The behavior of solar modules under stress

Adrienne SorensenAugust 23, 20184380

The behavior of solar modules under stress 

As solar panels manufacturers find more innovative methods to decrease costs, product design is valued by this objective. In this article, we’ll review the solar frame of the panel and how the behavior of modules under mechanical stress varies.

The mechanical role of the frame
The frame of solar panels lies in its mechanical qualities that provide a few perks. Some of these advantages are handling, storage, grounding, fixation, and resistance against mechanical load.  Two modules with the exact same frame thickness doesn’t behave the same. The behavior of each module really depends on the choices made during its design process.  
Most of the cost of a photovoltaic module lies in the cell, thus is silicon related. Within non silicon costs, the frame signals an important part. Thus, thinner aluminum frames are favored and their cost depends on the weight of metal. Decreasing the thickness of the frame influences the cost as less and is lighter to handle by the installer.  The evolution of frames is slow. Trying to locate an accurate compromise between the design and the weight of aluminum to ensure reliable mechanical properties is still a process. 

Reviewing the results 

Solar panels were chosen from various brands and frame thickness, from 31 mm to 50 mm to conduct a mechanical resistance test.  A load of 2400 Pa is equaivalent to 400 kg per panel (1,6 sqm) of snow on the module. Electrical performances is what’s at stake. When modules have to endure mechanical load, the frame is influenced the ability of the module to perform properly. In particular, when there’s a high mechanical load, which could be the case with severe climate change, the electrical properties of the module can be extremely damaged. If this should take place around the time of an actual installation, the yields would be impacted for decades.

All the modules don’t act the same under mechanical load and part of that  reason comes from the frame. The evolution of frame design  should be developed carefully to ensure reliable behavior. Although it can be overlooked,  for an installer, a bad frame is synonymous with price or time related concerns:

– Freezing inside of the frame during winter causing module breakage
– Frame breakage due to poor assembly
– Loss of yields in case of loss of electrical power
– Loss of versatility in the option of mounting system and module orientation due to clamping limitations
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