope of the specific instruction.

1.2.7. Main Electrical Service          

Best Practices: The Series - #7: Photovoltaic Labs - 1.2.7. Main Electrical Service


  • At least single-phase 208 V or 240 V – 200 A to accommodate a small residential system installation (suggest at least 2 service panels: 100A and 200A)
  • Accommodation for future expansion of training or installation exercises as required

Suggested Quantity:  Minimum of two (depends on-site).

Importance Rating: Essential

Comments: Service, oil-resistant, water-resistant (SOW), or SOOW (other chemical substance resistant) cable may be required to tie inverter into local electrical distribution from the assembly area. (Note: Often actual connection to the utility grid is not possible for a variety of reasons. In these instances, having a utility inter-tie mockup would be the only option.)

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