Semester of Graduation

Summer 2020


Master of Science in Civil Engineering (MSCE)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Document Type



This thesis compares wind pressures and loads obtained from Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations with design standards for stand-alone ground-mounted solar panels, as well as array panels to aide in the process of providing a uniform design standard. Solar farms are becoming more prevalent in the world today due to lower costs of the panels. Although the solar panel costs have been reduced over the years, it is still costly to design and build solar farms; therefore, it is crucial to advance wind design methods for ground-mounted solar panels. After Hurricane Maria devastated buildings and other structures in Puerto Rico, 2017, some solar farms on the island survived while others were damaged. One solar farm that did not survive Hurricane Maria is investigated in this study. The solar farm consists of two different sections (Phase 1 and Phase 2). Both sections include the same size solar panels, but at different elevation heights and tilt angles. The panels and arrays were modeled in ANSYS Fluent. Pressure coefficients were obtained by running the following turbulence closures: Reynolds Stress Model (RSM), k–ε model, and Large Eddy Simulation (LES). LES was employed to calculate drag, lift, and peak pressure coefficients for the panels. The ASCE Standard was used to calculate wind pressures on the panels and the results were compared to the CFD results. For all three turbulence closures, Phase 1 Panel and Array yielded higher pressure coefficients than Phase 2 Panel and Array. The wind pressure for Phase 1 Panel was higher than that for Phase 2 Panel but lower than the design wind pressures calculated using the ASCE Standard. A theoretical cost analysis was completed to determine the increase in cost of the originally designed solar farm due to rebuilding and installing sections of the damaged solar farm as well as the increase in cost due to designing a stronger structural system for arrays. The cost of rebuilding the damaged panels would be 50% more than the original cost while installing a stronger structural system would increase the original price by 1.9%.

Committee Chair

Aly, Aly Moussad

Available for download on Monday, June 28, 2027