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.