Planning a solar PV power plant to make them efficient is a complex task, but German researchers have developed a software that makes conceptual design simpler.
Researchers at the Fraunhoger Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern, in conjunction with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics, have a developed a new software that improves the process both in terms of quality and speed. The software will be on display at the Intersolar Europe Trade Fair in Munich between June 13-15.
Current planning approaches use CAD programs, which are very time-consuming since every layout and variation has to be generated separately. Besides, to compare different concepts the planning process often has to be repeated.
There are many factors to consider in the planning stage. These include customer specifications, regulations and government subsidy programs, besides weather, climate, topography and location. Together they will determine the selection and placement of individual components such as PV arrays, inverters, wiring and access roads.
“Our algorithms programmed exclusively for the Siemens PVplanet (PV Plant Engineering Toolbox) software provide engineers with several hundred different plant designs in a single operation. It takes less than a minute of computation time,“ said ITWM researcher Dr. Ingmar Schüle.
The user will only need to provide parameters such as the topography of the construction site and the module and inverter types that will be used. He or she can also change parameters such as orientation, spacing and inclination of solar arrays to study the impact of the quality of the planning result.
Even cost estimates and income calculations can be included. It performs a simulation of the weather in the region in question, the course of the sun throughout the year and the physical module performance including shading effects. With the results of this computation and an estimate of the investment and operating costs, the planning tool can come up with a figure for the levelized cost of energy (LCOE). Planners can also compare their results with similar configurations to test their parameters and make adjustments as required.
“The software assists the expert with decision-making and helps with the design of the best possible PV power plant for the site involved. Which one is ‘best‘ depends on a number of aspects, from the customer’s objectives to the site and environmental conditions, but also on the financing concept and the financial incentives for photovoltaics in the target region. All of these criteria are taken into account,” Schüle added.
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.