Banner
Aluminum

The green metal

By Lynn Stanley

Fabricator uses aluminum for solar energy job

May 2012 - Concentrated photovoltaic solar power is an emerging technology that is quickly capturing market attention with its ability to multiply the sun's power and convert it into a cost-effective form of electricity. According to EnergyTrend, CPV works by using an optical component much like a lens or mirror to focus substantial amounts of sunlight onto solar cells made with photovoltaic material. The Green Economy Post predicts CPV’s ability to produce the same power from a much smaller area of solar cells will make the technology more cost effective than conventional PV. Manufacturers are developing innovative CPV systems for applications in the United States and other countries such as Italy, Australia and India. Fabricators are making smart material choices to support market growth with the necessary framework for these systems.

Material of choice
Aluminum was the material of choice when the Phoenix-based manufacturing facility of Hydro Aluminum North America was selected to provide a precision-extruded framing system for the largest concentrated photovoltaic solar facility in Latin America. The 500-kilowatt electric generation facility in Durango, Mexico, uses a Skyline Solar system made up of 184 by 14 arrays that contain parabolic mirrors to concentrate or focus sunlight onto crystalline silicon PV cells. The arrays are mounted on extruded aluminum space-frames that elevate the system off the ground and allow it to track the sun through its east-to-west arc.

aluminum-green052212-lead2

Hydro Aluminum provides drawn aluminum tubing, machining, contract manufacturing and metal sourcing to a wide range of customers. “The solar industry was a natural extension for us,” says Allan Bennett, vice president of solar market development for Hydro Aluminum. “Technology advances have helped push commercialization and market growth for both PV and CPV applications. As part of our latest project with Skyline Solar, we used our extrusion expertise to take mass out of their design for the framing system to reduce weight and cost.” Skyline Solar, Mountain View, Calif., manufactures integrated CPV systems that include industry-proven silicon cells, durable mirrors and single-axis tracking. The company holds 11 patents on its CPV architecture.

Cheaper, lighter
Steel is cheaper than aluminum on a per-pound basis, Bennett says. But aluminum, at one third the weight, if designed correctly can deliver the same strength characteristics as steel at a material cost that is comparable or lower when total cost of ownership is considered, he adds. Aluminum’s lighter weight means less labor is needed for assembly. Less weight also means more material can be loaded on a truck resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

“Aluminum is a very green material compared to steel,” says Bennett. “It’s very easy to design with, as well. You can take one extruded piece of aluminum and design multiple functions into it such as a screw channel or heat sink. With aluminum, you really are limited only by your imagination.”

Using its extensive library of alloys and extrusion expertise, Hydro Aluminum’s solar engineering specialists worked with Skyline’s team to analyze the design and optimize it for cost savings. “We were able to remove 40 percent of the structural material used in early frame prototypes,” says Bennett. “That reduced Skyline’s costs for raw materials, manufacturing and shipping.”

A long life
According to Bennett, extruded aluminum is corrosion-resistant and provides a high stiffness-to-weight ratio to resist wind, a feature that improved the Skyline system’s accuracy and robustness. “You don’t have to treat aluminum for outdoor applications,” Bennett says. For this type of project, steel would have to be galvanized, adding cost. Aluminum also offers a lower carbon footprint and is more recyclable.

Roughly 75 percent of primary aluminum in North America is produced using hydroelectric power, which is green in and of itself, says Bennett. “Seventy to 75 percent of the material used is post-industrial recycled content,” he adds. “When you combine these elements—the green power source used to produce it, the large percentage of aluminum that is recycled content—coupled with the fact that recycled aluminum only takes 5 percent of the energy required to produce primary aluminum, the material quickly becomes a relatively green and sustainable product.

In fact, since about 1880, a billion metric tons of aluminum has been produced,” he continues. “Approximately 74 percent of that material is still being used today due to its capacity to undergo the recycling process without the loss of performance properties.” In sunny climates like Mexico, CPV is the lowest-cost solar technology for medium and large-scale electricity-generating facilities. “It constitutes the fastest growing portion of the solar market and is a growing customer base for us as well,” says Bennett. The Durango CPV facility, approximately 550 miles north of Mexico City, will expand to 10 megawatts total capacity in the near future. MM

Current Issue

MM-Cover-10-14-current

October 2014

ON THE COVER: 
Gearing up for 2015
Tackling foreign policies, regulations, trade balances and capital plans, here are forecasts for virtually everything.

MM-Digital-button-current1

Subscribe: PRINT/DIGITAL MAGAZINE - eNEWSLETTERS

Midwest-MM-home-ad-5

Advertisement

Modern Metals on Twitter

White Papers

More White Papers >
Banner

Industry Partners

Alloy Bar Products

Custom Rubber Products

Metals Distribution

Service Centers

Sierra Alloys Royal Rubber Co. ThyssenKruppnMaterials NA Heidtman Steel Products

Aluminum

Cutting Software

Perforated & Expanded Metal

North American Steel Alliance
Channel Alloys SigmaTEK Systems McNichols Co. Reliance Steel & Aluminum Company

Bar

Cutting Systems

Plasma Technology

Thickness Gauges

Gerdau Messer Cutting Systems, Inc. ESAB Welding & Cutting Products Compusource Corporation

Bevelers

Drilling

Plate

Enmark Systems, Inc.
Steelmax Hougen Manufacturing, Inc. Allor Manufacturing Inc.

Stainless Steel

CNC Cutting (Plasma, Waterjet, Laser, Router)

Financial Services

Artco Group Stainless Sales Corp.
Multicam Inc. BMO Harris Bank Churchill Steel Plate Ltd Straub Metal International

Coated Coil

GE Capital Finance Ranger Steel

Stainless, Nickel, Aluminum, Pipe, Tube & Bar

American Nickeloid Metals

Investment Banking

Precision Grinding

Prudential Stainless & Alloys, L.P.
Centria Coating Services Brown Gibbons Lang & Company Joco Precision Grinding

Steel

Metal Coaters

Laser Technology

Profiling Software

ArcelorMittal

Coil Processing

AltaMAR, Inc. FastCam Pty Ltd. Central Steel Service, Inc.
Bradbury Group Amada America, Inc.

Rolled and Extruded Aluminum Products

Parker Steel Co.
Braner USA LVD Strippit Aleris Rolled Products SSAB
Burghardt + Schmidt GmbH Mitsubishi Laser-MC Machinery Systems, Inc.

Sawing Technology

Summit Steel Corporation
Butech Bliss

Machining Centers

Behringer Saws, Inc.

Steel Fabrication

Formtek-Maine Handtmann CNC Cosen International, Inc. Voortman Corporation
Herr-Voss Stamco

Material Handling

Cut Technologies Metal

Titanium

IMS Systems, Inc. Canrack Metal Center Systems DoALL Sawing Products TSI Titanium
Leveltek Samuel Strapping Systems HE&M Saw

Tooling

Machine Concepts Steel Storage Systems Inc. Kasto Carlson Tool & Manufacturing Corp.
Red Bud Industries The Caldwell Group, Inc. Metlsaw Systems

Tube & Pipe

Tishken

Metal Alloy Analysis & Verification

Sawblade.com Independence Tube Corp.

Copper & Brass

Thermo Scientific Niton Analyzers Scotchman Industries, Inc. National Tube Supply Company
Christy Metals Inc.

Metal Finishing & Deburring

Wikus Saw Technology Specialty Pipe & Tube
Farmer's Copper Supermax Tools

 

Turnkey Finishing System

 

 

 

Intellifinishing

 

 

 

Waterjet

 

 

 

TECHNI Waterjet

TrendPublishing

twitter facebook linkedin rss

 

FFJ-1114-brandingcovers