A minimal mass deployable structure for solar energy harvesting on water canals Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2016, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. This paper produces a design for a minimal mass, deployable support structure for a solar panel covering of water canals. The results are based upon the minimal mass properties of tensegrity structures. The efficient structure is a tensegrity system which has an optimal complexity (i.e. an optimal number of members) for minimal mass. This optimal complexity is derived in this paper, along with deployable schemes which are useful for construction, repairs, for Sun following, and for servicing. It is shown that the minimal structure naturally has deployable features so that extra mass is not needed to add the multifunctional features. The design of bridge structures with tensegrity architecture will show an optimal complexity depending only on material choices and external loads. The minimization problem considers a distributed load (from weight of solar panels and wind loads), subject to buckling and yielding constraints. The result is shown to be a Class 1 Tensegrity substructure (support structure only below the deck). These structures, composed of axially-loaded members (tension and compressive elements), can be easily deployable and have many port-able applications for small spans. The focus of this paper is an application of these minimal mass tensegrity concepts to design shading devices to prevent or reduce evaporation loss, while generating electric power with solar panels as the cover. While the economics of the proposed designs are far from finalized, this paper shows a technical solution that uses the smallest material resources, and shows the technical feasibility of the concept.

author list (cited authors)

  • Carpentieri, G., Skelton, R. E., & Fraternali, F.

citation count

  • 23

publication date

  • June 2016