Wire management aims for longevity

“I’ve seen a lot of wire laying on the ground — if not in water —at some of these PV power plants, all because the installer used cheap Big Box zip ties that can degrade in sunlight in eight months,” says Nick Korth, the product marketing manager for the Energies business at HellermannTyton, in Milwaukee.

“We refer to what we do as conductor protection. I’ve seen a lot of failures because of poorly supported wire, connections exposed to rain element, or friction wear through sharp frame holes,” says Korth. “Over a 10-year span at a utility scale PV plant, wire connectors might meed to be replaced three times if inferior material is used for wire support,” he adds.

“Trackers that rotate can stretch a 1,000 foot wire three inches through a rough frame opening. So with repeated thermocycling, how is that abraded insulation affected?” Korth asks.

“Cadmus Research did a study that found 25 percent of the installs they surveyed had poorly protected conductors. And up to 30 percent of those poor installs led to faults or worse,” Korth says.

His company recently unveiled a universal module clip made of polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF), that carries an industry first: a 25-year warranty. The clip is designed to fit 9mm frame holes, close to an industry standard, and thus adapt to 85 percent of all modules on the market,” Korth says. “PVDF is well known in industry for back sheets, and the material has been shown to last 25 years in UV-exposure applications, so we can provide full testing docs,” he adds

“One of the biggest growth areas we’ve seen is the focus on the levelized cost of Wattage, factoring in O&M,” Korth says. “Repair labor is more expensive than doing it right the first time. A cheap zip tie might cost one cent, but replacing it can cost $4, adding in the cost of the labor,” he says. “A lot of EPCs and utilities are coming to us to help fix cheap installations on their plants,” he adds.