Hilltop Berm PV and Hot Water Solar System (Aug 2020)

May 6, 2021

by Mark Hamilton (photos by Anton Lamers and Mark Hamilton)

At a scenic hilltop residence within an hour of Toronto, Guelph Solar has completed an elaborate custom-designed PV and hot water solar system that is remarkable in design and size.

The client’s initial goal was to stop burning natural gas for heating the pool. He wanted to reduce costs and minimize greenhouse gas emissions as much as possible. At the same time, he also wanted electrical self reliance and independence from the rural grid that in his area is notoriously unstable with frequent brown outs and black outs.

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As a solution to both problems, Guelph Solar simultaneously custom-designed, engineered and constructed a solar PV electrical system and a solar hot water pool heating system. Integrating both PV and hot water thermal at the same time was efficient and it maximized cost effectiveness for the client.

The first step was a purpose-built concrete retaining wall,15 feet high and 120 feet long. An earth berm was created on one side of the retaining wall. On top of the berm, a ground-mount structure was erected running the entire 120 ft. The wall, the berm and the ground-mount structure were double-utilized for the 38 PV panels and the 12 solar thermal collectors.

The concrete caisson and wood beam ground-mount is divided into two sections. On the left, the upper section holds aluminum racking that supports the PV panels. The right side is wood framing customized with composite wood decking material that is installed horizontally for mounting the thermal collectors.


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The ground-mount structure is 3 feet above the berm at the front and 13 feet at the rear. The entire structure requires no maintenance and was designed by Guelph Solar to adhere to municipal guidelines for height restrictions.

Since Guelph Solar completed the project in late summer 2020, the client has built a children’s play zone under the ground-mount structure. It’s a perfect shady location on sunny days and sheltered space on rainy days for kids to play.

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There’s no way to know what’s next at this beautiful and unique rural residence. The client is more than pleased with the results from Guelph Solar’s engineers, system designers, administrators and installers and is thinking about the next phase. He’s envisioning future expansions that will provide more self reliance, stable energy, bigger carbon emission reductions and more independence in the coming years.

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