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Sensata Technologies Holding N.V., a manufacturer of sensors and controls, today announced the release of its new family of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) recognized arc fault detectors for preventing dangerous thermal events on solar photovoltaic (PV) arrays.

The Sensata PVAF family of arc fault detectors allows PV inverter and combiner box manufacturers to develop National Electric Code (NEC) 2011 compliant equipment by taking advantage of Sensata‘s extensive development experience in aerospace arc fault detection. The PVAF family is a series of UL 1699B recognized, pre-integrated arc detection solutions for use in inverters or combiner boxes on new arrays, or retrofit boxes on existing arrays.

The proprietary, cost-effective solution detects arcs while minimizing nuisance trips by identifying the electrical noise signature created by arc faults in the array wiring. Each PVAF device monitors up to 4 PV strings by itself, and multiple PVAFs can run in parallel to monitor more strings or a whole combiner box.

Even a properly designed and installed solar PV system can degrade due to severe environmental conditions and thermal expansion, eventually leaving it prone to arc fault events and possible fires. "Though NEC 2011 included an arc fault requirement, the lack of UL recognized equipment made compliance with the code extremely challenging, so it was not enforced in many areas," said John Kluza, Solar Strategic Marketing Manager for Sensata. "The release of the PVAF series will enable broader availability of NEC 2011 compliant PV equipment and safer PV arrays which comply with NEC 2011."

The PVAF series is available in configurations powered with 12VDC or 24VDC, and for monitoring strings up to 15 amps at 1000 V or combined lines up to 40A at 1000 V. Custom versions for specific applications are also available. 

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