installation manual

Thank you for purchasing Solbian products. Created with innovative technologies and high-quality components, Solbianflex solar panels will provide you with energy in the most difficult environmental conditions and with the versatility required for the most diverse applications. In order to take full advantage of their characteristics and to keep them in good condition, please read the following instructions carefully.

This manual does not constitute a warranty, implicit or explicit. Solbian accepts no liability for damage resulting from the installation, operation or maintenance of its solar panels. Solbian reserves the right to change its products, technical specifications and installation manual without prior notice.

THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS ARE GENERAL ADVICE ONLY. WE RECOMMEND THAT THE PANELS BE INSTALLED BY QUALIFIED PERSONNEL AND IN COMPLIANCE WITH IEC 62548 AND 62257 STANDARDS. WE RECOMMEND YOU CONTACT US FOR TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE.

Recommendations

The following instructions must be read carefully and thoroughly understood before installing, connecting, and using Solbianflex panels. Contact with electrical components, such as terminals, can result in burns or electrical shocks even if the panel is not yet connected. A solar panel produces electricity as soon as it is exposed to the sun or a light source. Although the electrical values of a single Solbianflex panel do not constitute a health hazard, connecting several panels in series or parallel increases their voltage and current respectively. A solar system consisting of several panels can therefore generate voltages and currents that can be harmful to health and result in death.

Solbian will not, however, be liable for any accidents or personal injury, including electric shocks, caused by misuse or improper installation.

Important information

This manual contains important safety information that must be read carefully and understood before installing and using Solbianflex solar panels and their accessories.

Keep the purchase receipt and original packaging for the warranty period of the product.

Warnings and electrical risks

  • Do not use solar panels of different types on the same system.

  • Always check the compatibility of the charge controller (if purchased externally) with Solbianflex products.

  • Do not modify the electrical connections of the panels. In particular, do not open or remove the sealed junction box that connects the internal structure of the panel with the external electrical connections.

  • Do not drill or cut the panel, as this may result in the exposure of live components and/or damage to the panel.

  • Do not subject the electrical cables coming out of the panel to excessive stress or bending.

  • Do not expose the solar panel to direct light when installing the system, or take this into account, as the solar panel generates current when exposed to light and therefore its terminals are live.

  • Maintenance, installation and removal of the solar panel must always be carried out on dry surfaces.

  • Only use tools with an insulating handle.

  • Do not use solar panels in the presence of explosive or flammable mixtures.

  • Keep the solar panels inside the packaging until they are installed.

  • Ensure that the position of the solar panel does not pose a mechanical or electrical risk.

  • Do not use damaged solar panels (during transport, installation or during use).

  • Do not apply any protective coating or paint to the panel. Contact the manufacturer for information about cleaning or protecting Solbianflex panels.

Risks related to mechanical damage

The solar cells contained within Solbianflex panels are fragile. The technology used allows mechanical protection of the cells, but with certain precautions.

Solbianflex panels are flexible but cannot be rolled or bent. The MINIMUM recommended curvature radius is 1 metre. For example, for a panel of length L=1 metre, this corresponds to an arrow F of 122 mm.

Fig. 1

The panels should be handled without producing excessive bending

Fig. 2

The panel can also be supported by the edge but only by keeping it vertical and without exerting excessive pressure on the cells.

Fig. 3

The panels should not be gripped by the ends and especially by the corners, to prevent them from flexing too much under their own weight.

Fig. 4

Solbianflex panels can be walked on, but only if they are firmly in contact with a rigid and smooth surface, where there are no hollows or irregularities.

Fig. 5

The panels can be walked on carefully, either barefoot or in soft shoes, avoiding heels or shoes with too rigid a sole.

Fig. 6

Do not place objects on the panel when it is exposed to the sun.

Fig. 7

Blunt or heavy objects falling on the panels can result in fractures in the cells.

Fig. 8

If it is necessary to kneel on the panels during installation or maintenance, we recommend the use of appropriate protective equipment to prevent the cells from being impacted by the knee.

Panels not yet installed or installed in a removable manner (eyelets, buttons, etc.) may not be stepped on.

Hot-spot

A panel containing damaged cells or even a panel in good condition in which only one cell, or a few cells, are completely shaded (Fig. 6) can generate a HOT SPOT, i.e. very high local heating can occur, up to the point of producing melting of the protective materials of the cells with emission of smoke and reaching temperatures of over 200 degrees on small portions of the panel.

Fig. 9

In principle, these phenomena could produce fires, a danger that is always present with the use of electrical equipment, but usually, the damage is limited to small local burns, as in the examples shown in fig.9.

If there is evidence of a HOT SPOT, the panel must be disconnected immediately. This interrupts the flow of current and prevents any temperature rise. An alternative solution is to cover the panel so as not to expose it to sunlight. In the case of several panels connected in series, the only solution is to electrically disconnect the panel.

Mechanical installation

  • Do not bend the solar panel with a curvature radius of less than one metre, as the solar cells could be permanently damaged.

  • Solbianflex panels cannot withstand mechanical loads such as snow or strong wind. Depending on the type of installation, the strength of the structure on which the panels will be installed must therefore be considered. The structure must not be exposed to continuous stresses. Improper use of Solbianflex panels can cause irreversible damage to the system, compromising its efficiency and use.

  • The installation area must be chosen in such a way as to maximise the sun exposure of the panel and avoid excessive shading. Remember that even partial shadows on the panel can substantially decrease energy production. Do not place objects on the panel when it is exposed to the sun (Fig. 6).

  • The position of the Solbianflex panels must allow adequate air circulation on the surface exposed to sunlight in order to lower the temperature and to ensure a better performance.

  • The panels expand under the effect of heat; please take this into account when installing. In the event that several panels are placed side by side, whatever the method of mechanical installation, a minimum spacing must be respected to allow adequate thermal expansion. A space of at least 4 mm must be left between the two panels.


INSTALLATION WITH EYELETS OR LOXX BUTTONS

Solbianflex panels can be supplied with metal installation eyelets. In this case, the panels are secured by means of ropes, clamps, etc., to rigid supports to ensure their support and resistance to weathering. Similarly, the panels can be supplied with LOXX buttons, special steel clips that allow easy installation and removal of the panels. LOXX can be used for installation on rigid surfaces or on fabrics, such as boat awnings or tents and tensile structures. Using this installation procedure, contact between the panel and an underlying hard surface is not ensured, so the panels cannot be stepped on.

INSTALLATION WITH SCREWS

Fig. 10
Fig. 11
Fig. 12

Solbianflex panels can be secured with screws and washers, taking care to keep a distance of at least 5 mm between the washer and the cells. To proceed with this type of installation, it is first necessary to drill holes in the panel with a diameter larger than that of the screw, e.g., for 4 mm screws, drill holes of at least 6 mm. Screws should not be drilled directly into the panel, but should first be drilled into a hole with a larger diameter than the screw, e.g. for 4 mm screws, a hole of at least 6 mm should be drilled. This will ensure that the panel is not stressed by thermal expansion. For the same reason, flat washers should be used between the screw and the panel, avoiding over-tightening the screws so that the panel can slide during thermal expansion. Again, as contact between the panel and the underlying surface is not ensured, the panels cannot be stepped on.

INSTALLATION WITH DOUBLE-SIDED ADHESIVE/GLUE

First of all, make sure that the surface where the panel will be applied is perfectly clean and dry. The installation of Solbianflex panels with structural double-sided adhesive supplied by the manufacturer must be carried out with the utmost care and precision as this technology does not allow repositioning. It is therefore a permanent installation. The adhesive surface does not necessarily have to be regular, but only in this case can the panel be considered walkable. A similar installation can be carried out with panels that are not supplied with double-sided adhesive but with the use of silicone, polyurethane or similar glues. In this case, the responsibility for bonding will not be Solbian's. However, Solbian can be consulted for verification of the product to be used. Here is an example installation video.

If adhesives are used, care must be taken not to create thickness irregularities underneath the panel. In any case, for the installation to be walkable, the double-sided adhesive tape supplied by Solbian must be used. Before a non-removable installation, such as one obtained with adhesive or glue, it is suggested to verify the functioning of the panel by checking that the electrical values (Voc and Isc) are in line with those indicated on the technical data sheet. This can be done with a common multimeter capable of measuring currents up to 10A and exposing the panel to the sun.

INSTALLATION OF PANELS WITH REAR CABLES (SM solution)

In the SM (surface mounting) solution, the two cables exiting the back of the panel represent the electrical contacts and are therefore live when the panel is exposed to light.

Although the voltage is low, avoid creating short circuits resulting in sparks and overheating.

While strong, cables can deteriorate from repeated bending, so once the panel is installed and the electrical connection is made, use cable ties or other means to hold the cables in place at the panel output.

A solar panel generates a significant current, up to 10 A in full sunlight, so the connections between the cables coming out of the panel and the rest of the electrical installation must be made in a professional manner, to avoid resistive overheating.

The SM solution can be made walkable, but the application must necessarily be carried out with the double-sided adhesive provided by Solbian, taking care to apply the panel to a smooth surface. The recommended application procedure, as shown in the video, is described below.

Fig. 13

Draw the outlines of the panel to be used as a reference on the rigid support (the deckhouse of the boat, the roof of the camper, etc.). You can also use masking tape to mark out a rectangle at the point where the panel is to be positioned, the inner dimensions of which correspond exactly to those of the panel.

Highlight on the support the exact positions where the cables (positive and negative) will be routed when installing the panel. The grommet that protects the cable outlet from the panel has the dimensions shown in fig.13, so for a close fit to the surface you can choose to drill two 15 mm diameter holes, or one larger hole (e.g. 50x20 mm). The grommet already provides the necessary electrical insulation, so it is not advisable to use silicone or other materials to seal the hole around it. Leaving the grommet free inside the hole will avoid water stagnation and facilitate drying in the event of splashing or condensation. If double-sided adhesive is used, lay the panel on the surface in the chosen position (following the reference drawing) and insert the cables and cable grommet into the holes. Then partially remove the protective foil from the double-sided tape, starting with the short side near the electrical contacts. Now, after ensuring the correct position of the panel, attach the short side to the surface, which will allow us to proceed without misalignment. Then lift the panel from the side opposite the one already attached (without producing greater curvatures than permitted) and adhere it to the substrate, gradually peeling off the film protecting the adhesive.

Fig. 14
Fig. 15

WARNING: The double-sided adhesive used adheres strongly to the support and does not allow repositioning. Attempting to detach a partially glued panel can seriously damage the cells.

It is not essential to use sealant on the edges of the panels and in the joints between them. If for aesthetic reasons, or for other reasons, you want to do this, please use appropriate sealants. However, these must have good adhesion to the Solbianflex panel materials and remain elastic over time. Sikaflex Sikasil WS 605 S can be used as an example. An aesthetic alternative to sealing the joints is to colour the space between the panels.

FRONT PROTECTIVE FILM

Depending on the type of surface chosen, some panels are shipped with a front plastic protective film. The presence of this film is evident, as it is a coloured film. It is suggested to remove the film only upon installation, taking care not to excessively bend the panel. In any case, the protective film must be removed as soon as the installation is complete.

WARNING: Leaving the protective film on a panel already exposed to the sun can, after a few days, result in it adhering strongly to the panel surface, therefore making its subsequent removal very difficult.

Electric installation

Each solar panel acts as a direct current generator (a battery) and is therefore provided with a positive contact and a negative contact.

The solar panel generally cannot directly control a charge due to the intermittency of current production, which depends on the light received by the panel. The common use is therefore to charge a battery which then provides the electrical energy for use. A battery can only be charged directly from a solar panel if the voltage of the panel is dimensioned exactly for the chosen battery (e.g. 14 volts for a 12V lead-acid battery). However, this solution presents various problems such as the possibility of the battery overcharging and inefficient management of the energy produced. Charge controllers are therefore used to optimise the process. Solbian specifically suggests the use of sophisticated charge controllers, with MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) algorithms to obtain the maximum possible energy from the solar panel in all conditions. The size of the electrical cables must be sufficient to limit the voltage drop. In outdoor environments, always use cables for the solar industry, resistant to exposure to the sun and weather. The cable size increases in proportion to the length of the cables, the following table shows some indicative examples.

EXAMPLES OF INSTALLATIONS

Fig. 16

A single panel with a controller and a battery. This is the optimal solution.

Fig. 17

In the case of multiple panels, the best solution is to make them independent by connecting each of them to a different controller. The controllers can then be connected in parallel to the battery without the need for other devices as they are protected from reverse current.

WARNING: When connecting in parallel, the currents are added together. The cables must therefore be chosen from the appropriate section.

Fig. 18

Two panels can be connected in series. In this case, the resulting voltage is the sum of the voltages of the individual panels and the current remains the same. Only panels with the same cell type (same current) can be connected in series.

Fig. 19

In parallel connection, the voltage is equal to that of the two individual panels (only two panels with the same output voltage can be connected in parallel), while the currents are added together. To avoid energy loss or damage such as overheating and even fire, it is mandatory to use blocking diodes when connecting panels in parallel (as shown in the circuit diagram).

The choice of charge controller depends both on the configuration and type of the panels, and on the battery chosen. If you purchase your controller along with Solbianflex panels, you will receive all the support you need. In any case, Solbian assumes no responsibility for damages or malfunctions caused by the use of charge controllers (provided by Solbian or third parties) in a non-compliant manner. Please read the operating instructions of the controllers carefully.

Maintenance of the solar system

Due to the absence of moving mechanical parts, maintenance of solar panels is very limited. Below are some important precautions.

  • Keep the panels clean. Wash the system with freshwater, especially in the marine environment, in order to avoid damage due to the presence of salt.

  • The surface of the panels can be cleaned with neutral soap and water, scrubbing with caution and without abrasive substances. Alcohol can also be used to remove grease or the like.

  • Periodically check the structural integrity of the panel and its installation including electrical connections.

  • Check the efficiency of the system by means of the signalling systems (displays or LEDs) integrated into the charge controllers.

POSSIBLE FAULTS

Cell failure

Cell failure does not usually lead to total panel inefficiency, but rather to a drop in yield.

Failure may be due to excessive bending of the panel during installation or use, or to shock or mechanical stress.

A panel that has broken or malfunctioning cells can be recognised by measuring the current produced at its ends with a 10 A full-scale ammeter. In full sun, the current produced must be of the same order of magnitude as the Isc value provided in the technical data sheet (for example, for the SP series, a value greater than 5 A). The voltage at the ends of the panel, on the other hand, is a less significant measurement, as it may vary only slightly even in the case of cell failure.

Presence of water inside the junction box

Despite the fact that the junction boxes used have a high degree of waterproofness, it can happen that due to manufacturing defects or shocks water can seep inside. In this case, the removal of the box cover and drying can restore operation.

Charge controller malfunction

Controllers, like any electronic equipment, can fail. The display or the signalling LEDs can detect the malfunction.

In any case, first of all, check the good condition of the electrical connections between the panels, the controller and the batteries.

Excerpt from the warranty conditions

Solbianflex panels are covered by a warranty on manufacturing defects and on the power generated. The following is an excerpt from the full warranty conditions, which are the only ones that apply, and which are published on www.solbian.eu.

5-YEAR WARRANTY ON PRODUCT INTEGRITY

Solbian guarantees the integrity of the SP, SR, SX, SXX and CUSTOM series products for a period of five years. In the event of a malfunction, within a period of 60 months from the date of delivery of the panel, Solbian will, at its own discretion, repair or replace the panel or refund the total amount paid by the customer. Repair, replacement or refund are the sole and exclusive terms provided for under the "Warranty" and cannot be extended beyond 60 months.

5-YEAR WARRANTY ON THE POWER GENERATED

The power of Solbianflex solar panels is measured under standard conditions at the end of panel production. This power, expressed in W, decays slowly over time due to various factors, such as dulling of polymers, deterioration of electrical contacts, and other factors.

Solbian guarantees that the power output of its solar panels, if used properly, will be maintained within 90% of the initially declared power over a period of 5 years from purchase. If the customer has evidence of a greater decrease in power, within the five-year limit of the "Power Warranty" the customer may request its activation. Solbian will, at its discretion, either repair or replace the defective panels, or replace the power shortfall by supplying new panels, or financially reimburse the lost power in excess of the 90% warranty limit at the average market price of similar panels. Repair, replacement or reimbursement are the only and exclusive terms provided for by the "Power Warranty" and may not be extended beyond 60 months.

Disposal and recycling

Solbian is a member of the PV CYCLE consortium for the take-back and disposal of damaged or end-of-life solar panels. Please consider Solbianflex panels as electrical equipment and therefore destined for separate recycling. If disposal is required, please contact our sales offices.