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Despite hurdles posed by the ongoing pandemic, solar projects have continued to come online over the course of this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Utility-scale installations totaled 2.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2020’s second quarter, a Q2 record, and an additional 62.5 GW worth of projects is now under contract, with 13.5 GW of that currently under construction.

Utility-Scale Solar: Why Cable Management Matters

Chuck Ross
Despite hurdles posed by the ongoing pandemic, solar projects have continued to come online over the course of this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Utility-scale installations totaled 2.5 gigawatts (GW) in 2020’s second quarter, a Q2 record, and an additional 62.5 GW worth of projects is now under contract, with 13.5 GW of that currently under construction.

With such a backlog of projects, solar installation contractors can be crunched for time. That factor, along with tight budgets can push some to cut corners on their approach to cable management. Overlooking such a critical detail can make projects vulnerable to either decreased power production, or even failure, over time. And overhauling a cable installation could be a costly exercise, both in related direct costs and in lost generation revenues. This is certainly a situation in which doing a job right the first time makes long-term financial sense.

Doing cable management right in these projects means understanding the potentially damaging exposure faced over a project’s lifespan. Though possibly shaded by overhanging solar panels, cabling still can be affected by UV radiation, which can make exterior insulation less pliable and more vulnerable to cracking. Management strategies also need to consider the wide temperature swings installations can see in some locations. Desert sites, for example, could see temperatures shift 60 degrees Fahrenheit or more in a single day. Cabling will expand and contract as temperatures rise and then fall again, which could cause abrasions if sharp metal supports or corner pieces are used.

Contractors can save themselves and their clients both money and time by taking time to learn the risks inherent in any project’s specific site conditions. This understanding can provide important insights into the risks cabling will face and the best approaches to minimize related problems over the decades a utility-scale project will remain in operation.
Photo courtesy of Snake Tray
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