Solar Panels Add Challenging Dimension to Arizona State Re-Roofing Project
A perfect storm hit Arizona State University in 2011. That year, the need to re-roof the Wells Fargo Arena, one of the campus's largest buildings, coincided with the Tempe university's growing commitment to solar power.
"It was a clear, clean roof, and we needed to re-roof the building, so we combined the solar panels with the roofing project," says senior project manager Karl Edelhoff.
The solution to the situation required Edelhoff and his team to address several major challenges.
During the $2.5 million project, which took from June to November, roofing crews contended with a tight deadline. They also had to work in challenging weather conditions and coordinate with other projects at the arena. Beyond those issues, the project took place in one of the campus's highest-traffic areas.
None of those hurdles, however, matched the challenge of preparing the roof and the structure below it for the installation of more than 2,000 solar panels.
The university has 90 solar systems on campus, which combine to generate 24.1 megawatts of energy that powers four campus locations in Tempe and at the university's research park. The local utility planned for the 88,000-square-foot arena roof to produce a significant amount of that power.
An incentive program through the local utility paid for the solar installation portion of the roofing project, which cost $1.6 million without the solar portion. The solar opportunity emerged about the same time the university was considering options for the 14,000-seat arena, which was built in 1974 and hosts university athletic events, concerts, commencement ceremonies, and other public events.
The arena's roof "was on the list (for repairs) but was not our highest priority," says Luke Ngo, a capital programs project manager. "But because the solar (roof system) was involved and because of the contractual timeline, it moved up the list."
The team originally had considered coating or repairing the roof instead of replacing it, but the solar project required a re-roofing.
"With the solar project, it kind of necessitated the new roof so we'd have a 20-year warranty, and that's the warranty the solar companies give for their product," says Bob Backus, the supervisor of carpentry services, the campus department that oversees roofing projects.