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Do Solar Panels Need Surge Protection?

Read More: https://www.raycap.com/pv-surge-protection/

Photovoltaic power production (PV power production) is the use of sunlight that ultimately produces electricity as a harnessed product. The photovoltaic aspect of the process involves solar panels positioned in areas which arepositioned in areas exposed to ample amounts of sunlight, harnessed by the panel and used to heat liquid within a sealed system. That liquid flows through the system as pressure builds, ultimately moving past turbines that are spun to generate the static charge. The electricity produced by PV systems uses a free energy source (the sun) to facilitate that movement and create the electrical product. Through the use of a free and sustainable fuel source, several issues that have plagued power production for decades can be solved. First and most important is the fact that burning fossil fuels to create the same movement in turbines creates pollution and potentially negatively impacts the environment as a whole. This has been a concern for many years by those who see increased power production to satisfy the population’s growing needs as a significant contributing factor to many environmental problems. Second is the dwindling supply of things to burn, resulting from that shortage the increased prices for fuel. This short supply translates to rising energy production costs and higher bills for consumers. This cost could be nearly eliminated by using a free fuel source like wind or solar.

The costs surrounding solar power production involve the equipment and mostly the repair and maintenance of that equipment. Because solar panels must be built in unobstructed places where they can best capture sunlight, they become the natural targets for lightning strikes. Lightning chooses the path of least resistance on its way to the earth, and if the solar panels are the closest structure within the range of that lightning, it will strike there. While this will cause the apparent destruction of the panel that is struck, a far more costly expense is that a massive power surge is created after the strike. This power surge moves along the connectivity lines that join the panels with the sensitive equipment used in the process, overwhelming and damaging it. The surge leads to not only the need for equipment repair at the panel but also system downtime taking the system offline due to damage. Because the system is not producing even though the free fuel source is available, losses in the production of the actual product occur. Not having the ability to produce power makes the systems less efficient and limits the capacities created for a fixed price. Because of the associated cost of repair and maintenance, solar can cost more than fossil fuels in many cases. Through the integration of PV surge protection systems, these costs can be dramatically reduced, leading to a more viable method of production and reduced cost.

Photovoltaic Surge Protection For Budget Conservation

Read More: Raycap-Solar-Brochure-G02-01-149.pdf

The solar power generation industry has been continually evolving over the past 30 years, albeit slower than most conservationists would like. There are two major reasons to promote developing initiatives like solar and wind power. One is from those seeking methods to reduce the pollutants that harm the atmosphere and air that impacts us all. The other is concerned about money and profits and the creation of a technique of power production that can use fuel sources that are less expensive than the current technology requires. Although these two camps are not necessarily pushing for wind and solar technology development for the same reasons, they both support and assist in developing improved methods to serve their goals. Creating power that does not damage the earth or the health and well-being of those that live on it certainly positions itself as a goal worth working for, the only ones not supporting this goal being those who the reduction of the current methods would impact. Unfortunately, the promotion of a “replacement” technology will eventually replace the old methods, and those benefiting from those methods will do everything in their power to stagnate that change unless they also have a stake in the game. Those seeking a more profitable process of power production might not have much concern for the environment. Still, their desire to create a better product with less overhead also puts them at odds with the existing methods unless they are the same company seeking ways to improve their own businesses. Either way, the proponents for the evolution of the industry face push-back from the existing industry, who seek to slow progress to keep their own companies floating until they can take advantage of the new power systems themselves.

One of the more significant improvements to the technology involved in power production using green methods is the integration of appropriate surge protection devices. A large cost associated with the process of creating solar or wind power can be the repair and replacement of equipment damaged in the field by natural weather events like lightning strikes. Solar panels are positioned in remote and unobstructed areas so as to function at their full capacity when harnessing sunlight. Being positioned out in the open also makes solar panels prime targets for lightning strikes, destroying the panels and generating power surges that can travel along the equipment connectivity cables. Unfortunately, these lines connecting control equipment to the panels also serve as pathways for electricity overvoltage to flow into unwanted places. This electrical surge following the strike negatively impacts the circuitry of the computerized equipment connected to the panels, exacerbating the damage caused by a strike. The integration of technologically advanced surge protection devices such as Raycap’s Strikesorb technology, averts this damage and allows the solar industry to evolve faster. Those seeking cheaper methods of power production without the use of fossil fuels are getting closer to the goal with new solar power technologies and advanced protection. Expanded evolution and use of solar power will fuel more development and help drive costs down.

PV Surge Protection Devices

Read More: Raycap-Solar-Brochure-G02-01-149.pdf

Photovoltaic surge protection systems are integrated into the functional system and equipment chain within solar farms to achieve a more viable bottom line. This means that the integration of PV surge protection is critical to maintaining profitability. The natural occurrences that impact solar farms can quickly turn a profitable business in the opposite direction. Lightning strikes are unpredictable, so there is no way to thwart the damage they may cause except by being continually prepared at all times. Lightning strikes and the resultant surge damage can be minimized through the integration of effective surge protection devices integrated to avert the flow of electricity surges. The damage at the strike point itself is not the main issue at hand; instead, the power surge that follows causes the majority of the damage in a typical situation. The power surge can completely overwhelm control and data equipment that is involved in the process and is directly connected to the equipment positioned in the field through data lines and power cables. In the case of a lightning strike, these cables and wires designed to allow functional electrical flow are overwhelmed by the extra electricity generated when the strike hits a nearby target. Induced electrical currents will make it onto those lines and come into contact with the equipment. Because that equipment is designed to operate only within a specific range of electrical power, the surge that happens goes outside the safe range and damages the circuitry of that equipment. As a result of that overvoltage incident, the equipment itself is either permanently damaged and requires replacement or degraded. Over time, its performance suffers if the surge is not large enough to destroy it completely. The performance degradation also comes as a result of switching errors and other events that cause minor fluctuations in power, over time reducing the functional life span of the devices significantly. Either way, the equipment will need to be replaced eventually, and the operator may not even be aware of it. Ultimately excess surges in power will cost a business more money than it would have spent had it protected the equipment in the first place with adequate surge protection.

Additionally, the systems will not typically be functional when critical parts of the equipment chain go offline. This creates a situation where the system is not producing power even though the energy source is present. All moments that photovoltaic equipment is offline while the sun is shining are a lost opportunity for the business. Thus, protecting the equipment in the field with the best surge protection results in greater profitability. Keeping systems protected from overvoltage events will always be better in the long run because systems will experience less downtime and businesses will spend less on field maintenance.

PV Surge Protection

Read More: Raycap-Solar-Brochure-G02-01-149.pdf

High-risk factors continually plague solar power plants, placing them at the potential for damage. The most impactful of these risk factors are their remote locations and extensive layouts potentially damaged by inclement weather and electrical storms. In addition, these facilities’ equipment damage due to indirect lightning strikes is a significant operating risk. A single strike can take a PV installation offline for days, if not weeks, resulting in substantial losses and power interruptions. To avoid significant damage as a result of a lightning strike, PV plant operators should install adequate electrical protection throughout the system.

Lightning strikes near these facilities, which are placed in open areas in order to capture as much sunlight as possible, generate massive power surges that propagate onto cables and wiring structures, sending large pulses of electricity through the system. These pulses can severely damage sensitive components such as inverters, PV modules, control units, and data communications systems. For the most part, the damage resulting from these overvoltage incidents is immediate, resulting in shutdowns and complete losses of functionality. Other failures may be delayed, adding to the cumulative effect of repeated exposure to these incidents. This degradation of equipment functionality leads to a shorter life span of individual components that must be repaired or replaced before the fully vested lifespan. Whether the damage is immediate or delayed, the result is the same, with systems going offline and creating losses.

Surge protective devices that are tasked with reducing the impacts of overvoltage events must be up to the task, as there are always threats of significant losses if they are not. Inappropriate or ineffective surge protection is a major issue that can impact the bottom line of PV plant operations, ultimately leading to unachieved power production. Any extended downtimes due to long lead times waiting for replacement parts, or revenue losses during those downtimes, can cripple a business. High costs associated with repairing and replacing damaged PV equipment also have grievous impacts on the profitability of a business. Allowing the surge protection systems tasked with avoiding these issues to fail at their singular job puts the entire business at risk for increased maintenance costs and unexpected malfunctions. Inverter manufacturers have already become aware of the benefits of integrating technologically advanced surge protection systems and devices to protect their equipment. The risks can be minimized by expanding the protection networks to cover as many potential pathways of power surge travel as possible. Integrating advanced surge protection for PV systems throughout the entire facility will not only assure less interruption but will ultimately save operational budget in the long run. Keeping the lights on keeps the revenue flowing.

PV Surge Protection Is The Answer To Greater Capacities

Read More: Raycap-Solar-Brochure-G02-01-149.pdf

One of the biggest criticisms of solar power generation is that it cannot single-handedly power a large metropolitan area without the added assistance of a fossil fuel backup. There is too much consumption of power happening in these major metro areas for solar power generation techniques to satisfy. There is a logic that says that, as a result, solar energy cannot be trusted as the only method of electricity creation. Those who benefit from the fossil fuel production methods use this messaging to convince the public that there is no way that solar or green technology can power major cities, with the ultimate goal of keeping their existing power generation methods in place. Fomenting a mistrust of technology to solve issues is a way to curtail the spread of that technology advancing. The truth is that solar power could generate enough capacity to power major metro areas without assistance as long as it is functioning at full capacity. This situation relies upon the solar power equipment staying online and functional for as long as the sun is present during the day and not being taken offline by ancillary events that create outages. The downtime limits the production of power in most solar farms, and that downtime is often created as a result of weather events such as lightning strikes. A strike to the exposed solar panels creates damage that can be repaired relatively quickly. However, the lightning strike’s power surge is more insidious, adding to the system damage and making repairs more difficult. With every lightning strike comes a massive surge in power that travels along the connectivity cables that join panels and the control equipment. This electrical surge then destroys the circuitry of those devices, adding to the amount of cost that must be spent on repair and the downtime that will be seen between strike and full restoration. Every second that is lost from production creates less power that can be consumed by the public, meaning that the real problem isn’t the ability to produce enough power. It is the ability to stay online while accessible fuel sources are present. We find that these capacities can be vastly increased by integrating high-tech surge protection for PV systems, as the damage can be limited. By integrating these surge protection devices along the critical pathways, electricity can flow, the damage to the equipment can be minimized if not completely avoided. This requires only the panel itself to be replaced to fully restore functionality, drawing a far larger capacity for power production out of each PV system. The use of effective surge protection can minimize damage and ultimately maximize the capabilities of PV power to the point of it easily powering a major metro area. The eventual replacement of fossil fuel power will come as civilization moves closer to utilizing the full capacity of PV power plants.

The Modern Street Cabinet

In the past, equipment in the field was to surround by a metal box. But as many types of businesses began to need to position sensitive equipment in and around dangerous situations at street level, new cabinet technology began to be engineered. Conditions that can cause damage come from various types, from rodents chewing into the box to find nesting spaces and materials, to electrical surges resulting from induced lightning strikes. The additional factors of vandalism and the damage resulting from exposure to moisture and heat also contribute to the need for companies to invest in more high-tech solutions than just simplistic metal cabinets. Thus evolved the idea for the modern “street cabinet” or “street furniture,” network operators had a simple need to protect their equipment from a variety of damage. The damage and destruction of the equipment in the field is an issue due to repair and replacement costs and impacts whether active equipment will go offline. In the telecom space, the reception that a customer receives has a great deal to do with their proximity to an equipment installation. Take that installation offline, and customer satisfaction suffers as their reception gets weaker. Frustrated customers who feel they are not getting the best service for their money begin to look elsewhere, ultimately making the prospect of lost customers directly connected to the robustness of the street cabinets.

Street cabinets are now being built from materials that do not conduct electricity, as lighting strikes are an issue in areas where exposure to the elements happens. As climate change worsens, we see more powerful storms happening more frequently. This means that the propensity for damage as a result of direct or induced lightning strikes or moisture encroachment gets worse every year. Modern street cabinets are being built to not only thwart the power surge by not being conductive, but they also have surge protection devices and systems built into the cabinet itself. The previous iterations of protection boxes just relied upon standard surge protection setups that were connected to power lines serving the equipment. With the integration of surge protection into various parts of the telecom network: tower tops, base stations, and street cabinets, the damage to the network caused by direct or induced lightning surge events can be mitigated.

Additionally, modern air exchangers and cooling systems can keep equipment operating at the necessary temperatures to prevent overheating. No data center would position its servers in regions where the ambient temperatures could go outside of a safe range, so why would a telecom company position vulnerable equipment that way? By the integration of active and passive cooling systems and appropriate thermal analysis, along with the ability to expand inside an existing enclosure, today’s well-engineered cabinets are not simple boxes that protect but critical parts of the puzzle that makes business work.

Street Cabinets To Prepare For Climate Change

Businesses want to continue to operate profitably, so they must not only react to the current situations that impact their business but also predict the future. They must assume certain things about the operational aspects of the business in the time that has not yet reached us, to not only prepare for these events, but also to allocate budget toward the things necessary to deal with them effectively. For example, the telecom industry must place equipment in the field to allow customers to connect to the network they are paying to access. The only way for a cell phone to access that network is if it is within a specific range of an installation of equipment that can receive the signal and transmit to that device. The signals are then routed to the network via connectivity cables and wireless transmitting/receiving equipment that enables a connection is made to someone on the other side of that call or data request. If the user is far away from that installation of equipment, then the signal might be poor, and the service could suffer in the form of dropped calls or poor-quality connections. As the speeds of networks increase, specific types of equipment need to be positioned in the field, and those installations need to be closer to the users themselves. The advent of 5G technology allowed for data transfer speeds that were unheard of before but came with the necessity that the 5G installation be within closer proximity to the user. This has made necessary 5G installations at street level and in places where previous installations would never be placed. In the past, telecom installations were within remote and unobstructed locations where users could be at significant distances from the equipment and still receive an adequate signal. Today, the transmitting and receiving equipment must be all around the users to keep the 5G speeds to function. This new rollout of equipment puts far more computerized devices into the field and harm’s way. To plan for the future, telecom operators must further protect and conceal that equipment using street furniture and shrouding devices that act as a barrier between the sensitive equipment and outside forces that can harm it. Those outside forces can range from tampering to lightning strikes. Street furniture or cabinets must protect against all types of hazards to keep the network online and functioning. These ground, pole or building side-mounted shrouds are now critical pieces of the installation’s infrastructure and must be planned for the future growth and development of the industry. Carriers need to plan for space necessary and potential changes to their environment. If they are too small and do not allow for the integration of new equipment, they may become obsolete and need to be replaced sooner than they should. This would cost an unnecessary budget in the future that could be avoided through planning

Street Cabinets Must Assume Future Environments

Street cabinets are shrouds that protect active or passive equipment from damage. Equipment that is necessary to operate in the field is subject to many different types of dangers that can result in damage. As a result, it is essential to put up a barrier between that operating equipment and those destructive forces. In the past, street cabinets were simple metal boxes that protected the equipment from rodent infestation and vandalism. Still, as more potentially damaging influences have availed themselves at the same time as equipment becoming more expensive, the need for street cabinets to perform extra duties has arisen. Today, they must protect equipment from moisture encroachment, operate as climate control elements and provide surge protection. As businesses position more expensive equipment in the field to provide service to their customers, the need to keep the operational budgets within reason becomes critical. Millions in investments will be made to support companies like telecom providers relevant in a hyper-competitive landscape. For customers to be satisfied, companies must offer the latest 5G speeds and technology, but this service must be provided at a price that is not outside the customer’s ability to pay. Initial investments into equipment must be protected at all costs to gain as much operational time from these devices as possible, thus reducing the repair and maintenance necessary over time. By keeping these repair budgets in check, the company can operate on a model that predicts the rollout of new equipment while protecting the equipment that has already been rolled out. This delicate balancing act is necessary to stay in business when each customer is always ready to switch to a better option of carrier, one that is cheaper or provides better service. The best way for companies like this to achieve this goal is by predicting what will be necessary in the future as far as upgrades to the existing equipment and keeping the maintenance within a tight budget. Factor in unpredictable events like adverse weather such as lightning strikes, and we realize very quickly the importance of well-made equipment shrouds and street or pole-mounted cabinets.

Street cabinets are not just metal boxes that protect equipment; they also operate as an integral part of the system that keeps the equipment functioning. For example, many street cabinets now have heating and cooling built in to compensate for climate change and weather that is becoming increasingly more extreme. In addition, they need to have surge protection built in that will thwart the power surges that lightning strikes cause. Through these integrations and being built in a modular way that allows for future expansion, companies can protect their existing equipment and maintain the original housings when additional devices must be rolled out. The street cabinet is now a high-tech device.

Fighting Climate Change With Street Cabinets

Many businesses need equipment in the field to operate or provide a specific service to customers. The most obvious example of this is the telecom industry, which must put receivers and transmitters into places that can be dangerous to them. For an adequate signal to be received by the cell phone in the customer’s hand, they must be within short proximity of a cellular installation. If you are accessing the network using the fastest speeds, like 5G, your proximity to the node must be even closer. Unfortunately, the farther your device is from that transmitter, the weaker the signal will be until there is no connection. If your device cannot connect to the network, it is irrelevant how many features your phone has, as almost all of them will not be functional. In a nutshell, your phone is only as powerful as the network to which it connects. That network has invested millions of dollars into the rollout of equipment in the field designed to improve your signal no matter where you are. The advent of 5G technology has required the additional installation of thousands of sites nationwide, all of which are at risk for damage. The fallout from equipment damage in the telecom industry field is not only felt in repair costs but also in potential customer dissatisfaction. Customer dissatisfaction can lead to a service cancellation or a switch to another carrier. If the equipment is damaged, the site is nearly always offline until repairs happen, negating the value of the investment in the first place. This is why the protection of this equipment is of such paramount importance. Active and passive telecommunications equipment must be shielded from damage to conserve the budget allocated to repairs, and, that site must stay online for happy customers. For this reason, telecom companies invest heavily in cabinets, enclosures, and other protections to prevent equipment damage. These enclosures go by various names but are commonly referred to as “street cabinets.”

A street cabinet is not just a metal box that will protect against rodents and vandals but an integral part of the system that provides climate control for the equipment inside and surge protection if a lightning strike happens. The climate control element is becoming more important as each year passes, and climate change impacts the surrounding temperatures around the cabinet. Storms also increase in intensity, making adequate surge protection more critical than ever. As climate changes occur in a cabinet location, the ambient temperature inside the street cabinet must remain within operational ranges, or the simple operation of the equipment will overheat it. Keeping that equipment from overheating or freezing helps conserve the maintenance budget and keep the installations functioning even during adverse weather events. Climate change is making those adverse events more frequent and more extreme. As a result, cabinets at street level, on poles, and sides or tops of buildings must be engineered to withstand climates that may not be currently present.

Changing Climates Necessitate High Tech Street Cabinets

Very few people out there are denying that changes to the climate are happening. Mostly, climate change deniers argue about the cause but not the changes themselves. We see hot summer weather getting progressively warmer and the winters getting colder. We are seeing storms that have far more intensity in the past, and as a result, we are seeing far more damage from wind, rain, and lightning due to these storms. Keeping equipment that businesses need to place in the field safe is of paramount necessity because, in many cases, this is not a simple convenience. There are many industries, such as telecom, that become a lifeline when disaster strikes. Because of this, it is not only good business to protect the equipment in the field, but a necessity since it can help save lives in many cases.

Telecom operators need to place installations around people to allow their phones to connect to the network. In the previous generation, slower-speed networks allowed for more distance between the phone and the nodes and still supplied an adequate connection. The faster the network speed, the closer your phone needs to be to that installation to make it work appropriately. This proximity to the user means that network providers have had to invest millions of dollars into the rollout of 5G nationwide to provide faster speeds to nearly everyone subscribing to their network. For this equipment to ultimately pay for itself, it must remain online and function for a specific period, even when the changing climate makes these predictions difficult. The shrouding that surrounds and protects this equipment is designed and built to withstand the majority of events currently impacting the environment around it. It must also be made to withstand future changes. The enclosure and internal cooling or heating are designed to operate in ambient temperatures of a specific amount. Still, it will often need to perform should those temperatures increase by 30 degrees. Will the equipment inside fail due to the outside temperatures overwhelming the cooling systems? If lightning strikes near the enclosure, is adequate surge protection in place to divert the subsequent surging electricity away from the sensitive equipment so that it doesn’t impact and damage it? And, if that surge protection system is in place, will it remain functional if another strike happens before technicians can check or replace it? These scenarios are critical to consider when installing telecom field equipment and the cabinets that keep it safe. The world is not going to stop changing, and we need to plan for the worst if we are to conserve the critical budgets that keep our businesses alive.