Round 4 of the Department of Energy’s (DoE’s) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) presents a significant growth opportunity for electrical solutions suppliers, such as mechanical and electrical components supplier Elquip, notes the company’s MD Mike Cronin.
The DoE announced last month that an additional 1 084 MW of installed capacity would be added to the 1 121 MW initially expected to be generated by Round 4 projects. This was originally announced in April. Round 4 will, therefore, add 2 205 MW to the programme.
Cronin tells Engineering News that the company is particularly looking forward to offering its UK-imported Flexicon flexible conduit system to solar photovoltaic (PV) project developers, who received an 813 MW allocation. The system is ideally suited to protect exposed electrical cabling in outdoor applications. Flexicon offers 52 different conduit systems, available in metallic and nonmetallic materials.
He notes that a typical 8 MW solar PV installation requires about 7 km of conduit, which is used to enclose and protect electrical wiring. “The significant amount of money spent on conduit makes determining the material used to protect electrical wiring an important consideration for any installation,” he says.
Cronin further points out that conduits used in PV applications are exposed to a number of risks, including fluctuating temperatures, degradation caused by ultraviolet (UV) light, exposure to water and physical damage because of site maintenance, the sharp edges of solar panel frames, and vermin.
Wires or cables that are damaged or perished owing to exposure to sunlight or the elements are extremely dangerous in solar PV applications, as the system constantly produces electricity when exposed to sunlight and individual panels cannot be switched off if maintenance is required, which puts maintenance personnel and grazing animals at risk of being electrocuted. Flexicon conduits help protect wiring and significantly reduce the risk of electrocution.
Cronin highlights that Flexicon’s PA6 nylon conduit system is ideal for solar applications, owing to the material’s ability to resist exposure to high levels of UV light. “The black conduit system contains carbon, which assists with UV protection and heat absorption.”
The insulation properties of the material used for conduits, generally polyvinyl chloride (PVC), is an important consideration, as the heat generated by the electrical wiring could possibly damage the conduit and expose the wiring, he adds.
“However, if PVC is used in an application where it will be exposed to a significant amount of UV light from the sun, as is the case in solar installations, the covering will become brittle and eventually perish. “Therefore, the safest way of protecting the wiring is to use a conduit that is resistant to UV light and heat,” explains Cronin.
Flexicon nylon conduits can withstand temperatures from –40 °C to 120 °C; nylon is also corrosion resistant and will resist exposure to corrosive chemicals. They are also ideal electrical enclosures for applications where exposure to water is likely, as it safely prevents water ingress, even if the conduits are submerged in water and are subjected to pressures up to 2 bar.
Cronin notes that Flexicon PA6 nylon conduits also have a significantly longer and effective operating life in outdoor applications, compared with PVC conduits. “When exposed to sunlight, PVC deteriorates at a significantly quicker rate than nylon. The deterioration could result in the conduit breaking and exposing the copper wires,” he says.
The impact-resistant PA6 conduits can withstand a compression force of up to 75 kg. The robust conduit system has also proven effective against attacks by cockatoos in Australia.
Further, Flexicon offers a galvanised steel conduit system with a PA6 nylon coating for applications that require increased impact resistance, as well as protection against water and UV light.
Flexicon conduit systems are available in diameters of up to 67 mm and nylon PA6 standard conduit up to 106 mm.
The company also manufactures conduit fittings, which are available in a number of materials, including galvanised and stainless steel, as well as PA6 nylon.