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How do Power Surges Affect Solar Panels

November 21, 2022

Solar panels have become incredibly popular in recent times. One of the first things that people look for when buying a new home is whether it has solar panels installed or not. Studies show that the amount of sunlight received by the earth’s surface within an hour and a half is sufficient to meet the energy consumption needs of the world for an entire year. Therefore, investment in solar technology has been substantial. Electrical energy is produced by converting sunlight captured by the photovoltaic (PV) panels. This energy can either be stored in batteries or used for generating electricity. 

Close-up shot of solar panels installed by Solgen Power

Since every location receives some sunlight throughout the year, it is possible to utilize solar radiation and turn it into useful energy. It is important that you know that there are two types of solar technologies which include concentrating solar-thermal power and photovoltaics or PV, for short. Chances are that you might have an idea about PV as it is mostly used in solar panels. The solar panels have PV cells that absorb energy from sunlight and create electrical charges which move to the electrical field of the cell. 

As for concentrating solar-thermal power, it utilizes mirrors for reflecting sunlight onto receives which convert it to heat and produce electricity. It is more common in large power plants. If you are wondering how power surges affect solar panels, you have come to the right place. Our post aims to provide you with all the information you are looking for in order to power home solar. So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive right in. 

How Do Solar Panels Create Electricity?

There is no denying that solar energy is possibly the most affordable energy source that is available today. However, you might want to know the process solar panels undergo in order to generate electricity. You have to know how solar panels are made to better understand how they work. Generally, silicon is used by solar panels. But selenide, gallium, indium, and copper are also used since silicon crystals are more expensive. Other elements are also added to improve the electrical properties of the solar panels. 

Strips of positive silicon and negative silicon are sandwiched together to create a photovoltaic cell. Multiple photovoltaic cells help create solar panels. There is also a conductive metal plate inside the solar panels which is connected to wires and the array combiner. Moreover, an inverter is also required for transforming the electrical current into an alternating electrical current so that it can be used for powering electrical structures. Photons are invisible particles found in visible sunlight and they collide with other parties to create heat. In order to produce electricity, the photons are broken away and replace electrons from the positive silicon which ensures a steady flow of electricity as long as the photons continue to come into contact with the solar panels. However, the following factors have a huge impact on the production of solar electricity. 

  • Shade: When solar panels are shaded, they are unable to produce the same amount of energy when compared to direct sunlight exposure. This is why you have to make sure that your roof doesn’t have trees or buildings blocking sunlight. 
  • Seasonality: If it is cloudy, the solar panels would produce less energy. You can expect more energy production when it is sunny. Therefore, summer would provide more electricity than winter. However, snow might be able to reflect light and boost performance.
  • Tilt: Good tilting is necessary if you want the solar panels to maximize energy production. The roof’s tilt and the direction of your home should also be considered.

What Is a Power Surge?

Electricity is essential in the modern world. It helps power modern inventions and allows us to go about our lives. In fact, it only continues to become more important by the day due to the fact that new inventions are being developed which rely on electricity such as electric cars. However, there is a need for a reliable and uninterrupted supply of electricity. Although every utility company aims to provide reliable electricity, there is still a possibility of a power surge which can prove disastrous. For those of you that don’t know, a power surge is a surge of electrical power that is greater than usual. The US operates on 120 volts on average, whereas, other countries use up to 220 volts. A power surge occurs when increased voltage comes through the wires. It can range anywhere from 1 volt to 169 volts or even more. There are various causes of a power surge as mentioned below.

  • Electrical Overload: When too much power is drawn through a circuit, an electrical overload would occur. It usually happens when too many devices are plugged into the same circuit or extension cords are overused. As the single circuit would be overwhelmed, a massive current would be received which would result in a spike in voltage and excess power.
  • Faulty Wiring: Another cause of power surges is faulty wiring. When electrical wires are exposed or damaged, it is highly likely for a power surge to occur. If the wiring is located behind walls, you would have difficulty determining if there is faulty wiring. However, you should be able to tell if there is faulty wiring when the outlets have burn marks, there is a buzzing sound from the outlets, a burning smell comes from the outlets or wiring, or the circuit breakers trip frequently. Make sure to immediately unplug the electrical devices and turn off the electric supply to protect your equipment. Don’t forget to reach out to an electrician to resolve the issue.
  • Lightning Strike: A power surge would be triggered by a lightning strike. It rarely causes damage to appliances. It is possible for lightning to strike the power lines which would increase the voltage. The electrical system would have no option but to accept the excessive current. Therefore, the spike in voltage would cause a considerable power surge. It is necessary that you unplug all your electrical devices in order to protect them.
  • Blackout or Power Outage: A large-scale power grid failure would cause a power outage. Although the lack of electricity shouldn’t cause any problems, you need to be careful of its return. It is quite common for the current to have a spike when the power is restored after an outage. This means that all your plugged-in appliances would be likely to get damaged if you don’t have surge protectors. 

Why Are Power Surges Bad?

Power surges are more common than you think. Even though the standard voltage in the US is 120 V, the actual voltage tends to oscillate constantly. However, only when the voltage exceeds 170 volts does damage occur. When there is a spike in voltage, a power surge would be inevitable and it would damage your electrical appliances. An art of electrical current would be created when the voltage exceeds normal capacity. There would also be heat which can cause damage to the electronic components. The fact is that even small power surges that happen frequently can cause serious damage. Thus, you might notice that your electrical devices are no longer working without any apparent reason. Every home has plenty of items that are susceptible to a power surge. You need to be most careful with devices that have a microprocessor as it is highly vulnerable. Even a fluctuation of 10 volts can easily disrupt their functioning. You need to understand that just about every consumer item such as a microwave, a computer, a cordless phone a dishwasher, and a TV has a microprocessor. Instant damage would occur if there is a large power surge and the circuit would be fried, whereas, the metal parts would melt away. 

Moreover, low-level power surges would result in electronic rust which means that the internal circuitry of the electronics would degrade gradually until they can no longer operate. Besides the damage to electrical components, power surges would knock the power down for hours or even days. Hence, you will struggle to get access to electricity unless you have installed solar panels in your home. Not having electricity can make it extremely difficult for you to perform even the simplest of tasks. 

Solar Panels Vs Power Surges

Having solar panels installed on your roof is only part of the solution. Although the installation would help reduce your power bills and enable you to protect the environment, you still have plenty to think through since a power surge could result in a blackout. The reason behind this is that you are likely to be connected to the electric grid and would draw power from it during the night when your solar panels would no longer be able to produce electricity after a while. Most solar installations would shut down if the power goes out as they would no longer be able to feed power to the source. 

Besides, you wouldn’t want your solar panels to injure utility workers who are trying to get the power grid working again. Since most homeowners have a grid-tied solar system, they have to ensure that the system is efficient and doesn’t cause any problems. An inverter is normally connected to the solar panels and a smart electric meter records the energy sent to the grid and used by the utility company. However, your house wouldn’t get solar power in a blackout situation unless you do something about it such as by storing electricity using a battery or cutting your property from the grid altogether. To make sure that your property continues to get power, you can do any of the following.

  • Getting a backup gas generator
  • Using a solar-powered generator
  • Adding solar batteries to your system
  • Replacing the inverter with an Enphase Ensemble system

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Solgen Power is a solar energy equipment company that sells and installs solar for homeowners. Solgen Power has been recognized by INC. 5000 as one of the fastest growing companies in the nation. Solgen Power has grown nationwide and continues to provide excellent customer service to homeowners.

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