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Thermal Performance Design Considerations in a Solar Panel “Smart” Junction Box
Keywords: Smart junction box, Photovoltaic panel , Integrated electronics
This paper discusses the design considerations of a photovoltaic (PV) solar panel junction box with integrated electronics for optimal thermal performance. The typical junction box, or “j-box”, is a “dumb” connector with pre-attached leads (also called MC cables) for quickly hooking many panels in series for high voltage grid-tie systems, or larger off-grid systems. By integrating electronics into the j-box, various “smart” functions can be incorporated to provide more PV efficiency, lower cost per kWh, lower balance of system cost, and product differentiation. One function, for instance, ensures that each PV panel in a string can operate unimpeded by the performance of a single panel that may be compromised by shade, dirt, different mounting angles, or age-related wear and tear. Boards with electronics, however, generate heat that has to be dissipated. Since the typical j-box is mounted directly behind the PV panel, proper thermal management has to be considered to minimize the negative impact of heat on cell efficiency. Thermal simulation of different design scenarios were carried out with ANSYS and FloTherm to provide insights into the effects of component placement, board mounting, environmental protection, material selection, and loading conditions.
Luu Nguyen, Senior Engineering Manager
National Semiconductor Corporation
Santa Clara, CA

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