The search for options for renewable energy generation in industrial processes is gaining momentum, and globally there has been a significant uptake of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. This is partly due to the declining costs of PV installations and partly in response to increasing electricity prices.
Despite the harsh environmental conditions that many PV installations are subject to, cable protection is often overlooked, which is a big mistake, according to Mike Cronin, Managing Director of Elquip Solutions.
“Cable damage and degradation can affect the long-term viability of a PV installation and have serious safety issues. All of this could leave the installer liable for future maintenance plus fines for lost revenue due to the installation’s downtime,” he says.
“Most PV installations are expected to last at least 25 years,” he continues, “so a great deal of care is generally taken when it comes to selecting the major components for solar PV, such as the panels and circuit protection. Sadly, cable protection is often an afterthought, and this could have disastrous results. Flexicon conduits offer a cable protection solution which is ideal for PV installations.”
Elquip Solutions, a provider of quality electrical components, tooling and machinery, has long been associated with UK-based Flexicon, market leaders in flexible conduit systems designed to withstand hazardous environments. Elquip offers the local market a comprehensive range of flexible conduit systems and components to suit every conceivable industry.
“Flexicon’s conduit systems provide superior cabling protection, particularly in high-demand, hazardous environments such as in the rail or mining industries, as well as any external installation. Solar PV installations are by their nature outside, which means that the cabling is potentially exposed to extremely harsh environmental conditions including UV, water and changes in temperature from below freezing to hot sunshine,” says Cronin.
“There are a number of other hazards, including wind, dust, lightning, and in coastal areas, the corrosive effects of saltwater spray,” he continues. “A solar farm can also be vulnerable to other risks, such as grazing animals, vermin attack and cable theft.”
As specialists in flexible conduit solutions, Flexicon has developed two broad product ranges, metallic and non-metallic, available from 10mm to 106mm in diameter. The company also has a wide range of patented fittings and connectors, locking and non-locking, designed for ease of use and adaptable for any application.
“We are proud of our association with Flexicon because their conduits conform to the highest international standards and are designed with flexibility, quality and ease-of-use in mind,” says Cronin. “We are particularly excited about the applicability of these conduit systems in the harsh, solar energy-generation environment, which is becoming an increasingly important industry given the current power crisis.”
Cronin warns against cutting corners and opting for “cheap imports” when it comes to cabling protection. “A cheap option is a false economy, because of the risk of failure, which could lead to disruptions and downtime.”
Selecting the most suitable conduit system for long term external installations requires a thorough risk assessment, he notes. Long-term exposure to UV light and water on plastic materials will result in possible cracking and a lower fatigue life.
“Get it right and you will prolong the life of the cabling and even more importantly protect people from electric shock. When so much is at stake, it pays to select a system that will withstand a wide range of hazards to ensure prolonged cable life, personal safety and long-term cost-savings,” Cronin concludes.