What Are Solar Panels?
Solar panels are arrays of photo-voltaic (PV) cells that are assembled in a network to use sunlight as an input and produce electricity as an output. Solar panels are often installed on the roofs of buildings, vehicles, or as a part of solar farms. In the UK, the national energy capacity from solar energy has increased from 12 MW in 2006 to 13,000 MW in 2019. This rise in capacity is reflected by the new solar farms that are on the way: a 350 MW installation in Kent and a 500 MW installation near Suffolk.
Many businesses find solar panels to be an effective and neat way to increase their sustainability. Unlike wind and hydro power, solar power can be implemented just about anywhere. In the modern landscape, creating a greener business is becoming evermore essential; leading to a bigger focus on solar power going forward.
Are Solar Panels the Future of Sustainable Energy?
As the UK government pushes for carbon-neutrality by 2050, innovation is being forced amongst the manufacturers of renewable energy equipment. Technologies such as floating solar farms, solar fabric, and building-integrated photovoltaics are paving the way for the solar panel efficiency around the world; assisting to achieve sustainability in energy.
Traditionally being an expensive technology, solar panels have been reducing in cost and size, while improving in power and efficiency, throughout the last few decades. Harvard University predicts a 700% increase in the power produced by solar panels by the year 2050; urging manufacturers of solar equipment to create higher solar panel efficiency for the future of the industry.
The Hidden Costs of Solar Panels
Solar Panel Installation
According to experts, solar panel installation can account for up to 30% of the price of a solar panel system. Furthermore, within the installation process, roughly 50% of the costs can be accounted for by the manual labour involved. Therefore, one way to reduce the costs of solar panel installation is through enabling less-demanding labour. This can be achieved by using more efficient and less time-consuming bonding solutions, such as the high performance adhesives and sealants offered further down in this article. These adhesives allow for reliable results without long curing times.
To learn more about the advantages of adhesives over traditional bonding techniques for reducing costs and boosting productivity, read our article “What Are Structural Adhesives?“.
One common concern with solar panels attached on roofs is their tendency to heat up, and potentially degrade the roof. This is usually dealt with by acquiring extra HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) equipment to regulate temperatures. However, research from the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems has shown that solar panels mounted with adhesives actually have a cooling effect on roofs; boosting solar panel efficiency in the long run. Adhesive-mounted solar panels absorb the sunlight that would otherwise be hitting the roof directly, reducing the temperature and the power demand for air conditioning systems; boosting the performance and sustainability in energy. Therefore, reduced HVAC costs can be expected when using adhesives for solar panels.
Adhesives for Solar Panels
Although adhesives take up little space and time in solar panel installation, they contribute greatly towards solar panel efficiency, reliability and durability.
Here are a range of factors which are important for bonding solar panels:
- Ability to withstand extreme temperatures – all solar panels are exposed to harsh weather conditions in their lifespans, so this needs to be taken into account when considering a bonding solution.
- Ability to withstand humidity and water – humidity is the main factor that affects the speed of a cure.
- Carrying load of the adhesive – the greater the carrying load of the adhesive, the more protected the hardware remains from the forces of wind.
- UV resistance – adhesives with this feature would lead to greater durability, reliability and efficiency of the solar panels
- Sustainability in Energy – Adhesives allow users to lower installation & running costs, as well as boost efficiency of solar panels to influence higher use of renewable energy; having a more sustainable impact on the future landscape.
List of Adhesives
DOWSIL EA-2626 is a silicone adhesive suitable for bonding glass to metal, glass to painted metal or glass to plastic. It offers great heat, UV and weathering resistance.
DOWSIL 7091 is a silicone adhesive suitable for bonding glass or metal to plastics. It forms a tough and flexible bond which remains stable between -55°C to 180°C.
Araldite 2031 is a flexible, black epoxy adhesive capable of withstanding high temperatures and adverse conditions. It is suitable to use in thin-film roof assembly of solar panels.
Araldite 2048-1 is a tough and flexible methacrylate adhesive which is ideal for bonding mirrors to supporting frames (metal/plastic).
Araldite 2050 and Araldite 2051 are ultra-fast curing methacrylate adhesives ideal for bonding metals, thermoplastics and composites in extreme conditions. They are suitable for installations and repairs of solar panels which are to be placed in harsh environments.
Arathane CW 5620/HY 5610 is a polyurethane electronic encapsulant which can be used to insulate electronic components within solar panel systems.
Araldite 2028-1 is a UV stable, flexible and transparent polyurethane adhesive suitable for bonding metal and plastic substrates.
Case Study: Adhesives for Solar Panels
This manufacturer of solar trackers was seeking to reduce their costs by bonding PV panels to the base structure directly; removing the metal frame in the middle. The substrates that needed to be bonded were glass and galvanised steel.
The requirements of the project were therefore:
- Adhesion to glass and galvanised steel
- Resistance to harsh weather conditions and forces exerted by the wind
- Potential for automatic dispensing
Antala representatives used DOWSIL EA-2626 to meet the project specifications and satisfy the customer’s needs. DOWSIL EA-2626 is capable of bonding glass to metal, and offers excellent weathering, UV and heat resistance up to 190°C. In addition, this adhesive can cure quickly at room temperature; allowing rapid handling of bonded components in automatic production lines.
All strength tests performed on the bonded product were passed. Additionally, the company was able to reduce their production costs by replacing the metal frame of their structure with an adhesive bonding solution to increase the solar panel efficiency and productivity in one. The weatherproof, UV and heat resistant adhesive also improved the quality and durability of their solar trackers. Therefore, by using one of our suggested adhesives for solar panels, the team was able to reduce costs and improve performance at once.