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 A Solar Combiner Box?

What Is A Solar Combiner Box?

Before we can answer the question posed by the title of this blog, it’s important that we offer you a few other definitions. Photovoltaics (PV) can be defined as the conversion of light into electricity. This is achieved through semiconducting materials that exhibit a photovoltaic effect. A photovoltaic array, which is also known as a solar array, is a linked collection of solar modules.

In order to generate enough power to adequately meet the needs of a home or business, these modules must be linked together in order to form an array. In a large solar photovoltaic array, multiple solar modules are connected in a string. This excels the voltage levels to make them ideal for the inverter. Several strings of solar modules are then combined together. This multiplies the string output currents to greater levels for input into the inverter.

What is the function of a solar combiner box?

It’s similar to a junction box, which is an electrical enclosure that securely unites multiple wires and cables through various ports of entry. A solar combiner box combines the output of numerous strings of PV modules for connection to the inverter. Generally, it houses the input overcurrent protection fuse assemblies for multiple strings. The number of strings can range anywhere between three and 52.

A solar combiner box can also house a number of other components such as string monitoring hardware, surge protective devices and DC disconnects. Selecting the ideal solar combiner box requires that you have a good understanding of the site and the difficulty of the job. You should also be well aware of the other components and their relation to the combiner.

What factors must be considered when evaluating a solar combiner box?

Factor number one is the enclosure. The majority of solar combiner boxes come in outdoor enclosures. The minimum requirement is NEMA 3R although NEMA 4 steel and NEMA 4X non-metallic enclosures are more common. You’ll want to keep climate in mind. In areas where high humidity or frequent changes in humidity is common, it’s wise to include a breather or condensation vent. This will enable pressure equalization to the enclosure. It also prevents water molecules from entering the solar combiner box.

In many cases, choosing the right solar combiner box comes down to availability and cost. If you are installing your box in a residential building, an off-the-shelf solution may be ideal. They often offer a number of potential configurations. The customization feature helps you to save both time and unnecessary expenses. Although the enclosure is generally among the more pricey components of a solar combiner box, it’s a vital in attaining long-lasting service from the box.

Where should a solar combiner box be mounted?

Ideally, you want your solar combiner box to be mounted on a north-facing wall where shade is available. This helps to limit the amount of direct sunlight it endures. As you can imagine, long periods of sun exposure can increase the temperatures of the internal combiner. This can reduce both the effectiveness and lifespan of the components in the box.

It should also be noted that size does matter. Larger enclosures allow greater air volume and surface area. This is handy in cooling the internal components. As well, by allowing more room to work during installation and maintenance, larger enclosures make field wiring much easier.

For more information about solar combiner boxes, please don’t hesitate to give Flux Connectivity a call at 1-800-557-FLUX. You may also email us at

What Is A Junction Box?

What Is A Junction Box?

As you’re likely now aware, based on our first two blogs, the Flux Connectivity team prides itself on providing manufacturing solutions that both enable high performance and extreme safety. You’ll notice that in each of our definitions for wire harnesses and cable assemblies respectively, we highlighted the significance of the materials used to promote safety. As you can imagine, protecting people from the flow of electrical current is of paramount importance. An industrial junction box can be defined as an electrical enclosure that securely unites multiple wires and cables through various ports of entry.

Junction boxes can come in many different sizes depending on the number and type of connections required. Standard junction boxes for simple power distribution applications can measure 2 x 3 x 2.5 inches and can hold up to three wires. Larger junction boxes used in industrial applications are often custom built to support many different types of wire and cable entering and exiting the box. The junction box is mounted to a structural point on either a building or on machinery.

So what are the main purposes of a junction box?

A junction box performs several important functions. We would argue that safety is its primary purpose because it serves to keep people and animals away from live electrical connections. With that being said, the primary function of the enclosure is to shield the inside terminations from the outside elements like dirt and moisture.

Other purposes of the junction box are based on the application. One of these applications is to distribute power from one location to multiple other locations. A second application is the collection of control signals from various input and output devices, such as sensors and buttons, which are then brought back to a central control cabinet or control panel.

In either application, they provide a test point and are usually labelled in reference to a schematic in order to assist with maintenance. As Newark points out on their site, “maintenance and safety are of great importance in keeping and preserving equipment and the facility in a functional state.”

What are the main characteristics of a junction box?

A junction box consists of the enclosure and a set of terminal blocks or wire connectors. The enclosure and the types of entry and exit points are typically composed of either plastic or metal depending on the environmental considerations of where it will be mounted. These conditions consist of the level of humidity and  presence of dust or gas.

The entry and exit points can be a simple knock-out hole or a more robust cable gland. This gland prevents most external environmental conditions from getting inside the enclosure and causing harm to the connections. The entry and exit points can also take the form of the mating side of a connector from a cable assembly to help simplify the connectivity for the field technician or electrician.

We imagine that you may have more questions about junction boxes. Please know that the Flux Connectivity team would only be too happy to answer them for you! For more information, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 1-800-557-FLUX or email us at