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Using Aluminum Extrusions to Build Solar Power Structures

Hydro has issued a white paper examining aluminium’s emerging role in the solar energy area, especially the use of aluminium extrusions in concentrated solar power structures, marketed by the company's Extrusion Americas sector.

CONCENTRATED SOLAR POWER: At the Nevada Solar One facility, large mirrors reflect heat from the sun. Extruded aluminium components are used in the support structure to ensure correct alignment of the mirrors

With the recent signing of a contract to supply extruded aluminum solar collector assemblies for a new 75 megawatt field in Florida, Hydro now is the industry leader with nearly 300 megawatts of experience in its portfolio of systems based on panels that concentrate solar power to generate energy.

While the parabola-shaped mirrors concentrate the sun’s rays, it is the supporting metal architecture – trusses, frames, arches, etc. – that guarantees reflector alignments and provides the strength needed to withstand common forces, stresses, movements and wind loads.

These factors directly impact the facility’s efficiency, and thus factor into bottom line calculations for plant operators.

The market for concentrated solar energy solutions, where aluminium framing is used, has exploded in the U.S. and the interest is rapidly growing in other parts of the world.

Seeing the light
Hydro's white paper is titled "Seeing the Light: The Use of Aluminum Support Structures in Concentrated Solar Power Energy Generating Facilities.”

The paper gives a detailed overview of the versatility of extruded aluminum and its advantages in solar structures based on its ability to...

  • deliver precise machining to provide a high strength-to-weight ratio
  • provide suitable support using fewer parts produced with high recycled content
  • minimize transportation and assembly costs
  • ensure quick assembly and accurate alignment and movements in the field
  • provide full recyclability at end of life

Profiling aluminium solutions
"Our new white paper is really an outgrowth of a couple of articles regarding the framing we provided for the Nevada Solar One project a couple of years ago. In working with editors of a couple publications we found that there was a lot of interest in concentrated solar, but not a lot of knowledge," explains Lynn Brown, senior vice president of Sales & Marketing in Hydro's Extrusion Americas sector, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.

"Therefore we decided to develop a white paper that would showcase our experience in this rapidly growing market and also pinpoint the use of aluminium extrusions as the material to be chosen for the framing structures."

"We are getting increasing inquiries about framing for large scale solar projects, and increasing requests to help analyze or facilitate the conversion from steel to aluminum.

"Positioning Hydro as the leader in this field is a key objective of ours, so the white paper made good sense as part of our overall profiling activities," says Brown.

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