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Solar Energy Operation Reduces Noise with ASI's AcoustiFiber Barrier

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 by Acoustical Solutions

Solar energy has enormous potential, as illustrated by the year-in-review report released by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research this past Wednesday.

The report found that solar panels with the capacity of 1,855MW were installed nationwide in 2011, up from 887MW in 2010, which is a 109% jump.
Solar is a clean, renewable energy source that can be generated domestically in the US. This kind of energy production is of growing public concern due to high fuel prices, national security issues arising from foreign oil dependence, and the declining health of the environment.

But like any energy producing operation, transformers, generators and inverters are part of the equation when making the product useable by the general public. These pieces of machinery are notoriously noisy and keeping them at tolerable, or even legal levels, can be a huge project.

A well-established solar power company set up a new location in a business park and needed to lessen the noise from a solar inverter located in the front of their building. The decibel (dB) level had to meet legal sound ordinances at the property line, and also be at a comfortable level for employees working closer to the equipment.

Company officials got in touch with Jack Kay, the environmental sales engineer and head of the Environmental Division at Acoustical Solutions. Kay observed the site and made the following observations: The inverter is about 7.5ft tall and the source, or person affected by noise, is estimated at an average of 5.5ft tall. With nothing blocking the noise, a person would hear 67dB at 9ft from the inverter, and 38dB at 238 ft away at the property line. Kay took these numbers and calculated what type of barrier, built to what height, would best bring down noise levels.

Kay recommended the AcoustiFiber™ Wall System, a fiberglass reinforced plastic barrier manufactured through a high-quality pultrusion process, to be built on all sides of the solar inverter. AcoustiFiber is a superior visual and noise barrier wall that meets all AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) and DOT guidelines. With an STC (Sound Transmission Class) of 30, the AcoustiFiber wall provides the needed sound reduction for congested traffic areas, retail parks and industrial applications.

"When I listened to our client describe his noise issue, I knew right away that this would be an AcoustiFiber job," said Kay. "We are often required to reduce sound from industrial machinery, namely generators and compressors used in energy production, and this wall system checks all the boxes. It is lightweight, easy-to-install, affordable, and provides ample noise reduction."

The Class 1 fire retardant fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) material is lightweight, allowing for fast modular installation and the ability to install even on challenging terrain.
The AcoustiFiber wall spans up to 24ft and requires no heavy equipment for installation or repairs, which will minimize the disruption to traffic and damage to surrounding vegetation.

The FRP material will not corrode, rust or rot, and it is graffiti, moisture and freeze-thaw resistant. This means that once it is installed, the AcoustiFiber Wall maintains visual and structural integrity for more than 50 years of service life.

After the AcoustiFiber enclosure was installed, the decibel level, 9ft away from the inverter, dropped from 67dB to 51dB. At the property line, 238ft from the inverter, noise levels dropped from 38dB to 32 dB. The reduction for those close to the inverter was 16dB, an audible noise decrease of between 50% and 75%. For those at the property line, the decibel drop was six, which is an audible change with an acoustic energy loss of 75%.