Aluminum extrusion profile bars on gray background. Metal construction industry engineering and material concept.

How are Aluminum Extrusions Used in the Solar Industry?

10.11.2022

Aluminum extrusions have been used in the solar industry for decades, and we’re only going to see more of them in the future.

In an industry where energy efficiency is key, aluminum will continue to be used as a core component of solar panels due to its versatility, durability, and strength-to-weight ratio. Read on to learn more about how this material can be used in solar energy production.

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Did you know many of Kloeckner Metals’ nationwide branches boast special processing capabilities for the solar industry? Download our solar brochure now to see how Kloeckner Metals can service your solar needs.

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What is Extruded Aluminum?

Extruded aluminum is simply aluminum that has gone through an extrusion process in which it is given a fixed cross-sectional profile.

What is Aluminum?

Aluminum is the 13th element on the periodic table and is the most widespread metal on Earth. It is an abundant, lightweight metal that is strong, malleable, and non-magnetic. This makes it an excellent material for framing structures, wiring, and window frames.

How is Aluminum Extruded?

Extrusion is a process in which aluminum is rammed through a die so that when it comes out, the metal retains exactly the same shape as the die. Typically, extruded aluminum takes a simple shape such as an angle, channel, or round tube.

Aluminum can be extruded using one of two major processes to achieve different end results: direct extrusion and indirect extrusion. In direct extrusion, the extruder forces heated aluminum (called a billet) through a heated container using a moving ram. In indirect extrusion, the die remains stationary while both the billet and the container move.

Aluminum extrusion profile bars on gray background. Metal construction industry engineering and material concept.

Why is Aluminum Extruded?

Aluminum extrusion generally produces better thermal conduction. Moreover, extrusion is a highly versatile process that can produce many diverse products from construction to consumer goods.

How is Extruded Aluminum Different from Drawn Aluminum?

Drawn Aluminum Extruded Aluminum
Aluminum is pulled into the die cavity. Aluminum is heated until it is malleable (but not liquid) before it is shaped.
Cold drawing requires many tools, making the process more expensive. Extruded aluminum is often more affordable than drawn aluminum.
Usually, the drawing process makes round shapes rather than tubes or rods. Generally, extrusion wastes less metal than drawing.
Cold drawing creates very tight tolerance and excellent mechanical properties. Extrusion is a faster process than cold drawing.

The Role of Metal in the Solar Industry

Different materials, such as copper, silicon, silver, zinc, and plastic can be found in a typical solar panel.

Solar Panel Frames

Plastic frames hold thin-film panels that catch light from the sun and convert it into energy to power homes and businesses. Aluminum is also one of the main materials used for frame supports.

Energy Conduction

Solar panels currently use a lot of silver since it is an efficient energy conductor. Silver, however, is a very expensive metal, and the world simply does not contain enough of it to turn solar energy into a dominant industry. Aluminum, by contrast, offers a less expensive but still highly reflective alternative.

Aluminum is critical for any type of commercial or residential development because it is so flexible and resistant to corrosion that it doesn’t need painting or any other type of coating.

Why Choose Aluminum Over Stainless Steel?

For the solar industry, aluminum offers many benefits over stainless steel.

The photovoltaic cells in solar panels start as long thin slabs that are then cut into rectangular wafers, producing slices from a pizza pie shape. The cells can be constructed from either aluminum or stainless steel.

Aluminum is typically cheaper than stainless steel, but offers better corrosion resistance and can be made thinner than stainless steel so it is easier to bend into flat aluminum sheets, which means that fewer cuts will be needed when fabricating thin slices of silicon. These properties make aluminum more flexible and easier to work with than stainless steel.

In addition, aluminum is an excellent electricity conductor, and since it does not rust or spark, this metal makes an unusually safe rigid electricity conduit.

What Are Aluminum Extrusions Used For In The Solar Industry?

Aluminum is inexpensive and lightweight, which is perfect for manufacturing and construction. The most important factor, though, is its ability to be an efficient conductor of electricity — even better than copper. This means that aluminum should always be the first choice when installing any electrical system.

Aluminum extrusions make excellent frames for mounting solar panels onto rooftops. Their high strength-to-weight ratio means the aluminum frames can withstand blustery winds and heavy snowfalls without burdening the roof’s rafters and shingles.

Building Green With Aluminum

Aluminum is a good choice for almost all environmentally sustainable buildings because it is non-toxic, recyclable, and has a high strength-to-weight ratio. One of the biggest benefits of aluminum is that it doesn’t need much energy to be recycled back into new products.

This metal is also easy to work with and doesn’t require a lot of heavy machinery or equipment. Since aluminum alloys can be strong enough to hold up just about anything, it’s also great for some long spans without needing steel reinforcements.

Circular economy concept. Metal roller and arrow infinity recycling symbol, on dirty mottled concrete wall background.

Why Choose Aluminum Extrusions For Solar Panels

Solar panels require a lot of space. Structures need to be built to house even residential-sized panels, which is an expensive and difficult task. To create affordable and easy-to-build housing structures, some solar construction agencies are turning to extruded aluminum.

Aluminum extrusion creates a structure out of long pieces of metal that can be laid down on a site or bolted together as needed to create storage areas for the panels to rest on. This material is much less expensive than building with silver, copper, or steel, so it is a very popular way of saving money and energy without sacrificing durability.

An extruded aluminum frame can hold solar panels precisely in place, providing stability, and improving productivity.

Not only does extruded aluminum save money because it requires less labor to assemble, but it also uses fewer materials during construction, which means you’ll generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions while putting your panel together!

To discuss how extruded aluminum could help you create more effective solar panel casings for an affordable price, contact us at Kloeckner Metals today.

Download Our Solar Brochure Now

Did you know many of Kloeckner Metals’ nationwide branches boast special processing capabilities for the solar industry? Download our solar brochure now to see how Kloeckner Metals can service your solar needs.

Solar Brochure

Sarah Dickerson
Sarah is responsible for a wide variety of tasks as a Marketing Specialist for Kloeckner Metals, assisting with data management, internal and external communications, and SEO management. She's a 2022 graduate of Georgia College and State University where she received a B.A. in Mass Communication. Her past experience includes heading the Georgia College radio station as PR and Event Planning Manager.

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