Building a solar panel support structure with wood/fiberglass /epoxy

Discussion in 'Boatbuilding' started by mariobrothers88, May 24, 2021.

  1. mariobrothers88
    Joined: Sep 2020
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    Location: San Diego, CA

    mariobrothers88 Senior Member

    Hey guys I know most people use stainless steel or aluminum to build solar panel support structures but is there any reason you can't build it out of dimensional lumber like 2x4s or 4x4s sealed with biaxial fiberglass and epoxy resin? You would have to round out the corners to properly fiberglass it but are there any reasons why this would be a bad idea?

    I figure as long as you properly seal it and use enough of the biaxial glass it would be strong enough and would last a long time but please correct me if I'm wrong!

    Thanks for all the help and advice guys I really appreciate it!!!
     
  2. bajansailor
    Joined: Oct 2007
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    bajansailor Marine Surveyor

    Yes, it should be possible - but it probably would not look as elegant (or simply 'as conventional') as a support structure built using S/S or aluminium tubing.

    Have you sketched out a design yet for what you have in mind?
    Is it a 'classic' goalpost type of structure?
    Can you post a copy on here of any sketches you have done so far?
    And / or a photo of the boat showing where you want to fit this structure?
     
  3. kapnD
    Joined: Jan 2003
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    Location: hawaii, usa

    kapnD Senior Member

    What are you attaching to?
    For weight and simplicity’s sake I’d be thinking aluminum structural shapes.
     
  4. BlueBell
    Joined: May 2017
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    Location: Victoria BC Canada

    BlueBell "Whatever..."

    mb88,

    Have you priced your lumber yet?
    And the cost of epoxy and fiber/cloth?
    And the labour time involved.
    How long will it last if there are a few pinholes.
    Paint, ongoing.

    And in aluminum?
    It will last forever.

    It's definitely doable but at what cost savings?
     
  5. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    The issue is all the work and time to make glass look nice.

    You could make the stuff from coosa or aquaplas or corelite and one coating of epoxy, then bed them in butyl, but glassing them on is an issue if you ever have to replace and sizes are (will be) different.
     
  6. Will Gilmore
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Location: Littleton, nh

    Will Gilmore Senior Member

    I'm with Bajansailor, quite possible, plenty strong enough, but not very elegant out of 2x4 dimension lumber. I have been thinking about a transom arch for solar panels out of wood for my boat. I would consider an ash/ mahogany laminated lay-up similar in construction technique to a wooden tiller. I think very strong, not as visually heavy and I wouldn't need a welder. Of course my boat is only 19' so nothing would be longer than 4 feet between supports.
     
  7. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Location: Colorado

    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Why
    Why glass over the wood
    Good luck
     
  8. mariobrothers88
    Joined: Sep 2020
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    Location: San Diego, CA

    mariobrothers88 Senior Member

    I want to use locally available wood in mexico which isn't the highest quality to avoid having to import the wood. I figure the fiberglass would weather and water proof the structure as well so that it would last a long time.
     
  9. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Location: Colorado

    Blueknarr Senior Member

    As sticks standing in the air, even crappy wood will survive for at least a decade.
     
  10. mariobrothers88
    Joined: Sep 2020
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    mariobrothers88 Senior Member

    I would like it to survive for many decades :)
     
  11. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    Use galvanized pipe. It is readily available and will last a long time.
     

  12. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    Whatever you do, don't bond the wood to the roof. When you need new panels, just unscrew wood bedded in butyl.
     
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