Episode 13 of our Solar Tech Talk is jam packed with solar information this month. Tiernay and Aaron start off with a quick chat about Texas and California grid challenges and solutions and how they are examples for the whole country. Then they jump into a story-filled conversation with Angie Fryer and Ryan McClister from IronRidge to talk racking and mounting product specifics, industry leading integration techniques, and resources for solar system design.

Highlights from This Episode:

Electricity Price Hikes Lead to More Solar Adoption: (01:09)

First up: The challenges facing Texas’ grid and how electrification is spiking energy demand in the state. “ERCOT’s pricing model currently focuses on demand response to address the growing need [for electric]. So, they’re basically adding different sources of power… at a more expensive rate, and then passing that added cost onto Texas consumers,” Aaron recaps. “As we see continued electrification of homes and… higher EV ownership we’re just going to be using more power,” he continues. This means more cost for consumers and solar is looking even more intriguing to homeowners who can lock in a fixed rate for power for 25 years, rather than paying rising electric bills.

Aaron uses a Utility Dive article by Robert Walton as his source.

How California is Managing Wildfire Dangers to the Grid: (04:24)

In contrast to Texas, California is using microgrids to build autonomous power plants that maintain reliable power generation for local communities, especially during natural disasters. “Utilities in California… [are looking at] solutions that will allow smaller portions of the grid to operate more independently and be more resilient in scenarios where the wider grid struggles to meet demand in a reliable way,” says Tiernay.

Microgrids allow communities to keep generated electricity within a local area using solar and storage solutions. Then, when a wildfire alarm is raised, for instance only small sections of the grid need to be shut down to mitigate fire hazards and less citizens are affected. In California, Tiernay explains, these “microgrids are stemming from Governor Gavin Newsom’s proclamation of a state of emergency last summer, where the directive was to expedite clean energy products so that there is more reliability existing within the grid.”

Tiernay uses an Energy Storage News article by Cameron Murray as her source.

What Happens in California Does Not Stay in California (06:55)

For months, the California Solar & Storage Association has been battling the proposed tax to solar in the state. There have been rallies, call-in days to Governor Newsome, and more… but the fight is not over. In August, the California Public Utilities Commission will determine whether to add a substantial fee to solar net metering. If they vote in favor, rooftop solar will be unaffordable to many of the state’s working- and middle-class residents. Whether you live in California or not, this decision can affect your future access to solar. You can help.

Expanding BayWa r.e.’s Partnership with IronRidge (08:48)

BayWa r.e. has expanded our line card to include a robust partnership with IronRidge, whose racking and mounting solutions are now available on our webstore and in our brand warehouse locations.

In this episode, Tiernay and Aaron sit down with Angie Fryer and Ryan McClister, IronRidge’s Marketing Director and Senior Territory Manager, respectively, to get a download on the IronRidge product line and company background.

Integrating New Industry Concepts (10:00)

IronRidge was founded by Craig Carney, in 1996 and claimed a spot as a solar industry pioneer by being the first to work directly AHJs (Authorities Having Jurisdiction). “If you go back to the early 2000s, mounting and grounding arrays was all new to these jurisdictions,” Angie explains. “So, one of the very first innovations Craig brought to AHJs was the concept of integrated grounding. We all take it for granted now, but back then it was a new concept.”

IronRidge was acquired by Esdec in 2019, adding the QuickMount offerings into their product line. Today, the entire company follows Esdec’s tagline, “Respect the Roof.”

Supporting Challenging Install Situations (11:43)

Building relationships to keep approving agencies up to date is built into the DNA of IronRidge. Most recently, the company’s HVHZ (High Velocity Hurricane Zone) ratings for regions like Florida is based on listening to what installers and AHJs need in the region. The company’s racking and mounting products were the first to get the 7-10 building code approval in 2020 and today meet the ASCE 7-16 requirements to increase ease of install and safety in hurricane conditions prevalent on the Florida peninsula.

Check out IronRidge’s resources for HVHZ area solar installers here.

“The fact that IronRidge knows what the AHJs are doing and implementing that directly into the product line is really key to helping keep our installers’ process run smoothly.”

– Tiernay Marsh, BayWa r.e.

IronRidge XR Rail Family (14:27)

The XR rail product line is the backbone of IronRidge’s portfolio, spanning three different levels of residential and commercial roofmount and groundmount racking products. The company does all of their own testing in their UL certified lab now but back in the day, it went like this:

“We were trying to describe just how strong [our] rails were,” says Angie. One of the team members decided that physical evidence was better than any math. “He said, ‘Well, I’m just gonna drive a pickup truck over our competitors’ rails and see what happens.’ So, they just used like a little Chevy S10 and it bent the competitors’ rails.”
The next day the team brought in a much larger dually truck to do a real neck-to-neck comparison of IronRidge’s and their competitors’ rails. The results were astounding and stand as one of the main reasons for IronRidge’s continued reputation of durability in the market. See the video to the right (or below if you’re on mobile) for the results.

Today, parking lot truck testing is a thing of the past, but IronRidge’s UL testing lab allows them to check all their products at regular intervals and is part of why the company is leading the industry in sturdy racking and mounting products.

The Result of Listening to Solar Installers: The UFO Clamp (19:24)

One of IronRidge’s core values is listening to their customers. Their product team engages regularly with solar installers who are using their products every day. “One of the first IG clamps we came out with was an idea an installer brought to us,” Ryan recalls. It was the first integrated clamp on the market and today is known as the UFO clamp.

“I remember hearing about [the UFO clamp] a few years ago and I was just like, ‘Man, they are on it!’” says Aaron about the product.

Just Launched: The JayBox (20:47)

IronRidge’s team is constantly innovating new products to support solar racking and mounting. Most recently, IronRidge launched the JayBox for use as a junction box, but also serving for wire terminations and as a transition box or combiner box. “We have two SKUs [for the] JayBox,” Ryan explained. “One’s a rail mounted JayBox, which would be great for installers who don’t get into the attic spaces for various reasons. And then for the installers who like to do attic runs we have a deck mounted JayBox.”

More Resources for IronRidge Solar Installers:

While IronRidge is most known for their mounting and racking equipment, their team is also dedicated to support solar installers and designers. Here are just a few of the tools they provide:

  • IronRidge Design Assistant: 5 different online design tools for solar teams, including one of the first tools for pitched roof designing in the industry
  • Discounted plan sets through Green Lancer
  • An integration with Open Solar free to installers (IronRidge subsidizes this cost for their installers)
“We can’t control the cost of aluminum or a ship getting caught in the Suez Canal and derailing the entire logistics for the whole planet. But we can help control soft costs and where we can, we do that. We have a lot of empathy for what our installers face trying to get these arrays out there.”
- Angie Fryer

Marketing Director, IronRidge

Workforce Development: Doing Well by Doing Good (26:22)

IronRidge follows the motto of “Do well by doing good” to a T. Right now, many solar installers are facing a labor shortage. And while IronRidge can’t make employees magically appear, they can support workforce development through their On-Demand Training Program. Their offerings have gotten so popular that even “the [electrical] unions started to pick it up and included in their own curriculum,” says Angie.

Support for Commercial Solar Projects (31:46)

While many of IronRidge’s customers are residential solar installers, the company also serves commercial installers with their BX Ballast system offerings. This system offers a light weight, nonmetallic ballast tray for flat roof applications so it won’t rust. And most appealing to a lot of installers is that most systems don’t need windscreens or attachments which reduces labor costs and chances of leaking.

Check out IronRidge’s Products here.

BayWa r.e. Solar Systems LLC supplies residential and commercial solar installers in the United States with quality solar + storage components, forecasting, business planning advice, and a community of experts. Visit www.solar-distribution.com to read our industry insights articles and stream our Solar Tech Talk and Solar Town Hall podcasts on YouTube and Spotify. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to stay connected. Ask us about our Split Pay financing program and use our industry-leading Webstore to save time, get gear shipped, and get jobs done! Part of the BayWa r.e. Global family of renewable energy companies.