Why Solar Systems Need Surge Protection
Read More: Solar Surge Protection
Photovoltaic (PV) power generation systems are comprised of electronic components that act as control and data processing equipment within the installation. In addition to this equipment, solar arrays also have solar panels which are positioned in highly exposed and problematic areas with regards to potential damage by weather. The control equipment itself will be shielded from adverse conditions because it is not specifically built to be exposed and must operate inside of climate controlled spaces in order to function properly. The solar panels themselves are positioned outside, and within regions that are lacking in other structures, since it is desired to not cast shade or any form of obstruction of the sun on to the panels themselves. The panels need to collect the maximum amount of sunlight possible in order to function most efficiently, which puts them at risk of adverse weather conditions. Because of their placement as well as their general configuration of being large and flat, solar panels are often struck by lightning during inclement weather. One of the properties of lightning is that it will seek out if the most convenient path towards the earth, ultimately meaning that it will strike the tallest or most exposed structure in a region. The most efficiently functioning solar panels are the ones at the motion risk of being struck because they often cover acres and acres of land. It is an interesting aspects that many solar contractors are not aware that they are that creating targets inside of a lightning prone area, and find out the hard way that their equipment was at risk. Lightning is about 50,000° F which is five times hotter than the sun, and obviously this can be quite detrimental to solar equipment. When lightning strikes the solar panels, there is generally two aspects of damage that occurs. The first and most obvious is the complete destruction of the panel itself as it is burned or explodes upon being struck. The other effect is the overvoltage or surge of power that occurs within the system.
Lightning strikes produce a massive power surge that easily couple into power lines or data transfer cables at the point of the strike or from nearby of regions. This power surge flows upon these lines quite effectively, ultimately reaching the control equipment that is directly attached to the exposed panels where or near where the strike and surge began. The equipment will be damaged at the circuit level to the point of needing repair, or many times will explode and produce fires that will destroy an entire system. This is why it is critical that surge protection devices be installed within PV systems to prevent the flow of excess electricity from reaching the additional equipment that is installed. Through the installation and use of effective and technologically advanced surge protection equipment and devices, we can reduce the amount of damage that is expected as a result of a lightning strike incident, isolating that damage to the strike point and potentially minimizing it to the replacement of the solar panels themselves.