Traditionally, solar plants sell 100% of the energy they produce to utilities as it is generated. There is no storage; every watt sent to the grid is for immediate consumption. When the sun goes down, utilities fire up additional fossil fuel turbines to meet demand. But things are changing. Battery technology is improving; they last longer and have achieved much greater storage capacities. Today, an array of utility-grade lithium-ion batteries from companies such as Panasonic or Tesla can store enough energy to carry a portion of the load after sunset, reducing a utility’s dependence on fossil fuel turbines to create electricity. This reduces cost and pollution while supporting alternative fuel or green initiatives.
But adding battery storage capacity means running additional cables from the solar panel arrays to multiple banks of batteries and inverters. That can get expensive as there are many turns, transitions and connections to each array and inverter – and even more cost prohibitive if it involves additional trenching. Then there’s the issue of derate that reduces the capacity of each cable to conduct current when buried or bundled. That means it’ll either take longer to charge the batteries, or you’ll incur additional costs by jumping to a higher capacity cable to carry the same power after derate. Either of which greatly impacts the ROI of battery storage.
Fortunately there is a simple solution to making battery storage more efficient and profitable: Free Air installation uses less materials and labor to lower costs. It eliminates trenching, is highly repeatable, requires no field fabrication, and minimizes or even eliminates derate factors by using separators to maintain uniform code compliant spacing between cables for the length of the run. Improved jacket technology using solar inhibitors now allows cables to be exposed to sunlight and outdoor elements for decades without degradation, eliminating the need for covers or piping, making free air installation a more attractive alternative to digging or bundling.
Snake Tray’s Solar Snake Max is a patented free air cable management system that allows the heat of friction to dissipate into the surrounding air, maintaining maximum current throughput with no derate. Solar Snake Max lowers costs by:
- Allowing fast accessibility for maintenance and repairs – everything is above ground.
- Enabling the use of more advanced connectivity technologies, such as Big Lead Assembly (BLA) wire harnesses with in-line fuses, which provide more compact and affordable connections than traditional combiner boxes and DC feeders.
- Simple, snap together construction of T-turns, crosses and transitions to route cables to battery arrays and inverters speeds construction and reduces labor costs.
- Using smaller diameter cables to reduce cable convergence by 25% to 40% over an entire project. This is the “aha” moment when you realize the savings you can achieve using a 350 Kcmil cable in free air to convey the same power of a 600 Kcmil buried cable – without digging. That’s how you and Snake Tray can team up to make solar energy battery storage more efficient and affordable, and keep those turbines off a little longer after the sun goes down.
Contact us to learn more about how we can collaborate to make your battery storage more efficient and profitable in your next solar installation.