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Old 10-15-2020, 08:35 AM   #1
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GoPower Panel Catastrophic Failure

Oct 14, 2020, on I-40W between Santa Rosa and Clines Corner, NM. We are traveling with daughter's family on the first trip towing their new 2020 21NE (received on Sep 9). It was our second day on road, with about 500 miles completed. Speed 70 mph (limit 75). Windy day, 20-30 mph from NW.

We were driving in front of them when I noticed in my rearview mirror that there was something different about their trailer. Pulled off at next exit, and found this:



Panel is GoPower GP-PV-190M, 82655-B. Panel failed at mounting hole in center of front side. Glass shattered, and it was flexed up. There was no sign of impact to front-facing frame or to trailer roof.



As shown, both front and rear side frame sections failed at same point.



Both front and back had similar failure characteristics.





After examining, we concluded that it was not safe to continue. Drilled out the 16 rivets holding the panel to the brackets. Used 1/4" bit. Brackets seemed intact, with some slight bending.



Thinking I need to reinforce the our panel frame using 1/8" thick aluminum angle stock on front and rear long sides.

Has anyone else seen flexing, bending, or failure of new ETI installed panels?

73/gus
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Old 10-15-2020, 08:52 AM   #2
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Holy great jumping Jeepers! Glad nothing more serious resulted. It sure pays to keep a wide range of tools on board, for when the unthinkable happens.
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Old 10-15-2020, 09:04 AM   #3
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I wonder if the mounting on the front was a contributing factor. Id certainly make Escape aware in order to potentially modify installs in the future.
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Old 10-15-2020, 09:08 AM   #4
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I'm not an engineer but given the frame failed vertically up it seems the wind load was beyond what the panel frame and/or mounting feet could handle.
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Old 10-15-2020, 09:17 AM   #5
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Sorry to see this. Glad you had a drill and were able to get back on the road. That panel is mounted pretty far forward and high enough off the shell to be subjected to a lot of lift force at those speeds. Not surprised it failed at the center of span where it saw the most stress and was weakened by an existing hole. I'm sure you will make ETI aware so when they add second panels up front they consider reinforcement (plus they should be compensating you for repair under warranty!) If you look at how AM Solar usually mounts their panels they have them rotated 90 degrees so the short dimension is parallel with the front/rear of the trailer to reduce wind load but that is not always possible. In fact when they did do one Escape they mounted it similar to ETI stock but probably a stronger panel frame, stronger mounts and mounted a bit lower to the trailer.
https://amsolar.com/solar-panels-for-rv/tag/Escape
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Old 10-15-2020, 09:43 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by JStelly View Post
I wonder if the mounting on the front was a contributing factor. Id certainly make Escape aware in order to potentially modify installs in the future.
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Originally Posted by dstreight View Post
I'm not an engineer but given the frame failed vertically up it seems the wind load was beyond what the panel frame and/or mounting feet could handle.
Totally guessing but looks like aerodynamic forces at play and perhaps the front location was a contributor in a sense, along with speed and ambient winds.

There's likely a region of low-pressure near the front of the roof as the trailer 'punches' through the air, creating an uplift force in that region (it's what makes airplane wings create 'lift', allowing flight). The particular shape of the tow vehicle might contribute to those complex aerodynamics, too.

All the forces at a given moment (pardon the pun: 'bending moment') conspiring to exceed what the panel (acting as a 'beam') could handle. Looks to me like the end-restraints (the 'mounting feet' with their attachment to both the trailer and the panel) did their job admirably in dealing with those forces.

IOW, the forces of air trying to 'suck the panel off the roof', but with the ends restrained that resolved as tremendous lifting force at the center of the panel's span.

Who knows the forces involved and how much reinforcement would be required to resist those forces (?). I suppose an argument could be made that this is a 'design defect' with several aspects of the design of both the panel itself and the installation contributing.

A solution might involve panel reinforcement (a stronger 'beam'), additional mounting points around the panel (reducing the 'beam-span'), altering panel location / orientation, altering aerodynamics (the addition of 'spoilers'), or a combination of all. Just 'winging it' (), the addition of a mid-span mounting bracket (with attendant provisions under the roof) might be the easiest and hopefully effective trailer-production solution.

Can anyone imagine a sophisticated aerodynamic study (computer simulation, a 'virtual wind-tunnel') in ETI's future? I cannot.
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Old 10-15-2020, 09:55 AM   #7
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Sorry to see this. Glad you had a drill and were able to get back on the road. That panel is mounted pretty far forward and high enough off the shell to be subjected to a lot of lift force at those speeds. Not surprised it failed at the center of span where it saw the most stress and was weakened by an existing hole. I'm sure you will make ETI aware so when they add second panels up front they consider reinforcement (plus they should be compensating you for repair under warranty!) If you look at how AM Solar usually mounts their panels they have them rotated 90 degrees so the short dimension is parallel with the front/rear of the trailer to reduce wind load but that is not always possible. In fact when they did do one Escape they mounted it similar to ETI stock but probably a stronger panel frame, stronger mounts and mounted a bit lower to the trailer.
https://amsolar.com/solar-panels-for-rv/tag/Escape
Escape should cover the cost of repairs whether the trailer is under warranty or not
If the damage was caused by a hurricane or a tornado would be one thing but towing your trailer down the road at the posted speed limit is not consumer negligence.
Again why should the end consumer have to re engineer a brand new trailer ?
Please excuse my frustration with Escape’s guess and hope it doesn’t fail
lack of engineering !!
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Old 10-15-2020, 10:24 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by rubicon327 View Post
Not surprised it failed at the center of span where it saw the most stress and was weakened by an existing hole. I'm sure you will make ETI aware so when they add second panels up front they consider reinforcement (plus they should be compensating you for repair under warranty!)
The rear of the panel shows a similar failure at that center mounting hole.



Daughter contacted ETI last night via email.

73/gus
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Old 10-15-2020, 10:33 AM   #9
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The rear of the panel shows a similar failure at that center mounting hole.
Yep, that's a lot of material removed from the 'web' of that 'beam' at a critical point in its span, and evidence of forces at play even on the rear panel, aerodynamic or otherwise.

If Go Power insists on providing those holes, locating two at the 1/3-points of the span rather than one in the center of the span might bear serious consideration. When end-restrained the bending moment at the 1/3 points is considerably less than at the center of the span where it is maximum. Bending force is minimum at the restraint-points of a beam restrained at two ends (shear-force is maximum at restraint points). Yes, that's a bit of a simplification for the type of end-restraint but IMO applicable to the situation.
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Old 10-15-2020, 11:54 AM   #10
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I agree, drilling holes in a beam at the mid-point is bad news.

When I was selling my 19 I retained my swiveling, tilting solar panel system so I wanted to sell it with a functioning solar system.

I looked at large panels that would span the distance to allow for the mounting bolts to be in the storage area and not visible. I wasn't comfortable with that large a span subject to highway speed wind forces.

I elected to span the distance with a light aluminum frame with two panels riveted to it.

If I was to use a large panel, side-to-side it'd still have the aluminum frame.

On the 21 I went with flexible panels and, in my opinion, that's the way to go.

Ron
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:49 PM   #11
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...On the 21 I went with flexible panels and, in my opinion, that's the way to go.

Ron
Another vote for flexible panels taped directly to the roof.

I have flexible panels on the 15B and it is holding up well after 3 yrs.
I have the rigid panels on my 19 and after 7 years I had to replace two of the cable ties that were holding it to the roof (they snapped).
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:53 PM   #12
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Escape should cover the cost of repairs whether the trailer is under warranty or not
ETI has already contacted our daughter, and they are providing full replacement and installation support. ETI Customer Service is responsive and supportive, as we too have found.

73/gus
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:53 PM   #13
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I agree, drilling holes in a beam at the mid-point is bad news....

Ron
Small holes can often be safely drilled at the mid-point of a beam without impacting the bending resistance, which is largely derived from the material at the top and bottom of the beam. If you drill holes near the top or bottom of the beam you can substantially reduce the resistance to bending.
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Old 10-15-2020, 12:53 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Ron in BC View Post
I agree, drilling holes in a beam at the mid-point is bad news.

When I was selling my 19 I retained my swiveling, tilting solar panel system so I wanted to sell it with a functioning solar system.

I looked at large panels that would span the distance to allow for the mounting bolts to be in the storage area and not visible. I wasn't comfortable with that large a span subject to highway speed wind forces.

I elected to span the distance with a light aluminum frame with two panels riveted to it.

If I was to use a large panel, side-to-side it'd still have the aluminum frame.

On the 21 I went with flexible panels and, in my opinion, that's the way to go.

Ron
Ron . If one bolted an additional piece of aluminum angle iron along both long sides of the factory solar panel frame to strengthen it ,it should stop the frame from failing / bending in the middle but now the weak point would be the 4 mounting brackets
I would rather have the solar frame fail then the mounting brackets
I guess what I am asking is , will adding the aluminum angle iron solve one problem but possibly create another more serious problem ?
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Old 10-15-2020, 01:06 PM   #15
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That's weird how the center point of the frame seems to have a hole drilled. Nothing like that in mine. I used the AM Solar method with VHB tape(no holes in roof)on much wider feet than ETI sent me. The rails underneath is the OEM fastener. The panel frame seems beefier to me. Maybe a front panel gets much more wind underneath; would not surprise me.
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Old 10-15-2020, 01:30 PM   #16
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Small holes can often be safely drilled at the mid-point of a beam without impacting the bending resistance, which is largely derived from the material at the top and bottom of the beam. If you drill holes near the top or bottom of the beam you can substantially reduce the resistance to bending.
Dave, that takes some awareness and knowledge. I find it safer just to say "don't drill holes near the center point of a beam"

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Originally Posted by steve dunham View Post
Ron . If one bolted an additional piece of aluminum angle iron along both long sides of the factory solar panel frame to strengthen it ,it should stop the frame from failing / bending in the middle but now the weak point would be the 4 mounting brackets
I would rather have the solar frame fail then the mounting brackets
I guess what I am asking is , will adding the aluminum angle iron solve one problem but possibly create another more serious problem ?
I guess I'd have to say that depends on the mounting brackets. I think that I've seen brackets that only used one bolt. I don't care for that too much as only one hole could allow for some racking. I made brackets that are fairly beefy and use 4 bolts per bracket and an internal backing plate.

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Old 10-15-2020, 01:52 PM   #17
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Well solar panels are designed to sit still. Using it as an airfoil induced dynamic loads it's not designed for.
I can see reinforcing the leading edge with an aluminum angle. Hopefully ETI is made aware of this so all new productions are reinforced.

And yes, Dave Walters is correct, holes at midpoint does not impact bending. That is basic structural engineering.
The bending load of the light solar panel frame was exceeded causing failure.
Have a large 18 wheeler pass going in the opposite direction at 70 mph can induce 140 mph up lift ratings. That can cause damage.
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Old 10-15-2020, 01:56 PM   #18
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ETI has already contacted our daughter, and they are providing full replacement and installation support. ETI Customer Service is responsive and supportive, as we too have found.

73/gus
Thanks for that good news update.
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Old 10-15-2020, 01:57 PM   #19
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The rear of the panel shows a similar failure at that center mounting hole.




73/gus
I'm a little puzzled by this. Does ETI use a center mounting point? I don't see any sign of it and I don't recall seeing other photos that showed a center mounting bracket.

Or was the hole in the panel frame for an unknown reason?

Ron
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Old 10-15-2020, 02:00 PM   #20
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I'm a little puzzled by this. Does ETI use a center mounting point? I don't see any sign of it and I don't recall seeing other photos that showed a center mounting bracket.

Or was the hole in the panel frame for an unknown reason?

Ron
I don't know if the hole in the center of the frame is original or not. None in that location in the frame for my 2017 160 watt panels, at least on the face of the frame. I can't tell if the hole the break runs through is on the face or the bottom.

On second glance, it looks like the hole is on the bottom - I have holes in the same location. No sign of stress after 23,000 miles...
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