Lightning And Surge Protection For Solar Panels

Raycap is a leading producer of surge protection devices for Photovoltaic (PV) systems that are used in both industrial power production as well as residential or semi-commercial markets. Solar panels and their associated control systems are highly susceptible to damage from both direct and indirect lightning strikes. The reason for this susceptibility is due to the physical makeup of the panels themselves (being large and flat with fully exposed surface areas), as well as the geographic placement of the panels in remote and unobstructed areas. This damage as a result of lightning strikes or surges, coupled into power lines running to and from the sites, can cause catastrophic failure of systems and result in high replacement and repair expenditures, as well as significant downtimes. Raycap products use fast acting metal oxide varistors (MOV) and other technologies to limit overvoltage to the attached equipment, interrupting electrical flow in order to protect circuitry from transients that are out of the safe range. Since 1985, the UL 1449 standard for SPDs has been the primary safety standard for surge protection. In years previous, the devices covered by the standard were known as Transient Voltage Surge Suppressors (TVSS.)  TVSS could not operate on circuits exceeding 600 V. Modern devices are now known as surge protective devices (SPDs) and may operate on power circuits not exceeding 1000 V.

A major cause of catastrophic failures in PV systems is lightning and the related static discharge of electricity. The lightning strike does not have to be to the solar panel directly in order to damage equipment like inverters, string boxes or other electronic controls.  The strike can actually occur miles away and be completely invisible to the area where the surge produces the damage, doing so by inducing voltage surges throughout wiring, even in very long lines. There are two crucial elements involved in the protection of PV systems from the damages of lightning surges: proper grounding and the installation of surge protective devices.  Without proper grounding and protection, damage can be sustained at nearly any point in the equipment chain from the photovoltaic panel onward.

Many residential customers will fail to provide proper grounding of their systems. In some areas this is because it is difficult to achieve a proper ground due to rocky conditions. Grounding to earth is essentially providing a path to the Earth for the electricity in an attempt to divert a surge away from attached equipment.  While grounding is the most common aspect of protection that is associated with electrical systems, the additional installation of surge protection devices is the only way to fully protect your equipment from damage in the event of a strike.  Surge protection devices provide the last potential of electrical flow diversion before the equipment that would be damaged by the increased voltage, and can be strategically positioned on lines and at junction boxes in order to provide the redundancy that is necessary.

If you are the owner or operator of a PV system or solar power production facility, contact Raycap today to explore the industry standard in surge protection.