How Solar Panels Are Made and Sold at Kloeckner Metals
Solar panels generate electricity by absorbing sunlight. They contain individual solar cells which are framed and wired together into one panel.
These solar cells are made of silicon, the second most abundant element on Earth. When light hits the cell it creates electrons that flow through a circuit and produce DC current.
The black solar panels you see on roofs and in parks are made of hundreds (or thousands) of individual photovoltaic cells, each a square inch or two on a side. Each cell converts sunlight to electricity by using semiconductor material that absorbs energy from light in the form of photons.
The silicon in these photovoltaic cells comes from sand, or more specifically, silicon dioxide, aka silica. You might be surprised to learn that a single crystalline silicon PV cell produces more than 1000 watts of power at peak efficiency.
A solar cell has a treated front surface that attracts electrons, and a back surface that repels them. The electron imbalance created when you connect a conductor, like a wire, to the front and back of the cell creates a flow of electricity.
The most efficient PV cells use monocrystalline silicon, though polycrystalline is gaining popularity due to lower manufacturing costs. Thin-film PV cells are based on multiple silicon fragments, which can decrease their overall efficiency. All PV cells are connected to each other, either in series for voltage or in parallel for current, and then grouped into larger modules or arrays. Usually, these are mounted on a support frame, tilted to follow the sun’s daily and seasonal movements. This is known as a fixed mount, and can be supplemented with motor-driven tracking systems that continually reorient the PV array to maximize power generation.
Glass is an ancient and modern material, strong yet delicate, that can take many forms and colors. It is used for window panes, tableware and optical devices as well as being incorporated into solar panels to generate electricity.
There are many different types of glasses with various SOLAR LIGHTING properties, but the most common is soda-lime glass. This is made by melting silica sand, soda ash, limestone and dolomite along with recycled glass cullets (recycled glass). It can be colored with iron oxide to produce green or blue glass. The glass is tempered to make it more resistant to impact damage and weathering, as well as increase its strength and durability.
Other kinds of glasses include borosilicate, which is used in glass cookware and laboratory glassware because it is resistant to thermal shock and chemical degradation. There is also a variety called aluminosilicate, which is an intermediate between vitreous and soda-lime glass in terms of chemical durability, with the added benefit of high thermal conductivity.
Researchers are discovering new ways to manipulate the chaotic, ever-changing atomic structure of glass to create advancements in our lives such as solar lighting manufacturer phones that do not crack as easily and internet speeds that are much faster than they were in 2014. The Biomedical and Physical Sciences Building at Michigan State University has recently been upgraded with transparent solar glass that does more than just allow sunlight through; it produces energy for lighting.
With solar panel production on the rise, many Kloeckner Metals locations offer special processing for the solar industry, including metal extrusions and metal stampings. These help create protective ribs around connectors that make sure the glass doesn’t crack from slamming into objects during transit. They also help produce poles and screw bosses that make sure a solar racking system stays together in the field.
When it comes to frames, the most common are made from aluminum, which offers strength and durability. Using anodized aluminum helps protect the frames from corrosion and is easy to clean. It is also able to hold its shape even in high temperatures, so it doesn’t easily get warped or deformed.
Other metals used in solar panels include copper, silver, and zinc. Copper provides conductivity, while silver and zinc improve efficiency. Aluminum and steel often compose the racks and support system, as well as supply wires to connect components.
In addition to the traditional aluminum frame, stainless steel is gaining popularity in the solar industry. By using stainless steel, solar panels can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Stainless steel is more durable than aluminum, and it uses less energy to produce. It is also more recyclable than aluminum, making it a more environmentally friendly choice. And by using precision roll formed steel, solar companies can eliminate the need to source raw materials from abroad, creating a more sustainable supply chain.
Wiring is a vital step in any solar panel installation. It’s crucial to make sure that your wires are the right size for the amount of power your solar panels will be generating. Wires need to be able to handle the current without overheating and causing fires. If the wires are too thin, they can overheat and burn out the solar panels or cause dangerous electrical shorts.
There are two main wiring methods for solar panels: parallel and series. In parallel wiring, each panel connects to the positive and negative terminals of every other panel until they are all connected in one string. This method safeguards the system against shading problems, since a single shaded panel in the array will not pull down the output of the entire string.
To ensure your solar system is safe, it’s important to wear insulating gloves when touching open wires and use a multimeter to test for voltage and connectivity throughout the wiring process. Additionally, be sure to keep your wires organized using cable clips and zip ties as necessary. This will prevent anyone who may be walking on the roof or ground from tripping over a loose wire and potentially getting electrocuted.
Manual calculations can be a time-consuming and error-prone part of the solar design and installation process, but technologies like Aurora can take care of the work for you by determining the ideal number of panels, their orientation, and the best possible stringing configuration. Schedule a demo with us to see how we can help you save time and increase efficiency through our automated design process.