It is always important for metal roof clamps to hold firm. That’s true whether they’re used to hold snow retention systems, HVAC units, satellite dishes, or anything else. But when clamps and mounts are tasked with holding a large solar array to the roof of a multimillion-dollar telescope more than 2 miles in the sky on an island in a hurricane zone … well, it’s safe to say that the hold of those clamps and mounts has even more riding on it.

That’s the challenge S-5! was tasked with at the Gemini Observatory in Hilo, Hawaii, atop Mt. Mauna Kea. Leaders at the Gemini Observatory determined that a solar array would provide valuable energy savings in keeping with the Gemini mission’s commitment to positive stewardship of our planet. This solar array atop the telescope support building 13,775 feet above sea level would be the highest rooftop array ever connected to the grid.

"The PV panels [on Maunakea] are the second highest in the world by about 200 feet [approximately 61 meters]. The highest are in Tibet." says Maui Pacific Solar founder and president Mike Carroll. "However, it is the highest rooftop mounted PV system in the world that is connected to the utility.”The solar panels will (conservatively) generate about 10 percent of the power required to operate the Maunakea facility, and will be roughly 70 percent more energy productive than the panels planned for installation on the roof of the observatory’s base facility in Hilo.

This 98.1-kilowatt array consists of more than 300 solar panels mounted to a standing-seam 22-gauge metal roof. The clamps had to be capable of withstanding extremely high winds as well as freezing temperatures and fluctuations between sun, rain, and snow on a year-round basis. After careful consideration of the conditions and calculation of the strength required to securely hold the solar array and other pieces, the engineering team and contractors selected S-5! clamps and S-5! PV kits.

According to Chas Cavedoni, mechanical engineer of the Gemini project in Hilo, “We chose S-5! clamps because they met the demanding specs of this installation and they had the testing data to back it up.” The project requirements included the ability to withstand winds up to 163 mph and 50 pounds per square foot of uplift over a 25-year life span. S-5! clamps and S-5! PV kits met or exceed these needs, as well as others.

More than 1,700 S-5! clamps were used to attach the solar array as well as other vital pieces including meters, HD cameras, and a weather tower. The responsiveness of the S-5! team and the simplicity of direct-attached S-5! PV kit installation helped move the job along quickly and meet important construction deadlines. S-5! testing and quality allowed the Gemini Observatory to achieve an end product with exceptional reliability and performance in one of the most extreme possible settings.

For more information please visit: