Award-winning technology developed at Gibbs College of Architecture achieves UL certification 

The V-ClampTM, a ground-breaking, patent-pending fastener for photovoltaic (PV) modules developed by Dr. Andrés Cavieres, Assistant Professor in the Division of Architecture, was recently certified as recognized component under the UL 2703 standard, while also meeting the requirements for the international IEC 61215 standard. Meeting these standards means that the V-ClampTM has gone through rigorous and comprehensive safety and quality testing. These results represent a major milestone for the three-year research effort behind the development of the V-ClampTM, opening the door for its adoption by the solar industry in the United States and around the world. 

The V-ClampTM is a spring-based fastener that provides a better alternative for the attachment of solar panels, especially in the utility-scale sector, where ease and speed of installation of PV modules is critical to achieve cost reduction and to promote mass adoption of solar energy. Currently, the most common approaches for attachment of solar modules are the use of thru-bolts or bolted top-clamps, which not only have higher labor costs, but are also prone to failure due to over-torquing and vibrational loosening which can occur under severe weather conditions.  

V-ClampTM spring compressed with tool before installation (left side). PV module attached with V-ClampTM (right side). 

The V-ClampTM is not only vibration-resistant, making it more resilient to storms, but also provides integrated electrical bonding, eliminating the need for additional parts such as grounding lugs and copper wires. Altogether, it takes less than 30 seconds to attach and ground a PV module using the V-ClampTM, as opposed to 3 to 4 minutes with conventional thru-bolts or top-clamps. When scaled to a 100 mega-watt project, this difference means that module installation with the V-ClampTM can be completed a full month earlier than using bolts. 

Finite Element Analysis (FEA) of main stresses for V-Clamp under wind uplift.

The core technology behind the V-ClampTM was first conceived in 2018, with initial support provided by a grant from the Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC), part of the Office of the Vice President for Research and Partnerships (VPRP). Early successful prototypes prompted a partnership with VesprSolar, a start-up specially created for the licensing and commercialization of the Intellectual Property developed by Dr. Cavieres. 

Working together with VesprSolar, the V-ClampTM was the winner of two stages of the prestigious American Made Solar Prize, being selected among the top ten solar innovations in 2020 by the U.S. Department of Energy. These awards allowed the team led by Dr. Cavieres to continue product development with two additional patent-pending innovations, that extend the functionality of the V-ClampTM to other relevant use-case scenarios. The support and recognition from these awards have also allowed close collaboration with major players in the solar industry, including Sandia National Labs, Quest Renewables and CFV Labs, among others, which had a key role in helping the V-ClampTM to achieve certification. 

Pilot test of the V-ClampTM in high-wind solar canopies by Quest Renewables. Atlanta, Georgia. 

The Gibbs College of Architecture congratulates Dr. Andrés Cavieres and the rest of the V-ClampTM development team on their amazing accomplishments over the past three years!