Solar panel electric systems offer an environmentally friendly, renewable method of energy generation. They are relatively low-maintenance and convert sunlight into electrical energy through solar panels. A wide variety of solar systems range in size, complexity, and durability across different climates. Solar panel electric systems are increasingly popular across myriad residential, commercial, utility, and industrial settings.
Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel, a French physicist who specialized in the solar spectrum, invented solar panels in 1839. They were first commercially produced by Bell Labs in the 1950s. Bell Labs is a subsidiary of Nokia, and is famous for developing innovative technologies such as the C++ computer language, lasers, and radio astronomy.

How and Where Do Solar Panels Work?

Infographic for components of a solar panel system

Click Image to Expand

Solar panel systems convert solar energy into electrical energy. The panels absorb the sunlight through silica photovoltaic cells. This generates direct current (DC) electricity. Depending on the complexity of the system, the energy may stay in DC form or may go through an inverter to change into alternating current (AC).

The produced electricity is either stored in an attached battery system or can run through a building circuit to provide power.  In many systems, excess electricity can be sold or fed into the area’s utility grid.

Solar panel systems may be found in an increasingly wide variety of locations and applications. Some of the most common industries and applications for solar systems include:

  • Lighting. Meters and charge control devices can measure and regulate power to prevent damage to light bulbs and the electrical wiring in light fixtures. Not only can unregulated power surges damage the components, but variable power may cause flickering lights or unreliable operation of electronic devices.
  • Communications. Communication systems need to function 24/7, especially in inclement weather. Adding battery banks and backup generators to solar panel electrical systems give communication stations and service providers more flexibility to ensure messages are distributed and received.
  • Electricity. Solar panel systems don’t just give individual residences and buildings off-grid power. Utility grids can buy unused electrical energy to reduce strain on systems in overcrowded areas that can’t keep up with demand.
  • Scientific. Scientific research facilities need to have access to power 24/7. Wiring solar panel systems into the building’s circuit through a circuit panel allows facilities to have multiple sources of power. This allows experiments to run uninterrupted during grid failures and bad weather.
  • Automotive. Solar cars are becoming more popular with consumers every year. Even systems that don’t directly run on solar energy, such as electric cars, benefit from systems that generate electricity without using fossil fuels.
  • Consumer. As solar panels become more universal and affordable, consumers can add solar panels systems to their homes or incorporate them into hobbies. Many consumers prefer ready-made kits, complete installation services, or pre-designed systems for easy self-installation in which they can choose features rather than choose individual components.

Components of a Solar Panel Electric System

Solar panel electrical systems consist of many complex parts. While the solar panels are the most visible component, much of the system’s functionality, efficiency, and safety rely on the electrical components that operate behind the scenes. Most commercial and industrial solar panel electrical systems include the following components:

Solar Panels

Solar panels are modules of photovoltaic cells made from silicon crystals. Solar panels come in various shapes, colors, and sizes, but as a general rule, bigger panels generate more electricity from sunlight. Users can arrange solar panels in different combinations, either as stand-alone panels or arrays. 12- or 24-volt panels can provide the foundation for off-grid systems, while grid-tied applications typically use panels with 18, 42, or 60 volts.

Solar Array Mounting Racks

To collect the greatest amount of sunlight possible, panels require precise positioning. Most installers angle panels toward the south (or to the north in the southern hemisphere) to take advantage of long-term sun exposure. Most panels are also installed on roofs, poles, or unobstructed areas of the ground. Solar panel mounting systems provide sturdy connections safe from interruption by minor impacts or environmental factors.

Most mounting systems are aluminum. Customized configurations of equipment can also accommodate different panel layouts. Two common varieties of mounting systems include fixed systems, which don’t move, and solar tracking systems, which tilt the panel over the course of the day to follow the sun.

It’s important to choose solar panel mounts that allow for the best possible energy absorption and the support of the panel. Well-designed mounts also lift the panels from the surface below to prevent heat buildup.

Array DC Disconnect

Every electrical system needs to be built with the expectation that something could go wrong. That’s why it’s essential to incorporate DC disconnects into every array of solar panel equipment. DC disconnects attach to the system between the panels and the inverter so service technicians can manually stop generated electricity from reaching the inverter. Manual disconnects prevent the flow of power from going over the disconnect point in a utility grid and allow the system to charge down for maintenance.

Power Meter, Utility Meter, and Kilowatt Meter

Each of these meters measures the power generated by the solar panel electrical system. They can also measure the amount of power used from the utility grid to accurately ascertain how much benefit the solar panels have in offsetting energy costs.

Backup Generator

Solar panels can’t always run at peak efficiency. Cloudy skies or bad weather may interfere with electricity generation. Peak demand periods can also use up directly generated electricity and any stores in the battery pack. Backup generators can augment power supplies that fail to meet demand. Generators can run on a variety of fuels, such as gasoline or environmentally-friendly alternatives like biodiesel.

Breaker Panel, AC Panel, Circuit Breaker Panel

The solar panel electrical system joins to a building’s circuit through a breaker panel. This component needs to be strong enough to withstand the variable flux of energy. It also needs to have a circuit breaker and automated fail-safes to protect the building’s circuit from potential electrical damage.

Charge Controller

Charge controllers also protect electrical systems from variable influxes of electricity. These components regulate the charging voltage for batteries within the system. Charge controllers monitor the batteries for overcharging and low charges. While it’s possible to have a complete solar system without batteries, having a battery element lets your facility hold excess electricity for later use.

Wire Management Clips

Focusing on wire management can extend the life of the solar system. The wires need to be carefully routed and organized and also need adequate protection and support. Wire management clips can help organize wires so they are both easy to trace and easy to identify. Wire clips also offer protective support that won’t pinch or cut through wires over time.

Solar Hardware

Solar hardware is a broad category of equipment that can make solar power electrical systems easier to manage. This includes inverters and individual components within solar panels. Over the lifetime of the system, it may need replacement parts or more complex inverters as the system grows.

Electromechanical Components

Depending on the nature of the system, it may directly tie to electromechanical solar panel parts and components. This can include a direct connection to a motorized device or the attachment of a motor-driven battery system. It’s also essential to have the right hardware to connect computerized systems and control devices to your solar panel system, especially for exterior applications.

Solar Panel Systems from Nine Fasteners

Solar panel systems help facilities to reduce recurring energy costs. Companies can use solar panel electrical systems to augment their dependence on backup generators and the utility grid so there is less unscheduled downtime and fewer charges for electrical use during peak hours. Companies can also increase the market appeal of their brand by going solar if environmentalism appeals to their target market.

As a solar panel hardware manufacturer, Nine Fasteners offers solar panel components such as hardware, fasteners, electromechanical components, and wire management systems.

  • Wire management clips. Our wire management clips use 410 stainless steel and 301 1/2 hard stainless steel to provide long-lasting support.
  • Solar hardware. We have been a single-source distributor of solar hardware for ten years. We provide parts for industries such as computer hardware, energy, industrial, medical, contract manufacturing, and telecommunications.
  • Fasteners. Our inventory of fasteners includes thousands of standard and specialty fastening solutions such as screws, bolts and nuts, springs, and pins.
  • Electromechanical and computer components. We can supply or offer engineering assistance to equip your system with the right components.

Contact Nine Fasteners, Inc. today to learn how different components can radically change the lifespan and output of your solar panel electric system. If you’re ready, feel free to request a quote for your next solar panel system project.