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Exact Solar’s Journey to Rooftop Solar

Exact Solar’s rooftop solar system at our office in Newtown, Pennsylvania

A few years ago, Exact Solar’s founders, Mark and Dara Bortman, decided it was high time we started drinking our own Kool-aid. We crunched the numbers and talked to our utility. In between our other projects, we planned and scoped out our roof. After some designing, we were ready to build a solar system for our office right here in Newtown. 

On Christmas Eve, 2016, we ordered pizza and got to work! 

Each year, we participate in the ASES National Solar Tour. As part of our local solar tour in 2023, our Assistant Operations Manager, Nick Del Grosso, gave our viewers a virtual tour of our installation: 

Our Designs

Our 4×8, 32-panel array was designed to offset our electricity cost. When we designed it in 2016, it more than covered our needs. Eight years later, our team has grown from 15 to nearly 50 people. We’re doing a much higher volume of installations now and using more electricity, so it will be time to update it soon! 

Because the roof around the systems has parapets that stop the wind, we designed what’s called a ballasted system (in accordance with local regulations). A ballasted system does not penetrate the roof. Our system only penetrates the roof where the wiring enters the building, as you can see in the photo shown to the right.

Instead of using hardware to anchor the system down, a ballasted system uses heavy weight. Ballasted systems are common on flat roofs, where there is no angle that could cause the system to slide off, and, therefore, there is no need for penetrations and other hardware. Bricks and other heavy ballast are used to hold the system down. We design and build many ballasted systems through our work with Solarize Philly.

To get approval for our system, we consulted the racking company’s engineering department on their ballast recommendations and worked with local regulators. We triple-checked the numbers with our engineering team, taking into account things like:

  • Wind speed and exposure
  • Roof parapet height
  • Roof slope
  • Snow load
  • How sheltered our system would be from the elements 
  • The roofing material
  • Many, many other factors

Here’s what those considerations looked like when we laid them out in a table: 

Ballasted systems aren’t always a good fit for all buildings. If the approval process shows that a ballasted system won’t withstand the elements in your area, you’ll likely have to use a combination of ballast and penetration-style hardware to ensure that your system is completely secure. 

Building Our System

Ballasted systems aren’t too technical or challenging, so when we finally carved out the time, building this system went extremely well. We’re used to solving tough challenges and building bespoke systems for homeowners and commercial system investors in unique situations, so building our system on our own timeline and to our specs felt like a breeze. 

The bulk of the system was built on Christmas Eve, 2016. As Nick mentioned in the quote at the beginning of the article, we had to carry a lot of heavy bricks up a three-story ladder to install the ballast. 

Once we finished the build, we ran through the final inspection and turned the system on! 

The Results

Since going online in 2017, our system has produced 58.9 megawatt-hours of clean power, saving at least 92,000 pounds of CO2 emissions! That’s enough electricity to power an average American home for 6 years or to drive an electric car 104,000 miles. 

Screenshot of our system’s tracking software showing all-time stats

We’ve never had to repair or change anything in our system since installation, but as our power needs continue to increase, we’ll have to add a few panels in the coming years! 

Now obviously, this made sense for us to install as a solar company. In addition to showing prospective customers our past work, we can now show them our own roof! Solar might just be the perfect solution for your organization, too. 

With the commercial solar tax credit, the decreased operating costs that your organization will likely see, and the way it helps your company attract and keep top talent, commercial solar is a winner for many. 

If you’re ready to see if solar is a good fit for your business, set up a free consultation with our team of solar experts at Exact Solar!

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