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Why not plastic solar panel frames?

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  • Why not plastic solar panel frames?

    Plastic solar panel frames would seem to be less expensive than aluminum. I imagine heat would be a concern, but here in the northeast, temps are not so hot. Personally, I have a south facing hill that could hold an 8kW array on the ground. Why do we not see plastic frames in use in the industry? Too much expansion/contraction and water leakage?

  • #2
    [SUP][/SUP]
    Originally posted by freeenergy View Post
    Plastic solar panel frames would seem to be less expensive than aluminum. I imagine heat would be a concern, but here in the northeast, temps are not so hot. Personally, I have a south facing hill that could hold an 8kW array on the ground. Why do we not see plastic frames in use in the industry? Too much expansion/contraction and water leakage?
    An educated guess would simply indicate the heat would be the biggest factor. Even in 20 below weather the panel can accumulate quite a bit of heat on a sunny day.

    Not to mention that on that same 20 below days that frame would become very brittle.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by bstedh View Post
      [SUP][/SUP]

      An educated guess would simply indicate the heat would be the biggest factor. Even in 20 below weather the panel can accumulate quite a bit of heat on a sunny day.

      Not to mention that on that same 20 below days that frame would become very brittle.
      Actually, depending on the type of plastic you use, UV exposure might be a much more important factor than temperature.
      SunnyBoy 3000 US, 18 BP Solar 175B panels.

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      • #4
        My first panels were the plastic-framed Harbor Freight / Sunforce types. They warped nicely in the sun, although I'm not sure if the panel itself was warping, or the plastic frame doing it. I did make them look nice by applying Armor-All to the plastic frame and cabling for a bit of UV resistance.

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        • #5
          I guess the function of frames is twofold first to add strength, which would favor aluminum as being more rigid ,secondly to provide a means of bolting the panel onto something. But as you don't want to bolt on to anything , just lay them on your hill, (great for ease of cleaning), on top of a weed suppressing net; how about this for an idea ,make your panels 1mm glass: encapsulant :cell :encapsulant: 3mm glass back now you effectively have a sheet of laminated glass with the cells sandwiched in the middle, very strong, but if you want a frame ,the glass shop will probably give you off cut strips about 20mm wide which can be bonded around the 4sides of the panel using a tiny amount of encapsulant ,rub off the sharp edges with a diamond file and you have a strong, very elegant panel....

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          • #6
            Glass on the backside, will insulate the panel, and keep the cells in the middle hot, and efficiency will drop. Glass is also heavy and fragile.
            Powerfab top of pole PV mount (2) | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
            || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
            || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

            solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
            gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister

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            • #7
              Without the aluminum frame the panels won't meet the positive/negative pressure tests that will keep the cells and strings from flexing too much. A plastic frame will flex too much to be clamped securely to a rail and would not pass structural tests.

              Schott makes/made glass backed panels with good efficiency. I've put in a couple of hundred kw of them a few years ago.

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