How Does A Solar Plant Work?

How Does A Solar Plant Work?

As you’re likely already aware, the term “solar” refers to just about anything involving the sun. So naturally, “solar power” denotes the energy we obtain from the sun’s rays. A solar power plant, therefore, is a facility that converts the light from the sun into electricity. There are two types of solar power plants: photovoltaic plants and solar thermal power plants.

What are photovoltaic plants?

Before defining what a photovoltaic plant is, it’s important to revisit the definition of “photovoltaic”. As we introduced in our “What Is A Solar Combiner Box?” blog, photovoltaics (PV) is defined as the conversion of light into electricity. This is achieved through semiconducting materials that exhibit a photovoltaic effect.

A photovoltaic cell is typically made from silicon alloys. Photons are particles of solar energy. They strike the surface of a photovoltaic cell between two semiconductors which exhibit what is known as the photoelectric effect. This causes them to absorb the photons and release electrons which are captured in the form of electricity.

What are solar thermal power plants?

Since we have already clarified the meaning of “solar”, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that a solar thermal plant generates heat and electricity by using the sun’s energy. By focusing the energy that comes from the sun, the plant generates steam that helps to feed a turbine and generator to produce electricity. At a solar thermal power plant, MC4 connectors are widely used. Learn more about them in our “What Is An MC4 Connector?” blog.

There are three types of solar thermal power plants: parabolic troughs, solar power towers and solar ponds.

What are parabolic troughs?

Parabolic troughs are the most common type of solar thermal plant. They incorporate several parallel rows of solar parabolic trough collectors, making up what’s known as a “solar field”. Parabola-shaped reflectors are used to concentrate the sun anywhere from 30 to 100 times its normal intensity. This method is used to heat up a special type of fluid. Once heated, the fluid is collected at a central location in order to generate high-pressure, superheated steam.

What are solar power towers?

A solar power tower is the type of solar power plant that utilizes hundreds or even thousands of flat sun-tracking mirrors called heliostats. The heliostats reflect and focus the sun’s energy onto a central receiver tower. This energy can be concentrated up to 1,500 times that of the energy emanating from the sun.

With the concentrated solar energy, the air in the tower can be heated up to 700 degrees Celsius (1,300 degrees Fahrenheit). A boiler captures the heat and with the assistance of a steam turbine, uses it to produce electricity.

What are solar ponds?

As its name conveys, this solar power plant comes in the form of a saltwater pool. Using what is known as “’salinity-gradient technology”, a solar pond collects and stores solar thermal energy. The bottom of the pond is very hot, often reaching temperatures as high as 85 degrees Celcius. It acts as a transparent insulator. It allows sunlight to be trapped so that heat can be withdrawn or stored for later use.

For more information about how solar plants work, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at

What Is An MC4 Connector?

What Is An MC4 Connector?

MC4 connectors are single-contact electrical connectors. They are commonly used for connecting solar panels. MC4 stands for “Multi-Contact, 4 millimetre”. It is a standard in the renewable energy industry. An MC4 connector enables the easy construction of strings of panels. In today’s solar market, both MC4 connectors and their compatible products are used across the board.

For the most part, larger solar panels will already come equipped with MC4 connectors. They are manufactured by Multi-Contact, which is the official manufacturer of MC4 connectors. Solar panels are plastic-based round housings with single conductors in paired male/female configurations. With the help of a notched interlock, MC4 connectors are able to terminate to each other and avoid being unintentionally pulled apart.

When and where are MC4 connectors used?

Generally, this depends on the size of the solar panel. While they are all designed to be weather resistant and UV proof for reliable outdoor use, their different sizes serve different purposes. Smaller solar panels (less than 20 watts) do not produce high currents. They are typically used as stand-alone units making the method of termination less significant.

Larger solar panels (more than 20 watts), on the other hand, are designed to handle higher power levels. They are wired together in an array for standardized termination that can handle greater voltage. As a result, the MC4 connectors must fit perfectly.

How many parts does an MC4 connector have?

Each MC4 connector has five parts. They are the main housing, a metal crimp contact, a rubber water seal, a seal retainer and a screw on end cap. The male version of the MC4 connector uses a different housing and metal contact. The rest of its parts are interchangeable. Some MC4 connectors have removable safety lock clips. They cover the interlock tabs and provide additional unintentional disconnect protection.

What tools are necessary when working with MC4 connectors?

Those who work with MC4 connectors need to use a few different specialized tools. The most important of them all is a crimp tool and two disconnect/spanner wrench combo tools. A must-have on any crimp tool is a hinged, swing out contact holder. It helps to make terminations uniform and on spec. It’s wise to avoid any crimp tools without this feature.

Which wires are needed for MC4 connectors?

Most wires needed for MC4 connectors are advertised as solar panel wires or photovoltaic wires. Although there is a variety to choose from, it’s important that they all meet National Electric Code (NEC) requirements. It’s also imperative that they meet Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) standards for UV resistance. Wires that are not UV resistant are not approved for outdoor use.

Beware of “MC4-compatible” connectors. They are not manufactured by Multi-Contact. While they may appear cost-effective, these imitation connectors often do not meet the same safety certifications and engineering standards as authentic MC4 connectors. Because these knock-offs have proven to be a problem in the industry, Multi-Contact has actually issued a formal statement about them.

For more information about MC4 connectors, please don’t hesitate to give Flux Connectivity a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at

What Is NEMA? 

What Is NEMA? 

Back in January, we posted a blog about the ever-important concept of putting safety first. In the world of manufacturing, those two little words couldn’t have bigger implications. Our blog pointed out the importance of considering the harsh environments within which many electrical connections are used. With the help of NEMA, a “safety first” mentality is commonplace in manufacturing companies all throughout North America.

What does NEMA stand for?

Founded in 1926 and based in Rosslyn, Virginia, NEMA is the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. Developed to create the technical standards for the manufacturing of both electrical and medical imaging equipment, NEMA is known as the largest trade association of electrical equipment manufacturers in the United States.

The primary focus of the organization is to set industry standards for safety and innovation within the world of manufacturing. NEMA’s membership is made up of about 350 different companies that manufacture products used in utility, commercial, industrial, commercial, residential and institutional applications.

What are the different NEMA ratings?

Every five years, NEMA publishes new ratings that are used to protect electrical equipment from damage due to dust, liquids and corrosive materials. The ratings are based on the types of enclosures that electrical components are manufactured with. While not all electrical components are designed with NEMA enclosures, the ratings are meant to be used as industry standards on a voluntary basis. There are no less than 13 NEMA ratings with some being broken down into several sub-groups.

NEMA 1 refers to general purpose enclosures that are constructed for indoor use. They protect human contact from electrical charges and protect the electrical components against dust, light, dirt and debris. NEMA 2 is much like NEMA 1 except this rating stipulates protection from light dripping and splashing of water. It’s referred to as “drip-tight”.

NEMA 3 is regarded as “weather-resistant” and is divided into a number of subsections. These enclosures are created for both indoor and outdoor use, especially on ship docks, construction sites, tunnels and subways. They protect against falling dirt, windblown dust, rain, sleet and snow. The 3R subsection omits protection against windblown dust. 3S also protects from ice while 3X, 3RX and 3SX offer additional corrosion protection (especially from salt water).

NEMA 4 and 4X enclosures provide the same protection as a NEMA 3 enclosure with additional protection against water ingress and/or hose-directed water. They’re referred to as “water-tight”.  NEMA 5 is “dust-tight” and is commonly used in steel mills and cement plants.

NEMA 6 and 6P are “submersible”. They offer the same protection as NEMA 4 enclosures, but also protect against temporary or prolonged submersion in water or oil. NEMA 6 is temporarily submersible while 6P withstands occasional prolonged submersion. NEMA 7 is built for hazardous locations that are primarily indoors. NEMA 8 offers the same protection as NEMA 7 but can be used either indoor or outdoor.

NEMA 9 enclosures are dust ignition proof and intended for indoor use in hazardous locations. NEMA 10 enclosures meet MSHA (Mine Safety and Health Administration) standards. NEMA 11 protects against the corrosive effects of liquids and gases while meeting drip and corrosion-resistance tests.

NEMA 12 and 12K enclosures are intended for indoor use and protect against dripping and splashing water. They are also rust resistant. Finally, NEMA 13 enclosures provide the same protection as NEMA 12 enclosures, but with added protection against dripping and/or sprayed oils and coolants.

For more information about NEMA and their various ratings, please don’t hesitate to give Flux Connectivity a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at

Safety First: Environmental Considerations When Selecting A Connector

Safety First: Environmental Considerations When Selecting A Connector

Safety first. This is a term that is often used for just about every facet of life you can think about. And when it comes to Flux Connectivity’s manufacturing solutions, the same thing rings true. It’s so important to consider the harsh environments within which many electrical connections are used. With a “safety first” mentality in place, strict attention must be paid to the ways in which connectors are customized.

It’s important to consider the many common environmental issues that connectors may endure. They include being submerged in water, experiencing corrosion from water or chemicals, extreme temperatures, tiny particulates, harsh materials that come into contact with the connections and even bending and flexing.

Your top-choice connectors are the ones with the highest IP ratings.

As explained by Code Corporation, “the IP (International Protection) Rating of a product is represented by two numbers. The first digit is the protection rating against solid foreign objects (i.e. dust) and the second digit represents the protection against the ingress of water.”

The higher the numbers, the more protection the connector provides. For example, a rating can get no lower than IP 00, which essentially provides no protection at all. A rating of IP 68, however, is considered the highest of its kind, offering total protection against dust and continuous submersion in water.

There are several factors to consider when selecting connectors for harsh environments.

Water and dust are not the only environmental concerns to consider when it comes to your connectors. Is your connector being using in an explosive environment? Is there flammable gas or vapours present? This is often the case with oil and gas applications. Is there a combustible dust present? This is generally a concern with grain bin and other agriculture applications as forestry and wood processing create combustible dust.

As Amphenol ICC points out, harsh environment connectors should also be able to protect the components from electromagnetic interference (EMI) radiations. “EMI radiation can either enter the box and interfere with the functionality of the device or exit the box and interfere with other devices,” their site explains, “To help ensure harsh environment connectors provide the best possible EMI performance, select connectors with plated metal shells and a conductive gasket.”

At Flux Connectivity, we consider all environmental factors when manufacturing our cable assemblies.

As we pointed out in our “What Is A Cable Assembly?” blog, a cable assembly is a group of wires or cables that are encased in a singular tube of material which is usually composed of rubber, vinyl or pressure extruded thermoplastics such as polyurethane. We always ensure that our materials secure the highest of IP ratings.

“The changing trends in technology are demanding applications that can withstand a harsh environment that involves exposure to dust, splashing water or cleaning solutions over the course of their lifetime,” notes Amphenol ICC, “They usually come with enclosures that protect the inner components from the risks… Designers must consider many factors like the influence of temperature, moisture, solvents, icing, corrosion, fungus, salt exposure, etc. while choosing the connectors.”

For more information about how our manufacturing solutions address the environmental considerations when selecting a connector, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at