PV Surge Protection For Solar Systems

PV Surge Protection For Solar Systems

As the interest in the installation of solar systems into residential homes becomes more popular, the issues that surround photovoltaic (PV) systems become more clear to the public.  The primary motivation for the installation of solar panels onto the roofs of residential homes is generally to save money, where solar power can be generated and then utilized by the residence, as well as be credited back to the power company in the region.  In many areas, the savings that can be found as a result of a home generating its own solar power can pay for the system within only a few years, legitimizing solar power as one of the primary methods of generating electricity moving forward.  Many of the large power producing companies also have their product generated by PV systems in some percentage.  While there seems to be little downside to photovoltaic systems generating electricity that we rely upon, homeowners must be aware of the potential damages to the systems that are caused by lightning strikes and the discharge of static electricity as a result of a lightning strike.  In these circumstances, we will generally see damage at the strike point if lightning strikes the panels directly, or potentially a more indirect damage may occur when a power surge couples into the lines that connect control equipment to the panels themselves.  This damage as a result of the power surge is seen not only as damage to the circuitry of the components, but also can result in system outages.  Photovoltaic systems can only produce electricity when the sun is shining, which ultimately means if the system is not functioning while sun is shining, opportunities are being lost.  While this is far more applicable on the industrial level than on the residential level, keeping systems functioning in an optimal manner is one of the primary concerns for all photovoltaic operations.

The reason that photovoltaic systems are so susceptible to damage as a result of lightning strikes is due to the physical makeup of the panels themselves.  They are generally positioned in a way that leaves them unobstructed by other structures so as not to cast shadows across the panels.  They are also large and flat, and potentially located in remote regions that offer poor grounding capabilities.  This physical makeup creates the perfect target for lightning strikes, as lightning is attracted to the method of least resistance of reaching the ground.  Because of the poor grounding some installations  have, it’s possible that a large percentage of residential photovoltaic systems are not grounded properly.  This means that when lightning strikes the panels, it invariably damages the system components and the electricity that is discharged by the lightning itself travels easily along the connectivity lines until it reaches the sensitive equipment used in the power production process.  Only through the installation of photovoltaic surge protection devices at critical junctures within the system as well as along these power transfer lines can damage that comes as a result of the inevitable lightning strikes, be minimized.  Surge protection for PV systems is critical.

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