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Photovoltaic Surge Protection Explained

Photovoltaic Surge Protection Explained

Photovoltaic surge protection, also known as “PV surge protection” is an industry term used to describe the devices and systems that protect the equipment used in energy production systems that utilize solar panels and equipment in their processes. The production of solar power involves broad and exposed solar panels that are connected directly to sensitive control equipment. Since the connections must use cables, and cables easily conduct electricity, this leaves equipment exposed to electrical surges, if surge protection is not designed into the system.  When a lightning strike happens to a panel that is positioned in the field, these connection pathways are the perfect way to allow the massive power surge that follows a lightning strike to flow to all the connected equipment. If this happens, and surge protection is not installed, it overwhelms the circuitry in the devices and causes damage that must be repaired or replaced for the functionality of that panel and system to be restored. If this is allowed to happen there is no technological way to prevent the electrical excess from using the same pathways that are designed to carry normal amounts of electricity and data necessary for the function of the solar park. The excess electricity must be prevented from flowing along these lines before it reaches a point of potentially doing damage. This is where the PV surge protection devices come into play.

A surge protection device is designed to allow electricity to flow through it unfettered, enabling the designed electrical level or stopping it if it goes out of a safe range. If the electrical surge from a lightning strike is detected, that device will either create a gap that the electrical flow cannot cross or divert that electricity flow to the ground. This will protect the equipment downstream by only allowing the electrical flow of a specific range to pass, and preventing that flow if it becomes dangerous. This type of protection will limit the amount of damage that happens after the inevitable nearby lightning strike happens, isolating that damage to only a panel or a more restricted area. A panel can be fairly easily replaced, restoring the system to function and thus salvaging the equipment further down the line. Surge protection saves the equipment from a catastrophic loss, allowing the system to remain functional. It enables a faster restoration, keeping power production online for longer periods. Because the fuel in the photovoltaic process is sunlight, the systems of this kind produce more power in the same 24-hour period if they are kept online for longer periods. The sunlight itself does not cost money, and therefore it is in the best interest of the solar park operator to keep the power collection systems functional for as long as possible while the sun is shining. Every second these solar power systems are offline due to a power surge will cost valuable production time. Photovoltaic surge protection systems assist in the optimization of this power solution.