What are the Components of a Commercial Solar System?
Looking at the manner in which we’re depleting and exploiting the limited fossil fuels in our possession, solar energy is undoubtedly the future of the world. Hence, it’s of utmost importance for everyone to know how a solar energy system functions and what components it constitutes to enable its adequate operation. It’s imperative to learn what role a photovoltaic array plays in the whole system and how the solar system components work to enable electrical generation for energy needs. To begin with, it’s crucial to know that every solar energy system differs in size and structure based on the requirement; hence application of a photovoltaic array also varies with it.
What is a Solar Energy System?
The Sun is a great source of energy but to make it an accessible source of electricity, a solar energy system is fundamental. A solar energy system helps create electricity using photovoltaic energy. It’s a means to generate renewable energy by gathering photovoltaic energy from the sun and converting it into usable and expendable electricity. These systems are often found as roof-top PV arrays, which range in size and have the capability to power all types of properties, such as residential, commercial, and utility-scale zones.
Photovoltaic systems have multiple applications –
1. Standard Arrays – These are mostly roof-top or ground mount arrays used to generate energy for a residence or a building.
2. Non-Conventional Systems – There are other non-traditional solar systems that are used to power other special functions like space satellites, hand held calculators or vehicles.
Components of a Commercial Solar Energy System
Commercial solar energy systems comprise a core set of components that include –
1. Grid-Tied Components such as Solar Panels, Inverters, DC/AC Disconnects, Meters, Wiring, Racking and Mounting.
2. Off-grid Components – There are additional components that some systems require such as Charge Controllers, Batteries, Additional Balance of Systems items and more.
Also known as PV modules, solar panels are the most important component in a photovoltaic array. Solar panels mostly contain solar cells, framing and glass. They work by accumulating and harnessing the photovoltaic energy from the sun and transferring that energy as ‘Direct Current’ power to an inverter which is also a critical component of the solar system.
Direct Current power by the solar panels is an electric current that flows in a constant direction. This type of power is usually not readily applicable for standard electric demands, it needs to be converted into ‘Alternating Current’ power to be usable for standard electric devices.
Solar modules embody two of the most common types of cells – Polycrystalline and Monocrystalline. The variation consists of how the silicon crystals in the ingots or wafers are harnessed, cultivated and generated, each developing a unique look and colour to their general appearance. Both PV cells are effective at generating solar electricity.
Also known as converters, inverters take DC power generated by solar panels and prepare that energy to be transformed into AC power. The AC power is then transferred to a breaker or balance of systems, to be made available for standard use. Inverters may be placed after a charge controller and battery bank in some off-grid energy systems.
Inverters come in different sizes, shapes and characteristics to increase their efficiency when producing AC power. Some of the most common inverters are String Inverters, Central Inverters, Microinverters, and Battery-based Inverters, all with varied technical and mechanical capabilities to serve specific requirements.
Monitoring equipment, connected to a concurrent inverter, observes and disseminates the analytics of the energy system to a product console through their proprietary software. This equipment may sometimes be integrated into an inverter or be connected to some other component of the energy system.
Monitoring technology delivers all kinds of information about the running of the energy system, starting from the energy generated by the solar modules, to real-time data, prompt fault detection & troubleshooting and energy yield data over a certain period of time. An elaborate monitoring system can communicate to the system operator beneficial information about the functioning of the energy system which can help the operator take effective measures to increase productivity, yield, maintenance and other variables.
Racking and mounting components operate to make sure that the PV array is either connected to the ground or a roof. The entire racking system consists of multiple operational products like Rails, Flashings, Lugs, Mounting Brackets, Wire Clips, Splice Kits, Braces, End Caps, Attachments, Tilt Legs and various other components to establish a proper racking and mounting system. Grand mount systems need additional concrete and steel piping along with a complete racking kit to be placed on land.
Racking and mounting is a significant process in the operation of the entire solar energy system. Both roof-top and ground mount arrays need to be set atop a sound and reliable structure to make sure the system can sustain integrity and function for a long time.
Balance of Systems
Balance of systems components work to combine all the other electrical components to deliver a series of power control and distribution options for any PV array. DC/AC Disconnects, Junction Boxes, Combiner Boxes, Circuit Breakers, Fuses, Load Centers, Rapid Shutdowns, Surge Devices, and other components that vary between systems comprise the Balance of Systems. These components differ in systems based on the need for power control as per their application.
Each system requires some products to safeguard and control power at all times for the system’s integrity and for emergency measures in the event of an accidental fire or other dangers.
Wiring is the most obvious component of an energy system that connects all components to ensure the passing of energy from one device to another. PV wires are used to transfer energy from solar panels to the inverter and other components as per the workings of the solar energy system.
Charge Controllers control and regulate the electric charge that is added to or withdrawn from the batteries. They work to manage voltage and watts from solar panels to ensure the passing of more stable energy and prevent overcharging.
Batteries are needed to store solar power safely to be used later. They are used in off-grid or hybrid solar electric arrays to harness power to be used in the case of a lack of available sunlight, unstable power distribution from a utility company, or lack of access to a utility supplier.
Off-grid systems often use batteries to store collected energy delivered by a charge controller or inverter, making the resulting energy ready for withdrawal on demand when a system operator requires it.
There will be a lot more installations of solar panels in the future. When that happens, we should be informed enough to ask the right questions and understand the proper functioning of the solar system to be able to witness the installations of an efficient and effective solar energy system equipped with all the necessary safeguards and power control options.