Photovoltaic Surge Protection

Photovoltaic Surge Protection

Solar panels need surge protection as well as overhead protection from lightning.  Photovoltaic systems that produce energy through the conversion of sunlight in both the residential and industrial markets are susceptible to damage as a result of lightning strikes.  These strikes can be both direct and indirect and still cause significant amount of damage to system components.  The main reason behind this susceptibility is physical makeup of the panels.  They are large and flat and have fully exposed surfaces, and additionally they are located geographically in unobstructed areas that are many times remote. The damage that is usually seen within photovoltaic systems is either direct strike damage at the panels themselves, where the entire panel is destroyed; or resultant surges as a result of a lightning strike to the system unobstructed through into power lines.  The damage can be catastrophic, resulting in the necessity for replacement of entire components or systems or it can be more minimal resulting in the degradation of components or the necessity for repair in order to return a system to functionality.  With regard to the solar energy production field, one of the main concerns regarding damage to equipment is the downtime that follows.  You must realize that sunshine is only available for a portion of each day, and due to the need to be producing power for as many hours a day as possible in order to be a more viable source of electricity, system functionality must be maintained while the sun is shining.  In order to avoid both system outages and damage as a result of the power surges that accompany lightning strikes, science has shown that the use of fast acting metal oxide varistors as well as other devices which can limit overvoltage are the best way to prevent surge damage. The devices that provide this functionality are known as transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS) –  or more commonly referred to today as Surge Protective Devices (SPDs.) Through the installation of surge protective devices at the DC side next to the inverters, damage to control equipment, as well as system outages can be reduced significantly.

Many of the failures of photovoltaic systems is caused by the discharge of related static electricity after the lightning strike to the panels, either to themselves or surrounding areas.  It can damage inverters as well as string boxes and other control items.  Even lightning strikes miles away which are not visible in the area where the photovoltaic system is located can still produce damage as a result of a voltage surges which make their way into system wiring.  It is quite common for residential systems to not be properly grounded due to poor conditions, which is ultimately a ticking time bomb with regards to the PV system.  Lightning can strike anywhere at any time, and only through the integration of technologically advanced surge protection devices will you be able to feel more confident that your system is protected against the ongoing damages and outages that will ultimately cost you significantly more than the installation of surge protection devices themselves.

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