Renewable energy, whether via wind or sun, is gaining momentum. Energy independence and environmental concerns are driving the growth of solar power, not necessarily in this order. Energy independence dramatically lowers costs of electricity while may also yield tax breaks or other incentives. In other words, big savings on top of big savings. Who can refuse that, right? Environmental concerns, while more controversial and complex, are rapidly growing around the world. Renewable energy is one route in respecting our planet and caring for its future and our health.
Since renewable energy is continuously being explored, new technological developments can offer endless possibilities. Solar systems are tremendously versatile in that they can be installed in different environments. They can be adjusted to accommodate the needs of every project’s scale as well as can be tweaked to produce different amounts of electricity as needed. This is not to say that they are without limitations, but new systems are always aiming to improve and solve existing issues.
These days, solar energy developments are striving to make the systems economically reachable, safe and reliable. One example for that are the technological developments in the cable that is responsible for solar power generation, transmission and distribution systems. These developments are consistently gearing to improve efficiency, reduce cost and ensure long-term reliability and performance.
While the connection between solar panels and the wired world isn’t in the frontline of this energy transformation the world is going through, the part wires and cables play in the system is crucial. Therefore, the wire and cable industry is working on establishing codes and standards for best practices and safe design of cabling systems for solar systems.
Solar & Cables
Generating electricity from renewable sources such as sunlight or wind requires a cabling system engineered to optimize efficiency and minimize line losses. An adequate cabling system allows more of the generated power to reach substations where it is transmitted to the grid. In order to optimize efficiency, cables used at the point of solar power generation are to offer a higher voltage range of up to 2000V versus the standard 600V rating for conventional applications.
The cables that are currently being used to connect transformers and substations are in the process of re design in an effort to achieve higher efficiency over the cable’s life, though cooler operation and lower line loss. The cables in a solar generation system must withstand long term exposure to sunlight. For that reason, they are designed to resist UV, ozone and water absorption. They are also extremely flexibility in sub-zero conditions as well as provide deformation resistance during prolonged exposure at high temperatures.
Pre-connectorized cable solutions have been developed as a solution for extreme installation environments of solar systems. They also help in saving time and ensuring reliability. They are ideal for utility-scale generation systems, by enabling fast and easy connections, simplifying installation and removing the inconsistencies associated with field termination.
PV cables are now being produced in an array of colors to help identify source, output and inverter circuits easily.
As any new industry, the renewable energy market is facing challenges. Codes and standards are barely keeping up with the new developments if at all. Installers need to be trained and then trained again, as advances and changes are being implemented at a fast pace.
Since technological developments are continuing to perfect systems, their parts need to be re-looked at. Cables in this industry, for example, have changed time and time again to support solar system needs. Cable engineers and manufacturers are challenged with meeting constantly evolving technologies and requirements. These new cables, other than meeting the needs of the solar systems, are also required to meet UL and CSA standards, fire ratings, National Electric Code requirements and global standards for halogen-free, fire-retardant and low-corrosive gas emissions. All in the hopes that this solar trend is here to stay.