Canadian PV Solar Assembly
Photovoltaic solar panels (PV for short) turn the sun’s energy into usable electricity. This post will outline the major components of a solar panel that make this form of sustainable energy generation possible. I will focus on how the assembly is performed in a Canadian context and leave the genesis story of the major component parts for another post. In Canada, humans and automated robots work symbiotically to achieve efficient, consistent, and reliable assemblies that are becoming recognized across the world.
There are 5 major components to a typical PV solar panel: solar cells, a back sheet, glass, encapsulant (glue) and a frame. The generation of these component parts from raw materials generally takes place outside of Canada. The completed parts are then shipped to a final assembly plant that combines all the components together. Many Canadians are familiar with the auto industry where the final assembly plant is supported by many other feeder facilities; we will focus on the assembly plant side of the solar industry in this post.
First, the solar cells (made primarily of silicon) are arranged in rows on the white back sheet. The rows are then linked together by a metal material creating in a gird/ matrix pattern. This metal will carry the electricity from each cell towards a junction box on the underside of the panel. All the cells, connecting metal, and junction box are soldered together to ensure the efficient transmission of energy.
The connected solar cells are placed under glass and “laminated” in high powered ovens using a glue/ encapsulant. This protects the energy producing components from outdoor conditions and must be completed to a high-quality standard. Panels with even the slightest bubble or inconsistency in the encapsulant must be rejected.
Panels can then receive the aluminum frame that borders and thickens each panel. These frames are designed to fit precisely and are attached with high quality aluminum screws. A supporting bar is also added to the back of the panel to increase its strength and rigidity.
Every completely assembled panel must then pass through visual quality assurance inspections, performed by humans, and a sophisticated “flash test” performed by machines. The automated test exposes each panel to a maximum amount of simulated solar light. This ensures the panels can produce electricity as intended and allows each panel to be rated individually for its producing power (ex. 315 watts, 320 watts, 325 watts, etc.). The panels can then be sorted and transported for installation.
I hope this has shone some light on how solar panels are produced in Canada. There is a large emphasis on consistency and reliability eluminated in the assembly processes where automation is used to compliment skilled Canadian workers. We should be proud of our renewable energy industry and support its growth as a pillar of our new, low carbon economy.
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