New Jersey’s Atlantic City Convention Center is the largest roof-mounted, grid connected, solar system in the United States. If you’ve read the recent article in The New York Times or seen it on CNN, you already know that. However, none of the primary media outlets discuss the real story, which is the roofing project itself.

New Jersey’s Atlantic City Convention Center is the largest roof-mounted, grid connected, solar system in the United States. If you’ve read the recent article in The New York Times or seen it on CNN, you already know that. However, none of the primary media outlets discuss the real story, which is the roofing project itself.

First, this was a re-cover project, which is a rarity among solar roof installations. Let’s put this in perspective: The roofing manufacturer with the most experience in solar - who was not involved in this project - has never done a re-cover with solar. And there are good reasons why. However, a tear-off wasn’t an option in Atlantic City.

The convention center’s existing roof is 12-year-old, granular surfaced modified bitumen. It was performing well, but at some point during the 20-year life of the solar system, this roof would have to go. Because the convention center would be responsible for a very difficult tear-off sometime in the future, they made a safe bet by installing a highly reflective TPO membrane over the top.

Pepco Energy Services of Arlington, Va., installed nearly 13,500 monocrystalline solar panels, covering almost 85 percent of the 480,000-square-foot roof. Unfortunately, this created well over 12,000 penetrations in the TPO membrane. The engineers planned to caulk these penetrations. Not a good bet.

To its credit, the convention center listened to reason, and the roofing manufacturer supplied large custom TPO pipe boots for the penetrations. “We were not about to warranty 12,000 potential leaks inside of five years,” said the manufacturer’s Eastern area manager.

Today, the 2.37-megawatt rooftop solar power system produces up to 26 percent of the convention center’s annual electricity requirements.

“We were very pleased to be involved with this historic project,” said Jim Hagel Jr., senior project manager and estimator with Thomas Company, the roofing contractor. “You don’t get the opportunity to install a roof of this magnitude or importance very often.”

Congratulations Jim, for a solar roofing job done right.