Surge Protection Device Integration Into Solar Power Systems

Surge Protection Device Integration Into Solar Power Systems

Surge protection devices must be integrated into the systems that produce power using photovoltaic components.  This is important for residential customers to understand as the interest in solar power grows amongst homeowners.  Over the course of the last 10 years we’ve seen an explosion in the interest in installation of solar panels onto the roof areas of private homes.  This provides that residence with the ability to generate its own power and sell excess electricity back to the local power company in the area.  It is well documented that the savings that can be seen on electric bills within homes utilized solar power production devices will offset the price of the installation of the system itself within only a few years. Homeowners who are seeking ways to reduce their own costs as well as their energy consumption footprint will enjoy the benefits of the installation of the solar production system will bring them.  What they do not usually consider are the potential weaknesses of photovoltaic systems that must be contended with as time goes on.  There are a few types of damage that is common to these systems, primarily involving lightning strikes.  Because of the physical makeup of solar panels, they are prime targets for lightning.  They are large and flat and are generally mounted in a region that provides unobstructed access to sunlight.  Surrounding structures casting a shadow over the solar panels will provide a less than optimal production output, and as a result the panels themselves are usually the structure which is the tallest an area.  Lightning is attracted to the path of least resistance to ground, which means that the solar panels that are mounted in this way are providing that path.  They are also poorly grounded in many residential applications, either because the region itself offers poor grounding capabilities or because of the difficulties that grounding presented for the installation company.  Results of poor grounding are that the static discharge of electricity when a lightning strike happens does not travel to ground in a way where it would not come in contact with system components.  Instead, this electrical flow travels along the power lines that connect the panels to the control equipment, ultimately overwhelming the circuitry within these devices.  The control equipment within photovoltaic systems is notoriously sensitive, and not able to withstand these electrical surges.  The result is equipment that needs to be repaired or replaced as well as system outages, meaning that there is no power being produced even though the sun is shining.  Only through the installation of surge protection technology can this damage be minimized or avoided.  These devices, known as surge protective devices (SPDs), are your best defense against the inevitable lightning strike and surge damage that happens as a result.  You can never tell where lightning is going to strike, and unfortunately it does not have to directly strike your panels to provide damage.  Many times, the electricity that is discharged from a lightning strike many miles away can couple into the lines of your system and ultimately damage your components.  Is your system fully protected by surge protection devices or are you risking it?

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