NREL simulates shade conditions in repeatable test for solar arrays

May 15, 2012

The DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has released a new repeatable test protocol that simulates real shade conditions and can predict with much greater precision the effects of shade on a solar array.

The demonstrated that under heavy shading conditions the use of microinverters instead of typical string inverters can help mitigate the impacts of shade by improving system by more than 12 percent.
 
“Photovoltaic (PV) Shading Testbed for Module-level Power Electronics” was co-authored by NREL senior engineers Chris Deline and Jenya Meydbray, as well as Jason Forrest and Matt Donovan of PV Evolution Labs of Davis, Calif. The research was paid for by DOE.
  
Shade significantly impacts photovoltaic performance, and is considered in PV system design. The effects of shade can vary depending on the configuration of the PV modules, the extent of the shade, and the use of shade mitigating power electronics in the system. The industry currently lacks representative, repeatable procedures for evaluating the annual effect of shade on different PV systems equipped with different shade mitigation devices.
 
The new report details a repeatable test procedure for simulating shaded operation of a PV system and an analysis model for converting these measurements into annual performance forecasts. 
 
Shade measurements from more than 60 residential installations provide the basis for the shading conditions employed during the test, which are analyzed for three typical shade scenarios: “light”, “moderate”, and “heavy” shading. The relative performance of a system using shade mitigation devices is compared against an identical system equipped with a reference string inverter for these three shade scenarios, providing an annual performance improvement score. 
 
Combined with additional derates like annual shade loss and inverter CEC efficiency, this annual shade improvement score can allow performance modeling software such as PV Watts http://rredc.nrel.gov/solar/calculators/PVWATTS/version1/ and System Advisor Model  https://sam.nrel.gov/  to better predict annual performance for PV systems that use mitigating power electronics. It also allows an accurate comparison between different devices.
 
An initial application of the was conducted by PV Evolution Labs, showing the shaded performance benefit of microinverters compared with a typical string inverter on identical 8-kW solar arrays. The microinverter was found to increase system production by 3.7 percent under light shading, 7.8 percent under moderate shading, and 12.3 percent under heavy shading, relative to the reference string inverter case. Additional detail is provided in the report to allow duplication of the test method for different power electronics devices and test installations. 
 
Standard test methodologies using applicable test conditions should provide value to the PV community, since products can be compared by a common metric and accurate information can be collected about devices’ annual performance benefit. 
 
This is a major step in establishing new and realistic testing standards for PV ,” said David Briggs of Enphase Energy, a microinverter manufacturer.

Explore further: Shade Tree Coverage Reduces Power Costs

More information: To download the study, go to www.nrel.gov/docs/fy12osti/54876.pdf . DOE funded NREL’s participation in the study. Enphase Energy paid PV Evolution Labs to run the experiment.

Related Stories

Shade Tree Coverage Reduces Power Costs

November 15, 2008

An Auburn University study sheds new light on just how valuable shade trees are in reducing homeowners’ electricity bills during hot summer months.

Clouds' effects on solar power

September 1, 2011

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has produced and made available a rich data set showing what happens, second-by-second, when clouds pass over a solar power installation.

Lazing in the shade grows steaks

March 29, 2012

New research confirms that cattle lying under trees and chewing cud aren’t bludging - they’re putting on condition by letting their digestive system do the work. 

Recommended for you

Team develops targeted drug delivery to lung

September 2, 2015

Researchers from Columbia Engineering and Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) have developed a new method that can target delivery of very small volumes of drugs into the lung. Their approach, in which micro-liters ...

Team creates functional ultrathin solar cells

August 27, 2015

(Phys.org)—A team of researchers with Johannes Kepler University Linz in Austria has developed an ultrathin solar cell for use in lightweight and flexible applications. In their paper published in the journal Nature Materials, ...

Magnetic fields provide a new way to communicate wirelessly

September 1, 2015

Electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego demonstrated a new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body. The new technology could offer a lower power ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.