Functions of solar panel frames
There are three major types of solar panels: monocrystalline, polycrystalline, and thin-film. Each type has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. Cause thin-film do not need frames, so our topic is on mono and poly solar panels. The frame – a mechanical role and component to solar panels.
The functions of solar frame lies in its mechanical characteristics that bring several benefits:
– Resistance against mechanical load such as wind, snow…
Trend of solar panel frames
As solar panels manufacturers always seek ways to reduce costs, product design is of course influenced by this objective. As part of solar panels, solar frames also affected by this trend.
I also remembered that 10 years ago, the 50mm and 45mm thickness is a major choice and the frame size is only 1580*808mm for 60cell solar panels, however, during the past ten years, we can not see the 50mm and 45mm frame anymore. It was replaced by 40mm solar frame and 35mm solar frame.
And in order to reduce the solar frame cost, the frame wall thickness decreases from 2mm to 1.4mm, even 1.2mm is used in the Indian market to meet its market price.
In order to make great solar panels with high power, the solar cell size is bigger and bigger so as to make large solar frame sizes. The previous is 1580*808mm, while now it is 2032*1004mm.
One more thing is that now the long frame and short frame use the different frame designs, especially the short frame use the lighter design to reduce the material cost.
Reducing the thickness of the frame directly impacts the cost as less material is needed. One of the side benefits is also for the installer, a module slightly lighter to handle.
over the years, we have not seen a breakthrough in framing approach, the evolution being slow and tending to reach a plateau. Indeed, cutting costs is about finding the right compromise between the design and the weight of aluminum to ensure reliable mechanical properties.
As always, it is not a one size fits all problem. Two modules with the same frame thickness may not behave the same, depending on the choices made during design.
Comparing mechanical resistance
We would like to share with you a test we performed. We have selected different brands of solar panels with different frame thicknesses, from 30 mm to 50 mm to submit them to a mechanical resistance test. Of course, we won’t display the respective suppliers.
The table hereunder sums up the different steps of the test and the delta, after each step, of the rated power vs the nominal power.
A load of 2400 Pa is equal to 400 kg per panel (1,6 sqm) or 220 Km/h wind speed or a layer of ~1.5m of snow freshly fallen on the module.
We can see that what is at stake is actually the electrical performances. When modules have to withstand the mechanical load, the properties of the frame influence the ability of the module to work properly. In particular, in face of an exceptional event involving a high mechanical load, what may become more and more the case with climate change, the electrical properties of the module can be seriously damaged. If it should happen when the installation has just been done, then the yields would be impacted for decades.
All the modules do not behave the same under mechanical load and part of the explanation comes from the frame. The evolution of frame design is not completely trivial and should always be done carefully to ensure reliable behavior. While it can be an overlooked component, for an installer, a bad frame is often synonymous with cost or time related issues:
– Freezing inside of the frame during winter causing module breakage
– Frame breakage due to poor assembly
– Loss of yields (and customer satisfaction) in case of loss of electrical power
– Loss of versatility in the choice of mounting system and module orientation because of clamping limitations
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