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Chapter One

Introduction
Welcome to the World of
Photovoltaics
Thank you for your interest in photovoltaic technology and system design, and
welcome to the world of solar electricity! Siemens Solar is proud to be recognized
as the world-wide leader in solar electric power generation, and we wish to support
you in your efforts to apply photovoltaic technology to solve electrical power
problems, whether you are an individual designing your own system, or a system
designer working on large applications.

Purpose of This Manual


This course material is designed to be a self-teaching and technical resource for
people interested in learning about how to design stand-alone photovoltaic power
systems. Although the focus is on professionals that will be designing systems for
clients, individuals interested in designing their own systems will also benefit from
this program. This program is used by professionals from a wide variety of fields
including industrial technology, business, finance, military, construction, real estate,
and education. The topics are presented in small steps, with exercises throughout.
The main desired outcome is an ability to successfully deal with the many aspects of
photovoltaic system design not only the computational skills needed to arrive at
the array and battery size, but also the judgmental skills needed to see when and
where photovoltaics can be a viable solution to power needs, and the integrating
skills required to specify appropriate electrical and mechanical components from a
variety of manufacturers.
For those people preparing to attend the Comprehensive Seminar offered by
Siemens Solar, please answer all the exercises as you proceed through the text.
Take the time to think about the questions, and how the information applies to
problems you may face. Upon completion of the text, send the answers to the
exercises and the seminar application form to Siemens Solar to become eligible to
attend the Comprehensive Seminar.

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Fundamentals Introduction

How to Proceed Through These


Materials
1) Browse:
Browse through the workbooks to become familiar with the contents and the style of
presentation.
2) Sequence:
Choose to begin with topics of interest, or proceed sequentially through all the
chapters, beginning with the introductory/survey chapters, and continuing with the
technical material.
3) View Video:
Begin work in a new chapter by watching the videotaped presentation with the
workbook open. Follow along and examine the graphics as they are discussed.
4) Read Workbook:
Periodically the video presentation asks you to Stop the tape and refer to your
workbook. Take time to read the pages up to the pause, and review in greater
detail the key ideas discussed in the video. Underline or highlight important phrases
to help reinforce your learning.
5) Do Exercises:
If the section has exercises, first scan all the questions to get a sense of the scope
of detail needed to answer. Then proceed carefully to work on each problem.
(Completion of all the exercises is a pre-requisite to attending the Comprehensive
Seminars). If an exercise is difficult re-read the workbook section or review the
video.

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Fundamentals Introduction

Caution
Products specified for use in this manual might not conform to the National Electric
Code and may not conform to local requirements if the system is installed on a
building, movable structure or vehicle. Before assembly and installation of any
photovoltaic power system, you should consult with local authorities so that you may
be assured installation will safely conform to all local building code requirements. A
permit may be required.
Also, consult local codes before using products or installation procedures outlined in
this manual. Codes could possibly cover applicable inspections, permits for
electrical wiring, wire size, interconnections, grounding, enclosures, conduits, overcurrent protection, receptacles, load restrictions, disconnects and appliances.
Failure to follow applicable codes constitutes misuse of the products.
Do not attempt installation before reviewing all applicable instructions.
The technical information and suggestions for installation, operation, use and
maintenance made herein are based on Siemens Solar Industries knowledge and
experience and are believed to be reliable, but such information and suggestions do
not constitute a warranty, expressed or implied.
Since the conditions or methods of installation, operation, use and maintenance of
the equipment described in this manual are beyond Siemens Solar Industries
control, Siemens Solar Industries does not assume responsibility and expressly
disclaims liability for loss, damage or expense arising out of or in any way connected
with such installation, operation, use or maintenance.

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Fundamentals Introduction

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals Introduction

CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION

1-1

Welcome to the World of Photovoltaics

1-1

Purpose of This Manual

1-1

How to Proceed Through These Materials

1-2

Caution

1-3

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Fundamentals Introduction

Chapter Two
The Basics of Photovoltaics
Photovoltaic refers to the creation of voltage from light, and is often abbreviated as
just PV." A more common term for photovoltaic cells is solar cells," although the
cells work with any kind of light and not just sunlight.
A solar cell is a converter it changes energy of light into electrical energy. A cell
does not store any energy, so when the source of light (typically the sun) is removed,
there is no electrical current from the cell. If electricity is needed during the night,
some form of electrical storage (typically a battery) must be included in the circuit.
In this chapter we will present some of the most fundamental concepts of energy
and power that are the basis for understanding photovoltaic power systems. We will
also discuss some of the common terms used in photovoltaic technology, and
present the prime benefits of using solar electricity for your power requirements.

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What Are Solar Cells


There are many materials that can be used to make solar cells, but the most
common is the element silicon. (This is not to be confused with silicone," a
synthetic polymer.) Silicon is the second most abundant element in the Earths
crust, next to oxygen, and silicon and oxygen together make quartz or common
sand. It is therefore very abundant, as well as non-toxic and safe. This is the same
silicon that is used to make computer chips, and some of the processing steps
involved in making solar cells are similar to the steps in making computer devices.
However, solar cells are much larger than typical individual computer circuits, and
they must be much less expensive! A typical solar cell used for terrestrial (Earthbased) applications is 3-6 inches in diameter and costs only a few dollars, whereas a
tiny computer circuit device might be only a tenth of an inch in length and width and
cost tens or hundreds of dollars.
The conversion process occurs instantly whenever there is light falling on the
surface of a cell. And the output of a cell is proportional to the input light: the more
light, the greater the electrical output. The cell does not use up any internal fuel to
produce output. The sunlight acts as the fuel for the conversion process. And that
fuel is delivered free everywhere in the world. The solar resource is more uniformly
distributed over the Earths surface than other renewable sources of energy light
wind or hydro. These resources are plentiful in certain specific climates and
geographic locations, but may depend on exact details of land contour and
elevation.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

What Are Solar Cells?


Thin wafers of silicon
Similar to computer chips
But much bigger and much cheaper!

Silicon is abundant (sand)


Non-toxic, safe

Light carries energy into cell


Cells convert sunlight energy
into electric current- they do
not store energy
Sunlight is the fuel


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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Key Benefits of Solar Electricity


Energy Independence
There are many other ways to generate electricity, but what are the specific benefits
of solar generated electricity from photovoltaic cells? One of the most attractive
benefits is that you will have energy independence," the ability to create your own
electrical power, independent of fossil fuel supplies or utility connections.

Fuel Is Already Delivered


In a sense you do need sunlight as the fuel, but that is already delivered for free all
over the planets surface. Other conventional generation methods require access to
a site for fuel deliveries. This may limit the choice of suitable sites so as to have
road access, and even then access may be prevented due to poor road conditions,
or vehicle problems. The cost of delivering fuel to remote locations can be
substantial. For example, it has been estimated that it requires one unit of diesel
fuel to deliver one unit of diesel fuel to remote villages along the Amazon River in
Brazil. In other words, the cost of the fuel is doubled!

Minimal Maintenance
Solar electric systems typically require very minimal maintenance because there are
so few moving parts. Contrast this with a diesel-powered system or even other
renewable sources such a wind generators or hydro generators, which often have
costly repairs or regular maintenance of moving parts. Very complex photovoltaic
systems do have more parts and may require some maintenance. But when looking
at small power requirements, such as for home lighting or remote
telecommunications systems, only occasional battery maintenance is required. It
would be a mistake to say that photovoltaic systems require NO maintenance, but
the absolute amount of time and money required for photovoltaic systems is quite
low.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Benefits of Solar Electricity


 Energy independence
 Fuel is already delivered free everywhere
 Minimal maintenance
 Maximum reliability
 Generate the energy you need where you need it
 Reduce vulnerability to power loss
 Systems are easily expanded

 

Maximum Reliability
This is perhaps the primary advantage of photovoltaics when compared to any other
form of electrical power generation. Because there are typically few or no moving
parts and the complexity of the systems can be kept low, the ultimate reliability of
photovoltaic power systems in the real world is quite high. The photovoltaic
generator typically is not affected by environmental effects such as lightning strikes,
high winds or blowing sand, humidity and heat, or snow and ice. The key to reliability
is quality and simplicity. If high quality components are used with the solid-state
solar generators, and if the component count and complexity of the system design
are kept to a minimum, the chance of any failure occurring is remarkably low.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Generate Where Needed


You can think differently about designing power systems for your loads, and not
always have to consider a central generator large enough for all your current
demands. You can distribute the generation of power to various sites, such as at
each classroom, or each house, rather than always having to install a large
generator and string power lines to individual users that might be separated by great
distances.
Telecommunications systems designers can look to photovoltaics as a way to
perhaps be more selective with the locations of their repeaters. For example, an
engineer might be considering covering a certain area with repeaters, and think that
he is forced to choose sites that are easily access, so that diesel fuel can be
delivered and maintenance can be performed. But the sites may not be the optimum
for coverage of the area. Instead, by choosing to use photovoltaic power for his
sites, he may now consider more remote, inaccessible sites, and may actually be
able to install fewer total repeaters but end up giving the same coverage that the
more numerous accessible sites would give.
Because photovoltaic generators can be as small as a few watts, you can truly
consider installing just the amount of power that you need at each site. This flexibility
is not available from other forms of generation.

Reduced Vulnerability
Because you can avoid stringing long power lines for many miles or kilometers from
some central generation source, many of the problems with utility power losses can
be avoided. Ice storms or vehicle accidents can cause power lines to go down,
perhaps tens or hundreds of miles from where the power is actually needed. With a
reliable photovoltaic power system at your site you could still have power, while
others around you have none.
And if you have chosen to distribute the generation of power to various load sites at
your location, you can insure even more reliability and less vulnerability to each load
site. For example, if separate homes have their own lighting system, and one user
overdischarges their batteries, or damages their system, the other users will be
unaffected.
This also applies to deliberate vandalism or terrorism. For example, having electrical
generation for lighting and security distributed to each building would make loss of
security for the whole site more difficult or practically impossible.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Easily Expanded
Photovoltaic power generators are modular by design. More power can be added to
an existing array easily. Old modules can be added to new ones without any penalty
(if the voltages are properly matched). Just enough power can be purchased and
installed today to meet your current needs, and as demand grows more modules
can be added in later years. This also means that financially it is easy to start with a
minimal power system today, and then add to the power as your budget allows later.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

How Solar Cells Work


People often say that solar cells work by magic because there is nothing moving,
the result is instantaneous, and no fuel is apparently needed! The basic process by
which solar cells convert sunlight into electricity can seem magical, but actually is
simple. In a later chapter on Photovoltaic Physics more details will be given. For
now, we can however give a simple explanation.

Internal Field and Electron Flow


Most typical solar cells are made of the element silicon. (For cells made of other
materials, the explanation is still basically accurate). When light shines on a solar
cell the energy of the light actually penetrates into the solar cell, and on a random
basis knocks negatively charged electrons loose from their silicon atoms. To
understand this we can think of light as being made of billions of energy particles
called photons. (These are not the positively charged protons located at the
nucleus of atoms). The incoming photons act much like billiard balls, only they are
made of pure energy! When they collide with an atom the whole atom is energized,
and an electron is ejected or ionized from the atom.
The freed electron now has extra potential energy, and this is what we call voltage
or electrical pressure. The freed electron has energy that could be used to charge
a battery or operate an electric motor for example. But the problem is how to get the
freed electron out of the solar cell. This is accomplished by creating an internal
electro-static field near the front surface of the cell during manufacturing. Other
materials besides the basic silicon are grown into the silicon crystal structure. They
create an electrical imbalance that results in a one-way electrical broom that
sweeps the freed electrons out of the solar cell and pushes them on to the next
cell, or on to the load.
As billions of photons flow into a cell that is exposed to light, billions of electrons are
knocked loose and gain extra energy. They flow though the internal electro-static
field, and out of the cell or module. This flow of electrical charges with extra
potential energy or voltage is what we call electrical current.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

How Solar Cells Change


Sunlight Into Electricity
Light knocks loose electrons
from silicon atoms
Freed electrons have extra
energy, or voltage
Internal electric field pushes
electrons to front of cell
Electric current flows on to
other cells or to the load
Cells never run out of
electrons

photon

h+

internal
field

ee-

P/N junction



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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Water Analogy
It is often helpful to give an analogy to water flowing. Imagine a water pump
connected to a circuit of pipes that are already full of water. The pipe circuit also
includes some sort of load like a water wheel, and all the water returns back to the
pump through the pipes, so that no water is ever lost due to evaporation or
splashing. In the analogy the pump is the solar cell, the pipes are the wires
connecting the cell to an electrical load and back to the cell, and the water in the
pipes is like the electrons already in the wires.
When sunlight (or any light for that matter) shines on the cell it delivers the fuel that
is needed by the cell needs to operate. Electrons are freed and set in motion. The
internal electro-static field pushes the freed electrons out of the cell and into the
wire. The analogy would be as if the pump was turned on. The pump begins to
push water into the pipe. But the pipe is already full of water, so water flows almost
simultaneously throughout the whole system.
The water flows on to the load like a water wheel, where its pressure and flow allow
useful work to be done. All of the water is then captured and flows again though
pipes back to the pump. The pump continues to push new water to the load through
the pipes.
In the real case of the solar cell the electrons freed by the incoming sunlight photons
flow out of the cell and on to the electrical load. They give up their extra potential
energy or voltage there and allow useful work to be done. The electrons then
continue to flow to the back of the solar cell, where they become available once
again to be knocked loose and flow on to the load.
The electrical circuit is closed, just like the pipe system was closed, so no electrons
are ever used up in the process. The solar cell never runs out of electrons. It
only needs continuous input of fuel in the form of light energy to keep running.

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Cells Into Modules


Because typical silicon solar cells produce only about 1/2 volt we need to connect
cells together to give more useful voltages. When electrical generators are
connected together in series, or positive to negative, the voltage of each generator
adds up.
Usually 30-36 solar cells are connected together in a circuit to give a final voltage of
about 15-17 volts, which is enough to charge a 12-volt battery. Charging batteries is
the primary use for photovoltaic modules, so most are designed around doing that
job.

Connect Cells To Make


Modules
One silicon solar cell
produces .5 volt
36 cells connected together
have enough voltage to
charge 12 volt batteries and
run pumps and motors
Module is the basic building
block of systems
Can connect modules
together to get even more
power



But manufacturers could produce different module designs to better match other
loads, for example high voltage motors for water pumps or utility connected systems
that often operate at hundreds of volts.
If the voltage or current from one module is not enough to power the load, then
modules can also be connected together, just as the cells were. Manufactures
usually build modules with convenient junction boxes that allow interconnecting in
series or parallel.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Terms and Definitions


There are some basic terms that we have been using that should be carefully
defined, so we all speak the same language. Often people not familiar with the
technology may use the terms incorrectly. Specifically, we want to be clear on the
difference between modules and panels.

The CELL is the basic building block of a manufacturer of solar modules.

The fundamental physics of the materials used determines the voltage of a cell, and
the size determines the current. Usually manufacturers settle on one or two basic
sizes and designs for their cells and then proceed to make millions of them. They
can be packaged and exported to other module manufacturing facilities, and built
into specialized products such as lanterns, radios and garden lights. Think of the
cell as the smallest unit to work with. But it is fragile, and its voltage is low (typically
1/2 volt). For use in the real world it must be protected and connected to other cells
to give useful voltage.

The MODULE is really the basic building block for real-world remote power
systems.

It is a collection of cells interconnected by usually flat wire, and includes


encapsulation to protect the cells and interconnecting wires from corrosion and
impact. It usually includes a frame to allow easy mounting and a junction box to
allow wiring to other modules or to the battery and loads. The number of cells
connected in series determines the final voltage of the module. Usually this is 30-36
silicon cells to give a voltage suitable for charging 12-volt batteries, but some
modules are made to deliver higher voltages for use in utility power systems. A
photovoltaic power system can be a simple as one module connected to a batter or
a motor. If more current or voltage is needed then modules must be connected
together.

A PANEL is a collection of modules physically and electrically grouped together


on a structure.

This would be the building block for larger power systems. Usually the modules are
wired together on the panel to give the final system voltage (for example 12, 24, 48
volts or higher) and the panels are wired together or individually through field
junction boxes and then on to the system controls and batteries. Individual panels
can be disassembled or maintained while the other panels are operational.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

An ARRAY is the full collection of all solar photovoltaic generators.

Sometimes an array is so large that it is grouped into SUB-ARRAYS, for easier


installation and power management. An array can be as small as one module (for a
simple home lighting system) or as large as 100,000 modules or more for very large
utility connected systems!

Terms Used
CELL

-- basic building block in factory

MODULE -- smallest unit that can do


real-world work; building block
in the field

PANEL -- physically connected modules on a


structure

ARRAY -- all solar generators in one


installation



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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Basic Concepts of Energy and


Power
We should take some time to make sure that the meanings of some commonly used
terms are quite clear. All future discussions in this course will depend on
understanding the differences between energy and power, and between voltage and
current. Once again, using a water analogy can help in understanding these terms.

Voltage
We can draw an analogy between the term voltage and water pressure. Imagine
water held behind a large dam where there is tremendous pressure but no forward
movement of the water. An electrical system with high voltage potential means that
the electrons in the components and wires have stored pressure and is capable of
doing work if released to flow, just as the water could do work if released from the
dam.
The unit of measure used for electrical voltage is the volt.
It is important to realize that voltage does not flow. It is a measure of the difference
in force or pressure between two points in an electrical circuit.

Current
The analogy to electrical current is the rate of flow of water. Electrons actually flow
past any point in an electrical circuit, just as water actually flows past when released
from a dam (or any other source of pressure).
The unit of measure for electrical current is the ampere or just amp. The number
of electrons flowing is enormous, amounting to over 1,000,000,000,000,000,000
electrons per second in just one amp!
And dont refer to current flow as amps per second. It is simply amps -- the unit
already includes the notion of number of electrons per second.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Power
The concepts of power and energy are so close that people often think they are the
same things. But the difference is critical in understanding how photovoltaic
systems are designed and how they work.
Power is the rate of doing work, and is NOT the amount of work done.
If we use the water analogy, the power of flowing water is given by the rate of flow of
the water past a point multiplied by the pressure of that water flow.

Power (water analogy)

Rate of Flow X Pressure of the Flow

In the electrical case power is the current flowing times the voltage of that flow.

Power (electricity) =

Current X Voltage

The units of measure for power are watts. It is incorrect to say watts per hour,
because the unit already has the measure of time included.
From the formula, you can see that increasing either the flow (current) or the
pressure (voltage) increases the power. Also, if there is no current or no voltage,
there is no power.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Energy
If power is the rate at which work is done, then energy is the AMOUNT of work that
is done during a specific period of time. The rate of doing work (power) must be
multiplied by the time to give the amount of work.

Amount

Rate X Time

Energy

Power X Time

Current X Voltage X Time

The unit of measure of electrical energy is watt-hour or kilowatt-hour (kWh).


Energy is so fundamental that it is hard to define. It is the fundamental stuff of the
universe. Scientists and engineers have learned how to describe the conversion of
energy and how it transforms from one form (heat for example) into another (light for
example). But no one can very clearly define exactly WHAT IT IS. What we do
know is how to use it to do work.

So ENERGY is what you have to work with, while POWER is the rate at which you
convert or use it.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Battery and Module Work Together

Battery and Module Work


Together
Daytime
Charging

Use
Anytime

 

The importance of understanding the difference between energy and power can now
be presented in the context of a photovoltaic system. Most photovoltaic systems
use batteries to store the energy converted by the solar modules during a day into
chemical energy for use during the night or on stormy days. The battery acts as a
reservoir of ENERGY and mediates between the POWER that might be available at
any moment from the solar modules and the POWER that the loads might want to
draw at that instant. If the loads need more power than the modules can produce,
then the battery discharges a bit to supply the difference. During the night, for
example, the modules produce no power so the battery must discharge to supply all
the power needed by the loads. During a day, if the loads do not require all the
power available from the modules, then the extra power goes into recharging the
battery.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Balance the Energy Diet


The amount of time that the loads draw their power determines the total amount of
ENERGY that they draw in a typical 24-hour day. The modules must, on the
average, replace that ENERGY during the few hours of sunlight that are available.
So the loads can operate anytime, day or night, on cloudy or clear days. The
modules replace the used energy only during daylight hours.
Another way to look at this is: The loads can only use up the energy that the
modules can produce.
The power of the loads can exceed the power of the modules, but the energy used
by the loads cannot exceed the energy produced by the modules. If it did, over time
the battery would try to fill in the deficit and would quickly become fully discharged.
For short times the loads can draw more power from the battery than the modules
are producing at that moment. At night the loads can draw power even though the
modules are producing no power at all.
What must be kept in balance is the ENERGY produced and consumed. If the
average daily load energy consumed is balanced with the average daily module
energy produced, then you have a proper solution to your energy problem!

During this course, you will learn how to predict the energy demand of the loads and
determine how many solar modules are needed to meet that energy demand.

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

CHAPTER TWO
THE BASICS OF PHOTOVOLTAICS

2-1

What Are Solar Cells

2-2

Key Benefits of Solar Electricity


Energy Independence
Fuel Is Already Delivered
Minimal Maintenance
Maximum Reliability
Generate Where Needed
Reduced Vulnerability
Easily Expanded

2-4
2-4
2-4
2-4
2-5
2-6
2-6
2-7

How Solar Cells Work


Internal Field and Electron Flow
Water Analogy
Cells Into Modules
Terms and Definitions

2-8
2-8
2-10
2-11
2-12

Basic Concepts of Energy and Power


Voltage
Current
Power
Energy
Battery and Module Work Together
Balance the Energy Diet

2-14
2-14
2-14
2-15
2-16
2-17
2-18

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Fundamentals - Basics of Photovoltaics

Chapter Three
Market Overview
In this section, we will examine some of the key players in the worldwide
photovoltaic market, including the major manufacturers and the common
technologies used today. We will look at some trends in application and market
growth that will give you a sense of the excitement we feel for the future. The main
purpose of this section is to give you an orientation to the current and future status
of this power generation technology and how Siemens Solar is positioned to stay the
world leader.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Major Manufacturers
The number of manufacturers of solar photovoltaic cells and modules peaked during
the late 1970s and early 1980s at almost 30, but has decreased during the 1980s
and 90s to about a dozen major contributors. The cumulative shipments of the top
dozen manufacturers during the last fifteen years are shown below. There is
manufacturing occurring in all regions of the world, including India, Europe, Japan as
well as the US.

Cumulative Shipments
1980-1996
ie

en

140

S
ar

ex

100

Ph

K
P
B
E
S

ur
E

le
So

p
Sh

ar

s
io
el
H

ot

os

40

ol

ow

ar

at

yo

60

20

ce

ra

ol

80

S h ip p e d

M e g a w a tts

120

0
Source: Strategies Unlimited



In 1996 Siemens Solar celebrated a milestone for the world photovoltaic industry by
becoming the first company to ship a cumulative total of 100 Megawatts of solar
cells and modules. The other major manufacturers are Solarex (U.S.), Kyocera
(Japan), and BP Solar (U.K.).

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Fundamentals Market Overview

The overall worldwide market for photovoltaic power is shared by the major
manufacturers. The market share of the key manufacturers is shown below for
1995. Again Siemens Solar has the largest single portion of the worldwide market,
with about 23% of the total.

Market Share
Siemens Solar 21%

89.5 MW

1996
(by shipments)

Solarex 11%
Other 35%
Kyocera 11%

ASE 4%
Sharp 3%
Source: Strategies Unlimited

BP Solar 9%
Eurosolare 3%
Astropower 3%



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Fundamentals Market Overview

Market and Application Forecasts


Market Growth Projections
How big is the photovoltaic market and how fast is it growing? These questions are
of interest both to people actively participating in the business and to financial and
governmental institutions looking to photovoltaic technology as one answer to their
application problems.
One prediction of how the market for photovoltaic power will grow in the next few
decades has been developed by Strategies Unlimited, a consulting firm that has
followed the growth of photovoltaics worldwide for many years. The assumptions
behind each of these scenarios are discussed a little later in this section.
The usual growth projection shows 20-22% annual growth through the year 2010,
and anticipates no technical breakthroughs and no increase in government
incentives. Even at this normal pace, the market size is projected to be about 1800
megawatts of annual production worldwide. This would mean an increase of 4000%
from 1990 to 2010!

Long Term Market Forcast


1990-2010
Business As Usual
growth
~22% to 2000
~20% to 2010

3500

3200

3000
2500

Shipments
MWp

2000

Accelerated growth
~29% to 2000
~22% to 2010

1800

1500
1000
500
42.7
0
1990

1995

2000

Accelerated

2005

2010

As Usual

Source:
Strategies Unlimited Report PM-39 March 1993

 

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Following the accelerated pace of market growth, assuming important technical


breakthroughs in manufacturing and efficiency and aggressive government
involvement in the market with financial incentives, the worldwide annual production
is projected to be greater than 3000 megawatts. This would mean an increase in
production of 8000% in 20 years!
The actual growth of the worldwide market will probably fall somewhere in between
the usual and the accelerated forecasts. But this will still mean an annual
production rate of about 2500 megawatts, an increase of 6000% from 1990!
Turning these production figures into sales revenue estimates, we can anticipate the
worldwide market for photovoltaic to grow into the billions of dollars in the next
decade. One scenario of projected shipments and sales prices is shown below. By
2010 the market could be as large as $6 billion.

Long Term Sales Forcast


1990-2010
7000
6000

6000
5000
4000

Sales Volume
$ Million

3000
2000
1000

271

0
1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

Source:
Strategies Unlimited Report PM-39 March 1993



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Fundamentals Market Overview

Application Growth Forecasts


We turn our attention from general market forecasts to specific application areas to
look at how photovoltaic power is used around the world. The application groups of
photovoltaic power can be divided into five broad groups:

Remote Industrial: This has been the major application area for 30 years, including
telecommunications, cathodic protection, telemetry, navigational systems and other
unmanned installations in harsh remote sites. The load demands are well known
and the requirements for reliable power are the highest.

Remote Habitation / Consumer Power: This segment includes applications that


are typically occupied, such as cabins, homes, villages, clinics, schools, farms, as
well as individually powered lights and small appliances. The load demands in this
segment are not as well defined, and are more flexible.

Grid Connected: These systems are typically multi-kilowatt or megawatt scale


systems that are directly connected to an existing power grid network. Electric
power is generated only during daylight hours, and is either consumed at the site of
generation (as on commercial buildings) or is fed into the general utility grid system
and consumed as a part of the normal power system. Small 4-10 kilowatt rooftop
systems can be located on top of individual homes, while larger 30-100 kilowatt
systems can be associated with commercial or industrial buildings to offset their
daytime lighting or air-conditioning loads. Large 100-500 kilowatt systems can be
installed along utility feeder lines close to their full capacity to improve power quality
and postpone rewiring or installing new larger transformers.

Government Demonstration: This market segment has always been small, and
constitutes projects funded by government or military organizations. These are
typically funded early in a governments learning curve about photovoltaics, to
provide information on installed costs and reliability.

Consumer Indoor: These products use photovoltaic cells to provide the small
amount of power needed for small electronic devices such as watches and
calculators.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

The latest estimate for the way modules are currently used worldwide is shown on
the next page. The remote habitation application area is about 50% of the total
worldwide market, with the traditional remote industrial applications making up the
next largest market segment.

Market Segments
Forcast 1997
Remote
Industrial

27%
50%
Remote
Habitation

10%
5%

8%
Grid
Connected
Consumer

Other
Source: Strategies Unlimited



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Fundamentals Market Overview

Projections have been made to the year 2010 estimating the changes that might
occur in the relative size of different application groups. Once again, they present a
business as usual forecast and an accelerated forecast. The two scenarios are
similar in most respects. The remote industrial application group, the traditional
bread and butter of the industry, will continue to be a major segment, but will
continue to yield to remote habitation and grid connected systems. The major
difference in the two scenarios is the timing and the extent of the growth of the grid
connected application group.

Long Term Forcast (business as usual)


Major Application Groups
100%
90%

Remote Industrial

80%
70%
Remote Habitation
Consumer Power

60%
Government
Demonstration

50%
40%

Consumer Indoor

30%
Grid Connected

20%
10%
0%
1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

Source: Strategies Unlimited Report PM-39 March 1993

 

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Long Term Forcast (accelerated)


Major Application Groups
100%
90%

Remote Industrial

80%
70%
Remote Habitation
Consumer Power

60%
Government
Demonstration

50%
40%

Consumer Indoor

30%
Grid Connected

20%
10%
0%
1990

1995

2000

2005

2010

Source: Strategies Unlimited Report PM-39 March 1993

 

The future will have photovoltaics used closer to where we live and work, as the cost
of delivered power comes down to compete with generators and utility power.
Remote habitation already constitutes the largest market segment. In developed
countries, this would constitute power for remote homes, cabins, and farms. For
developing regions, these applications would be home lighting, schools, clinics,
farms and village power.
The most important trend to understand is the impending growth of the grid
connected market. As the cost of photovoltaic power continues to decrease, and as
traditionally generated utility power costs continue to increase, the market
acceptance of photovoltaic power will accelerate. In these scenarios, the market
share due to grid connected systems will be near or greater than 50% by 2010. This
will indicate the maturation of the photovoltaic market, as what has been traditionally
considered a remote power solution becomes economic for the vast urban market.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

The assumptions used in the business as usual and accelerated scenarios of the
Strategies Unlimited report need to be presented, so that you can judge the
probability of either case. The differences are presented next.
The major differences arise from how aggressively and how quickly industry,
government and utility organizations become involved with developing photovoltaic
technology.

Factor

Business As Usual

Accelerated

Industry
Investment

Incremental increase in capacity

Several 10MW+ plants

Utility Investment

Modest R&D, limited commercial


purchases

Increased R&D, large distributed power


sites

Incentives

2 /kWh 1995, 4 2000,


6 2010

4 /kWh 1995, 6 2000,


10 2010

PV Infrastructure

Mature at moderate rate

Large players take aggressive position

Financial Sources

Modest rate of participation

National and international agencies


aggressive

National Energy
Policy

Limited to national security

Support renewables for environmental


problems

Government
Support

Flat technical support

Increased technical and legislative


support

Environment
Concern

Incentive policies begin around 2000

Incentive policies begin strongly


around 1995

Petroleum
Changes

Demand at 1%/year, price at 1-1.5%


above inflation

Demand at 1.2%/year, price at 2-3%


above inflation

Natural Gas
Changes

Demand at 5-8%/year, price at 2-3%


above inflation

Demand at 5-10%/year, price at 3-4%


above inflation

Global Economy

Only leaders become strong during


1995-2000

Leaders recover 1995, global


improvement 1995-2000

 

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Overview of Current Cell


Technologies
The single crystal silicon technology used in Siemens Solar cells is not the only
method for fabricating solar photovoltaic devices. We present here a brief
discussion of the most common competing cell technologies in the field today.

Single Crystal Silicon (Czochralski


or CZ)
The most common type of thick solar cell is made by melting purified chunks of
silicon in a crystal growing furnace, and slowly solidifying the silicon into a large
cylindrical crystal. In this process the atoms of silicon are aligned, and the electrical
properties are optimized. This process is called the Czochralski or CZ method.
Individual round wafers are sawed from the cylindrical crystal. If the sides of the
cylinder are cut first, making a long block, then when the wafers are cut they are
square.
This has been the predominant method for making solar cells for 30 years. Silicon is
abundant, electrically stable, and relatively easy to manufacture. Efficiencies of 12%
on a final module are typical.

Cast Polycrystalline Silicon


Another method of creating a block of silicon is to melt purified silicon rocks in a
rectangular block shaped mold. When the silicon is cooled slowly, it solidifies into
the block shape. But in the solidifying process, the atoms do not align into a large
single crystal as in the CZ method. Small regions of single crystal structure
crystallize next to each other, creating a polycrystalline block of different grains and
orientations.
At the boundaries between the grains, it is possible for incomplete (dangling)
atomic bonds to interfere with the current flow, and typically a slightly lower output is
produced compared to equivalently processed single crystal cells.
As with CZ cells, polycrystalline wafers are produced by slicing the large block using
saws.
Efficiencies of 10-12% are typical.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Ribbon Silicon
The slicing process in the previous two methods is wasteful, often converting 4050% of the material into dust. This is because the wafers are only approximately
0.015" thick, and the saw blade is about this thickness as well.
One method of producing wafers avoids most of this waste by growing a thin ribbon
from the melted silicon. The ribbon is either pulled sideways off the top of the melt,
or pulled up through a die.
Very fast growth rates are possible, but the speed results in polycrystalline
structures. If the pulling process is done very carefully, near single crystal structure
is possible. The ribbon thickness is approximately 0.010"-0.015", so no further
sawing is necessary. The ribbon is simply scribed and broken to produce
rectangular wafers.
However, the surface of the wafer is not typically flat and often bulges. Waviness in
the surface makes further manufacturing steps and interconnection difficult.
Efficiencies similar to polycrystalline silicon are typical.

Thin Films
All of the previous methods produce a single cell as the basic building block. This
means that many cells must be connected together to produce a module of useful
voltage, because each cell produces approximately 0.5 volts. The interconnecting
and subsequent lamination steps are costly.
In the past 10 years great progress has been made in manufacturing solar modules
by depositing extremely thin films of semiconductors onto glass or metal substrates.
This process has many advantages over the "traditional" methods mentioned above
that produce individual cells.
The semiconductor layers are only a few hundred atoms thick, so expensive material
costs are reduced. The entire module is made as a unit, so interconnecting
machinery and processing are eliminated. And the cell size can be modified easily,
so it becomes easy and cost effective to make modules of different power output for
different applications or products. A unique characteristic of some thin film solar
devices is that the light that does not interact to knock loose electrons can pass
through the device because the layers are so thin. This means semi-transparent
films are possible. Car sunroofs, boat hatches, and building glass, for example, can
be made that produce useful electric power and also serve as windows!
Several approaches are being pursued around the world to develop thin film solar
cells and modules. Some of these are described next.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Thin Film Silicon:Hydrogen (TFS:H)


Thin films of silicon:hydrogen alloy are the predominant technology mass produced
today, and are found in solar calculators, watches and PV modules.
The atomic structure of the thin film is not totally ordered, like the structure of single
crystal silicon. The probability is very high that an electron freed by light will
recombine with a hole before it can get very far. The light energy would just be
turned into low-grade waste heat. That is why the doped layers are placed on either
side of a large intrinsic, or undoped, layer. Instead of waiting for electrons knocked
loose by photons to wander into a region of electric field, the electric field spans
almost the entire thickness of the semiconductor. Electrons that are knocked loose
by incoming light are pushed immediately by the field, and have a very good chance
of being swept out of the cell before they recombine with a hole. The sandwiching of
an intrinsic layer of silicon:hydrogen alloy between P-type and N-type layers is called
a P/I/N structure.
Currently the efficiency of mass produced large area thin film silicon:hydrogen alloy
modules is about 3-6%, lower than that of the "traditional" technology modules. But
devices of 12% efficiency have been reported.

Copper Indium Diselenide (CIS)


Another combination of semiconductor materials that shows great promise is copper
indium diselenide (CuInSe2 , often shortened to just CIS). When combined with a
thin layer of another semiconductor, usually cadmium and zinc sulfide (CdZn)S, the
difference between the two materials forms a p-type/n-type junction. With both the
single crystal and the thin film silicon cells discussed before, one material (silicon)
was treated with small amounts of impurities (dopants) to create a P/N or P/I/N
junction. This is called a "homojunction" or "single junction" device. In the case of
CIS, the junction is created by placing two different materials in contact with each
other, creating a "heterojunction" device.
The response of CIS to light extends from the middle of the visible range far into the
near-infrared region of the solar spectrum, and allows for more of the available light
to be used by the cells compared to single or polycrystalline or amorphous silicon
devices. Efficiencies of greater than 12% have been achieved on small devices, and
over 10% on one square foot large area modules.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Tandem TFS/CIS
An exciting prospect for high efficiency and low cost lies in combining thin film
devices of different spectral responses together in one module. One plan for such a
"tandem" module involves placing a module of thin film silicon:hydrogen alloy with a
transparent back conductor in front of a module made from CIS. The front thin film
silicon:hydrogen module absorbs the short wavelength blue, green and yellow light,
and lets the orange, red, and infrared light pass through to the CIS module.
Research devices achieving over 15.5% have been made using this method, and it
is anticipated that 18-20% is achievable. The combination of higher efficiencies and
lower costs than any traditional design makes this a very exciting near-term
technology.

Concentrator Cells
Covering large areas with solar cells and intercepting what light falls on the surface
is called a "flat plate" method. This is the common approach taken by
manufacturers of single and polycrystalline silicon and thin film devices. Another
approach is to focus the light onto a small area and have a specially made cell at the
focus. This seeks to reduce overall cost by reducing the amount of cell material
required and substituting inexpensive lens or mirror materials.
Concentrator cells must be specially made to handle the large currents produced.
From 10-500 times the normal sun intensity can be produced on the cell surface,
resulting in an equally large amount of current compared to what would be produced
by flat plate converters.
To keep the focus on the small cell, the entire module assembly must very
accurately track the sun. Since tracking is essential, concentrator devices are
appropriate only where clear skies are predominant.
Recent advances in concentrator cells have been achieved using a "point contact"
structure. Thousands of p/n junctions are made on the back of a single silicon chip.
Thousands of interconnections must be made to make a working cell, but some of
the losses that occur in single junction devices are avoided and efficiencies of
greater than 30% have been reported. The transfer from laboratory to large-scale
commercial production has yet to be achieved.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Market Share By Cell Technology


The latest figures for 1995 for shipments worldwide separated by cell technology
show that single crystal silicon cells and modules dominate the photovoltaic market.
Approximately 57% of all shipments of photovoltaic power generators were made up
of single crystal or CZ technology, most of this was produced by Siemens Solar.
The next largest component of the photovoltaic market is polycrystalline technology
with about 25%. And thin film technology, primarily amorphous silicon cells for
consumer products such as solar calculators and watches, constituted a little more
than 13% of the worldwide shipments.

Single Crystal Dominates


World Shipments
Worldwide Shipments By Technology: 1996
S in g le C ry s ta l
Si
54%

T h in F ilm s
13%

11.7 MW

48.3 MW

R ib b o n

89.5 MW

24 MW

P o ly c ry s ta llin e

O th e r
3%
Source: The Solar Letter, February 14, 1997

3%

CdTe,
Concentrators

Si
27%

 

The total worldwide production of photovoltaic power generators in 1995 was about
81 megawatts. This is large for the photovoltaic manufacturers, but is quite small
when compared to the generating capacity of conventional power plants. One large
power plant can produce 800-2000 megawatts, continuously day and night. This
shows how far the photovoltaic market has to grow to become a major contributor to
the worlds energy needs.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

It is interesting to look at how the primary technologies (single crystal, polycrystalline,


and thin film silicon) have evolved in the marketplace in recent years. Below is
shown the relative market share of each technology in 1991 and 1995. The actual
production level of thin film silicon has decreased by 20%, and the production of
polysilicon has decreased slightly also, while the production level of single crystal
silicon has increased by 137%.

Worldwide Growth Rates Of


Primary Technologies
1991-199684 MWp
W o rld P ro d u ctio n M W p

90
80
70

54 MWp

60

CZ

+145%

50
40

+15%

30

Poly

20

-15%

10

Thin Film

0
1991

1996

T h in F ilm

P o ly

CZ

Source: Solar Letter, 2/17/97




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Fundamentals Market Overview

Cell Technology Characterized by


Efficiency
Perhaps one of the most important features that differentiate these various cell
technologies is their output efficiency. By efficiency, we mean their ability to convert
the solar power falling on the surface of a device into useable electric power. The
general definition of efficiency is the output of a device divided by the input to the
device.

Efficiency Defined
Efficiency

Output
Input

Module Efficiency

Electrical Power out


Solar Power in

Given an amount solar power falling on the


module (or cell or array), how much electrical
power gets produced?



Specifically for solar photovoltaic cells or modules, we define efficiency as follows:

Efficiency

Electrical Power out of device Solar Power into device

Solar devices work only during daylight, when there is solar energy to convert. The
best devices will capture and convert the most of the limited amount of solar
radiation that is made available during daylight hours. There are important
differences between the ability of the three major types of technologies to efficiently
convert sunlight into electricity.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

In general, single crystal silicon devices are the most efficient, with polycrystalline
silicon cells slightly lower in efficiency, and thin film devices of amorphous silicon the
lowest in efficiency. Data that has been gathered over a period of seven years from
actual outdoor testing of these different technologies is shown. This data was
gathered as a part of a US government/utility program called Photovoltaics for Utility
Scale Applications (PVUSA), where multi-kilowatt arrays of various technologies
have been installed and are being monitored for performance in real world
conditions.

Single Crystal Silicon Efficiency


Is Superior
PVUSA testing various systems since 1989
Actual field performance
12

Single Crystal

DC Efficiency %

10

Polycrystalline

8
6
4

Amorphous

Jan-96

Jul

Jan-95

Jul

Jan-94

Jul

Jan-93

Jul

Jan-92

Jul

Jan-91

Jul

Jan-90

Jul

Jan-89

0
Source:
PVUSA Progress
Report March 1996



The PVUSA data shows clearly how the different technologies compare in efficiency.
The average efficiency of the single crystal silicon array is about 10%, while the
efficiency of the polycrystalline modules is about 8%. The thin film amorphous
silicon array averages only about 3% efficient. This comparison shows the normal
seasonal variations in efficiency due to ambient heat in the summer months for the
single and polycrystalline modules. One interesting feature of thin film amorphous
silicon devices is that they are less affected by temperature variations, as shown by
the nearly flat efficiency data throughout the hot and cold seasons.

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Advantages and Weaknesses of


Current Technologies
Every technology available today has some positive features as well as some
negatives. It is useful to put the different technologies side-by-side and make some
general statements about how they compare. In the future, the weaknesses of any
one technology may be overcome, and we may see new manufacturing techniques
that allow for currently weak technologies to become more competitive in the
marketplace. But for now, we seek to identify some very general characteristics of
each technology and give you a highly simplified overview of how they compare.

Cell Technology Comparison Chart


Cell Type

Best Cell
Efficiency

Module Area
Efficiency

Advantages

Weaknesses

Silicon

22.7 %

12-15 %

Well understood;
Receiving
renewed attention

Indirect band gap


limits efficiency;
How thin?

CdTe/CdS

15.8 %

6-8 %

Low cost;
High deposition
rates possible

Cd liability;
Needs more
development

Amorphous
Silicon

13.2 %

4-9 %

Low cost

Looses power
over time;
Low efficiency

CuInSe2

16.9 %

10%

23% potential;
Low cost

Manufacturing yields
are low; Needs more
development

Single Junction
Concentrator

28.7 %

NA

Hybrid PV / thermal;
central power
generation

Lacks production
economy of scale;
Complex BOS

Multijunction
Concentrator

35 %

NA

Hybrid PV/thermal
Space

Lacks production
economy of scale;
Complex BOS




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Fundamentals Market Overview

The bulk silicon (both single crystal and polycrystalline) and thin film amorphous
silicon technologies have been described earlier. The cadmium telluride
(CdTe/CdS) material is another heterojunction thin film technology that shows much
promise and is being pursued by a variety of manufacturers. The multijunction
concentrators are more exotic devices that utilize different cell technologies
deposited on top of one another, to capture different regions of the solar spectrum.
These offer the highest potential efficiencies, but are by far the most complex and
expensive. Their best application would be where space is an expensive premium,
such as in large central power generation plants or in orbiting space facilities.
The primary trade-offs that are evident from this comparison are potentially high
device efficiency vs. reduced efficiency for real modules, and potential low costs vs.
process stability and manufacturing yield issues. There is not one clear choice for
the best technology, as all of them have potential improvements and difficulties to
overcome.
The module area efficiencies mentioned in this comparison are general values for
actual production volume power modules, and are contrasted with the best cell
efficiency values that are often reported in press releases and research papers. It
is very important to draw a distinction between the peak efficiency of a single
research device and the consistently attainable efficiency of a high volume
production module. A single research device may have a high efficiency, and show
the potential that production devices can attain, but actual full production modules
incorporate interconnect space, frame space, gridline coverage and other physical
features that decrease the efficiency of the overall device.
Another concept that is highlighted in this table comparison of technologies is that
concentrator technologies have not achieved mass production status yet. They
have the potential for the highest efficiencies of all the technologies presented, but
involve extensive balance-of-system (BOS) equipment, such as specially designed
sun-position tracking frameworks, concentrating lenses, computer controls, and
special heat sinks. Their ability to compete with flat-plate technologies will depend
on the cost-effectiveness of the entire package needed to create useable power,
and not just on the efficiency of the small individual photovoltaic cells.

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3-20

Fundamentals Market Overview

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals Market Overview

CHAPTER THREE
MARKET OVERVIEW

3-1

Major Manufacturers

3-2

Market and Application Forecasts


Market Growth Projections
Application Growth Forecasts

3-4
3-4
3-6

Overview of Current Cell Technologies


Single Crystal Silicon (Czochralski or CZ)
Cast Polycrystalline Silicon
Ribbon Silicon
Thin Films
Concentrator Cells

3-11
3-11
3-11
3-12
3-12
3-14

Market Share By Cell Technology

3-15

Cell Technology Characterized by Efficiency

3-17

Advantages and Weaknesses of Current Technologies

3-19

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Fundamentals Market Overview

Chapter Four
General Skills of System
Designers
Many people feel that photovoltaic system design involves using a computer or
calculator and solving some equations that lead to one unique solution. The truth is
that designing solar power systems involves a great deal of judgment before and
after any calculations are made, and any recommendation by a computer program
must be tempered by experience and a keen sense of unpredictable human and
environmental factors. Skilled system designers are critical of their own
assumptions and question their results to see if all contingencies have been
considered.
In this section, we will discuss some of the approaches that should be followed by
system designers to gathering the initial information, dealing with objections and
uncertainties, and thoroughly transferring the final system to the user. These
include:

Considering Tradeoffs

Anticipating and Second-Guessing

Identifying Potential Applications

Handling Customer Objections

Gathering Information

Designing the System

Installation

Transferring the System to the Client

Each of these skills will be discussed next.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Consider Tradeoffs
Most of the time, system design involves some degree of compromise between
competing and desirable qualities. There are many choices that have to be made:
type and size of equipment, location, amount of backup or redundancy, degree of
protection, level of safety, amount of complexity, initial costs or costs over time, and
so on. Factors that may influence the choices might include the clients budget, the
remoteness of the site, how critical the loads are, the sophistication of the actual
users, and future growth possibilities.

System Design Involves


Tradeoffs
Choices based on budget, remoteness,
how critical is load
Simplicity
and
Reliability

Efficiency
Initial
Cost

Lifetime
Cost

Centralized
Generation

Distributed
Generation



Discussed next is some fundamental tradeoffs that must be made constantly when
designing photovoltaic systems. Both of the extremes of the tradeoffs are desirable,
so the dilemma facing the designer is how far to go towards one side or the other.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Efficiency vs. Simplicity and Reliability


People designing technology based systems often tend to seek maximum efficiency,
and consider any additional equipment or expense to be justifiable if it results in
measurable efficiency increases. But this tendency must be tempered by real world
concerns for field failures and general unpredictability in weather and load demands.
The primary characteristic of photovoltaic generators is simplicity--no moving parts!
And from this comes an extremely high reliability. Any move away from this
simplicity and associated reliability must be scrutinized carefully. Most users would
prefer a slightly inefficient system that continues to perform year after year over a
sophisticated system that has failed due to a component failure or unanticipated
glitch. It is the users perspective that must be considered first, and not the
designers desire to show analytically under standard conditions a high theoretical
efficiency.

Initial Cost vs. Lifetime Cost


For some clients the most important factor they face is keeping the initial cost of a
system down. It doesnt matter to them that certain components, such as batteries,
are not the highest quality types and will not last more than a few years. They can
afford to buy replacements when needed a few years down the line.
For other clients, the possibility of reducing maintenance costs is extremely
attractive. For example, industrial customers designing critical and very remote
systems understand the high cost of diesel refueling or helicopter time to replace
batteries. These costs over time can be shown to easily justify the increased cost of
choosing the highest quality components from the start.

Centralized vs. Distributed Generation


Photovoltaic technology works well as a distributed source of power, where each
load or home or user can have their own array. However, there may be situations
where a centralized power generation approach is desirable.
A centralized approach may be appropriate when for example a large and complex
hybrid diesel-PV system is needed for a village or commercial site. Trained
personnel can be assigned to operate and maintain the equipment. Responsibility
for proper operation falls on someone other than the final users. But this can also
mean that the users do not appreciate the necessity for conservation in their energy
usage. They may abuse the system, add unnecessary or unauthorized loads, and in
general cause problems for the others in the centralized system.

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On the other hand, if a distributed system is designed, then each site or user must
be responsible for their own energy generation and usage. If they abuse or overuse
their system, their system may fail or shut itself down. But this will not affect the
other users, and the abuser will quickly learn to be more conscious of their energy
usage. Also the geography of the overall site may favor a distributed approach. For
example, Navaho Indians in the central region of the US have their individual homes
located perhaps a kilometer or so from the nearest neighbor. Stringing power lines
to each home would prove uneconomical compared to installing separate and standalone power systems for each home.

Anticipate and Second-Guess


Even when you have seemingly reliable information for your design calculations, you
should think about what could go wrong and try to incorporate equipment that can
help prevent abuse of the system and premature failures. Cultural differences or
climatic conditions that are different from the designers own should be understood.
The final users may not have any appreciation of how to maintain high technology
equipment or they may think that the system can take care of itself, or they may be
afraid of it--all factors that can lead to misuse and failure.
Often photovoltaic power systems are being installed where no electrical power was
available before. Once users become accustomed to using it, they may use much
more that the system designer was told they would. Lights and appliances may be
left on for more hours than planned, or extra lights and loads may be added,
overstressing inverters and wiring as well as draining the batteries.
Simple choices like lights with timers and hard wiring appliances to a central power
distribution center can help to keep the system working within the limits it was
designed for. Feedback to the users from low voltage alarms can help educate
them about their overuse so they stop using non-essential loads before the
batteries are over discharged.
There is not a formula to apply in the system design process that will assure that all
contingencies have been considered. It is up to the designer to stop and think--have
I put myself in the place of the intended user and into the intended climate, and
thought about what could possibly happen? The more thorough the secondguessing, the more robust and reliable the final system design.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

System Design Involves


Second-Guessing
Anticipate what could go
wrong
Incorporate equipment to
prevent improper operation
Question your initial load
and location information



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Identify Potential Applications


The process of system design cannot begin until good cost-effective applications
have been identified. Several key qualities that indicate a good opportunity for
photovoltaic power are given.
Certainly remoteness and any requirement for high reliability clearly point to
considering photovoltaics. And relying on photovoltaic systems instead of utility lines
or generators can reduce vulnerability to failure due to extremely bad weather, such
as ice or windstorms or blowing sand. And having distributed photovoltaic power for
each critical load or site means that if one system is damaged, the others remain
operational.
If there are critical loads at a site, then more than one source of power is desirable.
Photovoltaics can be combined with conventional sources to add reliability and
diversity and insure that critical systems stay on line no matter what may happen.
A unique feature of solar photovoltaic generators is that they can generate small
amounts of power and output at relatively low voltages. Many small loads, for
example a remote telemetry system or an electric fence charger, need only a few
watts of power, while generators cannot be found below a few kilowatts of
generating capacity, and utility line extensions for such small loads would surely be
too costly.
The low voltage of the modules can come in handy when compared to the extremely
high voltages of transmission lines. For example, aircraft warning lighting atop high
voltage transmission towers could tap off the very power lines they support for
power, but the cost and weight of the transformer needed would be prohibitive. But
lightweight solar modules and batteries can be mounted on the tower itself and
provide 12 or 24 volt power to lights without the need for transformers.
Certainly if there is a concern about noise or air pollution or environmental
sensitivity, these are flags that a photovoltaic solution may be appropriate. And
clients may have general social concerns about using renewable sources of power,
or about being independent of utility networks.
The low voltage of typical solar modules makes them safe to handle and install. Of
course once many modules are connected together in series, potentially dangerous
power is present. But most small photovoltaic systems involve only 12 or 24 volt
power, which is safer than the common 110 or higher voltages from utility power.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Identify Potential Applications


Modularity
Safety
High Insolation
Independence
Social Concerns
Environment
Portability

Remoteness
Reliability
Vulnerability
Critical Loads
Low Voltage
Small Power
Noise
Pollution



There may be a desire for a modular approach to power generation, where some
power is needed now and more will be needed in the future. Instead of buying and
installing an oversized generator anticipating long term future power requirements,
you can install only the power that is needed today, and add modules at any time in
the future when budgets or load demands increase. Entire village power systems
can grow this way, starting small and growing as the community grows.
Individual modules are lightweight and can be easily transported if necessary.
Modules have been used for mobile radios, camera battery recharging, lighting for
temporary camps, as well as transported on trucks or by hand from one water pump
to another.
And certainly if there is abundant solar insolation, photovoltaics should be
considered. Why not use a resource that is plentiful, and delivered for free!

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Handle Customer Objections


After potential applications have been identified, designers may face the obstacle of
dealing with objections or questions about the technical aspects of photovoltaic
power systems. Users may not understand how the modules will survive in harsh
environments, or work with other components to give reliable power day or night.
Some typical objections are listed.

Handle Objections

Needs Maintenance
User Education
Breakable
Theft
Safety Concerns
Building Codes
Need the Sun
Initial Cost
Produces DC
Area Limitations

 

Certainly a common objection is the relatively high initial cost of a photovoltaic power
system compared to a generator only system. This must be handled by presenting
the true costs of operating a generator over time, including regular and unscheduled
maintenance, parts, labor, fuel (including delivery costs) and other invisible costs.
The problem of high initial cost can also be addressed by developing creative
financing arrangements, so that users pay for their energy over time just as they do
for conventional energy.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Another key objection is that photovoltaic devices make DC electricity, while most
common appliances and other loads are designed to operate from AC power. This
can be dealt with by either proposing the use of DC appliances, or by including a
small inverter that converts DC to AC. The extra cost of the inverter can be
compared to the usually higher prices of DC appliances, and a choice can be made
as to which way to go.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Gather Load Information


Once any objections have been overcome, it is time to begin gathering critical data
about the situation. There are three areas of information that are important: the
application; the climate; and the client or user. Application information must be as
detailed and quantitative as possible. Otherwise slightly wrong information at the
beginning of the sizing process will result in completely incorrect recommendations.

Gather Information About the


Application

Load requirements
Load profile
Surges
Power quality
DC or AC
Critical loads
Ease of access to site



The individual loads must be well understood, including their current and voltage
requirements, and how many hours each day they will be on. In addition, the profile
of the load demand over a typical week or for each month must be specified. It will
be important to know if the load is greater in the summer or winter. This information
will help determine the proper tilt angle of the modules so that they intercept the
most solar radiation when the loads need it. Also if the load is used only a few days
each week, as in the case of a weekend cabin, can affect the balancing of modules
and battery storage and final system cost.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Certainly if AC loads are to be included, their requirements for power quality and
surge currents will affect the choice and sizing of a DC-to-AC inverter. The
inefficiency of the inverter must be added into the calculations, and the input voltage
of the inverter chosen will determine the voltage of the solar array and battery bank.

Seasonal Load Profiles


70

Summer peak profile

60
50
40
30

Winter peak profile

20
10
0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

 

If there are any critical or essential loads this will influence the choice of sizing of the
array and battery to handle unexpected bad weather. And the ease or difficulty of
reaching the site may influence the reserve time built into the battery, as well as the
setting of any low voltage alarm signals to prompt maintenance actions.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Gather Climate Information


Accurate location and weather data is of course critical to proper system sizing.
Data on solar radiation or insolation must be obtained, and not just for a season or
for one year, but accumulated over many years. Specific data for a site taken over a
short period may not reflect the normal weather that can be expected. The usual
format for solar insolation data is in units of kilowatt-hours/square meter (kwh/m2), or
in Langleys (calorie/cm2), or sometimes in megajoules/m2 or btu-hours/ft2.
Measurements of simply hours of sunlight or number of bright days is not
quantitative enough and cannot be used. Common sources of solar insolation data
are airport authorities, agricultural stations, government agencies, and universities.
Siemens Solar has compiled a database of solar insolation for over 2000 sites
around the world. This is used by our computer sizing programs to accurately
predict module output.

Gather Information About the


Climate

Latitude, longitude
Insolation
Temperature
Variability of weather
Harshness

 

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Temperature ranges as well must be well know, as modules loose voltage potential
and batteries loose life expectancy with higher temperatures. Temperatures will also
influence the choice of the module design, as 36 cells module circuits are typically
used for the hottest climates, while 33 cells in series are adequate for more
moderate climates.
Local knowledge about the variability or harshness of the weather is important to
gather. Statistical data on solar insolation is usually based on averaged data, so
particular variation patterns from day to day are lost. The severity and duration of
typical seasonal storms would be very helpful in deciding how much reserve capacity
to build into the battery bank, and whether backup generator capacity should be
considered.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Gather Client Information


A third critical source of information that directly affects the choices you make in
designing a photovoltaic system is the client or user of the system. The information
gathered here may not be as mathematically precise or as easily quantifiable as the
previous application and climate information, but it is quite important.
The clients budget may be a useful starting point for your design process. You may
often have to begin with the budget and work backward to see how much solar
power they can afford at the start. You can always encourage them to add more
solar power as their budget allows.
The reliability of the information that they give to you should be examined. Is the
load information that they have given accurate, or is it just a guess? Are they
repeating what others have said, or are they sources of original data? Sometimes
clients are seeking replacements for fuel-powered generators, and they may make
the simple mistake of thinking that the load is equal to the power rating of the
generator, without looking at detail at the actual loads. If a large generator was
installed for surge power or because it happened to be on hand or for whatever
reason, then any calculations made based on that capability will be far too high for
the actual site.
The technical skill level of the users will have a definite influence on your system
design choices. The sophistication of controls and feedback, and the accessibility to
the system will depend greatly on your assessment of the users abilities and
understanding. If the user is fairly uneducated or unskilled with electricity, then you
will want to make the feedback simple and the access quite limited. This may also
influence your choice of battery type, where you would probably choose a
maintenance-free battery. Whereas, if the user is a sophisticated engineer, you will
probably want to allow greater access to the system controls, and may feel free to
use a battery that requires proper and regular maintenance.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Gather Information About the


Client

Budget
Reliability of their data
Level of technical skill
Future growth possibilities
Aesthetics

 

You should keep in mind the probability of near-term future growth of demand, and
design your system to accommodate that growth. If the load is well known and
fixed, with no possibility of increase, then you can design your system to fit that load
value exactly. But if there is the real chance of load expansion, for example more
channels of radio being utilized, or more hours of lighting needed or more users in a
village, then expansion and increased power flows should be planned. Space
should be left in the module mounting structures, larger wires should be used,
regulators and inverters should be oversized, and so on. This will help to reduce the
need to purchase more components in the near future.
And aesthetics may have an influence on your design choices. Whether the user
wants the array to be visible or not will influence your location options and may affect
your wire lengths and sizes for example. Instead of mounting the array on the
ground at the proper tilt angle, the user may want the array to be mounted on a roof
with a tilt or azimuth angle that is not optimum. This will definitely affect your array
sizing calculations.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Design the System


It seems that we would never get to the point of finally calculating the array and
battery size! But not we are ready. It takes all this previous data gathering to be in a
position to make the choices needed during system design. Design is not just
plugging in some numbers. It involves balancing calculations with judgments, and
selecting equipment based on the information about the climate, the load and the
client.

Design the System

Array sizing
Battery bank sizing
Wiring
Safety components
User feedback
DC or AC or Hybrid
Mounting
Accomodate future growth

 

The number of modules in series and parallel for the array can now be calculated,
as well as the capacity and voltage of the battery bank. All of the system wiring
must be chosen, with attention to safety equipment such as circuit breakers, fuses,
disconnects and grounding. Electrical code considerations may dictate the use of
equipment that adds to the overall system complexity and cost, but also adds to
safety.
At this time you should consider the hardware needed to give proper user feedback.
Simple dials or fancy digital meters can be chosen, and even remote transmission of
system parameters can be designed.
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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Fundamental decisions need to be made here about whether the system is all DC,
or all AC, or some combination of the two. You have to decide whether the system
will be a pure stand-alone photovoltaic system or a hybrid design with a fuel
generator or wind or hydro assist.
The array mounting design must be made, perhaps including empty space for future
module additions. Components such as inverters charge regulators, and wiring
should be chosen to allow maximum growth, so that costly upgrades or changes can
be avoided.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Installation
You can perform all the calculations in the world, but if the equipment is not installed
correctly, your system could still fail. Bad communications between the designers
and the installers can lead to wasted time, money and faulty system performance.
As much of the system should be pre-assembled as possible and shipped to the site
ready for installation. This allows you to test the components as they work together
and make repairs or adjustments as needed at the home shop (where tools and
spare equipment is readily available). Charge controls, system disconnects,
inverters and feedback components can often be pre-mounted to a strong
backboard, transported to the site, and installed quickly.

Installation

Pre-assemble as much as possible


Site selection
Safe practices
Codes and inspections




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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

The installation site should be visited before system design is completed so that
special circumstances can be taken into account. Perhaps there are trees or other
sources of shading at the site. This might require clever mounting solutions or
longer and larger wire than anticipated. Foundation design might depend on the
type of soil, the wind loading, the growth of vegetation and so on.
Safe practices should be followed at all times during the installation phase. All
appropriate local and regional electrical and building codes should be followed.
Each component and the overall system should be fully tested before the installation
is considered complete. Abnormal operations should be corrected, and all system
voltage drops should be carefully measured to insure that all connections are proper.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Transfer the System to the Client


The system design process is still not complete until the system has been properly
transferred to the client or user. Often this step is left out with the assumption that
the user understands what to do. This can be disastrous. Users might not
understand the importance of no shading on the modules or of regular battery
maintenance. The system can still eventually fail, even if all care has been taken in
designing and installing the components, if the users dont properly maintain their
system.

Transfer System to Client

Simple language or pictorial


Troubleshooting Guide
Service/Maintenance Plan
Get user sign-off



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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

A Troubleshooting Guide should be created for the user, showing symptoms,


possible causes, corrective actions. A Service and Maintenance Manual should be
on hand, showing the user with simple pictures what to check and when, and how
they should perform the service.
It would be a good idea to get the user to sign-off on these transfer documents. This
adds to the perceived seriousness of the transfer process, and forces them to be
aware of the content of the documents.

Examples of Transfer Documents


By way of example we have included two samples of documents that serve to
transfer understanding and responsibility for proper system operation to
unsophisticated users.
Presented on the next page is a reduction of a large color poster created for a rural
electrification program in South America. It explains in simple words and drawings
the proper operation and maintenance of a home lighting system.
And on the following pages is an owners manual created for small home
electrification systems installed on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the United
States.
Please look at these documents and think about how you would best structure your
transfer documents so that they would be useful to the people involved. Differences
in education and sophistication will require vastly different documentation. Some
documentation for rural systems users may involve only pictures or cartoons, with
very little text, while complex engineered systems may require detailed
specifications. The user should be the starting point for designing transfer
documentation.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers


 

The Homeowners Manual presented on the following pages was prepared for the
owners of simple 12-volt DC home electrification systems installed on the Navajo
Indian Reservation in the United States.

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

CHAPTER FOUR
GENERAL SKILLS OF SYSTEM DESIGNERS

4-1

Consider Tradeoffs
Efficiency vs. Simplicity and Reliability
Initial Cost vs. Lifetime Cost
Centralized vs. Distributed Generation

4-2
4-3
4-3
4-3

Anticipate and Second-Guess

4-4

Identify Potential Applications

4-6

Handle Customer Objections

4-8

Gather Load Information

4-10

Gather Climate Information

4-12

Gather Client Information

4-14

Design the System

4-16

Installation

4-18

Transfer the System to the Client


Examples of Transfer Documents

4-20
4-21

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Fundamentals Skills for System Designers

Chapter Five
Applications and Typical
Systems
In this chapter, we look at some of the most popular and economical types of
applications for solar photovoltaic power systems. There are many new applications
that are being developed, but we can discuss here those that have already proven to
be cost effective and reliable.
We can also look briefly at some common system configurations, to become familiar
with some of the equipment that is used in systems. Most all of the equipment
mentioned (such as inverters and charge controls) will be discussed in more detail in
later chapters.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Flexibility of Application
One of the blessings of photovoltaic technology is that there is a tremendous
flexibility in the kinds of designs and applications that solar power can
accommodate. There is a wide variation in the size of system, the complexity, and
the dependence or independence on natural cycles. There is not one best way to
design a photovoltaic system.

Application Flexibility
1 watt

Megawatts

Near existing
utility power

Remote

Daytime only

Any weather, any


time

Purely PV

Hybrid system

Centralized
generation

Distributed
generation



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Power Flexibility
The inherent modularity of solar photovoltaic systems means that there is
tremendous flexibility in the amount of power you can install. Wind generators begin
at about 500 watts of generating capacity, and fuel generators begin at a few
thousand watts. But you can install as little as a few watts of photovoltaic generating
capacity if that is all that is needed, for example to charge an electric fence energizer
or operate a small telemetry unit.
Hundreds or thousands of watts of power can be installed for homes, farms,
industrial or commercial uses, schools and clinics.
And hundreds of thousands or millions of watts of generating capacity can also be
installed economically as well. Large-scale utility systems serving thousands of
homes or businesses have been installed.

Near Utility Power or Remote


The historical market for photovoltaics has been remote applications where the cost
of extending utility power lines was prohibitively expensive. Even when the distance
for an extension is not very far and the cost is moderate, if the power needed is
small (for example to run a single water pump on a farm) it is still more economical
to install photovoltaic at the site instead of extending the line.
But you should not think of photovoltaics as being appropriate only for remote
applications. The costs involved in utility line hookup even when the distances are
very short can still be higher than the costs of installing a stand-alone photovoltaic
power system. Urban street lighting, bus shelters, advertising lighting and other
commercial uses of power might involve relatively short hookups, but the
transformers and equipment needed, the civil work to trench for power lines or install
power poles, and all the associated costs of utility hookup can make even a short
connection costly.
A perfect example of the cost effectiveness of photovoltaics in an urban electrified
setting is emergency roadside telephones. Thousands of these systems have been
installed along highways, where regular utility power is only a few feet away. But the
costs involved in civil work and equipment make installing photovoltaics the
economic choice.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Daytime Only or Anytime


Just because the photovoltaic modules use the sun this does not mean that the
loads need to operate during daylight. And it doesnt mean that you cant run your
loads during stormy weather. By using batteries for nighttime operation, and
including backup generators such as diesel, wind or hydro, you can design a system
that will operate in the harshest of environments.
But photovoltaics do offer the unique opportunity to avoid the cost and complexity of
these components if you indeed need only power during daylight! Water pumping is
a perfect example of how solar photovoltaics can match a load requirement with
minimal cost and complexity. A DC pump can be connected directly to a solar array,
and will automatically operate whenever there is sufficient sun. During the summer
when there is greater need for water, the system pumps more water automatically
because there is more sunlight! Attic or ceiling fans are other application areas
where direct coupling to solar modules results in low cost highly reliable operation
during daytime only.

Photovoltaics Only or Hybrid


Generation
Systems can be designed to operate with only photovoltaics as the source of power,
to maximize reliability and minimize maintenance and complexity. Or backup
generators can be included in the system design to provide power day and night and
during seasons of low solar radiation. A diesel, gasoline or propane generator can
charge the battery bank and operate AC loads as well. Wind generators or hydro
generators can also be connected to a system to provide power.
By combining the reliability and simplicity of photovoltaic modules with the 24-hour
availability of standby generators, you can get the best of both worlds.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Centralized or Decentralized
Generation
Photovoltaics are inherently a decentralized generation technology. The power that
is needed can be installed where it is needed. Each house, schoolroom,
commercial site or transmitter can be outfitted with its own independent system. If
one system fails or needs maintenance, or if the user exceeds the energy available,
the other systems continue to operate without interruption.
But decentralized systems require vigilance by their owners. If the skills or
knowledge of how to operate or maintain the system were not available, then
perhaps a centralized approach would be best.
A centralized photovoltaic power system could have all the modules, batteries,
inverter capacity and controls needed for an entire village. Trained personnel could
maintain the equipment, and would be responsible for proper operation. The users
of the energy are not as directly connected to the source of their energy, but perhaps
this approach is best for their situation.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Outdoor Lighting Applications


Outdoor lighting applications are often decentralized and relatively small, providing a
perfect match to photovoltaic power advantages. Each lighting unit can have its own
array and battery and controls for maximum reliability and flexibility in site location,
and minimum vulnerability to power loss. Often systems can be designed to operate
from only one or two modules.

Roadside Flashers

Highway Safety Signs

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Bus Shelters

Garden Lights

Portable Lanterns

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Telecommunications Applications
Telecommunications has always been an important market for photovoltaics. The
equipment used in many telecom applications is operated on DC power, making the
match to DC generated solar power simple and economical. Reliability in severe
climates is perhaps the most important attribute of photovoltaics for this market.
Downtime is terribly expensive and may be life threatening, so reliability is critical.
And the modularity and flexibility of photovoltaic system design means that modules
can be used to power even the smallest telemetry station as well as very large
microwave repeaters.

Microwave, TV or
Radio Repeaters

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Telemetry Stations

5-8

Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Radio and Telephones

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Navigation Applications
Similar to the telecom market, aides to navigation require the highest reliability.
Signals or lights must operate under all conditions, in all seasons. They are typically
located in remote sites, and traditional power sources such as utility line extensions
or diesel generators would be quite costly. Each navigational aid can have its own
photovoltaic power supply, making vulnerability to overall power loss extremely low.
And this market is a perfect example of how a relatively small amount of power can
produce a very large benefit.

Railroad Signals

Buoys

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Airport Approach Systems

Offshore Oil Platforms

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Cathodic Protection Applications


Cathodic protection involves the electrical prevention of rusting. Metals in contact
with the earth or moisture will naturally corrode. But this process is an electrochemical reaction, and can be reduced or practically stopped by applying a reverse
current to the natural rusting reaction. The electro-chemical reaction involves DC
current flow, so photovoltaic power is a perfect solution. Small systems can be
placed along remote stretches of buried pipelines, for example, and systematically
and automatically prevent corrosion with minimal maintenance requirements.

Well Heads

Oil and Gas Pipelines

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5-12

Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Water Pumping Applications


Productivity in farming can be drastically improved with greater access to water
supplies. Often photovoltaic power systems are used to replace windmills that have
just broken down too often, or cannot lift the water due to lowering water tables.
Instead of installing a diesel powered pump system in remote reaches of a farm, a
direct-coupled solar system can be installed. Such a water pumping system would
require no batteries, no need for fuel deliveries or engine maintenance, would
automatically produce more water in the summer when it is needed more, and would
greatly improve the productivity of the land. Simple water systems can also be
installed in remote villages or homes. Instead of drinking polluted surface water
villagers can drink fresh, clean ground water, thereby reducing disease related
problems and costs.

Livestock Watering

Irrigation

Village Drinking Supply

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Remote Habitation Applications


One of the most exciting markets for photovoltaics is for home lighting and
appliances. Single homes or whole villages can generate their own electric power
without the need for sophisticated maintenance or regular fuel deliveries. Small
clinics can operate vaccine refrigerators, sterilization equipment, emergency radios
and other critical loads. Typically they are located in very remote locations, and
money is not available for costly generator maintenance or fuel. Vacation homes or
cabins, or even regular residences can have all the comforts of modern life from a
photovoltaic power system, including lights, appliances, radio, TV, VCR, microwave
oven, computers, power tools and refrigeration.

Rural Home Lighting Systems

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Home
Electrification

Schools

Hospitals
and Clinics

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Power for Mobile Applications


Solar modules can be used in mobile applications for battery charging and operation
of appliances and equipment. For example mobile recreational vehicles (RVs) can
have a few modules mounted permanently on the roof, to supply quiet DC power for
lights, radio, TV, appliances, coolers and other small appliances. Boats can use
modules to keep starting batteries fully charged, and also for full operation while
running, such as lights, radio, radar and sonar, and other equipment.
And modules can be used for electric vehicle charging stations. Commuters with
electric vehicles can park under the shade of the solar array, and have their vehicle
battery recharged while shopping or during work hours.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Recreational

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Boats / Vehicles

5-16

Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Utility Interconnected Applications


for Demand Side Management (DSM)
As discussed in the previous chapter on Marketing, the application sector for utility
connected photovoltaic power systems is growing, and will become a major segment
of the worldwide market by 2010. Usually these systems are installed without
batteries. The depend on a reliable source of utility power for operation during
stormy weather and during each night. It is interesting that the utilities themselves
see distributed photovoltaic power systems connected directly to their grid as a
useful tool. They realize that such systems can contribute to what is called Demand
Side Management or DSM.

Decreased Need for Costly Peaking


Generation
In their drive to become more economical, utilities cannot just seek to make their
generators more efficient (supply side management), but also must look at how
their generated electricity is being used by their customers (demand side
management). Many utilities seek to help customers consume their electrical
energy more wisely and efficiently. This is especially true during the utilitys peak
demand periods, when costly peaking generators have to be turned on to meet
especially high requirements.

Same Effect as Installing More Efficient


Loads
The essence of DSM involves the user of the utility system being given information
or technology to help better manage and reduce their consumption, without
compromising their comfort or flexibility. One way to achieve DSM is to install more
efficient loads, such as fluorescent lights and computer controlled motors. But by
installing photovoltaics at a commercial or residential site, the customer can actually
generate some of his own energy from his roof, and DISPLACE energy that he
would otherwise consume from the utility. The overall effect is the same from the
utilitys point of view--less energy needs to be generated.
And the wonderful feature of photovoltaics as a DSM technology is that the energy is
generated automatically during the peak demand periods of most utility systems-during summer months and during the middle of the day. This helps especially with
offsetting the added demands of air conditioning, as well as meeting the usual
demands of lighting.
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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Commercial Farm DSM


Facility System

Individual Home Rooftop

Commercial Building with Integrated Module Facade

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Reduces Daytime Consumption at the


Customers Site
An example is shown below of the performance of a DSM system using
photovoltaics to reduce the daytime demand of a commercial office building in the
Sacramento, California area. Solar modules generate approximately 15 kW of peak
power during the middle of the day, and act to reduce the overall demand of the
commercial building on the utility system. For large customers, utilities might have
time-of-day pricing, where they would pay a higher price for electricity during peak
demand periods. The added cost of the photovoltaic equipment could be compared
to the reduced demand for exceptionally costly utility electricity.

PV Output Reduces Peak Demand


120
PV Output

Load (kW)

100
80

HVAC (minus PV)


60
Lighting

40
20

Computing

0
0

10

12

14

16

18

20

22

24

Hour of Day
PG&E R&D Building, June 21, 1990



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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Utility Applications for Grid


Support and Bulk Power Generation
A further development of utility interconnected photovoltaic systems is in the realm
of grid support. Large amounts of power (greater than 100 kW) are inserted into a
utilitys grid at strategic locations to support the quality of power supplied at the end
of the grid.

Improve Voltage at the End of Long


Lines
Utility lines travel long distances from their original source of generation, and branch
repeatedly to smaller and smaller systems of distribution, until finally relatively small
levels of voltage and power are delivered to individual customers. Along the way
some voltage is lost. If the loss becomes too great this can adversely affect the
customers loads.
A utility company may have to consider restringing new larger conductors for a
particular feeder system if voltage losses are too great. By inserting hundred of
kilowatts or megawatts of photovoltaic power right where it is needed the most, the
utility can improve the voltage delivery of selected feeders in a very economical way

Load Voltage (% of nominal)

Voltage Support Effect


110
105
100
95

With PV

90

Without PV

85
80
0

10

15

20

Distance From Substation (km) .


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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

6 MW Grid Support Facility

500 KW Grid Support Facility

200 KW Grid Support Facility

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Correct Power Factor


Another problem that utilities face at the end of long feeder lines is that the power
factor of their AC electricity can be poor. The power factor is a measure of how well
the voltage and current waveforms are synchronized with each other. A power
factor of 1.0 would mean that the current and voltage hit their peaks at exactly the
same moment, and maximum real power is transmitted. Over long transmission
lines there is a lot of capacitance, and this tends to push the voltage and current
waveforms out of sync. Also large motors at various commercial sites can also
push the waveforms apart. The more out of sync the current and voltage are, the
less real power is being delivered to the customer, even though the utility must
generate the real power in the first place.
Photovoltaic power systems putting their power through properly adjusted DC-to-AC
inverters could push the waveforms closer together, and result in improved power
factors and better efficiency.

Postpone Costly Transformer


Upgrades
Utility feeders have large multi-megawatt transformers that reduce the voltage of the
electric power from the very high values used for long transmissions down to more
manageable values for local distribution. The transformers are installed with more
power capacity than is needed, but with community growth they may reach near their
full capacity within a few years. At that time the utility might face the need to replace
the old transformer with a larger one. This can cost millions of dollars.
By installing a large utility interconnected photovoltaic power station downline from
the transformer, the required power can be delivered to the customers, and the
costly upgrade can be postponed for years. The cost benefit to the utility is
immediate and substantial, and shows the true cost effectiveness of photovoltaics.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Delivered Cost Of Utility Power Is Close


To Photovoltaic Cost
Various utilities have recently examined the true DELIVERED cost of their electric
power, as opposed to just looking at the cost of generating the power, and have
found that the dollar value of the electricity at the end of the wire can be substantially
higher than the busbar cost at the generator. This is extremely important because
economic analyses of conventional means of power generation (nuclear, coal, gas)
often look only at the generation costs but do not include all of the costs associated
with transmission and distribution (T & D). This is especially unfair when
comparing the costs of photovoltaic generated power, because photovoltaics is
inherently a distributed form of generation, and power can be generated close to the
customer thereby avoiding many of the T&D losses and costs of conventional
sources. This cost advantage must be looked at to fairly judge the cost
effectiveness of using photovoltaics in utility scale applications.
The results of two economic analyses are shown, one conducted by the Pacific Gas
and Electric (PG&E) utility for a 500 kW grid support system and the other by a utility
in Western Australia. The generation costs of utility electricity are low compared to
the relative costs of photovoltaics, but when all the T&D costs have been added, the
final effective cost of electricity at the customers site is almost doubled!
The cost components used for the analysis are defined below:

Energy:
Capacity:
Min. Load Savings:
QF Savings:
Loss Savings:
Voltage Support:
Substation:
Reliability:
Transmission:
Environment:

The value of fuel savings


The value of deferring new power plants
Avoid power plant operation at inefficient minimum loads
Reduced avoided cost payments to qualified facilities
Locating generation at the load reduces resistance losses
Reducing losses in a high impedance network
Value of avoiding or delaying substation upgrades
Value to customers of avoiding outages
Value of avoiding transmission line upgrades
Value of avoiding emissions

The real cost of large-scale photovoltaic generated power compares favorably to


these utility costs TODAY. There is little need for utilities to wait until the cost of
photovoltaics comes down it is cost effective for them today!

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Annual Levelized Value ($/kW-yr)

Economic Analysis of Grid


Support Systems
800
Environment

700

Transmission

600

Reliability

500

Substation
Voltage Support

400

Loss Savings

300

QF Savings
Min.Load

200

Capacity

100

Energy

0
PG&E

SECWA

Figure 5-4 Two utility analyses show real cost of delivered utility power

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Typical System Configurations


Most photovoltaic power systems are custom designed for their particular situation,
but we can generalize somewhat to show the common approaches to solving power
supply problems. In the following pages we present simple diagrams of the typical
configurations of equipment that are used to serve the applications that we have
discussed previously.
We can group system types into five broad categories:

Simple Single-Module DC Systems

Large DC Systems

AC Power Systems

PV-Generator Hybrid Systems

Utility Connected Systems

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Simple Single-Module DC Systems

Simple DC System
Configuration

DC Loads

 

Rural Electric Lighting Systems: A single module is connected to a single low


cost battery through a simple charge regulator. The regulator has terminals for
connection to a fluorescent light. The regulator should have a low voltage alarm
or relay that turns off the light if the battery voltage becomes too low. The user
would have to wait until the module charged the battery back to an acceptable
intermediate voltage before they could turn on the light again. The battery could
be a commonly available automobile battery. It wouldnt be expected to have a
long life, but its low cost would allow the initial system price to be acceptable.
Replacing the battery every year or so could be an acceptable price for clean,
reliable, safe lighting.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Street Lighting Systems: Single or multiple modules can be connected through


a charge regulator to a deep cycle battery, which powers a streetlight. These can
be used for roadside illumination or for parking lighting or pathway lighting. An
electronic dusk-to-dawn timer is included in the system for automatic operation of
an efficient fluorescent or low-pressure sodium lamp. The light is switched on
automatically at dusk, and either operates for a pre-set length of time or until
dawn. Rugged yet simple charge control and timer circuitry are demanded, for
reliable operation in severe environmental conditions. Sealed batteries are
preferred so that minimal maintenance and no corrosive gassing occur near the
controls. Yet these types of batteries may have shortened life in the outdoors
(hot) conditions expected for this application.

Portable Lanterns: Rugged portable lighting systems are a most affordable


option for low-income rural areas. Lanterns may have the solar module built into
the lantern housing, or more commonly have the module separate, connected by
a removable cord. Sealed maintenance free lead acid batteries are commonly
used, and nickel-cadmium batteries can also be used. Typical arrangements use
a 5-7 watt fluorescent lamp, and a 5-10 watt solar module. Usage time is
typically 4 hours.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Simple DC Water Delivery Systems

Simple DC System
Configuration



Personal water delivery systems: One or two modules connected directly to a


positive displacement DC water pump can deliver hundreds of gallons from
moderate depths. Typically a waterproof submersible motor and pump is
lowered down a well or borehole into the water. Modules can be directly
connected to the pump, or a maximum power tracking device can be connected
between the modules and the pump to maximize the electrical match and
improve output. During summer months when more water is typically needed for
drinking or irrigation and livestock, greater solar insolation means that more water
is pumped automatically.

Surface mounted pumps: An inexpensive solution to surface mounted water


pumping is to remove an AC motor and replace it with a DC motor that can be
directly connected to solar modules. An inexpensive jet pump conversion can be
made to surface mounted pumps to allow pumping from greater depths, although
the total output will be low due to the internal return flow of water to operate the
jet.

Floating pump: A floating pump is appropriate for canals, lakes, ponds and
even open wells.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Large DC Systems

Large DC System Configuration

DC
Loads

 

Multiple module arrays: Larger systems can be designed by adding more


modules and batteries. A larger charge controller would be needed to handle the
increased current flow from the array. Again, some DC loads could be
connected directly to the regulator.

Load distribution box: If the load circuits were too numerous, a DC circuit
breaker distribution box could be used to allow connection of multiple load
circuits.

Multiple charge controllers: If the array is larger than the current capacity of
one single charge controller, multiple charge controllers can be connected in
parallel. Slightly different charge voltages can be set to allow the battery to
gradually reach full charge.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

AC Power Systems

AC and DC System Configuration

DC
Loads
Inverter

Inverter

AC
Loads

 

Inverter operates AC loads: AC appliances can be powered by adding an ACto-DC inverter. This complex component switches electronically the DC voltage
and current from the battery to produce alternating current (AC) and voltage,
commonly used by household and office equipment. Such a power system could
then operate any load that might be needed, including computers, fax machines,
radio, TV, VCR and CD players, refrigerators and freezers, power tools and
kitchen and bathroom appliances. DC loads could still be included in the system
as well.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Photovoltaic-Generator Hybrid
Systems

Hybrid System Configuration

AC
Loads

 

Back-up generator: A common choice is a fuel powered motor generator, either


gasoline, propane, or diesel. By combining the reliability and quiet operation of
photovoltaic modules with the assured availability of generator power during any
season, you can assure power availability upon demand.

Transfer switch: Generator AC output power can be passed directly on to AC


loads. A transfer switch is needed to prevent generator power from feeding
backwards into the inverter. The transfer switch could be a fast acting electronic
design, or a simple manual switch that the user operates when needed.

Rectifier charges battery: The generator can also pass power through a
rectifier that changes the AC back to DC current and voltage. This DC power is
passed to the battery bank, to recharge the batteries after a long period of below
average weather. A smaller battery bank can be installed compared to standalone systems because system autonomy is now provided by the generator.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Hybrid System Configuration

AC
Loads


 !"

DC charging only: A hybrid system can be designed to have the generator act
only as a battery charger. No AC output from the generator is used to run loads.
Instead all the AC power for the loads is output only from the inverter. The
generator is turned on, either automatically by the charge control system or
manually by the user, whenever the battery voltage gets too low during bad
weather.

Avoid transfer switch: Operating all loads from the inverter means there is no
transfer switch glitches that could harm electronic equipment.

Operates generator at full power: The generator is sized so that it can operate
at its full rated output to charge the battery. When the batteries are sufficiently
recharged, the generator is turned off, and the finishing charge is supplied by the
solar modules. Operating at full output means maximum fuel efficiency and long
life.

Battery life extended: The generator is turned whenever needed to keep the
battery from staying discharged for more than a few days. Battery life is
maximized due to minimal sulfation.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Comparison Between Photovoltaic Only and


Diesel Only Power Systems
We can better understand the benefits of hybrid systems by looking at some
characteristics of photovoltaic-only and diesel-only systems. By combining the two
technologies into a hybrid system, we can usually achieve the best that both have to
offer.

Characteristic

PV only

Dependence on
natural cycles
Cost effective
size

highly
dependent
below 20-30
kwh/day

Reliability

excellent

Fuel

none

Maintenance

annually or
semi-annually

frequent

moderate

good

slow

fast

Initial cost

high

low

Operating cost

low

high

Handling load
peaks
Battery charge
rate

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Diesel only
independent
above 150
kwh/day
depends on
maintenance
frequent
deliveries

Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Utility Interactive Systems

Utility Connected Configuration



!"# $!%&
Instead of having a system independent of the utility grid a system can be designed
to work with the grid. A specially designed utility-interactive inverter is needed, and
many models are available worldwide. The basic arrangement of a utilityinterconnected system is quite simple.

The solar array is connected to the inverter, as are the utility lines. The output is
connected to the normal distribution box for the house or business.
During the day power generated by the array is fed into the inverter and changed
into pure sinusoidal AC power that is synchronized with the grid frequency.
If that power is needed in the home it is passed on. If the load demand is less
than what the array is producing, the excess is fed into the utility grid system, and
energy is credited to the home.
If more power is needed than the array can produce at a particular moment then
power is drawn from the utility to add to the array power.
Typically there are no batteries in utility-interconnected systems, so at night all
the power needed flows from the utility.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Recently, new designs of bi-directional inverters have been created that allow utilityinterconnected systems to have battery backup as well. AC power from the utility
passes through the normal meter and into a standard distribution center.
Synchronized sinewave power from the inverter is connected to this distribution
center as well. Inverter power is also available from a second AC output connection
and can be sent to a dedicated distribution box for critical loads.

Bi-Directional Utility Configuration

Critical Loads
(Operate from
battery)

Regulator

Battery

Inverter

Meter

Non-Critical Loads .
(Operate only
from utility
power)


!"%$&' $!%&

The inverter continuously shares between AC utility power and DC battery power.
AC power from the utility can be rectified into DC power and used to recharge the
battery bank during bad weather.
Battery power is drawn upon instantly if there is a utility power failure or
brownout, much like an uninteruptable power supply (UPS) system.
The non-critical load distribution center looses power when there is utility failure,
but the critical center continues to draw power from the inverter and battery.

Bi-directional utility interconnected system offer both independent power during


utility failures and utility backup during normal utility operation.

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

CHAPTER FIVE
APPLICATIONS AND TYPICAL SYSTEMS

5-1

Flexibility of Application
Power Flexibility
Near Utility Power or Remote
Daytime Only or Anytime
Photovoltaics Only or Hybrid Generation
Centralized or Decentralized Generation

5-2
5-3
5-3
5-4
5-4
5-5

Outdoor Lighting Applications


Roadside Flashers
Highway Safety Signs
Bus Shelters
Garden Lights
Portable Lanterns

5-6
5-6
5-6
5-7
5-7
5-7

Telecommunications Applications
Microwave, TV or Radio Repeaters
Telemetry Stations
Radio and Telephones

5-8
5-8
5-8
5-9

Navigation Applications
Railroad Signals
Buoys
Airport Approach Systems
Offshore Oil Platforms

5-10
5-10
5-10
5-11
5-11

Cathodic Protection Applications


Oil and Gas Pipelines

5-12
5-12

Water Pumping Applications


Irrigation
Livestock Watering
Village Drinking Supply

5-13
5-13
5-13
5-13

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Remote Habitation Applications


Rural Home Lighting Systems
Home
Electrification
Schools
Hospitals and Clinics

5-14
5-14
5-15
5-15
5-15
5-15

Power for Mobile Applications


Electric Vehicle Charging Station
Boats / Vehicles
Recreational

5-16
5-16
5-16
5-16

Utility Interconnected Applications for


Demand Side Management (DSM)
Decreased Need for Costly Peaking Generation
Same Effect as Installing More Efficient Loads
Reduces Daytime Consumption at the Customers Site

5-17
5-17
5-17
5-19

Utility Applications for Grid Support & Bulk Power Generation


Improve Voltage at the End of Long Lines
Correct Power Factor
Postpone Costly Transformer Upgrades
Delivered Cost Of Utility Power Is Close To Photovoltaic Cost

5-20
5-20
5-22
5-22
5-23

Typical System Configurations


Simple Single-Module DC Systems
Simple DC Water Delivery Systems
Large DC Systems
AC Power Systems
Photovoltaic-Generator Hybrid Systems
Utility Interactive Systems

5-25
5-26
5-28
5-29
5-30
5-31
5-34

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Fundamentals- Applications & Typical Systems

Chapter Six
The Physics of
Solar Cells
The process of direct conversion of light into electricity seems almost magic. In this
chapter, you will learn about the basics of how this process occurs, without the use
of intimidating formulas or confusing jargon. The purpose of this explanation is to
make you more comfortable with the fundamentals of how silicon solar cells work.
Other semiconductor materials can be used to make PV devices, but describing a
silicon-based device will illuminate the general principles common to all.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Holes and Conduction Electrons


All matter is made of atoms which consist of a small dense nucleus containing
positive and neutral particles (protons and neutrons) and a surrounding cloud of
fast moving negatively charged particles (electrons). The outer most electrons seem
to be arranged in symmetrical elongated shells or orbitals like stretched out
clouds. What is shown in the figure below is a single silicon atom, which has four
outer electrons.

Silicon Atom
nucleus
outer electron "cloud"
ee-

ee-



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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

When single silicon atoms are combined, they connect together to form a solid.
Neighboring atoms share outer electrons, forming bonds. These bonds where
electrons are shared between atoms is what holds all matter together. Crystalline
silicon consists of orderly bonding of each silicon atom with 4 neighboring silicon
atoms. Such a highly ordered structure of atoms is also called a crystal lattice.
A model of crystalline silicon is shown below. Each atom is represented by a large
ball, and the interconnecting rods represent the shared electron bonds. Each
silicon atom is connected or bonded to four other silicon atoms, forming a beautiful
repeating lattice structure. The lattice is the same arrangement as found in a
diamond, except that silicon atoms are present instead of the carbon found in a
diamond.



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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

At the atomic level, light acts as a flux of discrete particles called photons. Photons
carry momentum and energy but are electrically neutral. When semiconductor
material is illuminated by light photons of light actually penetrate into the material,
traversing deep into the solid.
Photons with enough energy that collide with electrons can dislodge them from their
bond. The photon disappears and its energy is transferred to the electron, which
becomes free to wander throughout the semiconductor material as a conduction
electron, carrying a negative charge and usable energy.
It is at the moment of releasing the electron that sunlight energy has been converted
into electrical energy.

Holes Created by Photon


photon
e-

e-

e-

e-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

e-

ee-

e-

eee-

e-

eee-

e-

e-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

e-

eee-

e-

eee-

e-

eee-

e-

e-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

ee- ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-



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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Whenever an electron is knocked loose it leaves behind a bond that is missing an


electron. Such an incomplete bond is called a hole.
A nearby electron can jump from its bond into the hole and fill it, but this leaves a
hole where the electron came from. In this way the hole moves in the material. But
wherever there is a hole, an electron is missing, resulting in a localized net positive
electrical imbalance there. The hole appears to be a positive charge moving in the
solid, although it is really an absence of an electron moving about. Overall the net
electrical charge of the material is neutral.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

P-Type Dopants
In the absence of any external electric field electrons freed and energized by
photons will wander for a short time and then recombine with a wandering hole.
The energy originally transferred to the electron from the photon is simply lost to the
semiconductor lattice as heat. The key to producing usable output current is to
sweep the freed electrons out of the material before they recombine with a hole.
When there is just silicon atoms in the lattice, the material is called intrinsic or pure.
One way to alter the electrical properties of silicon is to introduce elements into the
intrinsic semiconductor that contribute excess holes and electrons. Materials that
significantly alter the properties of semiconductors are called dopants and the
process of placing them into the semiconductor is called doping.

Boron P-Type Doping


Defecit of
one electron
leaves "hole"

Nearby electrons
can move in and
"fill" hole.

ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

ee-

ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e- B eee-

e-

e-

e-

ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-



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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

One dopant used with silicon is boron, which has only three outer electrons, one less
bonding electron than silicon. Each boron atom can only bond with three
neighboring silicon atoms, leaving one bond half-complete. A nearby electron from
a silicon atom can vibrate into the hole site next to the boron, filling the hole. But it
leaves behind an absence of an electron, a hole, where it originally came from.
Another nearby electron can vibrate into that hole, but leaves behind a hole where it
came from. So there exists in the semiconductor structure a wandering absence of
an electron.
Wherever this absence of electron (hole) is there is one too few electrons to balance
the positive charges of the nucleus of that particular atom. This results in a net
positive charge at that atomic site. As the hole site moves around, so does the net
positive charge. Since the moving charges in this material have a positive charge,
the semiconductor material is called positive-type or P-type.
The concentration of boron is quite low, usually around one boron atom to every
10,000,000 silicon atoms.
It is important to understand that the overall net charge in the semiconductor is
neutral, but if you look at small regions, there will be net negative charges at the
boron atom sites and net positive charges moving around with the holes. The boron
atoms will have a negative charge because a neighboring electron has fallen into the
incomplete bond and brings with it a net negative charge. The local negative charge
at the boron atom is balanced by the local positive charge near the hole, this being
now a silicon atom that has temporarily lost one of its outer electrons.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

N-Type Dopants
Another dopant used with silicon is phosphorous. Each atom of phosphorous has
one more outer bonding electron than silicon. The fifth electron breaks away from
the phosphorous atom easily because there is not bond to hold it. It becomes a
freely moving negatively charged particle. Since the moving charges in this type of
semiconductor carry a negative charge, this type of doped semiconductor is called
negative-type or N-type.
The concentration of phosphorous atoms is again quite low, but typically greater
than the boron concentration, usually around one phosphorous atom for every 1000
silicon atoms.

Phosphorous N-Type Doping


Extra electron
can wander
in crystal
ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e- ee- e- e- P eeee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

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e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

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ee-

e-

e-

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e-

ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

 
Once again, the net charge of the entire semiconductor is neutral. But in small local
regions you can find fixed net positive charges where phosphorous atoms are
permanently missing their fifth outer electron. And there will be moving negative
charges that are those fifth outer electrons, freely wandering throughout the lattice.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Creating An Internal Electric Field


Regions of p-type boron-doped silicon and n-type phosphorous-doped silicon are
created adjacent to one another. Some free electrons in the n-type region cross
over and fall into the holes in the p-type region where they remain permanently.
As this cross over process continues, every boron site that contributed a hole
becomes permanently negatively charged, and every phosphorous site that gave up
an electron becomes permanently positively charged. Two equivalent but oppositely
charged regions grow on either side of the p-type/n-type interface, creating an
electric field.
The electric field is oriented to push electrons in one direction, toward the n-type
region, and any holes are swept toward the p-type region. Any freely moving
charges that enter the zone of influence of the field are immediately swept out of that
zone, so that zone is called the depletion region. A name given to this type of
electric interface is a p/n junction.

Creating Electric Field


P-type silicon region
ee-

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

ee-

e-

e-

N-type silicon region

e-

e-

e-

e-

e-

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e-

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e-

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ee- B
e-

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e-

e-

e-

Permanent internal electric field and lines of force

 

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

The strength of the internal electric field is quite strong. The distance across the
region of the field is only about one micron (1/10,000 of a centimeter, or 1/25,000
inch), but the field potential is about one volt. This means that if the field were to
extend across one inch it would be about 25,000 volts! This strong field is
equivalent to an electronic broom that can sweep freed electrons out of the cell
and create the one-way flow of electrons that can be called electric current.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Internal Electric Field Sweeps


Electrons Out of Cell
It is this internal electric field that sweeps electrons out of a cell. When light
penetrates into the semiconductor material, knocking free electrons and giving them
potential energy, the freed electrons wander until they are pushed by the electric
field across the P/N junction. They are forced out of the cell, and are available for
useful work.

Internal Field Sweeps Electrons


Out of Solar Cell
Newly created hole

Lines of force of
permanent internal
electric field

h+

photon

eElectrons
return from
eexternal
Freed
electron
circuit to
fill holes.

Electrons
flow on to
next cell
or out of
module
and into
external
circuit.

P/N Junction region

 

In a module, a number of cells are connected together in series. The electrons flow
from one cell into conductors that carry them to the next cell. In the next cell they
are once again struck by photons, given more potential energy, and swept out of the
cell. Finally the electrons leave the last cell in the module and flow to the load.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

For every electron that leaves a cell, there is another that is returning from the load
to replace it. The wire that is used to make the circuit from the module to the battery
or load and back to the module contains electrons, so as soon as an electron leaves
the last cell in a module and enters the wire, an electron at the other end of the wire
moves into the first cell in the module.
So the PV device cannot run down like a battery, nor can it run out of electrons.
It produces output (electrical energy) in response to input fuel (light energy). A PV
cell cannot store electrical energy, it can only convert light energy into electrical
energy.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Current Is Regenerated In Each


Cell
The current that is generated in a cell does not simply flow on through all the other
cells in series with it and eventually on to a load. The electrons that are liberated in
one cell flow through the internal p/n junction and on to the second cell, but they fall
into holes there and stop. They must be energized by photons again in that second
cell in order to move out of that cell and on to yet another, and so on. This is why it
is so important for all cells in a solar module to be equally illuminated by light, with
no shadows or dark regions. The current flow from one cell must be regenerated in
each and every cell in series with it in order to have the electric current flow properly.
We will discuss the severe negative effect of shading on cell and module output later
in the program.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Voltage Increases As Current


Passes Through Series Cells
In each cell electrons gain about one volt of potential energy (or voltage) when they
are energized and ionized by the photon. In passing through the p/n junction, they
lose about one half volt through collisions and accelerations, so they are left with
about one half volt of potential as they leave the front of a cell and move on to a
second cell. They enter into the back of the second cell, and fall into holes in the
silicon structure. This flood of electrons with about one half a volt of potential energy
raises the entire potential of the second cell. The voltage potential of electrons in
the second cell is about one half volt higher than it was in the first cell.
When electrons in this second cell are again struck by photons, they add the
approximate one volt of energy from the photon to their new higher base energy of
one half volt, so now they have about 1 volts of potential. But again in passing
through the p/n junction of this second cell they lose about one half volt again, so
they are left with a net voltage gain of about one volt when leaving this second cell.
They carry this one-volt on to the third cell, where they again fall into holes, and
await yet more photons to energize them again, and the cycle repeats for all the
cells in series.
Manufacturers connect enough cells in series to produce a final voltage that is
useful. Typically modules are used to charge 12-volt batteries, which actually need
about 14-15 volts to be fully charged. So 30-36 cells are usually connected together
in series to make a single module that can produce about 15-18 volts.
If higher voltages are needed, for example to charge higher voltage battery banks or
operate high voltage motors or interface with the high voltages of utility power, then
modules are connected together in series. Some photovoltaic systems that are
connected to inverters that produce AC power to feed into the standard utility power
grid operate at voltages of 450 volts! This would mean that over 1000 cells are
connected together in series! Remember though that each cell contributes only
about one half volt, whether it is the first cell in the series or the last.

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Exercises




     




  
 
  
 





       

 

 

  


     










  
 



 
  

 
     
 


 
  






    




  
   
  
  
  
  


   



    


   
   
  
   

  


 




   

     

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

6-15

Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics





   
    

  
    

    




 
  

 
   
 
 
 





 
       

   


   

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6-16

Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Spectral Response
Different sources of light may appear equal in brightness to the human eye but will
contain different amounts and intensities of colors. For example, fluorescent light is
typically stronger in the blue than incandescent lights. Also throughout a day there
is a difference in the spectral content of morning, noon, and evening sunlight, as can
be observed by looking at the sky.
Light is just a narrow range of all electromagnetic radiation that is emitted by the
sun. Radiation is a moving electric-magnetic field, and the field vibrates regularly at
a very rapid pace. The distance between the peaks of the vibrations of radiation is
called the wavelength of that radiation. Light is radiation between approximately
400 nanometers or nm (violet color) and 800 nm (red color).

Standardized Solar
Spectral Distribution
UV
Power
Density

Visible
Light

IR

1.2

( mw/cm2/nm)

0.8
0.6
0.4
0.2
200 400 600 800 1000 1200 1400
Wavelength ( nanometers, nm )

 

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

The spectral response is a measurement of the response (measured by generated


current) when a PV device is exposed to a spectrum or range of light. A 100%
response would mean for 100 photons of a certain wavelength that are absorbed,
100 electrons would be freed and swept out for use.

Spectral Response

Q
u
a
n
t
u
m

E
f
f
i
c
i
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n
c
y

1.00
CZ

0.80

CIS
TFS:H

0.60
0.40
0.20
0.00
0

0.2

0.4

0.6

0.8

1.2

Wavelength (m)

 

Light of the same color or wavelength will produce different amounts of current in
different semiconductor devices. The spectral response of a typical CZ silicon cell
begins about 350 nm, peaks around 800 nm and falls off rapidly beyond 1100 nm.
The response range spans the entire visible spectrum and reaches into the near
infrared. The spectral response of a typical cell made from thin film
silicon:hydrogen, on the other hand, is narrower, beginning around 300 nm, peaking
around 500 nm, and falling off beyond 700 nm. And a third type of PV device
material, copper indium diselenide or CIS, has yet another spectral response range,
beginning just short of the other two but extending further into the invisible infrared
region.
Because a cells response to light depends on the wavelength of that light, just
knowing the total energy of the light is not enough information to predict cell output.
Two sources of light can have the same total energy density but one source could
have its energy in the form of a few high energy blue photons, while another could

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

contain many low energy red or infrared photons. Also, two light sources can
appear to be similar in brightness to the human eye, but one may emit a great deal
of extra radiation beyond the visible range where our eye will not notice but to which
the PV device will respond. A standard typical outdoor spectrum has been defined
as the spectrum from the sun that filters through 1.5 thickness of our atmosphere,
and is referred to as Air Mass 1.5. This serves as a common reference spectrum
for comparing device output.

Exercises


 
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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

(End of Chapter)

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

CHAPTER SIX
THE PHYSICS OF SOLAR CELLS

6-1

Holes and Conduction Electrons

6-2

P-Type Dopants

6-6

N-Type Dopants

6-8

Creating An Internal Electric Field

6-9

Internal Electric Field Sweeps Electrons Out of Cell

6-11

Current Is Regenerated In Each Cell

6-13

Voltage Increases As Current Passes Through Series Cells

6-14

Spectral Response

6-17

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Fundamentals Photovoltaic Physics

Chapter 6 Answers
The Physics of Solar Cells



The photovoltaic effect describes the property of certain materials to produce electrons
when light falls on (and is absorbed by) the material's surface.


Electron, positive (+)


b. An electron around a silicon atom


c. Get the electrons out before they recombine with a hole


N, negative, electron


P, positive, "hole" (absence of an electron)


Negative, positive



N, phosphorous


b. Convert energy

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

6-1

Photovoltaic Physics



c. Light particles (photons)


d. Receive electrons from the circuit as other electrons leave the cell and pass into the
circuit.


b. CZ Cell (refer to spectral response graph)

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

6-2

Photovoltaic Physics

Chapter Seven
Module Manufacturing
and Testing
The manufacturing process used by Siemens Solar involves many proprietary elements
and is quite involved. But it is important to discuss the manufacturing process so that
you can appreciate the technical features and benefits of the modules, and can have
confidence in the durability and longevity of the products.
The manufacturing process can be presented as three segments or phases: crystal and
wafer fabrication; cell manufacturing; and module assembly. Each of these processes
is discussed next.

Manufacturing Flow
Crystal and
Wafer Fabrication

Cell Manufacturing

Module Manufacturing

Change quartz
into pure silicon

Diffuse with
phosphorus

Solder cells
together

Melt and grow


into single crystal

Coat with antireflective coating

Laminate

Crop, slab and


saw into wafers

Print contacts

Attach frame,
j-box, diodes

Etch surface

Electrical test

Final electrical
test


     

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Wafer Manufacturing
Raw Materials
The process of making a solar module ultimately begins by mining the raw material.
This usually consists of high quality silica or quartz (SiO2) from mines around the world.
Silicon (Si) is an abundant element on the earth, and can be found in common sand,
but it is more economical today to begin the process with silica that has been somewhat
naturally purified. In large furnaces, the silica is reduced to silicon and then purified
until it becomes 99.9999% pure! Examples of these purified rocks of silicon are shown
below.

 

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Crystal Growing
Chunks of purified silicon are carefully loaded into a crystal growing furnace, along with
a small amount of the element boron. The furnace is sealed and the chunks are heated
to greater than 1400 deg.C. (over 2500 deg.F.) until they melt (Figure 7-4). A small
seed crystal of pure silicon about the size of a pencil is lowered inside the furnace until
it touches the liquid. The cooler seed acts as a template and atoms of silicon and
boron freeze onto it, and the seed begins to grow (Figure 7-5). By carefully controlling
temperatures and the speed of growth, the diameter of the growing crystal is increased
to about 5" and then held steady by computerized controls. The crystal is then grown in
length until almost all of the original silicon material is exhausted.

This process of growing a single crystal structure from a small seed crystal is called the
Czochralski method, usually abbreviated as just CZ.

 

 
 

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Cropping
After removal from the crystal growing furnace, the ingot top and bottom (crown and
tail) are cropped off and recycled (Figure 7-6). The ingot is cut into short sections for
easier handling. The sides of the section are cropped along its length to make a
squared-off block. The M line of cells is cut almost square for the greatest packing
density in a module. The Pro line of cells is cut less, leaving more of a rounded shape
(Figure 7-7).

 

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

M and Pro Series Cells

M series cell pack


together m ore densly

Pro series cell requires


less overall processing

 

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7-5

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Slicing Wafers
The section is mounted into a wire saw to cut individual wafers. The wire saw involves
a single long thin wire wrapped many hundreds of times around four rotating drums.
The ingot section is placed in the center of the four drums, and is slowly pushed up
through the web of the wires. Hundreds of thin silicon wafers are cut all at the same
time this way.

Surface Etching
The wafers are then etched to remove some surface damage caused by the wire saw
abrasion, and to create a surface that helps absorb light (Figure 7-9). The final wafer
surface is made of millions of tiny 4-sided pyramids, following the pure crystal structure
in the original seed. These pyramids reflect light amongst themselves and allow more
light to be absorbed (Figure 7-8).

 

 

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Cell Manufacturing
Diffusion
Wafers are next loaded into diffusion tubes which are long tubes of silica glass,
surrounded by large resistive heaters, and that will contain a hot gas of phosphorous. A
computer controls the entire process, slowly moving wafers into the chamber, allowing
gases to flow for precise amounts of time, and then removing the wafers (Figure 7-10).
This process is conducted in clean room conditions similar to the semiconductor
industry. Clean room conditions are important in optimizing the performance of the
cells.




Inside the tube atoms of phosphorous penetrate or diffuse into the wafers a short
distance, only 12 millionths of an inch or 0.3 microns, and embed themselves in the
crystal structure. This embedding of select impurities into a semiconductor like silicon
is called doping.
The differences between phosphorous-doped silicon and the base material of borondoped silicon set up a permanent electric field in each wafer. This field sweeps out
electrons that are knocked loose by light, and makes the wafer into an active solar cell
when light shines on it.

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Anti-Reflective Layer Deposition


The diffused wafers are coated with thin films of metal oxide to effectively reduce the
amount of light reflected from the surface, and therefore increase the amount of light
absorbed and converted into electricity. This AR coating turns the cell surface dark
blue. This is because the cells are most effective with green, yellow, and red light, and
do not use blue light very well. So the design of the AR coating is optimized for the
most effective light, and the blue light is allowed to be partially reflected, so the cells
look blue.

Screen Printing of Gridlines


The cells are loaded onto a series of automated high-speed screen-printers that deposit
a pattern of metal paste onto the front and back (Figure 7-11). The pattern of thin lines
and contact pads is designed to efficiently collect electrons that reach the cell surface,
without blocking out too much sunlight.



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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

The metallic gridlines are the final structure that makes up a complete cell.

Structure of CZ Cell
Metallic
Gridlines
Anti-reflective
Coating

150 nm
300 nm

N-type layer

Electric Field
at the p/n
junction

P-type layer

250000 nm

Metallic
Gridlines




Cell Operation

e-

Thin N-type Layer


P/N Junction
region of
electric field
Thick P-type Layer



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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Every cell is tested under simulated noonday sunlight to determine its electrical output,
and cells of similar output are sorted and grouped together (Figure 7-14).




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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Module Manufacturing
Interconnecting Cells
Cells are connected together in series to add voltage. This is done by an automated
soldering machine that connects the back of one cell to the front of the next with two
ribbons of tin-coated copper ribbon (Figure 7-15). The cells are soldered to the ribbons
at multiple points to allow for expansion and contraction of the copper against the
silicon. Two ribbons are used to add reliability to this critical interconnection.

Lamination
Strings of 10, 11, or 12 cells are soldered together to create final groups of 30, 33, or 36
cells, and then are laminated into a sandwich of support materials designed to insure
long operating life. The sandwich consists of tempered glass, then one layer of EVA
(ethylene vinyl acetate), the cell circuit, another layer of EVA, and finally a back cover of
multiple polymer sheets that prevent moisture penetration. The interconnected cell
circuit is therefore floating in a sea of plastic. The sandwich is first sealed in vacuum
laminators that remove moisture and air and soften the plastics, and is then thermally
set in large ovens.

Final Module Assembly Steps


An edge gasket is placed along the perimeter of the laminate to create a soft cushion
for the final metal frames. A strong frame is attached to the edges of the laminate for
strength.
In modules which have three strings of cells (such as the SM55, SM50-H and SM46),
separate positive and negative junction covers are attached at each end. Each box is
secured to the laminate with strong adhesive, and contains a bypass diode, which
decreases the negative effects of any shading of cells that might occur.
In module designs with four strings of cells (such as the SP75), a single junction box is
attached at one end of the module. Dual bypass diodes can be installed in the single
junction box, with each diode protecting one half of the module circuit.

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Every completed module is tested again under simulated noonday sunlight to insure it
meets minimum power output specifications. The output is recorded on computer for
quality control and customer assurance. The modules also are tested for safe high
voltage operation by putting 3000 volts between the circuit and the metal frame. All
modules are also visually inspected for blemishes or flaws before being packaged 4 to
a box for shipment.

Cells Connected In Circuit

e-

CZ cell

Interconnecting
copper ribbons




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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Exercises



 
  

 
  

  
 


  

  

 
  
  
 
 
 
 
   

  
  
    




    
   
  
     
 

 


 
 
 
        
 
  

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7-13

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Qualification Testing of
Module Designs
PV power systems must be reliable even in the harshest environments and operate for
many years to be economically justified. Siemens Solar currently guarantees module
output for 10 years, and life cycle cost analyses are done based on module life of 20
years or greater. To be confident to make such long-range projections, module
manufacturers subject their modules to intense testing to qualify their electrical and
physical design. These tests are not normally done on every production module
because they are destructive tests and they can cause some discoloration or
degradation to the tested modules. These tests described below are qualification
tests which means that they are used to qualify an existing or new module design as
a truly robust, long-life design, suitable for installation in any climate for many years.
These tests are typically done on any new module design or when changes are made
to existing designs. Module manufacturers may have their Quality Assurance
Department perform some of these tests on an ongoing basis on samples of regular
production modules, to continually check that manufacturing processes are producing
quality products.


 !"#  

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

CEC Tests (JPL Block V Tests)


The first work done on creating standards for testing terrestrial solar modules was done
by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) of the California Institute of Technology for the
U.S. Department of Energy back in the late 1970s. JPL was asked to develop a set of
tests to demonstrate module durability and reliability. Over a period of a few years, the
tests evolved with modules being obtained from U.S. manufactures in block buys, so
the tests became know at the Block I Test, then the Block II Test, and so on. The
last version of the JPL test design was Block V, and these are detailed in JPL
Document No. 5101-162, Block V Solar Cell Module Design and Test Specification for
Residential Applications - 1981. The basic test design developed by JPL has been
modified by various organizations around the world.
The Commission of European Communities (CEC) and the International European
Community (IEC) have developed updated qualification tests based on the initial work
done by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The latest version of the CEC test is CEC 503,
which supersedes CEC 502 and 501. To pass modules may not exhibit greater than
5% loss of electrical power in any test.

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Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

CEC Tests Summary:


UV Exposure:

Modules are exposed to 15 hours continuous of 1000 watts/m2 of UV light, to


accelerate any degradation of the encapsulant plastic.

Damp Heat:

Modules subjected to 1000 hours continuous of 85% relative humidity at 85oC. This
simulates severely humid tropical environments and will reveal any weaknesses to
moisture penetration.

Thermal Cycling:

Modules are heated to 85oC then cooled to -40oC for 200 cycles. This is a greater
temperature swing than any real module on the earth would experience. This tests for
effects of expansion and contraction of contacts and lamination.

Humidity-Freezing:

Modules are thermal cycled from 85oC to -40oC in 85% relative humidity for 10 cycles.
This tests for ingress of moisture that could result in corrosion and deterioration of the
laminating plastics.

Mechanical (Wind) Loading:


Modules are mounted in a frame and subjected to 50-pound/square foot (psf) or 244
kg/m2, equivalent to 125 mph (200 km/h) winds, on alternate front and back for 10,000
cycles. This is to simulate severe wind conditions and to check for loosening of
contacts and possible cell breakage.

Twisting:
Modules are fixed at three corners and the forth is lifted approximately 1" (3 cm), to
again simulate wind conditions and torquing, to check for cell breakage and loss of
electrical contact.

Hail Stone Impact:


Ice balls are shot directly at the module glass front surface from a cannon using
compressed air. Various impact points are chosen, including above cell edges, the
center of the glass, and above interconnects. Siemens Solar modules withstand 1 1/2"
hailstones traveling at 63 mph in this test (4cm diameter at 100 km/h). In a real
hailstorm, many stones would impact the glass at angles, and would glance off.

High Electrical Potential:


3000 volts DC is applied between the cell circuit and the metal frame to test for any
current leakage. A maximum of 50 microamps is allowed to flow at room temperature.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-16

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

UL Approval of Siemens Solar Modules


Siemens Solar modules have qualified for the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) listing
(Figure 7-16). This listing assures consumers as well as inspectors, installers, lenders
and other professionals that the module design is safe. A wide variety of tests were
performed to insure that the modules are safe for consumers. Some are presented
below:

Construction Integrity:
Insulating materials, current carrying parts, internal wiring wireways, assembly and
installation factors, connecting means, bonding, material compatibility, spacing, wiring
compartments, corrosion resistance, sharp edges, accessibility, fire resistance and
encapsulation.

Performance Tests:
Temperature, voltage and current measurement, leakage current, strain relief, dielectric
voltage withstand, inverse current overload, installation/maintenance, impact, fire,
exposure to water spray, accelerated aging of gaskets and seals, temperature cycling,
humidity cycling, metallic coating thickness, hot spot endurance, arcing, mechanical
loading, junction cover crush resistance.

Underwriter's Lab Tests

Consumer and Inspector


confidence in UL label
Construction Integrity
materials used, safe design, fire
resistance

Performance Tests
impact, inverse current, water,
crushing, gaskets

Siemens Solar Industries


Camarillo, CA 93011
MODEL M55
PHOTOVOLTAIC MODULE
AT 1000 W/ M 2 SOLAR IRRADIANCE
AND 25oC CELL TEMPERATURE

MAX. POWER
53 WATTS

30B9 LISTED

SHORT CKT.
3.35 A

RATED
3.05 A

MAX. SYST. OPEN CKT. V.


600 VOLTS

OPEN CKT.
21.7 V

RATED
17.4 V

FIRE RATING
CLASS C

SERIES FUSE
5A

FIELD WIRING
BYPASS DIODE
COPPER ONLY, 14 AWG MIN. INSTALLATION GUIDE
INSULATED FOR 75 C MIN.
233-701500-20
MADE IN U.S.A.



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-17

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

U.S. Coast Guard Tests


The US Coast Guard has developed its own rigorous qualification test program detailed
in Specification 401 (III), Solar Photovoltaic Arrays for 12 volt DC Marine Aids to
Navigation. Some are variations of the JPL type of tests, while some, like the PIT
test, are unique to the USCG. Special modules (MAR 10, 20, and 35 modules) are
manufactured by Siemens Solar to meet these extremely tough requirements:

Pressure Immersion Temperature Cycling (PIT):


Modules are immersed in salt water and alternately pressurized from 0-5 psig (0-3500
kg/m2). The water temperature is cycled from 40-50oC. to 3-9oC. for 500 cycles. This
is a severe test of a modules ability to handle operating in harsh marine environments,
where navigational buoys might be tossed by large waves.

Shock:
Modules are lifted at one edge to a height of 4" (10 cm) and dropped.

Twisting:
This twist test is similar to the CEC test where one corner is lifted approximately 1
(3cm).

Steel Ball Impact:


This is a more severe test than the ice ball impact test, where a 2.36 oz. 1" diameter
steel ball (67 gm 2.5 cm diameter) is dropped onto the module glass front from a height
of approximately 3 feet (1 meter).

Termination Robustness:
The module is suspended by its electrical output cable.

Temperature Shock:

Modules are cycled 3 times between 71oC. and -57oC. with a transition time of less than
5 minutes. This is more severe than the gradual temperature transitions of the thermal
cycling described earlier, and would simulate modules mounted on offshore buoys
being tipped into freezing arctic waters.

Vibration:
Modules are subjected to varying frequency of vibrations from 5 to 200 Hz for 84
minutes along each of the three axes.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-18

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Specific Features and Benefits of


Siemens Solar Module Technology
The entire goal of the manufacturing engineering done at Siemens Solar is to produce a
module that can last in the real world. The preceding discussion of module
manufacturing and testing cannot be of value unless it is connected to benefits to the
final user of the modules. Some of the ways that the technical features of the modules
can result in direct user benefit are listed below.

Single Crystal (Czochralski Method) Silicon Cells


The extremely quick output response to even dim light means high efficiency during
dawn and dusk and in overcast environments, and superior performance during the
most critical time of the year. This superior performance leads to lower cost per usable
amp-hour delivered to loads.

Textured Cell Surface


Tiny pyramids etched on the cell surface scatter all wavelengths of light, and increase
absorption and reduce reflection inexpensively across the full solar spectrum. This
feature is unique to single crystal lattice materials, as polycrystalline surfaces do not
have uniform lattice orientation and therefore cannot achieve uniform pyramidal
reflection enhancement.

Anti-reflective Coating on Cells


Multiple layers of thin metal oxides cover the front surface of each cell, to more
gradually change the index of refraction from glass to silicon, thereby decreasing
reflection and increasing light absorption and efficiency. The Siemens Solar TOPStm
process is our proprietary method for optimizing and matching both a texturized surface
and an antireflective coating, which produces a superior absorbing surface.

Emissive Back Surface


A final back layer of highly emissive white Tedlar minimizes module and cell
temperature, and therefore maximizes cell output.

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7-19

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Choice of Single or Separate Junction Boxes


The SM-series of modules have separated positive and negative junction boxes, which
makes wiring easy and reduces the possibilities of wiring errors in the field.
The SP-line modules (and SM55-J module) have a large single junction box that
accepts either conduit or single conductor cable pushed through a waterproof
elastomer seal. The large J-box contains dual bypass diodes that are attached with
screws for easy replacement, as well as allowance for a screw-in blocking diode. All
stainless steel screw terminals and two isolated floating terminals insure easy and
reliable connections.

6 or 12 volt Configuration
The new large single J-box allows for field adjustable operation at either 6- or 12-volts.
A wiring diagram is molded into the terminal cover for permanent reference.

White Background Around Cells


The space between cells is filled with an extremely bright white background. Light that
does not hit a cell is scattered by this specular surface and is internally reflected within
the glass until it reaches a cell edge. Thus light that might not have been used is
converted into current. This is more efficient than other module designs with a blue or
less reflective surface.


$"#%   "

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7-20

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Cell Crystal Planes Oriented at 45o Angle to Cell Edges


The single crystal structure is oriented so that the orthogonal crystal planes are not
parallel to the cell edges, but are angles at 45o. Any small cracks will probably
propagate under the dual interconnect ribbons and not cut off an edge section from
contributing power. This reduces the chances of local hot spots and increases the
reliability of output over a long module life. Polycrystalline cells cannot be oriented in
this way.

External Grounding Screw


Positive grounding of module frame is easy and increases chances of survival in
lightning strikes.

Dual Cell Interconnect Ribbons


Two solder coated copper ribbons fully span both the top and bottom of each cell. This
insures cell interconnection even when a cell is cracked or when glass is shattered.

Cells Soldered at Multiple Points


Interconnect ribbons are not solidly soldered to the silicon but have multiple contact
points. This reduces tension from the difference in thermal expansion of silicon and
copper, and increases the life expectancy of the module.

Tempered Water-White Low Iron Glass


Maximum protection and maximum transmission of light are possible. The glass does
not appear green when viewed on edge, due to extremely low amounts of iron that
would scatter and absorb light.

Glass Roughness (Stipple) Faces Inside


The rough surface from the tempering is placed on the inside, so that a smooth surface
is presented to the environment. This allows for the natural cycles of wind and rain to
efficiently clean the module, virtually eliminating the necessity of cleaning.

Junction Box Lid Attached to Junction Box


A strong connecting strand keeps the lids with the modules, preventing loss during
installation or maintenance.

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7-21

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Dual Bypass Diode Protection


Some manufactures allow for only one bypass diode to be installed in their junction box.
All Siemens Solar power modules have two bypass diodes installed at the factory. The
number of series cells removed from the circuit in the case of local shading is not the
full 36 cells in one module, but is limited to 24 cells in the SM-series and only 18 cells in
the SP-series of modules. This reduces the heating of any shaded cells, and preserves
array output power even better during periods of local cell shading.

High Dielectric Polymer


Current leakage from the cells to the metal frame is limited well below 50 microamps
even at 3000 volts, for added safety in high voltage arrays.

Back Contact Pattern is a Grid


An open grid of silver lines gives equivalent conductivity to a solid back contact, but
reduces cell cost and allows for unused long wavelength light (infrared) to pass through,
reducing module temperature and maximizing voltage.

UL Approval
The Underwriter's Laboratory approval gives extra assurance to developers, installers,
lending institutions, and customers that the technology is proven and safe.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-22

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Modules Are Extremely Reliable


Perhaps the most essential benefit of using photovoltaic power is high reliability. The
technical features described earlier combined with high overall manufacturing quality
result in an extremely reliable product, as our module return experience illustrates:

Module Return History

Solar modules are extremely reliable!


During 1983-1992
Total installed time
Total returns
+ Failure rates:

181,611 SM50-H sold


637,558 years
385 modules

.069 failures/ million hours


.0006 failures/ year



An analysis was done in 1994 for our popular SM50-H module. The total returns due to
module failure were accumulated for a ten year period, and compared to the total hours
of operation worldwide for all the SM50-H modules shipped and installed during that
time. With only 385 modules returned for failure during the ten years, and a total
estimated operating time of over 637,000 hours for all the 181,000 modules shipped,
the failure rate calculates to be only .069 failures in one million hours of operation! Or
about one failure in 14 million hours!
It must be emphasized that a complete power solution usually involves more than just
modules. Batteries, charge regulators and control systems, fuses and circuit breakers,
diodes, and of course load devices are involved. All of these other components have
failure rates higher than solar modules, and care must be taken when designing and
installing photovoltaic power systems to minimize their effect on overall reliability.
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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-23

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Exercises


* 
 !
    

 
 
 

  !   + 


 
  !
   

   

   
 
  
  
  %
 

  ,    



  


 
 




 



  
 
 



-.


 






 

 
  ))))
/
 
 ))))
  
 

))))
(
  012(   ))))
3
  
))))

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-24

  


))))
))))
))))
))))
))))

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

World Class Module Specifications


The previous discussion illustrates the extent that Siemens Solar seeks to achieve the
highest quality products for the world market. We seek to set the standard for solar
module performance and quality. Many of you will be involved in the process of writing
or reviewing proposals and tenders for solar equipment. We would hope that you
would apply the highest standards to module manufacturing, testing and performance
measurements.
Below are listed the various standards of performance and testing that Siemens Solar
modules have met. They should be the standard for consideration to insure a world
class project or system!

Include In Tender Specifications...


Performance tested in accordance with IEC
904 and ASTM E1036
Pass environmental tests required by JPL
5101-161 (Block V)
Meet UL 1703 requirements and listed under
UL file No. E79555
Qualification certificate issued by CEC Joint
Research Center, Ispra Establishment
registration No. PV-MT-503-83/95 according to
requirements of CEC specification No. 503
 

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7-25

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

(END OF CHAPTER)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-26

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

CHAPTER SEVEN
MODULE MANUFACTURING AND TESTING

7-1

Wafer Manufacturing

7-2

Cell Manufacturing

7-7

Module Manufacturing

7-11

Qualification Testing of Module Designs


CEC Tests (JPL Block V Tests)
UL Approval of Siemens Solar Modules
U.S. Coast Guard Tests

7-14
7-15
7-17
7-18

Specific Features & Benefits of Siemens Solar


Module Technology

7-19

Modules Are Extremely Reliable

7-23

World Class Module Specifications

7-25

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

7-27

Components Module Manufacturing & Testing

Chapter 7 Answers
Module Manufacturing & Testing



The incorrect steps are:
f. 20% of all modules made are tested for output power (100% of the modules are
tested for output power)
j. Boron is added to each wafer before printing (boron is added when the silicon is
melted to make crystals)


The proper order for the steps is:
l - d - b - m - g - i - a - e - c - k - h


Condition
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.

Test

Modules in a moist tropical climate


Modules bobbing on buoy in ocean
Modules on alpine mountain top
Modules in large 450 VDC array
Modules in thunderstorm area

h
e
g
a
b

Another test perhaps


g, a
c, f, g, h
d, g
d, g
c, d

Note: other combinations are possible.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

7-1

Module Manufacturing and Testing

Chapter Eight
Output Curves
The single most important technical aspect of photovoltaic cells and modules is the
current-voltage output curve. Understanding the curve allows a system designer to
anticipate how a module will be influenced by the environment, and how a particular
load will interact with the module. The output curve also shows how the module
output is "bounded" and therefore safer than battery or generator in the case of short
circuits. As you read this chapter sketch the curve often, label points on the curve,
and sketch how the curve might be influenced by the environment. This will help in
understanding sizing and wiring concepts presented later in this book.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-1

Components Output Curves

Basic Current-Voltage Curve


(The I-V Curve)
Standard Output Curve
4.00

60.00
Isc

50.00

3.00
Imp

2.50

40.00

2.00

30.00
Power

1.50

20.00

1.00

Voc

Vmp

0.50
0.00
0.00

5.00

10.00

15.00

20.00

Power (watts)

Current (amps)

3.50

Current

10.00

0.00
25.00

Voltage (volts)


The standard representation of the output of a PV device (cell, module, or array) is


called the current-voltage curve. The letter "I" is usually used to represent electrical
current, so this is also called the "I-V curve". The output current is fairly constant
over most of the operating voltage range, and is in fact considered as a type of
constant current source in this range. Eventually though at high enough voltage, the
relatively level current rapidly falls off past a "knee" region on the curve.
The curve represents a "snap-shot" of all the potential combinations of current and
voltage possible from a module under specified environmental conditions. The
particular current and voltage at which the module operates are dictated by the load.
This is discussed later in this chapter.

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8-2

Components Output Curves

Output Curve Terminology


Short Circuit Current (Isc):
The maximum current produced by a device under given conditions of light and
temperature, corresponding to no output voltage, so the power at this point is zero.

Open Circuit Voltage (Voc):


The maximum voltage from a device under given conditions of light and
temperature, corresponding to maximum voltage potential but zero current flow, so
the power at this point is zero.

Current at Maximum Power (Imp):


The current that results in maximum power under given conditions of light and
temperature used as the "rated" current of a device. This value usually occurs at the
knee of the I-V Curve.

Voltage at Maximum Power (Vmp):


The voltage that results in maximum power output under given conditions of
temperature and light, used as the rated voltage of a device and to determine how
many cells or modules are needed to match a load voltage requirement. This value
usually occurs at the knee of the I-V Curve.

Maximum Power (Pmax):


The maximum output power from a device under given conditions of light and
temperature. The product of the current at maximum power times the voltage at
maximum power.

Pmax = Imp X Vmp

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8-3

Components Output Curves

Module Output Curves


Most photovoltaic module manufacturers produce a variety of modules with different
voltage and current characteristics to suit different markets and customers. As an
example, the standard module I-V Curves for modules made by Siemens Solar are
shown below.

SM Modules

1000 w/m 2 and 25 deg.C.

5.00
4.50

Current (amps)

4.00
3.50
3.00

SM55

2.50

SM50-H

2.00

SM1

SM6

SM46

SM20

1.50
1.00
0.50
0.00
0.00

5.00

10.00

15.00

20.00

25.00

Voltage (volts)


It is the number of solar cells connected in SERIES that determines the maximum
voltage of a module. Each silicon solar cell can produce a maximum of about 0.6
volts at full sunlight. So 36 cells in series will result in a maximum voltage of about
21 volts. Some modules are made with 33 cells for a maximum of about 19 volts.
And modules made with only 30 series cells will produce a maximum voltage of only
18 volts.
And it is the SIZE (area) of a single cell that determines the maximum current
output. The Siemens Solar modules are made from two basic sizes of cell. The
square cell used in the SM-series of modules is about 104 mm in across, and
produces a maximum current of about 3.4 amps. The larger cell used in the SP
series of modules is about 125 mm across and produces about 4.8 amps maximum.

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8-4

Components Output Curves

To create a module that produces less current than the standard cell, cells are cut
into half or quarter, to give 1/2 or 1/4 the standard current. This is the case for the
Siemens Solar SM20, SM10, and SM5 (with 1/8 cell size). And the Siemens Solar
SP36 and SP18 are made of 1/2 and 1/4 cells cut from the larger SP75 cells.

SP Modules

1000 w/m 2 and 25 deg.C.

5.00
4.50

SP75

Current (amps)

4.00
3.50
3.00

SP36

2.50
2.00
1.50
1.00

SP18

0.50
0.00
0.00

5.00

10.00

15.00

20.00

25.00

Voltage (volts)



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-5

Components Output Curves

Exercises


Manufacturer
and model

 
 
  
 
 
  

   

    
 

Isc

Voc

Imp

Vmp

Pmax

# Series
Cells

Cell Size



         





!
"
#$



    %  %  





!
"
#$




&%    %


'
(
) 




&          *



 + 
   

&
  

   

&
  


Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-6

Components Output Curves

Effect of Environment on
Module Output Potential
The IV curve is really just a "snapshot" view of the potential output of a photovoltaic
device under static environmental conditions. If the environmental conditions are
changed, the output potential of the device changes. The three main environmental
conditions that we will examine are:

Light Intensity or Irradiance


Cell Temperature
Light Spectral Content

Effect of Light Intensity (Irradiance)


When the intensity, or irradiance level, of light changes the number of photons
entering the PV device changes, and the number of electrons released changes. So
the direct result of a change in light intensity is a change in output current at all
voltages.

Effect of Light Intensity (Irradiance)

Voc drops
slowly with
lower
irradiance

Lower irradiance
reduces current



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8-7

Components Output Curves

The Isc is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the light intensity, and the Voc varies
more slowly in a logarithmic relationship. In other words, the ratio of the Isc to the
light intensity or irradiance will be the same. If the light intensity is halved, the Isc
will drop to half.

Isc1
Light intensity1

Example:

Isc2
Light intensity2

A module has a rated Isc of 3.4 amps at 1000 w/m2. We can calculate
the Isc at another light level by taking the proportion of the new light
level to the standard level of 1000. If the actual light intensity on a
module were 850 w/m2, then the actual Isc would be given by the
proportion:

Isc1
Light intensity1

Isc2
Light intensity2

3.4 amps
1000 w/m2

Isc2
850 w/m2

Isc2

3.4 X ( 850 / 1000 )

2.9 amps

Standard Condition for Irradiance


A standard condition of light intensity has been established so that PV device output
can be compared. The internationally accepted standard is 1000 watts/m2 (or 100
mw/cm2). This is called "one sun" or "peak irradiance".

Standard Condition for Irradiance

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8-8

1000 watts/m2

Components Output Curves

Circumstances For Exceeding the


Standard
Most locations will measure less than this at noon, but many will measure more than
this. Sometimes white clouds will reflect more light onto the module surface
producing irradiance values of 1400 w/m2 or higher.
Measurements at high altitudes may be greater than the standard 1000 w/m2
because less air is between the sun and the surface, so more light gets through.
Sometimes ground reflectance from white sand or rocks or reflective building or
water surfaces will also raise the total intensity of light on a surface to greater than
the standard 1000 w/m2.

Cloudy Day

Clear Day

1000 w/m

1000 w/m

 
 

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8-9

Components Output Curves

Effect of Temperature
As the cell temperature rises, the main effect is to reduce the voltage available at
most currents. There is a slight rise in current at very low voltages. The change in
voltage is DIRECTLY PROPORTIONAL to the rise in temperature. It is important to
note that these factors refer to cell temperature, not just ambient or air temperature.
The relationship between air temperature and cell temperature depends on light
intensity, and is discussed later in this chapter.

Effect of Temperature
Isc rises slightly as temperature goes up

Higher temperature
reduces voltage

 !
Manufacturers of modules anticipate the lost of voltage in real world hot conditions,
and compensate by building modules with enough cells in series so that even when
very hot, the module has enough voltage to charge batteries or operate the load
device.
The general formula for determining the change in voltage with temperature is given
on the next page. The effect of temperature on Voc for one cell is multiplied by the
amount of temperature change and the number of cells in series. This will give the
voltage change for the whole module. Subtracting this voltage change from the
voltage at one temperature gives the voltage at another temperature.
Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course
Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-10

Components Output Curves

Example Cell Temperature Coefficients:


Siemens Solar
125 mm cell (140 cm2)

Siemens Solar
103 mm cell (104 cm2)

Parameter

Change
per oC

% Change
per oC

Change
per oC

% Change
per oC

Voc

-2.15 mV

-0.36 %

-2.15 mV

-0.36 %

Vmp

-2.18 mV

-0.44%

-2.19 mV

-0.45 %

Isc

2.06 mA

-0.04%

1.20 mA

-0.04 %

Imp

-4.37 mA

-0.10%

-3.23 mA

-0.10 %

Pmax

-9.53 mW

-0.45%

-7.08 mW

-0.47 %

"#

Example Module Temperature Coefficients:


Parameter

SM55

SP75

SM50-H30
(33 cells)

Voc

-0.077 volt / oC

-0.077 volt / oC

-0.071 volt / oC

Vmp

-0.079 volt / oC

-0.078 volt / oC

-0.072 volt / oC

Isc

1.20 mA / oC

2.06 mA / oC

1.20 mA / oC

Imp

-3.22 mA / oC

-4.42 mA / oC

-3.25 mA / oC

Pmax

-0.255 watt / oC

-0.345 watt / oC

-0.234 watt / oC

"#

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-11

Components Output Curves

Calculating Voltage Changes

Voltage Change

Voltage Loss Factor X Temperature Change


and

Voltage2 = Voltage1 - Voltage Change

Example:

A module has 36 cells in series for a Vmp of 17.3 volts at 25 oC. In real
world conditions, the cells will easily heat up to 50oC. Using the factors
presented, and multiplying by 36 cells and 50 - 25 = 25 oC.
temperature difference, we get
Vmp Change

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.079 v/oC X 25 oC
= -1.98 volts

Vmp2

= 17.3 volts Vmp (at 25 oC) - 1.98 volts


= 15.3 volts Vmp (at 50 oC)

which is still enough to fully charge a typical "12 volt" battery that
actually needs up to 15 volts to reach full charge.

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8-12

Components Output Curves

Calculating Power Changes


The overall reduction in maximum power (Pmax) is a general factor to use to
estimate the effect of temperature on output power, not just current or voltage. The
power reduction factor for solar modules as indicated in the table presented
previously is generally about -0.45% to -0.5%, and this includes changes in current,
voltage, and the curve shape. In other words, a cell or module will loose a little less
than 1/2% of its peak power with every degree in temperature rise.

Typical Maximum Power Reduction Factor

- 0.45 % / oC

The formula for determining the effect of temperature on overall device power is
given below. Use the overall reduction in Pmax factor given above and multiply by
the amount of temperature change. This will give the percentage of power change.

% Power Change = Pmax Reduction Factor X Temperature Change

Example:

A module is rated at 55 watts Pmax at 25oC. If it is operating outdoors


and heats up to 50 oC., then the Pmax will be reduced.
% Power Change

= -0.45% / oC
= -.45% / oC

X
X

(50 oC - 25 oC)
25 oC

= -11.25% change

Pmax2

= Pmax1

(1 - % Power Change)
100

= 55 watts Pmax (at 25 oC)

= 48.8 watts Pmax (at 50 oC)

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8-13

( 1 - 11.25 )
100

Components Output Curves

Standard Condition for Cell Temperature


Since PV device output is affected by cell temperature, a standard cell temperature
o
of 25 C has been accepted internationally. Stating the output of modules and cells
with reference to this common temperature allows for proper comparisons to be
made.

Standard Condition for Temperature =

25 oC

Temperature Effect Depends on the


Number of Series Cells
The factors given previously help to calculate the change in Voc (and Vmp), but they
dont really help to understand the effect temperature has on module output into a
battery. Battery charging is the most common use for photovoltaic modules, and it is
the battery voltage that determines where on the IV curve the module operates. An
average battery voltage of 13.5 volts can be used to illustrate the point.
The number of series cells determines the final module voltage and the voltage of
the knee. The difference between a 33-cell module and a 36-cell module becomes
critical when we look at the effect of temperature. The IV curve is reduced in voltage
at higher temperatures. This reduction causes the knee of the curve to move
inward, and since the battery is holding the module operating point to around 13.5
volts, the operating point actually moves downward along the knee. The amount of
decrease in current depends on how many cells in series.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-14

Components Output Curves

SM55
36 cells

Current (amps)

~13.5 volts average battery voltage


4 .0 0
3 .0 0

2 5 d e g .C .

2 .0 0

47 deg. C.

1 .0 0

65 deg C.

0 .0 0

SM50-H
33 cells

Current (amps)

0 .0 0

5 .0 0

1 0.00

2 0.00

2 5.00

Volta ge

4.00
3.00
2.00
1.00
0.00
0.00

1 5.00

25 deg. C.
47 deg. C.
65 deg. C.

5.00

10.00 15.00
Voltage

20.00

25.00

 $

We can see in the figures that the 36-cell module (Siemens SM55 in this example)
are less affected by high operating temperatures than the 33-cell module (Siemens
SM50-H). The 36-cell module drops from 3.3 amps at 25 oC to only 3.0 amps at 65
o
C, while the 33-cell module drops from 3.25 amps at 25 oC to less than 2.5 amps at
65 oC. However the 33-cell module drops to only 3.0 amps at a more moderate 47
o
C. Thus we see that a 36-cell module is designed to operate well in the hottest of
climates, while a 33-cell module performs well in more moderate temperatures.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-15

Components Output Curves

Exercises
2




% 
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Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-16

Components Output Curves

Spectral Content of Light


The spectral distribution of light refers to how much of the light's energy is delivered
at each different wavelength or color. The spectral distribution of the sun's light
above the atmosphere is nearly that of a "black body" or perfect radiator at 6000 oC.
The greatest output from the sun is in the visible range of wavelengths (roughly from
violet at 380 nm to red at 750 nm), but there is substantial energy output in short
wavelength ultra-violet (UV) and in long wavelength infrared (IR) and radio waves.
As the light passes through our atmosphere certain wavelengths are scattered and
absorbed more than others by air, moisture and aerosols. For example, the large
dips in the spectral distribution graph shown are due primarily to absorption by water
vapor. The proportion of reds, greens, blues, etc., will change depending on the
thickness of atmosphere that sunlight has to penetrate. That thickness varies hourly
as the sun rises in the sky. The thickness of atmosphere light must penetrate is
called the Air Mass (AM). If the sun were directly overhead, light would pass through
1 thickness of atmosphere, or 1 AM to reach the earth's surface. In the afternoon or
morning, the sun is at a lower angle, and the distance light must pass through might
be 2 or more times the noon time thickness (i.e.. 2 AM or more).

Effect of Light Spectrum


Sun at noon

Sun at
mid-morning

One Air Mass .


(AM 1 )
Earth
Atmosphere

1.5 Air Masses


( AM 1.5 )
 
Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course
Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-17

Components Output Curves

A standard set of atmospheric conditions has been established for the photovoltaics
industry by NREL, the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (formerly SERI,
Solar Energy Research Institute) in Golden, Colorado, for the U.S. Department of
Energy. This standard is listed as ASTM #E892, and among other factors is a
spectral distribution that is equivalent to light passing through 1.5 thickness of
atmosphere, or Air Mass 1.5 (AM 1.5).

Solar Spectral Distribution

ASTM #E892 or Air Mass 1.5

By standardizing the amount of atmosphere under which measurements of cell and


module output are made, we also fix the proportion of red, green, blue, etc. light, or
the spectral distribution. This standard is necessary because photovoltaic cells
respond differently to different wavelengths of radiation. (Recall the discussion of
spectral response in the chapter on Photovoltaic Physics). If a CZ cell were
exposed to blue light and red light of the same total energy, the current produced
would be higher for the red light. The standard spectral distribution of AM 1.5 gives
a common reference condition so modules from different manufactures and of
different construction can be fairly compared.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-18

Components Output Curves

Summary of Standard Conditions


Because the electrical output of a photovoltaic device is so affected by the
environment, we must standardize the conditions under which they are measured
and compared. Once those conditions are set, the output potential of the device is
absolutely determined.
The three standard conditions that are used to specify the environmental conditions
for photovoltaic devices are summarized below.

Light Intensity or Irradiance

1000 watts/m2

Cell Temperature

25 oC

Solar Spectral Distribution

ASTM #E892 or
Air Mass 1.5

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-19

Components Output Curves

Exercises



14*  


 
 



   
.   
 

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  *  * (9


&  

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:     ;

9 :;  


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<  

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Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-20

Components Output Curves

Other Rating Conditions


The relationship of module output as rated under Standard Operating Conditions
(SOC) and the actual output that a user would be able to measure under real
outdoor conditions is very poor. Typically the irradiance level will be lower and the
cell temperature will be higher than SOC. Other test conditions have been defined
over the years to try to account for this discrepancy. Some of these sets of
conditions are described next.

Other Rating Conditions


Nominal Operating Cell Temperature (NOCT)

Irradiance
Ambient Temperature
Wind Speed
Module at Open Circuit

800 w/m2
20 oC
1.0 m/s maximum

Standard Operating Conditions (SOC)


Irradiance
Cell Temperature

1000 w/m2
NOCT

Nominal Operating Conditions (NOC)


Irradiance
Cell Temperature

800 w/m2
NOCT

 %

Nominal Operating Cell Temperature


The NOCT is not a condition but rather an empirically determined value for a specific
module design and construction. The NOCT is intended to represent the typical real
cell operating temperature for a module. The actual temperature will depend on the
thermal characteristics of the cell and the module packaging. For example, glasson-glass modules will typically have a higher NOCT than white background modules
due to the greater thermal mass of the two layers of glass. Blue background
modules may have a slightly higher NOCT than white background modules due to
absorption. Generally a module manufacturer will seek to have as low an NOCT as
possible.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-21

Components Output Curves

Effect of Operating Conditions


on Output Curve

Current (amps)

4
3.5

STC

SOC

2.5

NOC

2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0

10

15

20

25

Voltage (volts)




Standard Operating Conditions (SOC)


Using the NOCT as the first order correction to STC conditions, the SOC conditions
have irradiance still at the peak 1000 w/m2, but have the cell operating at the NOCT.
This represents a clear day with the cell heated to some realistic temperature.

Nominal Operating Conditions (NOC)


Moving still further toward real conditions, the specifications of NOC have the cell
heated to NOCT, and also the irradiance reduced to 800 w/m2. This approximates a
non-optimal day in most respects, with the cell heated and the light diminished,
perhaps due to high clouds, pollution, or atmospheric haze. Module peak power is
typically reduced by about 25% under NOC conditions compared to STC conditions.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-22

Components Output Curves

Defining Module Output Efficiency


One common measure of the quality of a solar cell or module is the efficiency. But
there is not just one way to define efficiency for solar devices. This should be
made clear, because statements are often made comparing manufacturers
efficiencies, and it can be deceiving if you are not clear on exactly what efficiency
is being quoted.
In general, efficiency is defined as the ratio of output from a device compared to the
input to the device.

Efficiency

Output
Input

Total Area Efficiency


This definition involves the ratio of maximum electrical power output compared to the
total light power incident on the ENTIRE device. The device area includes module
frame, interconnects and gridlines on the surface of the cells. This is the "real world"
efficiency of a module. This value indicates what you really have to work with.

Total Area Efficiency

Example:

Pmax
Total Device Area X Input Light Power

Calculate the total area efficiency of the following module:

Pmax =

55 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Length
Width

=
=

1.293 m
0.330 m

55 watts
1.293m X 0.33 m X 1000 w/m2

0.129 or 12.9%

8-23

Components Output Curves

From the example, we see that the overall efficiency of the example module is
12.9% under full sun conditions. In other words, of the total solar radiation that falls
on the total module are (including all the inactive areas like frames, inter-cell spaces,
and gridlines) 12.9% of that energy is output as electrical power. This may seem
like a low figure, with about 87% of the incident power not being converted, but
remember that the fuel for the electrical power is free sunlight. This efficiency ranks
amongst the highest module efficiencies in the world, and is the direct result of the
single crystal technology used in the Siemens Solar cells.

Aperture Area Efficiency


Another way to calculate efficiency is called aperture area efficiency. This refers to
the module efficiency calculated without any frame dimensions. This would include
all area inside of the frame, including any gridlines or cell interconnects. This
modified way to calculate efficiency removes the effect of a large frame, which really
doesnt reflect the quality of the cell efficiency anyway.

Active Area Efficiency


This definition involves calculating efficiency based only on the area of the device
that is exposed to light or active semiconductor. Light incident on shaded areas
like interconnect wires, cell gridlines, and frame area is not included. It is always
higher than the total area efficiency will be for a completed device with
interconnected cells. Active area efficiency is often announced by research groups
or by manufacturers and confused with total module area efficiency. It should be
understood to refer to fundamental physics of a single cell only, and not to final
manufactured modules where cells will be covered with gridlines and interconnect
wires.

Active Area Efficiency

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Pmax
Active Area Only X Input Light Power

8-24

Components Output Curves

Exercises


&     


 * 
 
  

    :    
;
  
 
:    

;

   
 :   
 
 
;



7


  
 
  
. 
   *
   
E

Module Manufacturer and Model

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Total Area Efficiency (%)

8-25

Components Output Curves

Combining Cells and Curves


Solar cells can be combined in series and parallel to increase voltage and current.
When cells are connected in series, the current flow is the same through each cell
and the resulting voltage is the sum of the voltages of each cell. When cells are
connected in parallel, the voltage across each cell is the same and the currents add
to produce a final current.
The exact output curve for a combination of cells can be created by adding the
curves for all the single cells. For series connections, the current flowing through
each of the cells is the same. So at any current level, the voltage of one cell is
added to the voltage of the next. The output curves are added horizontally or
voltage-wise, as shown. For parallel connections, the voltage across each cell is the
same and the currents flow together. So at every voltage value, the current of each
cell is added. The curves are added vertically or current-wise, as shown.

Combining Cells To Make A Module


Parallel connected cells
increase current potential

Series connected cells


increase voltage potential



Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-26

Components Output Curves

A solar module is a collection of cells connected in series and sometimes in parallel


to produce a basic building block with enough voltage to do useful work. The most
common load is a "12 volt" battery, which I place in quotes because it actually needs
approximately 14-15 volts to be fully charged. So most modules are made of
enough cells in series to produce at least 14.5 volts at maximum power, to be able to
effectively charge the batteries. To achieve this voltage 30-36 single crystal silicon
are needed in series. A composite curve for a 36-cell CZ module is shown. The IV
curve for a single cell is added along the voltage axis 36 times. The final IV curve
for the entire module reaches out to a Voc of more than 21 volts.

Cells Combine To Make Output


Curve For Module

3.4 amps
...36 cells in series...

0.6 volts
each cell

21 volts



If the main application for the modules were not 12-volt battery charging, then some
other number of cells might be more appropriate. For example, if the ultimate
application was to be direct connection to utility power at voltages of 120 or 240
volts, then there would be no reason to keep the voltage of the modules around 12
volts. Modules with a Vmp of 40 or 60 volts could be designed. The ultimate
application voltage determines the number of cells needed in series. The most
common market for large power photovoltaic modules is still 12 volt battery charging,
so that is why most manufacturers produce modules with 30-36 CZ cells in series.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-27

Components Output Curves

If more voltage or current than one module can produce is needed, modules can
also be connected in series and parallel to achieve practically any final voltage and
current. Systems producing 600 volts DC and hundreds of amps have been
installed, and successfully operated for years.

Combining Modules To Make


An Array
6.8 amps

84 volts



For example, in the drawing above there are 4 modules connected in series to make
a nominal 48-volt string, and two strings are connected in parallel to increase current
output. The composite curve for the entire 8-module array can be constructed by
either adding voltage-wise first and then adding current-wise, or visa versa.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-28

Components Output Curves

If we add voltage first, the 4 modules in series are added voltage-wise to reach out
to beyond 80 volts at Voc, and then the 2 parallel strings are added current-wise to
show that the current adds.
If we use the values calculated previously for a 36-cell module, the resulting curve
for the entire array has values given below:

New parameters for array of four series X two parallel modules

21.7 volts Voc (module)

X 4 series modules

= 86.8 volts Voc (array)

17.3 volts Vmp (module)

X 4 series modules

= 69.2 volts Vmp (array)

3.4 amps Isc (module)

X 2 parallel modules = 6.8 amps Isc (array)

3.05 amps Imp (module)

X 2 parallel modules = 6.1 amps Imp (array)

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-29

Components Output Curves

Exercise



9?
  
    * ! 

 *2 
    9   .


      
 *:)  
   
;

1

 1  E///////////////////////////////////////////
% //////

 //////

% //////




&         


  * 4 
 *,    

10

16

10

14

16
14

12

 //////

12

10

10

2
1
0
0

20

40

60

0
0

80

a.

20

40

60

0
0

b.




20

40

60

80

c.

20

40

60

d.

0%
     
  

   1
  

    9   *
 


16
14

(1 )

12
10

(3 )

8
6
4

s in g le c e ll

(4 )
(2 )

0
0

10

20

30

40

50

   

/////   

  

///// ,       /////

      

///// %    


/////

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-30

/////

Components Output Curves

Determining Output Over Time


The IV curve, adjusted for environmental conditions, is only one half of the
information required to determine what a module will output. The other critical
information is the LOAD operating characteristics. It is the load that determines
where on the IV curve the module or array will operate, not the other way around.
Different types of loads will interact with the PV device in different ways, and the
output of a module under the same environmental conditions will vary depending on
the load.

Three factors determine output potential:

Cell Temperature
Irradiance
Spectral Distribution

Forth factor determines actual output:

Load Interaction

An IV curve gives only a snapshot of potential output of a PV cell or module or array


under static conditions of light, spectrum and temperature at a given instant. A
module in the real world will experience changing conditions throughout a day. A
more relevant measure of module output comes from measuring or predicting the
varying output over a typical day. And the output is determined by the load.
The three basic types of loads that photovoltaic devices interact with are:

Maximum Power Tracking Device


Battery
DC Motor

How these different types of loads interact with a solar module and determine the
actual output are discussed next.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-31

Components Output Curves

Cell Temperature Is Affected By Irradiance


The cell temperature, and therefore the voltage available from the PV device, is
related to light level or irradiance. The greater the irradiance, the more energy is
brought to the module and the greater the internal heating. The exact relationship
between irradiance and cell temperature depends on the module construction. The
thickness of glass, the emissivity of the back layer, the darkness of the cells -- all this
has an impact on the final cell temperature. The relationship between light level and
cell temperature for Siemens Solar modules is shown as an example. The rise in
cell temperature above the ambient air temperature is linear with irradiance.

Cell Temperature Affected by


Irradiance
Temperature
(Deg C)

40
30
20
10
0
0

200

400

600

800

1000

1200

Irradiance (Watts/m2)


Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-32

Components Output Curves

Knowing the air temperature and the irradiance level, the cell temperature can be
determined, as given below.

Cell Temperature = Ambient Temperature + Temperature Rise

Example:

A 36-cell module is rated at 25oC. (the standard temperature discussed


earlier). If in a real situation, the insolation level is 900 watts/m2, the
temperature rise is given by the graph as approximately 25oC. above
ambient. If the air is at 35oC., the cell temperature will be

Cell Temperature

= 35oC (ambient air) + 25oC (temperature rise)


= 60oC.

Once the actual cell temperature has been calculated, it can be used to predict how
the IV curve voltage potential is reduced. All computer programs used for array
sizing use some sort of adjustment for cell temperature to better predict actual
module performance in the real world.
It is important to see that the irradiance and ambient temperature work together to
predict the actual cell temperature in a module. For example, we just calculated that
if the ambient air temperature were 35 oC. and the irradiance was 900 w/m2, then
the cell temperature would be 60 oC. But what if the same module was located in a
cold alpine climate with an ambient temperature of only 5 oC. The same irradiance
level of 900 w/m2 would result in the same temperature rise value of 25 oC., but the
final cell temperature would be less.
Example:

The same solar module in a cold alpine climate with only 5oC ambient
in 900 w/m2
Cell temperature

= 5oC (ambient air) + 25oC (temperature rise)


= 30oC

The cell temperature is much lower, and therefore the module voltage would be
much higher in the alpine climate than in the hot climate. So just knowing the
irradiance on the module is not enough to predict module performance. The
ambient air temperature must be known as well.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-33

Components Output Curves

Exercise



% :;  
4, & 
2
   

!$$- . 
   
 

//////////&



9 *        


9 .  
    

   
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 .
   

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   445  
 
       
) &  
E
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  F
 F

#"!
#"

9 F2$ &

% F////////-

% F $$-  9 F4 &


 F//////// 

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-34

Components Output Curves

Maximum Output Potential During a Day


By predicting how the air temperature and irradiance vary during a day, the
instantaneous output potential of a cell or module, as represented by the IV curve
can be accurately predicted for any time of the day. By continuously varying the
environmental conditions on the module, a series of IV curves can be calculated.
Since power is a rate of delivery of energy, adding the maximum power possible
from a module (Pmax) over the day gives the maximum total energy that can be
drawn from a module during a day.
This might actually occur for modules connected to a utility interconnected inverter
for example. Usually utility interactive inverters have Maximum Power Tracking
(MPT) circuitry that continuously adjusts the operating voltage of an array so that the
maximum power is output at any instant. Such MPT devices are also popular for
direct coupled water pumping systems. The solar array is connected to the MPT
device, and its maximum power is extracted and converted into power at the
optimum voltage for the pump at any instant.
The variation of Pmax for a 36-cell 55-watt module is shown over a typical summer
day. The area under the curve represents the total maximum power that one
module could actually deliver to a load. In this case, that is 253 watt-hours (Wh), or
approximately 1/4 kilowatt-hour (1/4 kWh).
The previous discussion has talked about IV curves and how they represent the
potential output at any instant under fixed environmental conditions. But the output
added up over time is the energy that could go into a load during a day. The total
energy available to a load is the value we have been seeking. If we know the total
energy needed by a load in a typical day, we can now determine how many modules
would be needed to supply all that energy. For example, using the above figure of
1/4 kWh from one module, if the daily load was 5 kWh/day for a remote application,
then approximately 20 modules would be needed to produce all that energy. This is
the principle behind the array sizing that will be presented in the chapter on System
Sizing.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-35

Components Output Curves

Output Into Maximum Power


Tracking Device
Current (amps)

Maximum Power (watts)

12:00 noon

(B)

2.8

3:00 p.m.

(C)

8:00 a.m.
0

10

(A)
12

14

16

18

40
35
30
25
20
15
10
5
20 0 4

Voltage (volts)

(B)
(C)
Total Energy
253 Wh

(A)
6

10

12

14

16

18

20

Time of Day




Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-36

Components Output Curves

Exercise



0   




 
:G;  5435  
  

*  * :
 *;

:B
;?      *    
   :%
     
  
!5#9
5
  *
 :
 * 

  ;    * 
* 
*: 
 
   *;
H


 *//////////////
H

B
//////////////////

Hour
of Day
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Watts
Feb

Watts
June

0.48
5.60
10.79
14.09
15.18
14.00
10.67
5.51
0.47

0.81
2.04
3.91
9.28
16.27
22.27
26.31
28.65
29.36
28.51
26.06
21.96
15.98
9.08
3.8
2.0
.8

8-37

Components Output Curves

Graph the watts against time to show the output over a typical day.

Watts
35

30

25

20

15

10

0
4

10

11

12

Time of Day

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-38

Components Output Curves

Interaction with a Battery Load


The output value given previously was from a module operating at its maximum
power point all day long. This can be achieved by using some sort of electronic
maximum power tracking circuitry, that will be described later in chapter on Energy
Enhancement Through Tracking. However, the most common load for a PV module
or array is a battery. A battery has a voltage, depending on its state of charge, age,
temperature, rate of charge or discharge and other factors. This voltage determines
the voltage of everything connected to the battery, including the module or array.
Even if the system has motors, inverters, and other devices connected to the
battery, or even other loads connected directly to the array, the battery will set the
operating voltage for every component in the system.
It is sometimes thought that a module with a maximum voltage potential of 20 volts
will push a 12-volt battery to 20 volts and harm the battery. But it is the battery that
fixes the operating voltage of the module, not the other way around.
A detailed discussion of battery characteristics and performance is presented later in
the chapter on Battery Technology. For now, we only need to realize that as a
battery is charged its voltage rises, and as it is discharged the voltage falls. The
voltage of a battery varies within a fairly narrow range, usually between 11-15 volts
for a "12 volt" battery, with average operation around 13-14 volts.
This is why modules are designed with up to 36 solar cells in series, giving a Vmp at
25oC of more than 17 volts. At first this may seem too high for a 12-volt battery. But
a module in a hot climate will loose approximately 2 volts due to heat, bringing the
Vmp down to approximately 15 volts. A "12 volt" battery actually needs about 14.5
volts to reach full charge.
So it is the battery voltage that determines the operating point on the IV curve, and
therefore the charging current into the battery. As shown in the figure, the module or
array is affected by temperature and light level throughout a typical day. Since the
battery holds the module operating point within a narrow range of voltage around 1314 volts, the resulting output will be seen as varying current into the battery. The
operating voltage will rise slowly over a day as the battery is charged. But compared
to the wide changes in the module curve, the voltage of the battery changes only
slightly.
As shown in the figure, the total energy into a battery is slightly less than the
maximum possible energy that could have been delivered. This is because the
battery held the operating point of the module at a lower voltage than the Vmp of the
module. Module manufacturers try to create modules that are good matches in
voltage to the ultimate load, in this case a battery. However, because of
environmental uncertainties and variations, the match of module Vmp and load
voltage cannot always be perfect. This is a case where the match is close, but not
perfect.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-39

Components Output Curves

Output into Battery

Current (amps)
2.8

Power (watts)

40

Changes Over a Day (M55 in Phoenix)

Maximum power possible

35
12:00 noon

30

(B)

25
2

3:00 p.m.

20

(C)

Power into battery

15

8:00 a.m.

247 wh

10

1
(A)

5
0

0
0

10

12

14

16

18

20

Voltage (volts)

10

12

14

16

18

Time of Day


!

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-40

Components Output Curves

20

Exercise


0   



  445
2 5 
  *  
 
   :9  ;   :B
*;
?      *    
   :%
     
  
!5#39
5
  *
 :
 * 

  ;    * 
* 
*: 
 
   *;
@  *
   

H

9  /////////////////
H

B
*//////////////////

Hour
of Day
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
1
2
3
4
5
6

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Watts
April

Watts
July

7.4
20.3
32.2
39.0
41.7
41.6
40.1
37.2
31.0
19.9
7.1

1.3
8.1
18.9
28.0
32.1
33.1
32.7
31.4
29.3
25.7
17.7
7.6
1.0

8-41

Components Output Curves

Graph the watts against time to show the output over a typical day

Watts
45

40

35

30

25

20

15

10

0
4

10

11

12

Time of Day

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-42

Components Output Curves

Interaction with a DC Motor


A DC motor also has an "I-V curve", usually called a load curve. A typical curve
ramps up in current with increasing applied voltage. When overlaid on a module IV
curve, this defines a precise intersection point with the I-V curve. This intersection
point sets the operating current and voltage for the module or array. So the motor
determines the voltage and current output of the module or array.
A direct coupled motor system has the module connected directly to a DC motor and
pump without any controls or battery. It has the advantage of the fewest
components and thus high reliability. But the system suffers in overall efficiency due
to mismatch each morning and evening. A direct coupled motor/PV array system is
usually designed so that has the motor operates the modules near their point of
maximum power during the middle of the day (see point B in the figure). But when
the module current output is lower in the morning and evening, there will be a very
poor match, as shown in the figure. The motor operates the module at far lower
voltage than the module's Vmp (points A and C). So the motor may operate, but it is
getting less than the maximum possible power the module or array could deliver.
A maximum power tracking device can be placed between the array and the motor
to force the array to operate at its maximum power point all day long. This would be
one way to increase the efficiency of the overall system. Maximum power trackers
are discussed more in the chapter on Energy Enhancement Through Tracking.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-43

Components Output Curves

Output into DC Motor


Changes Over a Day (M55 in Phoenix)
Current (amps)
12:00 noon

2.8

(B)

3:00 p.m.

(C)

8:00 a.m.
1
(A)

0
0

10

12

14

16

18

20

Voltage (volts)


$

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-44

Components Output Curves

Interaction with a Resistive Load


A pure resistive load is yet another type of load for a PV device, but it is not very
common. Connecting an array directly to a water heater coil is one possible real
application. This is sometimes done by a charge regulator with power diversion as
an option, whereby array power is diverted when the batteries are fully charged.

Current

Module
or

Resistance
(ohms)

array

Voltage
of system .




Using a resistor in the field to test the curve shape of a PV array is another useful
application of a pure resistive load. A resistor also has a load curve or an "I-V
curve". It is a straight line. This defines a single intersection point with the module
or array I-V Curve.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-45

Components Output Curves

A resistive load obeys Ohm's law, that is V = I X R, or R = V/ I. For a fixed value of


resistance (R), as the voltage is increased, the current increases by the same
proportion. A high value of R operates a module or array nearer to the Voc point. A
low value of R operates it nearer to the Isc point.

Current (amps)
3
load line
for low R

load line for


high R

1
0

8
12
16
Voltage (volts)

20


%

A resistance can be calculated that will operate a module or array at or very near its
maximum power point. This can be a useful tool in the field. Using standard digital
volt meters in the field, it is easy to measure Isc and Voc, but you are not really
looking at the output of a module or array anywhere near its maximum output point.
By using a resistor to operate the module or array somewhere near its knee, you
can get a complete picture of the curve shape.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-46

Components Output Curves

In real outdoor conditions, the light level would probably be lower than the standard
level of 1000 w/m2, and the cell temperature would probably be higher than the
standard temperature of 25 oC. A 36 cell 36-watt module at outdoor conditions of for
example 800 watts/m2 and 50 oC cell temperature has Vmp = 17 volts and Imp = 2.1
amps (approximate). Dividing these values will give a resistance that will operate
the module near its maximum power point in typical field conditions:
Resistance needed to operate at Pmax
(35 Pmax, typical outdoors)

Vmp
Imp

17 volts
2.1 amps

8.1ohms

So connecting an 8.1-ohm resistor to a 36-watt module in the field will operate the
module very near its maximum power point, to allow checking of output other than
just Voc and Isc.

Operating at Maximum Power


with Resistive Load
Current (amps)
(Vmp, Imp)

3
R = Vmp/Imp

2
1
0

12

16

20

Voltage (volts)
 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-47

Components Output Curves

To calculate the size of resistor needed for an array of modules, multiply the above
resistance value by the number of modules in series, and divide by the number of
modules in parallel. The final resistance value will operate the array near its
maximum power point.

Resistance array =

Example:

Resistance module

# Modules in Series
# Modules in Parallel

You wish to do field diagnostics on a small array of four 36-watt


modules in series by two in parallel. What value of resistance would
you need to operate the array near its maximum power point in actual
field conditions?
Resistance array

10 ohms

20 ohms

4 in series
2 in parallel

The example above shows that to operate an array of four 36-watt modules in series
by two in parallel, you would need a resistor of approximately 20 ohms. This is
shown graphically below.

20-ohm resistor operates array near Pmax



Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-48

Components Output Curves

Exercise:


9 
 * *  5 

 *2    0    
  *  '

   
 *     *  
D
 +   
*
*


 * G7
  
%   
  
 
///////////// 

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-49

Components Output Curves

(End of Chapter)

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-50

Components Output Curves

CHAPTER EIGHT
OUTPUT CURVES

8-1

Basic Current-Voltage Curve (The I-V Curve)

8-2

Output Curve Terminology

8-3

Module Output Curves

8-4

Effect of Environment on Module Output Potential


Effect of Light Intensity (Irradiance)
Standard Condition for Irradiance
Circumstances For Exceeding the Standard
Effect of Temperature
Standard Condition for Cell Temperature
Temperature Effect Depends on the Number of Series Cells
Spectral Content of Light

8-7
8-7
8-8
8-9
8-10
8-14
8-14
8-17

Summary of Standard Conditions


Other Rating Conditions

8-19
8-21

Defining Module Output Efficiency


Total Area Efficiency
Aperture Area Efficiency
Active Area Efficiency

8-23
8-23
8-24
8-24

Combining Cells and Curves

8-26

Determining Output Over Time


Cell Temperature Is Affected By Irradiance
Maximum Output Potential During a Day

8-31
8-32
8-35

Interaction with a Battery Load

8-39

Interaction with a DC Motor

8-43

Interaction with a Resistive Load

8-45

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

8-51

Components Output Curves

Chapter 8 Answers
Output Curves


SM55
SM50-H
SM46
SM20
SM10
SM6
SP75 (12V)
SP36 (12V)
SP18 (12V)

Isc

Voc

Imp

Vmp

Pmax

(Amps)
3.45
3.35
3.35
1.6
0.71
0.42
4.8
2.4
1.2

(Volts)
21.7
19.8
18.0
18.0
19.9
19.5
21.7
21.7
21.7

(Amps)
3.15
3.15
3.15
1.38
0.61
0.39
4.4
2.1
1.1

(Volts)
17.4
15.9
14.6
14.5
16.3
15.0
17.0
17.0
17.0

(Watts)
55
50
46
20
10
6
75
36
18



c. 0.8


d. 0.9



b. No


b., c.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-1

Output Curves



Isc1
Light intensity1

Isc2
Light intensity2

2.0 amps
1000 w/m2

Isc2
850 w/m2

Isc2

2.0 X ( 850 / 1000 )

1.7 amps



If the two days are the same temperature, then we can calculate the Isc at standard
irradiance for each module.
Module 1:
2.5 amps
745 w/m2

Isc2
1000 w/m2

Isc2

2.5 X ( 1000 / 745 )

3.36 amps for Module 1 at 1000 w/m2

2.1 amps
650 w/m2

Isc2
1000 w/m2

Isc2

2.1 X ( 1000 / 650 )

3.23 amps Module 2 at 1000 w/m2

Module 2:

Under standard irradiance, Module 1 has an Isc of 3.36 and Module 2 has an Isc of
3.23. Therefore the correct answer is:
a. Module 1
Note: If the temperatures were significantly different on the two days that the
measurements were taken, we could not answer the question without knowing the
actual temperatures.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-2

Output Curves



Using the cell temperature coefficients for either the SP cell or the SM cell, we see that
the change in Voc per oC is
-2.15 mV/ oC

or

-0.36%/ oC

We calculate the voltage loss factors for 33 cells as follows:


Voltage loss factor = -2.15 mV/ oC X 33 cells
= -0.00215 V/ oC X 33 cells
= -0.071 V/ oC
Voc Change

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.071 V/ oC X [55 oC - 25 oC]
= -0.071 X 30
= -2.13 Volts

Voc2

= 19.9 Volts Voc (at 25 oC) - 2.13 Volts


= 17.77 Volts Voc (at 55 oC)

Using the percentage loss figures:


Voltage loss factor = -0.36 %/oC
Voc Change

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.36 %/oC X [55 oC - 25 oC]
= -0.36 X 30
= -10.8 %

Voc2

= 19.9 Voc (at 25 oC) X (1 - % Voc Change)


100
= 19.9 Volts X ( 1 -

10.8 )
100

= 19.9 X (1-0.108)
= 19.9 X (0.892)
= 17.75 Voc (at 55 oC)
Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-3

Output Curves



The voltage loss factor for the 33-cell module was calculated in the previous problem to
be:
Voltage loss factor = -0.071 V/oC
So for every 10 oC, the voltage change is:
Voc Change

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.071 V/oC X 10 oC
= -0.71 Volts Voc

As the temperature increases by 10 C, the module voltage decreases by 0.71 Volts




Condition
A. Air (ambient temperature
B. Insolation
C. Irradiance
D. Cell temperature
E. Tilt angle
F. North-south orientation
G. Spectral distribution
H. Module active area

Standard Value
j. N/A
j. N/A
c.
a.
j. N/A
j. N/A
f.
j. N/A



a. Jawaloa (latitude 23.5 deg. North)




b. Linoleum footage in house (where the base area of walls is excluded)

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-4

Output Curves



The work below shows the calculations and results for the SM10, SM50, SM55, SP75,
and SR100 modules. The method for other modules will be the same.
The datasheet for the SM10 module gives the following information:
Pmax =

10 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Length
Width

=
=

0.360 m
0.330 m

10 watts
0.360 m X 0.330 m X 1000 w/m2

0.084 or 8.4%

For the SM50 module:


Pmax =

50 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Length
Width

=
=

1.293 m
0.329 m

50 watts
1.293 m X 0.329 m X 1000 w/m2

0.118 or 11.8%

For the SM55 module,


Pmax =

55 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Length
Width

=
=

1.293 m
0.329 m

55 watts
1.293 m X 0.329 m X 1000 w/m2

0.129 or 12.9%

For the SP75 module:


Pmax =

75 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

Length
Width

=
=

1.200 m
0.527 m

75 watts
1.200 m X 0.527 m X 1000 w/m2

0.119 or 11.9%

8-5

Output Curves

For the SR100 module:


Pmax =

100 watts

Total Area Efficiency

Length
Width

=
=

1.498 m
0.594 m

100 watts
1.498 m X 0.594 m X 1000 w/m2

0.112 or 11.2%



The data sheet for the SM55 module gives the following information:
Voc: 21.7 Volts
Vmp: 17.4 Volts

Isc:
Imp:

3.45 Amps
3.15 Amps

With 8 modules in series, the voltages will be multiplied by a factor of 8:


Voc = 21.7 X 8
= 173.6 Volts
Vmp = 17.4 X 8 = 139.2 Volts
Four strings of modules in parallel will increase the currents by a factor of 4:
Isc = 3.45 X 4
= 13.8 Amps
Imp = 3.15 X 4
= 12.6 Amps


The correct representation is sketch c.


a. Most cells in series _(4)_
c. Next fewest cells in series _(2)_
e. Most cells in parallel _(1)_

b. Fewest cells in series


_(1)_
d. 2 strings of cells in parallel
_(3)_
f. Same Imp as another module (2) or (4)



Reading the graph of cell temperature rise vs. irradiance, we estimate that at 800 watts/
m2 the cell temperature rise will be approximately 22 C. Then the cell temperature will
be:
Cell Temperature = 32 C (ambient air) + 22 C (rise)
= 52 C

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-6

Output Curves



The thermocouple reports the cell temperature to be 68 C. The rise in cell temperature
can then be calculated as:
68 C (Cell )

= 40 C (ambient air) + Rise in Temperature

Rise in Temperature = 68 C - 40 C = 28 C
Looking at the graph of cell temperature rise vs. irradiance, we estimate that a rise in
temperature of 28 C results when the irradiance is equal to 950 watts/m2.


a. Voc = 17.5 volts

Ambient temp. = 40 oC

From the module literature, we know the following data for the SM-50H module.
Voc: 19.8 Volts
The Voc change is therefore:
Voc Change

= 19.8 - 17.5 = 2.3 Volts.

The temperature coefficient for an SM50-H module is given in the chapter as -0.071
Volts / C. We can calculate the temperature change of the cell as:
2.3 Volts

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.071 V/oC X Temperature change

Change in T

= 2.3 Volts / (-0.071 V/ oC)


= 32 oC above the standard temperature

So the cell temperature must be 32 oC + 25 oC (standard temperature) = 57 C. This is


17 oC above the ambient temperature of 40 oC. So the cell temperature rises above
ambient is 17 oC. We refer to the graph of Temperature Rise vs. Irradiance and
determine that the irradiance would be about 650 watts/m2.
b. Irradiance = 700 watts/m

Ambient temp. = 35 oC

From the module literature, we know the following data for the SM-50H module.
Vmp: 15.9 Volts

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-7

Output Curves

Looking at the graph of cell Temperature Rise vs. Irradiance, we determine that an
irradiance of 700 watts/m2 would result in a temperature rise of about 20 oC. If the
ambient temperature is 35 oC, then the cell temperature is 35 oC + 20 oC = 55 oC. The
temperature coefficient stated in the chapter for Vmp is -0.072 V / oC. We calculate the
change in Vmp as:
Vmp change

= Factor X Temperature Change


= -0.072 V/oC X [55 oC - 25 oC]
= - 2.16 Volts

Vmp (at 55 oC)

= 15.9 - 2.16 Volts = 13.74 Volts



By summing the each hour's energy, we get the output for each month:
Output in February =
Output in June
=

76.8 Wh
247.1 Wh

Watts
35
30
25
Feb
Jun

20
15
10
5
0
4

10

12

Time of Day

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-8

Output Curves



By summing the each hour's energy, we get the output for each month:
Output in April
Output in July

=
=

317.5 Wh
266.9 Wh

Watts
45
40
35
30
25

Apr
Jul

20
15
10
5
0
6

9 10 11 12 1

Time of Day

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-9

Output Curves



The module literature gives the following values for the SP75 module:
Vmp = 17.0 volts
Imp = 4.4 amps
The resistance that will operate a single SP75 module at the maximum power point
under standard conditions is then:
Resistance

Vmp =
Imp

17.0
4.4

3.86 Ohms

Therefore, connecting a 3.86-ohm resistor to the 75 watt module in the field will operate
the module very near its maximum power point. To operate the whole array at the
maximum power point, we calculate the resistance as:
Resistance (array) =

3.86 ohms

5.79 ohms

6 in series
4 in parallel

Note that under real field conditions, the values of Vmp and Imp may be slightly
different. This is because the irradiance may be less than 1000 watts/m2 and the cell
temperature will likely be hotter than 25 C.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

8-10

Output Curves

Chapter Nine
Load Estimation
The loads cannot be taken as given while all other calculations are carefully
scrutinized. The loads influence every aspect of system design, and must be as
efficient and reliable as possible. As you read, think about what influences load
efficiency, and how you might have to argue with a client to replace their existing or
proposed load with a more efficient one.
The entire system design is based on the size of the load. If the information is
inaccurate the initial costs will be too high or the array and battery could be too small
and the system will eventually fail. It is, therefore, essential that time be taken to
look carefully at the load requirements and the expected usage pattern.
Using literature values for load consumption is common, but it is more accurate to
have the load demand measured to be sure. Often nominal numbers are presented
in literature, and a particular piece of equipment may require more or less power
than stated.
If an existing application is being retrofitted with a PV power system it is very
important to not just look at the old generator capacity and try to recreate it with PV.
Very often an oversized diesel generator was installed, perhaps because that size
was used elsewhere or to allow for future growth. A PV power system can be
designed to accurately match the current load requirement without limiting the ability
to expand in the future to meet greater demand.
The load profile throughout the year must be accurately determined. Any seasonal
variation might influence the choice of tilt angle or battery size for autonomy. The
"duty cycle" or hours of operation for intermittent loads must be estimated carefully.
In the case of telecommunications equipment, not only the hours of transmitting but
also the hours of standby or quiescent operation need to be included in the load
calculations.
Improving load efficiency is the quickest way to reduce PV power system cost. A
more efficient load device may even be slightly more expensive than an existing or
conventional load device. But if the power consumption of the efficient load is
significantly lower than the other, the cost savings in the array and battery may offset
the higher load cost in many cases, and result in a total system cost (modules +
battery + loads) that is lower than if inefficient loads are used.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-1

Components Load Estimation

Using oversized diesel generators may have allowed load device efficiency to be
neglected in the past. But when a small load is operated by a large capacity
generator, fuel efficiency is low so fuel is wasted. Simply retrofitting a new PV power
system to an existing inefficient load is a mistake if a more efficient load device can
be installed.

Load Sizing Forms


We have developed a form to use for calculating the average daily load. Both AC
and DC loads can be added. The Daily Load Sizing Form has you add up all the
loads to estimate the largest daily load demand on your batteries. The WeekAveraged Load Sizing Form has you average the load demands over a 7-day period.
This allows for slightly smaller array sizing if your loads vary during the week. The
battery should be sized to meet the largest daily load demand, while the array can
be sized to meet a more averaged load value. The sizing forms are presented next.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-2

Components Load Estimation

Daily Load Sizing Form


System Description :
DC Loads

Qty.

Amps

Hours/day

Daily Demand (Ah)

DC Loads (Ah) =

AC Loads

Qty.

Watts

Hours/day

AC Sub-Total (Wh)
Continuous Watts

Surge Est.

Daily Demand (Wh)

Inverter Choice:
[
][
][
]
+
AC Sub-Total Efficiency Input Voltage

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-3

[
] =
DC Loads

____________
Daily Load (Ah)

Components Load Estimation

Week-Averaged Load Sizing Form


System Description:
DC Loads

Qty.
:

Amps

Hours
X
X
X
X
X
X

______
______
______
______
______
______

Days/wk

Weekly Demand (Ah)

:
:
:
:
:

X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______

X
X
X
X
X
X

=
=
=
=
=
=

X ______ X ______ X

X ______ X ______ X

Weekly DC Loads (Ah)

AC Loads

Qty.
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:

Watts
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______
X ______

Hours
X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

______
______
______
______
______
______
______
______

Days/wk

= ______

Surge Est.

= ______

=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=
=

Inverter Choice:

[
][
][
]
+
AC Sub-Total Efficiency Input Voltage

[
] =
DC Loads

[
] 7 days
Total Weekly
Demand (Ah)

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

Weekly Demand (Wh)

X
X
X
X
X
X
X
X

Weekly AC Sub-Total (Wh)


Continuous Watts

9-4

Total Weekly
Demand (Ah)

=
Week-Averaged
Daily Load (Ah)

Components Load Estimation

Daily Load Demand


You calculate the total daily load demand by multiplying each load demand times the
time that the load operates in a typical 24-hour period. DC loads are estimated by
using amp-hours, while AC loads are estimated by using watt-hours. This is
because the DC loads can draw their current directly from the battery, while the AC
loads must draw their power from a DC-to-AC inverter that will change the voltage
from the (usually 12, 24 or 48 volts) DC level to the (usually 110 or 220 volts) AC
level. The input and output voltage of the inverter must be included in the
calculations separately.

DC Load Demand

DC Load Current (amps) X Hours of Operation

AC Load Demand

AC Load Power (watts)

X Hours of Operation

If DC loads are given in watts instead of amps, then you can easily convert by
dividing by the nominal operating voltage. This is usually 12 volts, and sometimes
24 volts.

DC Load Current (amps) =

Example:

A typical 12 volt 40-watt fluorescent light has a current given by


DC Load Current

Example:

DC Load Power (watts)


Nominal DC Voltage

40 watts
12 volts

3.3 amps

It is very common for microwave repeater equipment to operate at 24


volts nominal. If the operating power of a repeater is 200 watts (at 24
volts) the load current is given by
DC Load Current

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

200 watts
24 volts

8.3 amps

9-5

Components Load Estimation

Loads May Have Different Levels


Not all loads have just one value. Some loads may have a full-power value and a
standby value. For example, telecommunications systems often have a transmit
power and a standby or quiescent value. The time that the load operates at its
different levels must be determined, and the energy demand for each mode of
operation added up.

Variable Load Profile


Load may have a stand-by or quiescent
current
Must include this component in total dem and
operating
current

quiescent
current



Another example of a load with different consumption is some instant on


televisions. These will continue to draw a small phantom load even when they are
turned off. But the primary candidate for load variable demand is
telecommunications systems. It is very important to include the quiescent or
standby load demands in your total load demand calculations.
Example:

A telecom repeater operates at 24 volts and draws 10 amps when it is


transmitting. It has a standby mode that consumes .5 amps. The transmit
time is estimated to be 5 hours a day.
Load Demand (transmit)

=
=

10 amps
50 Ah

5 hours

Load Demand (standby)

=
=

.5 amps
9.5 Ah

(24 - 5 hours)

The standby daily load is almost 1/5 of the transmit daily load, even though
the instantaneous current draw is only 1/20th.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-6

Components Load Estimation

Loads May Vary Seasonally


Most loads will not be operated the same amount of time every day and every
month. There will be a seasonal variation to the load demand, and this will influence
the choice of tilt angle for the array as well as the array and battery size. An
example of two seasonal profiles is shown below, one peaking in the summer
months, and the other peaking in the winter.

Seasonal Load Profiles


70

Summer peak profile

60
50
40
30

Winter peak profile

20
10
0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec



An example of the variation in insolation throughout a year is shown on the next


page. The insolation on a flat surface varies greatly with the least during the winter
and the greatest during the summer. The best system design has the array tilted to
an angle so that the profile of insolation throughout the year matches the load
profile. In this way, the fewest modules are needed to meet the load demand.
If the load demand is small in winter and large in summer, as with air conditioning
loads or water pumping for irrigation, then tilting the array near a flat angle will give
an insolation profile that best matches the load requirements.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-7

Components Load Estimation

New Delhi Insolation Profiles


Latitude 29 deg. N

Insolation (Langleys)

600
500
400
300
200
100

0 deg.

15 deg.

30 deg.

45 deg.

Dec

Nov

Oct

Sep

Aug

Jul

Jun

May

Apr

Mar

Feb

Jan

60 deg.


If the load is relatively constant every month of the year, as might be the case for a
navigational aid or a constantly transmitting repeater, then a different angle is better.
Tilting the array up increases the insolation intercepted during the winter months and
sacrifices some during the summer months, with a resulting profile that is more
constant throughout the year to better match the requirements of a constant load.
If a tilt is chosen that does not match the insolation profile to the load profile, then
the array will have to be quite large to produce enough output when insolation is low
and may produce excess power that is just wasted when insolation is high. By
choosing a tilt angle for the array that gives the best match, array size is minimized,
and a reliable fixed angle mounting structure can be designed for the system.
Computer models or repetitive hand calculations can predict the best angle to give a
match between load demand and insolation.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-8

Components Load Estimation

Adding Up The Load Demand


Use the Daily Load Sizing Form to add up all the loads in a system to give the total
daily demand. For an example of DC load sizing, lets select some loads for a small
remote home or cabin, including lights and small appliances.

Example:

A small remote cabin owner wants to install some lights and


appliances. He will have two 40-watt fluorescent lights for bright
kitchen lighting, three compact fluorescent (PL lights) at 11 watts each
for other rooms, a small 40-watt TV and a 24-watt ceiling fan. All these
loads are to be DC so no inverter is required. All loads will operate at
12 volts nominal.

DC Loads

Lights
PL lights
TV
Fan

Qty.

:
:
:
:

2
3
1
1

Amps
X
X
X
X

3.3
0.92
3.3
2

Hours
X
X
X
X

4
5
4
8

DC Loads (Ah)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-9

Weekly
Demand (Wh)
=

26.4
13.8
13.2
16

=
=
=
=

69.4

Components Load Estimation

For practice at adding AC loads, lets estimate the demand for a remote school with
a variety of AC appliances, lights and other loads.

Example:

A small school in a remote area wants to remove their generator and


use only photovoltaics to power all their loads. The school has eight
40-watt fluorescent lights, small lights in the bathrooms, four
computers, an overhead projector, and a small microwave oven for
heating lunches, and a refrigerator.

AC Loads

Qty.

Watts

Lights
PL lights
Computer
Projector

:
:
:
:

8
2
2
1

Microwave
Refrigerator

:
:

1
1

X
X
X

Hours

40
11
200
300

800
200

X
X
X

8
2
4
3

2
12

AC Sub-Total (Wh)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-10

Weekly
Demand (Wh)

2,560
44
1,600
900

=
=
=

1,600
2,400

=
=

9,104

Components Load Estimation

Exercise


  
       

  

 
   

    
  


   
 
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      &
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2   3
&   4
- (
,  4
"/ (
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4
 %
2   3




&   4
,  4
&  & 
4

/ (
"5 (
- %

   (      (  ( ,


   
(      

  

   
       +   
   
,

&  3
&  & 
4
- %
&  3
&  & 
4
/ %
6   
  (         (  
  
   + ,       
 6  

     +   


    
  6   
 

  ,   
  
   +    
 ,     

   

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-11

Components Load Estimation

Choosing An Inverter
Before you can complete the sizing forms for AC loads, you must choose an
inverter. This choice will determine the average inverter efficiency and the nominal
DC voltage of the array and battery, both of which are needed to finish the
calculations indicated at the bottom of the sizing forms.

Meeting Continuous Power Demand


There are two parameters that will help choose an adequate inverter to handle the
AC load demand. First the inverter must be able to operate all the AC loads that
might be on at one time continuously. This value is calculated by adding up the
watts of the AC loads and filling in the Continuous Watts line in the sizing form. Be
sure to multiply by the quantity to get the correct total load requirement.

Estimate of Continuos Watts: Add all AC loads that might be on at same time

Meeting Surge Power Demand


The second parameter that the inverter must meet is the surge requirement.
Inductive loads, such as motors (example: washing machines, water pumps),
compressors (example: refrigerators), and even certain types of fluorescent light
ballasts. In an inductive load, there are coils of wire that must be loaded with
energy. During this short period of loading, the current that can flow can be 4-6
times the continuous running current! So any inverter chosen to operate such loads
must be able to supply this surge of current, for fractions of a second or sometimes
for seconds.
To estimate the total surge power that the inverter might have to deliver, you might
add up all the surge powers of all the inductive loads and add this to the continuous
power demand of the non-inductive loads. But this approach is much too severe.
The probability of two or more inductive loads turning on at exactly the same time is
quite low. And the result of such an approach would perhaps be the choice of an
unnecessarily large and expensive inverter.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-12

Components Load Estimation

A more practical approach to estimating total surge power is to identify the load with
the largest surge power and add this value to the continuos power demand of all the
other AC loads that might be on at the moment that the large load is turned on.
Thus inverter would have to operate all the loads (except the one with the largest
surge) and be able to turn on the load with the largest surge as well.

Estimate of Surge Watts:

Add the surge of the largest load


to the power of all the other AC loads
that might be on at the same time

If you are given no information on the surge demand of a particular inductive load, it
is safe to assume that six times the continuous current will be drawn as a surge to
start the load.
An example of a residential refrigerator load profile is shown. As time passes
(moving from right to left) the compressor turns on and then off, trying to keep the
refrigerator box cool. A refrigerators efficiency is measured by not just the
continuous power level, but also by how many hours in a typical day the compressor
actually operates. Each time it turns on, there is a spike or surge in the current that
is drawn. The continuous running current of this particular refrigerator is about 2
amps, but the surge current needed is about 12 amps, a factor of 6 times greater!
Refrigerator Load Profile -- Continuous and Surge Levels



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-13

Components Load Estimation

Estimating Continuous and Surge Power


for Complex Systems
Sometimes it is not practical to add up the continuous and surge requirements of
each load. This is particularly true when dealing with residential systems, where
there might be a large number of AC appliances and loads, but their time usage is
unknown. It would be improbable that you or the user could accurately predict
exactly how much time each and every load would be used, and exactly what loads
would be operating at the same time. For large AC systems it is better to estimate
the continuous and surge power demands by using statistical averages.
To estimate the continuous demand of a complex system, an Energy Consumption
Chart such as the one shown below is quite useful. These are often prepared by
local utilities or energy departments. The annual energy consumption of various
common loads is indicated. This number is based on a wide variety of users, and
represents only a statistical average. You would add up the annual energy
consumption of the loads, and then divide by 365 days/year to get the estimated
daily load.
Example:

A home is being built in a remote area, and is to be solar powered.


The owner has made a list of the appliances that will be used in the house.
Annual energy values have been taken from the chart.
Refrigerator/Freezer
Microwave oven
Toaster
Dishwasher
Coffee Maker
Washing machine
Room air conditioner
Bathroom lights
Bedroom lights
Dining room lights
Hall lights
Kitchen light
Stereo
Television
Various personal care items

1135 kWh/year
190
39
363
106
103
1350
60
200
144
108
100
108
320
35

Total Annual Energy Requirement

4361 kWh/year

Estimated Daily Load

4361 kWh/year
365 days/year

12 kWh/day

The system designer and the client could look at this list and see what items contribute most
to the energy burden, and perhaps discuss alternative or more efficient loads to reduce the
overall energy and therefore the solar array and battery size as well.
Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course
Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-14

Components Load Estimation

Source: Photovoltaic User Guide, California Energy Commission, July 1984

 

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-15

Components Load Estimation

Using another statistical tool presented next, you can estimate the continuous and
surge power that might be required from an inverter. A chart has been prepared
showing how much continuous power and surge power might be needed to serve a
range of daily loads.

Estimating Surge
Estimated Power
Requirement (kW)
24
22
20
18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0

surge
range

continuous
range

12

16

20

24

Average Daily Load (kWh)


 

Read up from the estimated daily load requirement to find the approximate
continuous and surge demand. For example, if the total daily load was about 20
kWh/day, you would read up from 20 to find that the continuous power output of the
inverter may be between 4-7 kW, and that the surge demand may be between 10-20
kW. There is quite a range allowed, and this method is not precise. But it is a quick
way to estimate values that otherwise could be tedious to calculate and which might
be ultimately inaccurate anyway.

Example:

Using the daily load demand of 12 kWh/day already estimated for the
remote home, the inverter chosen should be able to supply
Continuous Watts: 2-4 kW
Surge Watts:

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

6-12 kW

9-16

Components Load Estimation

Reading Inverter Literature


With continuous and surge load power values in hand, you can now select a
particular inverter for your system and determine the average efficiency and the
input DC voltage that it requires. These pieces of information will then be used to
complete the load sizing calculations.
Use actual manufacturers literature to determine the pertinent factors and values.
First locate the continuous power output capability of the various models, and then
try to determine the maximum surge capability as well. If these meet or exceed your
calculated values, then this particular model is suitable for your load demands.
(Other technical features such as output waveform, or voltage and frequency
regulation, will also guide you to choose one inverter over another. These aspects of
inverter technology are discussed in the chapter on Inverter Technology).
Once you have chosen an inverter, you can read from the literature the average
efficiency and the input DC voltage. Sometimes an inverter may be available in
more than one input DC voltage. The higher the DC voltage, the smaller the DC
current that is needed for the same amount of power, and therefore the smaller the
wires, fuses, circuit breakers and the lower the resistive losses in these components
as well.
If you are only operating AC loads in the entire system, then you are free to choose
any input DC voltage that you wish. To minimize costs and resistive losses, you
may want to choose the higher voltage, such as 24 or 48 volts. (Some large inverters
even come with 110 volts input).
However if you are planning on having both DC and AC loads operating from the
same photovoltaic power system, then you are more constrained in your inverter DC
input voltage. Most DC loads operate at 12 volts. Some fluorescent light ballasts,
refrigerators, and pumps operate at 24 volts, as do many telecommunications
devices. If you want to operate 12 or 24 volt loads you will have to choose an
inverter model with that same input DC voltage. (Sometimes a DC-DC converter
can be used to allow multiple DC voltages in the same system. For example, a 48volt inverter and battery may be installed to operate AC loads, and a DC-DC
converter can be installed as well to convert from 48 to 12 volts for some small DC
appliances).

Exercise



           
        

       

 
   
      

    


Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-17

Components Load Estimation

Calculate Ampere-Hours For AC Loads


With average efficiency and voltage values from manufacturers literature, you can
complete the sizing forms for AC loads. The sizing forms show that to calculate the
Daily Load (Ah), you must take the AC Subtotal (Wh) and divide by the inverter
efficiency and input DC voltage.

AC Load (Ah)

AC Subtotal (Wh)
Efficiency X Voltage

Why do we divide by the efficiency? We want to determine the amount of DC amphours that the solar array must produce. What we have been calculating so far in
the Load Sizing Forms is the amount of AC watt-hours that the loads need. Since
the inverter is not 100% efficient, more energy must be put into the inverter than is
output to the AC loads. How much more is determined by the efficiency.

Inverter Efficiency

DC power in

AC power out

Inverter

power out = Efficiency


power in

power in = power out


Efficiency
 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-18

Components Load Estimation

Efficiency is defined as the ratio of output power or energy divided by the input
power or energy. Therefore the energy or power in is given by the energy or power
out divided by the efficiency.
So dividing the AC Subtotal (Wh) by the efficiency CONVERTS the watt-hours out to
the AC loads into the watt-hours needed to be put into the inverter on the DC side.

DC Watt-Hours Into Inverter

AC Subtotal (Wh)
Efficiency

Then to complete the calculation, divide the DC watt-hours into the inverter by the
DC voltage to get the DC amp-hours into the inverter. This is the Ah load demand
that we need to deliver from the batteries and array.

DC Amp-Hours Into Inverter

DC Watt-Hours Into Inverter


DC Input Voltage of Inverter

If the DC voltage of the inverter and any DC loads are the same, then both can be
operated from the same battery bank and the same array. The Ah values for the DC
loads and AC loads can be added to give the grand total for the whole system. If the
voltages are different, then either a DC-DC converter must be used, or separate
systems can be designed for each.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-19

Components Load Estimation

Exercise:


       


     
!    
  "   
!    #  $   
  
   %     &    
        '

      

  
   
 




        (


 
   "    
 
   )   
 
      !       * 
+)& 
  ,
 -  
    
 
  
#          
        

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-20

Components Load Estimation

Daily Load vs. Occasional Load


If a load is the same every day, then the solar array should be sized to meet that
load demand. But if a load is used heavily some days of a week and less on other
days, then the solar array can be sized smaller than the heaviest demand and larger
than the smaller demand, and on the average during the week meet the load
demand. The Week-Averaged Load Sizing Form is intended to more economically
size a solar array to operate a load that is not the same every day.
A good example of how this approach is applied is a weekend cabin. The loads are
used heavily on the Saturday and Sunday (2-day/week) and are not even operated
at all Monday-Friday (five days/week). The battery should be sized to meet the
heavy weekend demands, but the array has all five weekdays to catch up on what
it could not produce during the weekend.
If the load varies during the week, then the array can be sized based on the average
demand spread through the seven days of the week, using the Week-Averaged
Load Sizing Form. At the end of the week, the small array has still fully recharged
the battery bank. The battery is always sized using the Daily Load Sizing Form

If Load Varies During Week


Array Output Spread Through Week
100
90
80
70
60
50 Battery Net
40
30
20
10
0
1
Array

Load

Battery Net
At End Of
Day

 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-21

Components Load Estimation

If the load is the same every day, then the array and battery are sized to meet that
constant daily demand, using the Daily Load Sizing Form.

If Load Is Same Every Day


Array Matches Load Each Day
100
90
80
70
60
50 Battery Net
40
30
20
10
0
1
Array

Load

Battery
Net At End
Of Day

 

To see the impact of approaching load estimation from an averaging method, on the
next pages we redo the examples for the small remote cabin and school, this time
estimating what the averaged load would be. This might lead to a substantially
smaller load value and therefore a smaller array.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-22

Components Load Estimation

Example:

The small remote cabin that was previously used (page 11) will only be
occupied on the weekends. Recalculate the Ah demand using the WeekAveraged Load Sizing Form. Compare the result to the daily usage value
originally calculated.

DC Loads

Lights
PL lights
TV
Fan

Qty.

:
:
:
:

2
3
1
1

Amps

X
X
X
X

Hours

X
X
X
X

3.3
0.92
3.3
2

4
5
4
8

Days/wk

X
X
X
X

=
=
=
=

2
2
2
2

Weekly DC Loads (Ah)


[ 138.8 ] 7 days
Total Weekly
Demand (Ah)

Weekly
Demand
(Wh)

52.8
27.6
26.4
32

138.8

19.8
Week-Averaged
Daily Load (Ah)

On the next page an example should be worked out for the remote school discussed
earlier. Recalculating the loads using the Week-Average Load Sizing method, as if
they were spread out over all seven days of the week, can be done to see if the load
is substantially smaller taking this approach.
Array and battery sizing calculations will be discussed in the chapter System Sizing.
But you can see that by averaging the load demand over the entire week that the
energy demand from the array is reduced. The difference between the values for
daily loading and week averaging is greater for the remote cabin than for the school.
This is because the cabin changes from a regular daily loading to only a two day per
week loading. The change for the school design from daily loading to having the
weekends off is not so great.
If the load distribution during a typical week is fairly even, then use the Daily Load
Sizing Form value for both array and battery sizing. Use the Week-Averaged Load
Sizing Form value for array sizing only if the distribution during a 7-day week is really
skewed to a few days. Then you might see some economics in sizing the array for
the average. In all cases, used the Daily Load Sizing Form value for battery sizing.
The battery has to be sized to handle the actual heavy daily loads.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-23

Components Load Estimation

Example:

The school also previously used (page 12) is to be occupied only during
the week (Monday-Friday). Recalculate the Ah load demand if it is
spread out over the full seven days of the week using the WeekAverage Load Sizing Form. Note that the refrigerator is not turned off
and must be kept operating during all seven days. How does this value
compare to the previously calculated load demand?

AC Loads

Qty.

Watts

Hours

Days/wk

Weekly
Demand
(Wh)

8
2
2
1

X
X
X
X

40
11
200
300

X
X
X
X

8
2
4
3

X
X
X
X

5
5
5
5

=
=
=
=

12,800
222
8,000
4,500

Microwave : 1
Refrigera : 1
tor

X
X

800
200

X
X

2
12

X
X

5
7

=
=

8,000
16,800

Lights
PL lights
Computer
Projector

:
:
:
:

Weekly AC Sub-Total (Wh)


[ 50,320 ] 7 days
Total Weekly
Demand (Wh)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-24

50,320

7,188
Week-Averaged
Daily Load (Wh)

Components Load Estimation

Exercise



       


  
   
   .%/ 0* '  
  *       
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       .
  
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    "   
.
       4
8

 9:
:;     
 91
:=     

;>   


8

#   
?;;
@=
*    
2;

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-25

12 <
 
> <
%/ )* '
2 <
%< '
  

> <.
%/ )* '
  

> <.
%/ )*  '

Components Load Estimation

Efficient Lighting Loads


As was mentioned at the beginning of this chapter, it is very important that system
designers seek the most efficient loads for photovoltaic systems. Investing in
efficient loads will most often pay for itself in cost savings through reduced array and
battery size. In residential systems, two types of loads in particular are strong
candidates for efficiency improvements--lighting and refrigeration. Customers are
often unaware of the efficient counterparts to conventional equipment for lighting
and refrigeration, and a bit of education can go a long way toward reducing total
system costs.
Energy for lighting can be the largest component of the total load of a remote site
using PV. There are many considerations in choosing lights including color,
efficiency, availability, and power requirements.

Types of Lamps
Incandescent
This is the common "light bulb". The incandescent and quartz-halogen lights
develop their light by passing current through a thin high resistance tungsten wire
which gets hot and radiates light. Along with the visible light comes a great deal of
heat, so the lights are the lowest in efficiency. Only 5% of the input energy is
converted to visible light. The tungsten filament gradually evaporates and weakens,
and the metal that evaporates gradually coats the inside of the bulb, reducing
brightness. Incandescents are available in a wide range of output powers and are
available for 12-volt DC operation.

Quartz-Halogen
The quartz-halogen light differs from the standard incandescent by using a tungsten
filament surrounded by a halogen gas (bromine). The wire glows hotter than the
standard incandescent, so high temperature resistant quartz is used for the bulb.
The halogen gas aids in re-depositing evaporated tungsten back onto the filament,
so the bulb life is longer, and little coating occurs on the inside of the bulb,
increasing end-of-life brightness. The lamps last almost twice as long as
conventional incandescents, and the overall efficiency is almost double.
Quartz-halogen lamps are available in a wide range of power, and often have an
integral reflector attached to the bulb to enhance output, and can operate from 12
volt DC power. Many automobile headlights are quartz halogen, and can be used
for home lighting applications. Bulbs used for slide projectors can easily be used for
household lighting, for example in track lighting.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-26

Components Load Estimation

Fluorescent
In fluorescent lamps mercury vapor is excited inside a tube by an alternating current,
and light is emitted by the gas. The light strikes the inner coating of the tube, which
is some type of fluorescing material, producing a soft glow. The light produced falls
well within the visible range, so the efficiency is good.
Traditionally fluorescent bulbs have been long cylinders ranging from a few watts to
40 watts. New "parallel length" or PL lamps are now available that are much more
compact and can often times replace incandescent bulbs in standard light fixtures.
The PL lamps fold back the long cylinder to make a compact "H" shape. Double "H"
or "quad" PL lamps are also available. PL type lamps are available in 5, 7, 9, 13, 18,
24 and 36-watt models. To operate from DC power a ballast is needed to produce
high frequency AC current. These are discussed further in this section.
New types of traditionally shaped fluorescent lamps are available that produce more
lumens/watt, better color, and longer life (up to 24,000 hours). These lamps are a
smaller tube diameter (1 5/16") and are called "T-10" tubes.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps:


Mercury Vapor
Metal Halide
Low Pressure Sodium
High Pressure Sodium
These lamps are ideal for outdoor applications like security lighting where lamps will
be operated for extended periods of time.
The mercury vapor lamp produces a harsh bluish-white light and is the least efficient
of the HID lamps. They have a low initial cost, but higher operating costs than other
HID choices.
The low-pressure sodium lamps produce a harsh yellow-gold color and are suitable
only for general outdoor lighting. They are the most efficient of the light sources, but
the harshness of the light makes their applications limited.
High-pressure sodium lamps are the most efficient of the white light sources. They
produce a soft amber color and are used widely for street lighting and other exterior
lighting applications.
Metal halide lamps have good color rendering capabilities and are widely used for
sporting event lighting.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-27

Components Load Estimation

Electrical Efficiency and Lamp Efficacy


The efficiency of a lamp is the ratio of the total luminous power radiated from the
lamp, AT ALL WAVELENGTHS, compared to the electrical power input to the lamp.

Lamp Efficiency

Total Power Radiated (watts)


Electrical Power (watts)

However, if a lamp produces light beyond the visible range, that radiation does not
contribute to apparent brightness of the lamp. A better measure of the ability of a
lamp to convert electrical power into visible light is called efficacy, which compares
the APPARENT BRIGHTNESS OF A LAMP, measured in lumens, against the
electrical power input, measured in watts.

Lamp Efficacy

Apparent Brightness (lumens)


Electrical Power (watts)

A lamp with twice the efficacy of another will appear twice as bright with the same
input power, or can use half as much power to produce the same apparent
brightness.
Fluorescents are an excellent choice compared to conventional incandescents, and
typically give 4-5 times the brightness compared to incandescents for the same input
power. Bulbs that use less power can be used to achieve the same lighting, so a PV
power system can be smaller and less costly.
Low-pressure sodium lamps are the winners regarding efficacy, but the amber color
is too harsh for indoor lighting. They are chosen for general outdoor area lighting,
where color may not be as important as area coverage. High-pressure sodium lamps
would still have very high efficacy and would deliver a much more tolerable light.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-28

Components Load Estimation

Light Efficacy
Efficacy (lumens/watt)
100
50
0
Incandescent

High Pressre
Low Pressure
Sodium
Sodium
Fluorescent

Mercury Vapor

Tungsten Halogen




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-29

Components Load Estimation

The life of the lamp must also be a consideration in system design. It is encouraging
that the more efficient or efficace lamps are also the more long life products as well.
Fluorescents can last 8,000-12,000 hours (some even up to 24,000 hours)
compared to typical incandescents that last only about 500-1500 hours. The entire
family of high intensity discharge lamps (HID) typically lasts about 15,000-25,000
hours.

Lamp Life
25000

Life (hours)

20000

Hours of Life

15000

10000

5000

0
Incandescent

Tungsten
Halogen

Mercury Vapor

Fluorescent

High Pressure
Sodium

Low Pressure
Sodium



It is critical that customers and users of photovoltaic generated power understand


the value of more efficient lights. The least efficient incandescent light is perceived
as being cheaper because the lamp bulb cost is so low, whereas a compact
fluorescent may cost 10 times as much. But with the fluorescent lasting 6-8 times as
long and consuming 4-6 times less, the cost over time of the incandescent can be
shown to be much higher than the cost of the more expensive fluorescent choice.

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Components Load Estimation

Fluorescent Ballasts
Incandescents need only to have adequate voltage and current to operate. They will
glow immediately. All the other forms of lamps need some form of ballast to give an
initial pulse to start the lamp, or to convert the power to an alternating current to
keep the gas glowing.
Traditional ballasts have been made using a "core and coil" technology. These
operate using the available 60 Hz utility power, and are not particularly efficient.
There is a slightly noticeable flicker to the light, and sometimes a delay or pulsing
when starting lamps. Recently available improved high frequency electronic ballasts
(20,000 Hz output) help to reduce these problems. They are almost twice as
efficient, turn on the lamps instantly, operate the lamps with no flicker or electronic
interference, and some even offer a degree of dimming to fluorescent lamps.
The overall efficiency of the lamp must have the efficiency of the ballast included to
determine final power requirements. The small electronic ballasts for PL lamps
consume approximately 2 watts, while the traditional ballasts use almost 4 watts.
The cost of the ballast must also enter into the cost effectiveness equation. A small
PL lamp may cost $5 and the ballast may add $15-25 to that. When compared to a
$1-3 incandescent lamp, this looks bad. But the PL is expected to last 10 times as
long as the incandescent and consumes 4-5 times less power to give the same
brightness. Over the life of the PL lamp and ballast, the total cost of the
incandescent choice becomes much greater.
The ballasts typically do not operate more than one PL lamp however. Each PL
lamp for example must have its own ballast, so usage in track lighting is difficult. An
option is to use small 12-volt Quartz-Halogen bulbs, although they are not as
efficient.
Ballast and fluorescent lamp design may have to be modified to allow starting in cold
climates. The ballast may not be able to pulse strongly or long enough to start a
cold lamp. Special pre-heaters can be installed in the bulb to allow for starting cold
lamps.

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9-31

Components Load Estimation

Color Quality
One measurement that relates to color quality is the color temperature of the light.
At high temperatures, matter emits a spectrum of light, and the spectrum changes
with higher temperature. The surface of the sun is approximately 5900 deg. C. or
6200 deg.Kelvin, another temperature scale similar to the Celsius (C) scale but
beginning at "absolute zero" degrees. Our sunlight spectrum is very close to the
spectrum emitted by a body at that temperature. The hotter the temperature of a
radiating source of light, the higher the percentage of high-energy blue light is
emitted. The colder the temperature, the higher the percentage of low energy red
light is present in the spectrum. So the spectrum emitted from lamps can be
compared to the spectrum that would be emitted by a perfect radiator. A color
temperature is given to a lamp to give a measure of how "red" or "blue" the lamp
spectrum appears. The small energy efficient PL lamps are usually available with
color temperature of 2700 deg.K, but are also available at 3000, 3500, and 4100
deg.K.
Another measure of the quality of light is the color rendition index (CRI). This is a
figure of merit that compares how well lamp light matches the balance of colors in
daylight. Two lamps may be compared only if they share similar color temperatures.
Incandescents can give fairly good color rendition. Fluorescents have traditionally
been more blue than incandescents, but now "warm" and "full spectrum"
fluorescents are available. The mercury and sodium lamps do not produce a broad
gradually changing spectrum of wavelengths and so their color is quite harsh.

Using Outdoor Light


One consideration to make when determining lighting needs is how much natural
sunlight can be brought into the space. The cost of the light is free, and the color
rendition is excellent. Glass is not as good an insulator as wall materials, and
adjustments may have to be made to the heating plans for a living space. But
passive solar heating and cooling can be anticipated and often controlled. There are
rooftop mechanisms that track the sun and reflect light down into a living or
workspace efficiently throughout a day. These could be operated using PV
modules, adding no burden to the power requirements of the space.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-32

Components Load Estimation

Exercise


 
    
      ! 
     
           
  8





 
  


A

@=

(PL)
:=



B;=;

B:=;;
 

  

::;;  

+@=  



:;;; 

>;;; 

7 

B;:;<.-

B;:;<.-

  
 >;;; "     
     
    

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-33

Components Load Estimation

Efficient Refrigeration Loads


A second major residential load that warrants scrutiny is refrigeration. People are
often unaware of how much the compressor is running in their refrigerator or of how
much power it is consuming. Efficiency improvements here can result in
tremendous savings in array and battery costs.

Types of Refrigerators
Refrigeration units operate from two basic sources of power, electricity or liquid fuel.
Electric units can be DC or AC or switchable between the two. Fuel types can use
kerosene or propane.
There are units that automatically switch from DC to AC to gas power, most
commonly used on recreational vehicles (RV's). These units are typically very
inefficient and use a great deal of power (up to 400 watts) on DC power. They are
therefore not a good choice for a remote PV powered site.
It is not uncommon for remote sites using PV for lighting; communications and tools
to use a gas powered refrigeration unit. Gas may already be on site for cooking, and
avoiding module and battery costs for refrigeration keeps the overall system more
cost effective.
However there are many manufacturers of DC powered refrigeration units. These
vary from small portable units of only 0.4 cubic feet (10 liters) capacity, to full sized
17 cubic feet (480 liters) capacity units for a home or village.

Designs for Efficiency


It is especially important for PV powered refrigeration units to be designed for
efficient operation. The walls should be thick and well insulated. And the storage
chamber should be no larger than required for the expected usage. For example, a
small unit for vaccine storage does not need to be as large as a unit intended for
storing food or milk.
The seals around the doors should seal tightly. A double seal helps to insure no
leaking.
Top loading designs are best at keeping the cold in whenever the lid is opened. If a
front door style is used, efforts should be made to keep the cold from escaping. This
can be done by hanging plastic baffles with slits, to allow access to foods but
prevent gross movement of air. Or sections can be enclosed with their own doors,
so that access to one area does not expose another area to loss of cold.
Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course
Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-34

Components Load Estimation

The condenser coils should be located to allow maximum escape of heat without
heating the walls of the unit. Many common AC units are inefficient because they
locate the condenser coils underneath the refrigerator, forcing all the escaping heat
to pass up and around the refrigerator walls! Coils can be located on the top of the
unit, or ideally they can be located away from the unit, perhaps outside where the
ambient temperature may be lower than inside the home.
There are available on the market super efficient refrigerator designs. A particular
model of PV powered refrigerator, manufactured by SunFrost, needs only five 50watt solar modules to operate a 17 cubic foot capacity unit, even at 90o F ambient air
temperature. The unit alone costs more than double what a conventional AC
powered design costs, but the total cost of the modules, batteries, and inverter
required for the inefficient conventional AC unit far surpass the total cost of the
efficient DC unit plus its 5 modules and small battery bank. The SunFrost product
also comes ready for AC power and is only slightly less efficient. It can be
incorporated into a conventional all-AC residential system design if so desired.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-35

Components Load Estimation

Exercise



C            


           

 " $   

      

   %      '
       *
 "      
%    
  '
     12) "
 
       
      
*   !  8

   

 
 

   

D %  '

B1=;;

A

11;

&;

6  # 

:1 <

:? <

7    6 / 

:&;-<

:&;-<

/ 

B?1;

B?1;

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-36

Components Load Estimation

Question Your Load Information


All of your accurate and precise calculations for load sizing will not overcome
incorrect initial data! You should be vigilant and always on the lookout for incorrect
load data. Incorrect assumptions, inaccurate estimations, unrealistic forecasts,
unexpected increases--all of these and more can be lurking behind your nice looking
calculations. You should at the very least ask yourself some of the following
questions when dealing with load estimation.

Is Future Growth Anticipated?


Telecom channels can be added, and hours of operation can increase. Populations
can increase, bringing more demand. Enjoyment of the quiet and reliable nature of
photovoltaic power can lead to expansion.
Think ahead when doing your system design. This also applies to component
selection as well. Choose charge regulators, wires, inverters and other components
that are adequately oversized to accommodate some future growth without major
changing out of hardware.

Is The Load Profile Well Known or


Is It A Guess?
Some clients may not know an existing sites real energy or power consumption, and
may guess for purposes of your calculations. Remember that most users of
electricity are aware of their POWER requirements but not of their ENERGY
requirements. They may confuse the two, and assume that if an existing generator
or source of power is present, that that must be the actual power used by the load.
For example, if a 10 kW diesel generator is on site for whatever historical reason,
this does not necessarily mean that the load demand is 10kW.
Has seasonal variation been taken into account? Lighting demand, for example,
may increase in the winter months, while water demand may increase in the
summer.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-37

Components Load Estimation

Have All Loads Been Included?


Watch out for quiescent or phantom loads! They may seem insignificant when
compared to the continuous power demand of the load, but if the off time of the
load is great, the small quiescent load demand can add up to be significant.
This is especially true for telecommunications systems, where there may be a small
but significant standby load that is often neglected by specifying engineers that are
used to lots of utility or diesel power being available.

Is This A New User of Electricity?


Initially, you may expect that a new user of electricity will be cautious and sparing
with their usage. But relatively quickly over time, they become accustomed to the
convenience and demand more. Lights may be left on longer. Radio/telephone
conversations may increase in length or in frequency. Television viewing may
expand.
It is difficult to estimate or anticipate exactly how much demand will increase, but
you should be aware that it probably will, and should try to account for this in your
system design.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-38

Components Load Estimation

(End of Chapter)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-39

Components Load Estimation

CHAPTER NINE
LOAD ESTIMATION

9-1

Load Sizing Forms

9-2

Daily Load Demand


Loads May Have Different Levels
Loads May Vary Seasonally
Adding Up The Load Demand

9-5
9-6
9-7
9-9

Choosing An Inverter
Meeting Continuous Power Demand
Meeting Surge Power Demand
Estimating Continuous and Surge Power for Complex Systems
Reading Inverter Literature
Calculate Ampere-Hours For AC Loads

9-12
9-12
9-12
9-14
9-17
9-18

Daily Load vs. Occasional Load

9-21

Efficient Lighting Loads


Types of Lamps
Electrical Efficiency and Lamp Efficacy
Fluorescent Ballasts
Color Quality
Using Outdoor Light

9-26
9-26
9-28
9-31
9-32
9-32

Efficient Refrigeration Loads


Types of Refrigerators
Designs for Efficiency

9-34
9-34
9-34

Question Your Load Information


Is Future Growth Anticipated?
Is The Load Profile Well Known or Is It A Guess?
Have All Loads Been Included?
Is This A New User of Electricity?

9-37
9-37
9-37
9-38
9-38

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

9-40

Components Load Estimation

Chapter 9 Answers
Load Estimation



We first calculate the current for each load type:
Fluorescent lights

40 Watts
12 Volts

3.3 amps

Ceiling Fans

20 Watts
12 Volts

1.7 amps

Vaccine refrigerator

60 Watts
12 Volts

5.0 amps

This information is used to complete the Daily Load Sizing Form:


System Description: Remote Clinic - Daily Loads

DC Loads
Fluorescent Lights
Ceiling Fans
Vaccine Refrigerator

:
:
:

Qty.
6
3
1

X
X
X

Amps
3.3
1.7
5

X
X
X

Hours
/day
6
12
10

DC Loads (Ah)

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-1

=
=
=

Daily
Demand (Ah)
118.8
61.2
50.0
230.0

Load Estimation



System Description:

DC Loads

Remote Clinic - Weekly Loads

Qty.

Amps

Hours

Weekly
Demand (Ah)

Days/W
k

Weekday LoadsFluorescent Lights :


Ceiling Fans
:

6
3

X
X

3.3
1.7

X
X

8
8

X
X

5
5

=
=

792.0
204.0

Weekend LoadsFluorescent Lights :


Ceiling Fans
:

6
3

X
X

3.3
1.7

X
X

4
4

X
X

2
2

=
=

158.4
40.8

Constant LoadsVaccine Refrig

10

350.0

1545.2

Weekly DC Loads (Ah)


0

AC Subtotal

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

Effic.

9-2

+ 1545.2
Input
DC
Voltage
Loads

1545.2
Total Weekly
Demand (Ah)

1545.2
Weekly
Ah/day

220.7
Avg Load
(Ah/day)

7
Days

Load Estimation



To clarify the power requirements, look at the amount of time that the loads are in
transmit and standby. The combined time on and off must equal 24 hrs (1 day).
Radio transmitter #1

Transmit
Standby

12 hrs / day
12 hrs / day

Radio transmitter #2

Transmit
Standby

8 hrs / day
16 hrs /day

System Description: Telecom site with two transmitters

DC Loads
Trans. #1 Transmit
Trans. #1 Standby
Trans. #2 Transmit
Trans. #2 Standby

Qty.
1
1
1
1

:
:
:
:

X
X
X
X

Amps
8
0.5
5
0.3

X
X
X
X

Hours
/day
12
12
8
16

=
=
=
=

Daily
Demand (Ah)
96.0
6.0
40.0
4.8
146.8

DC Loads (Ah)


During the winter months, the stated transmit times are reduced:
Radio transmitter #1

Transmit
Standby

8 hrs / day
16 hrs / day

Radio transmitter #2

Transmit
Standby

5 hrs / day
19 hrs /day

System Description: Telecom site with two transmitters

DC Loads
Transm. #1 Transmit
Transm. #1 Standby
Transm. #2 Transmit
Transm. #2 Standby

:
:
:
:

Qty.
1
1
1
1

X
X
X
X

Amps
8
0.5
5
0.3

=
=
=
=

Daily
Demand (Ah)
64.0
8.0
25.0
5.7
102.7

DC Loads (Ah)

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

X
X
X
X

Hours
/day
8
16
5
19

9-3

Load Estimation



Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


The refrigerator will be the largest surge load. We will first take all the other AC load
watts, then add six times the refrigerator load. As a worst case, we assume that all of
the loads can be on at the same time.
Continuous AC Loads
Load
Lights
PL lights
Computer
Projector
Microwave

Qty
8
2
2
1
1

Watts
40
11
200
300
800

Total continuous load

Total
320
22
400
300
800
1842

The refrigerator is 200 Watts continuous. At 6 times the rating, this gives a surge
power of 1200 Watts for the refrigerator.
The total surge requirement is 1842 + 1200 = 3042 Watts.
Select an inverter with a surge capacity of at least 3042 Watts.


Results will vary depending on student input.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-4

Load Estimation



We first calculate the load size during the week:
System Description: Telecom site - load during the week

DC Loads
Trans #1 - Transmit
Trans #2 - Transmit
Trans #2 - Standby

:
:
:

Qty.
1
1
1

X
X
X

Amps
10
15
0.8

X
X
X

Hours
/day
24
8
16

=
=
=

372.8

DC Loads (Ah)

AC Loads
Computers - On
Computers - Off
Lights

:
:
:

Qty.
2
2
4

X
X
X

Watts
300
75
40

X
X
X

Hours
/day
8
16
8

=
=
=

8,480
AC Sub-total

90%
Effic

24
Input

Daily
Demand (Wh)
4,800
2,400
1,280
8,480

AC Loads (Wh)
Continuous Watts =
Surge Est. =

Daily
Demand (Ah)
240.0
120.0
12.8

760
1560
372.8
DC
Loads

765.4
Daily
(Ah/Day)

Note: We calculated the Continuous Watt load to be two computers (on) plus all four
lights. So, 2 X 300 + 4 X 40 = 760. The Surge Estimate was calculated by taking
6 times the power for the lights and adding it to the computer loads: 2 X 300 + 6 X
4 40 = 1560.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-5

Load Estimation

We next calculate the average weekly load:


System Description:

DC Loads
Repeater #1
Repeater #2:
Transmit (M-F)
Standby (M-F)
Transmit
(Weekend)
Standby
(Weekend)

Telecomm Site - Weekly Average Loads

Qty.

Amps

Hours

10

24

Days/W
k
7
X

:
:
:

1
1
1

X
X
X

15
0.8
15

X
X
X

8
16
4

X
X
X

0.8

20

Weekly
Demand (Ah)
=

1680.0

5
5
2

=
=
=

600.0
64.0
120.0

32.0

2496.0

Weekly DC Loads (Ah)

AC Loads
Computer Use:
On - (M-F)
Off - (M-F)
Off - Weekend
Fluorescent Lights

Qty.

:
:
:
:

2
2
2
4

Watts

X
X
X
X

300
75
75
40

Hours

X
X
X
X

8
16
24
8

Weekly
Demand (Wh)

Days/W
k
X
X
X
X

5
5
2
5

24,000
12,000
7,200
6,400

=
=
=
=

49,600

Weekly AC Loads (Wh)


Continuous Watts =
Surge Est. =
49,600
AC
Load

0.85
Effic

24
Input

760
1560

+ 2496.0
DC
Load

4927.4
Weekly
Ah

7
Days

4927.4
Weekly Ah

703.9
Avg Load
(Ah/day)

The Continous Watt load and Surge Estimates are the same as above. Note that the
load averaged out over the week is slightly less than the load from Monday to Friday,
704 Ah/day vs. 765 Ah/day. This is because the weekend loads are lower, which
reduces the average.
Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-6

Load Estimation

When sizing a battery for this system, we should use the higher load (765 Ah/day) for
Monday through Friday. This is because the higher load during the week represents a
significant portion of the amount of energy storage. In other words, a 5-day battery
needs to be sized for the worst 5 days of load. We might size the array based on the
weekly load, however, since over a 7-day period, we only need to replace the average
load each day (704 Ah/day).


We first consider the costs of the incandescent bulbs. Over the total time period of
8000 hours, the total amount of electricity used by the bulbs is:
8000 hours X 75 Watts = 600,000 Watt-hrs = 600 kilowatt-hours
The cost of this energy is:
600 kilowatt-hours X $0.10 / kWh = $60.
The lifetime of a single incandescent bulb is 1000 hours, so we will need to purchase 8
total bulbs for the 8000 hour period. The cost of the bulbs and the energy is:
8 X $0.50 + $60 = $64.
Now we calculate the same costs for the compact fluorescent. The electricity used is:
8000 hours X 15 Watts = 120,000 Watt-hrs = 120 kilowatt-hours
120 kilowatt-hours X $0.10 / kWh = $12.
One compact fluorescent should last for 8000 hours, so we only need a single bulb.
The cost of the bulbs and energy is then:
$15 + $12 = $27.
We see that over the lifetime of the compact fluorescent, the total cost is less than half
of the using incandescent bulbs.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-7

Load Estimation



We first calculate the costs of using the conventional refrigerator. The energy used in
one day by the conventional refrigerator is:
220 Watts X 12 hrs / day = 2640 Watt-hrs
The number of modules required to produce this energy is:
2640 Watt-hrs / 160 Wh per day = 16.5, rounded up to 17 modules.
17 modules X $320 = $5440
The energy required for the super-efficient refrigerator is found the same way:
60 Watts X 13 hrs / day = 780 Watt-hrs
And we need to buy a number of modules equal to:
780 Watt-hrs / 160 Wh per day = 4.9, rounded up to 5 modules.
5 modules X $320 = $1600
We can now compare the total costs:
Conventional
Refrigerator
Refrigerator $0 (already purchased)
Modules
$5440
Total $5440

Super-efficient
Refrigerator
$2500
$1600
$4100

So even with the purchase of a new refrigerator, the cost savings in the energy result in
a lower overall cost.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

9-8

Load Estimation

Chapter Ten
Battery Technology
In stand-alone photovoltaic power systems, the most important and most poorly
understood component next to the PV modules is the battery. There is no one
perfect type of battery for all remote photovoltaic power systems. There are many
factors that influence the choice and performance of a battery in a photovoltaic
system. And battery technology is changing, with new constructions and
performance levels available to choose from. The following discussion is intended to
give an overview of battery technology and to equip a photovoltaic system designer
with the questions needed to determine which battery is best suited for a particular
application.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-1

Components Battery Technology

Purpose of Batteries in Photovoltaic


Systems
A storage battery is an electrochemical cell that stores energy in chemical bonds.
When a battery is connected in a circuit to dc electrical load, such as an
incandescent light or resistor, the chemical energy within a battery is converted to
electrical energy, and there is a flow of current through the circuit. An understanding
of storage battery design, terminology and performance characteristics is essential
in the design of stand-alone PV systems.
In stand-alone photovoltaic systems the electrical energy produced by the PV array
cannot always be used when it is produced. Because the demand for energy does
not always coincide with its production electrical storage batteries are commonly
used in PV systems. The three primary functions of a storage battery in a PV
system are:

Energy Storage Capacity and Autonomy to store electrical energy when it is


produced by the PV array and to supply energy to electrical loads as needed or
on demand.

Voltage and Current Stabilization to supply power to electrical loads at stable


voltages and currents, by suppressing or 'smoothing out' transients that may
occur in PV systems.

Supply Surge Currents to supply surge or high peak operating currents to


electrical loads or appliances.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-2

Components Battery Technology

Energy Storage Capacity and Autonomy


Because the production of energy from a photovoltaic array may not always coincide
with the energy demand for electrical loads, batteries are required in most standalone PV systems. This is perhaps the most important function of batteries in standalone PV power systems to allow the loads to operate when the PV array by itself
cannot supply enough power. Energy storage is required if electrical loads are
required to operate at nighttime or during extended periods of cloudy or overcast
weather.
In the system sizing process the PV array is generally sized to satisfy the average
daily load demand during the period with the lowest insolation to electrical load ratio
(usually during winter months), to ensure that sufficient energy is available at all
times of the year. The battery storage capacity is generally sized to meet the
average daily electrical load for a specified number of days without input from the PV
array, or for a specified autonomy period.

Autonomy or the days of storage are often referred to when speaking about the
battery storage capacity of a stand-alone PV system. A stand-alone PV system is
described as having "autonomy" if sufficient battery storage capacity is available to
operate the electrical loads directly from the battery, without any energy input from
the PV array. The greater the design autonomy period the larger the battery
capacity required for a given load demand. For common, less critical PV
applications, autonomy periods are typically designed for between two and six days.
For critical applications involving essential loads or public safety or where weather
patterns dictate, autonomy periods may be greater than ten days. Longer autonomy
periods result in a lower average daily depth of discharge, and lower the probability
that the allowable depth of discharge, or minimum load voltage is reached.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-3

Components Battery Technology

Voltage and Current Stabilization


Another purpose for batteries in stand-alone PV power systems is to stabilize or
level out the potential wide variations in voltage and current that may occur in a PV
electrical system. As discussed previously in this manual a PV array can
theoretically operate at an infinite number of operating points between the shortcircuit current and open-circuit voltage. When electrical loads are directly connected
to a PV array, the load impedance dictates the operational voltage of the PV array,
which may not be optimal to operate the load at its prescribed conditions, or to
permit full utilization of the maximum power available from the PV array. Batteries
are used to allow the loads to operate within a prescribed voltage and current range,
as well as to ensure that the PV array is operated near its maximum power voltage.
By acting as a buffer between the PV array and loads, a battery can also stabilize
the voltage and current supply to electrical loads in which the load power
requirement oscillates or varies with respect to time.

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Supply Surge Currents


Another important function of batteries in stand-alone PV power systems is to supply
surge or peak currents required by electrical loads that are higher than normal
steady-state operating currents. Since PV devices are inherently current-limited in
their output by short-circuit current and irradiance, a PV array by itself may not be
able to supply enough current to meet the surge requirements of some electrical
loads. While the PV array may be large enough to supply the total energy needed
by a load over a day, it may not be large enough to meet a momentary power
demand by a load at any particular time. A battery is capable of delivering high
currents, and can supply large currents to the loads for short periods, while being
charged by the array at lower currents over the course of a day.
Electric motors are common loads that often require large surge currents for starting.
For example in refrigerators, compressors, power tools and other motor loads, the
surge current may be 5 to 10 times the normal running or operating current level. A
battery can supply hundreds of amperes for short periods, thereby meeting these
momentary surge requirements.

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Battery Design and Construction


Battery manufacturing is an intensive, heavy industrial process involving the use of
hazardous and toxic materials. Batteries are generally mass produced, combining
several sequential and parallel processes to construct a complete battery unit. After
production, initial charge and discharge cycles are conducted on batteries before
they are shipped to distributors and consumers.
Manufacturers have variations in the details of their battery construction, but some
common construction features can be described for most all batteries. Some
important components of battery construction are described below.

Cell
The cell is the basic electrochemical unit in a battery consisting of a set of positive
and negative plates divided by separators, immersed in an electrolyte solution and
enclosed in a case. In a typical lead-acid battery, each cell has a nominal voltage of
about 2.1 volts, so there are 6 series cells in a nominal 12-volt battery. Figure 10-1
shows a diagram of a basic battery cell.

Active Material
The active materials in a battery are the raw composition materials that form the
positive and negative plates, and are reactants in the electrochemical cell. The
amount of active material in a battery is proportional to the capacity a battery can
deliver. In lead-acid batteries, the active materials are lead dioxide (PbO2) in the
positive plates and metallic sponge lead (Pb) in the negative plates, which react with
a sulfuric acid (H2SO4) solution during battery operation.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Cell Composition


Electrical load

Negative plate
Positive plate

Grid

Grid
Separator

Active material

Active material

Case
Electrolyte




Electrolyte
The electrolyte is a conducting medium that allows the flow of current through ionic
transfer or the transfer of electrons between the plates in a battery. In a lead-acid
battery the electrolyte is a diluted sulfuric acid solution, either in liquid (flooded) form,
gelled or absorbed in glass mats. In flooded nickel-cadmium cells, the electrolyte is
an alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide and water. In most flooded battery
types, periodic water additions are required to replenish the electrolyte lost through
gassing. When adding water to batteries it is very important to use distilled or demineralized water, as even the impurities in normal tap water can poison the battery
and result in premature failure.

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Grid
In a lead-acid battery the grid is typically a lead alloy framework that supports the
active material on a battery plate, and which also conducts current. Alloying
elements such as antimony and calcium are often used to strengthen the lead grids,
and have characteristic effects on battery performance such as cycle performance
and gassing. Some grids are made by expanding a thin lead alloy sheet into a flat
plate web. Others are made of long spines of lead with the active material plated
around them forming tubes, or what are referred to as tubular plates.

Plate
A plate is a basic battery component, consisting of a grid and active material,
sometimes called an electrode. There are generally a number of positive and
negative plates in each battery cell, typically connected in parallel at a bus bar or
inter-cell connector at the top of the plates. A pasted plate is manufactured by
applying a mixture of lead oxide, sulfuric acid, fibers and water on to the grid.
The thickness of the grid and plate affect the deep cycle performance of a battery.
In automotive starting or SLI type batteries many thin plates are used per cell. This
results in maximum surface area for delivering high currents, but not much thickness
and mechanical durability for deep and prolonged discharges. Thick plates are used
for deep cycling applications such as for forklifts, golf carts and other electric
vehicles. The thick plates permit deep discharges over long periods, while
maintaining good adhesion of the active material to the grid, resulting in longer life.

Separator
A separator is a porous, insulating divider between the positive and negative plates
in a battery, used to keep the plates from coming into electrical contact and shortcircuiting, and which also allows the flow of electrolyte and ions between the positive
and negative plates. Separators are made from microporous rubber, plastic or
glass-wool mats. In some cases, the separators may be like an envelope, enclosing
the entire plate and preventing shed materials from creating short circuits at the
bottom of the plates.

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Element
An element is defined as a stack of positive and negative plate groups and
separators, assembled together with plate straps interconnecting the positive and
negative plates.

Terminal Posts
Terminal posts are the external positive and negative electrical connections to a
battery. A battery is connected in a PV system and to electrical loads at the
terminal posts. In a lead-acid battery the posts are generally lead or a lead alloy, or
possibly stainless steel or copper-plated steel for greater corrosion resistance.
Battery terminals may require periodic cleaning, particularly for flooded designs. It is
also recommended that the clamps or connections to battery terminals be secured
occasionally as they may loosen over time.

Cell Vents
During battery charging, gasses are produced within a battery that may be vented to
the atmosphere. In flooded designs the loss of electrolyte through gas escape from
the cell vents it a normal occurrence, and requires the periodic addition of water to
maintain proper electrolyte levels. In sealed or valve-regulated batteries the vents
are designed with a pressure relief mechanism, remaining closed under normal
conditions, but opening during higher than normal battery pressures, often the result
of overcharging or high temperature operation. Each cell of a complete battery unit
has some type of cell vent.
Flame arrestor vent caps are commonly supplied component on larger, industrial
battery systems. The venting occurs through a charcoal filter, designed to contain a
cell explosion to one cell, minimizing the potential for a catastrophic explosion of the
entire battery bank.

Case
Commonly made from a hard rubber or plastic, the case contains the plates,
separators and electrolyte in a battery. The case is typically enclosed, with the
exception of inter-cell connectors which attach the plate assembly from one cell to
the next, terminal posts, and vents or caps which allow gassing products to escape
and to permit water additions if required. Clear battery cases or containers allow for
easy monitoring of electrolyte levels and battery plate condition. For very large or
tall batteries, plastic cases are often supported with an external metal or rigid plastic
casing.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Types and Classifications


Many types and classifications of batteries are manufactured today, each with
specific design and performance characteristics suited for particular applications.
Each battery type or design has its individual strengths and weaknesses. In PV
systems, lead-acid batteries are most common due to their wide availability in many
sizes, low cost and well understood performance characteristics. In a few critical,
low temperature applications nickel-cadmium cells are used, but their high initial cost
limits their use in most PV systems. There is no perfect battery and it is the task of
the PV system designer to decide which battery type is most appropriate for each
application.
In general, electrical storage batteries can be divided into to major categories,
primary and secondary batteries.

Primary Batteries
Primary batteries can store and deliver electrical energy, but cannot be recharged.
Typical carbon-zinc and lithium batteries commonly used in consumer electronic
devices are primary batteries. Primary batteries are not used in PV systems
because they can not be recharged.

Secondary Batteries
A secondary battery can store and deliver electrical energy, and can also be
recharged by passing a current through it in an opposite direction to the discharge
current. Common lead-acid batteries used in automobiles and PV systems are
secondary batteries. The table lists common secondary battery types and their
characteristics that are important to PV system designers. A detailed discussion of
each battery type follows.

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Components Battery Technology

Secondary Battery Types and Characteristics


Battery Type

Cost

Deep Cycle
Performance

Maintenance

Flooded Lead-Acid
Lead-Antimony

low

good

high

Lead-Calcium Open Vent

low

poor

medium

Lead-Calcium Sealed Vent

low

poor

low

medium

good

medium

medium

fair

low

medium

fair

low

Nickel-Cadmium
Sintered-Plate

high

good

none

Pocket-Plate

high

good

medium

Lead Antimony/Calcium Hybrid


Captive Electrolyte Lead-Acid
Gelled
Absorbed Glass Mat




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Components Battery Technology

Lead-Acid Battery Classifications


5.3.3.1
Lead-Acid Batteries
Many types of lead-acid batteries are used in PV systems, each having specific
design and performance characteristics. While there are many variations in the
design and performance of lead-acid cells they are often classified in terms of one of
the following three categories.

SLI Batteries
Starting, lighting and ignition (SLI) batteries are types of lead-acid batteries designed
primarily for shallow cycle service, most often used to power automobile starters.
These batteries have a number of thin positive and negative plates per cell designed
to increase the total plate active surface area. The large number of plates per cell
allows the battery to deliver high discharge currents for short periods. While they
are not designed for long life under deep cycle service, SLI batteries are sometimes
used for PV systems in developing countries where they are the only types of battery
locally manufactured. Although not recommended for most PV applications, SLI
batteries may provide up to two years of useful service in small stand-alone PV
systems where the average daily depth of discharge is limited to 10-20%, and the
maximum allowable depth of discharge is limited to 40-60%.

Motive Power or Traction Batteries


Motive power or traction batteries are a type of lead acid battery designed for deep
discharge cycle service, typically used in electrically operated vehicles and
equipment such as golf carts, fork lifts and floor sweepers. These batteries have a
fewer number of plates per cell than SLI batteries, however the plates are much
thicker and constructed more durably. High content lead-antimony grids are
primarily used in motive power batteries to enhance deep cycle performance.
Traction or motive power batteries are very popular for use in PV systems due to
their deep cycle capability, long life and durability of design.

Stationary Batteries
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Stationary batteries are commonly used in non-interruptible power supplies (UPS) to


provide backup power to computers, telephone equipment and other critical loads or
devices. Stationary batteries may have characteristics similar to both SLI and
motive power batteries, but are generally designed for occasional deep discharge,
limited cycle service. Low water loss lead-calcium battery designs are used for most
stationary battery applications, as they are commonly float-charged continuously.

Types of Lead-Acid Batteries


There are several types of lead-acid batteries manufactured. The following sections
describe the types of lead-acid batteries commonly used in PV systems.

Lead-Antimony Batteries
Lead-antimony batteries are a type of lead-acid battery which use antimony (Sb) as
the primary alloying element with lead in the plate grids. The use of lead-antimony
alloys in the grids has both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages include
providing greater mechanical strength than pure lead grids, and excellent deep
discharge and high discharge rate performance. Lead-antimony grids also limit the
shedding of active material and have better lifetime than lead-calcium batteries when
operated at higher temperatures. Disadvantages of lead-antimony batteries are a
high self-discharge rate, and as the result of necessary overcharge, require frequent
water additions depending on the temperature and amount of overcharge.
Most lead-antimony batteries are flooded, open vent types with removable caps to
permit water additions. They are well suited to application in PV systems due to
their deep cycle capability and ability to take abuse, however they do require
periodic water additions. The frequency of water additions can be minimized by the
use of catalytic recombination caps or battery designs with excess electrolyte
reservoirs. The health of flooded, open vent lead-antimony batteries can easily be
checked by measuring the specific gravity of the electrolyte with a hydrometer.
Lead-antimony batteries with thick plates and robust design are generally classified
as motive power or traction type batteries, are widely available and are typically used
in electrically operated vehicles where deep cycle long-life performance is required.

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Lead-Calcium Batteries
Lead-calcium batteries are a type of lead-acid battery which use calcium (Ca) as the
primary alloying element with lead in the plate grids. Like lead-antimony, the use of
lead-calcium alloys in the grids has both advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages include providing greater mechanical strength than pure lead grids, a
low self-discharge rate, and reduced gassing resulting in lower water loss and lower
maintenance requirements than for lead-antimony batteries. Disadvantages of leadcalcium batteries include poor charge acceptance after deep discharges and
shortened battery life at higher operating temperatures and if discharged to greater
than 25% depth of discharge repeatedly.

Flooded Lead-Calcium, Open Vent


Often classified as stationary batteries, these batteries are typically supplied as
individual 2-volt cells in capacity ranges up to and over 1000 ampere-hours.
Flooded lead-calcium batteries have the advantages of low self-discharge and low
water loss, and may last as long as 20 years in stand-by or float service. In PV
applications, these batteries usually experience short lifetimes due to sulfation and
stratification of the electrolyte unless they are charged properly.

Flooded Lead-Calcium, Sealed Vent


Primarily developed as 'maintenance free' automotive starting batteries, the capacity
for these batteries is typically in the range of 50 to 120 ampere-hours, in a nominal
12 volt unit. Like all lead-calcium designs, they are intolerant of overcharging, high
operating temperatures and deep discharge cycles. They are maintenance free in
the sense that you do not add water, but they are also limited by the fact that you
cannot add water that generally limits their useful life. This battery design
incorporates sufficient reserve electrolyte to operate over its typical service life
without water additions. These batteries are often employed in small stand-alone
PV systems such as in rural homes and lighting systems, but must be carefully
charged to achieve maximum performance and life. While they are low cost, they
are really designed for shallow cycling, and will generally have a short life in most PV
applications
An example of this type of battery that is widely produced throughout the world is the
Delco 2000. It is relatively low cost and suitable for unsophisticated users that might
not properly maintain their battery water level. However, it is really a modified SLI
battery, with many thin plates and will only provide a couple years of useful service
in most PV systems.

Lead-Antimony/Lead-Calcium Hybrid
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These are typically flooded batteries, with capacity ratings of over 200 amperehours. A common design for this battery type uses lead-calcium tubular positive
electrodes and pasted lead-antimony negative plates. This design combines the
advantages of both lead-calcium and lead-antimony design, including good deep
cycle performance, low water loss and long life. Stratification and sulfation can also
be a problem with these batteries, and must be treated accordingly. These batteries
are sometimes used in PV systems with larger capacity and deep cycle
requirements. A common hybrid battery using tubular plates is the Exide Solar
battery line manufactured in the United States.

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Components Battery Technology

Captive Electrolyte Lead-Acid Batteries


Captive electrolyte batteries are another type of lead-acid battery. As the name
implies, the electrolyte is immobilized in some manner and the battery is sealed
under normal operating conditions. Under excessive overcharge, the normally
sealed vents open under gas pressure. Often captive electrolyte batteries are
referred to as valve regulated lead acid (VRLA) batteries, noting the pressure
regulating mechanisms on the cell vents. Electrolyte cannot be replenished in these
battery designs, therefore they are intolerant of excessive overcharge.
Captive electrolyte lead-acid batteries are popular for PV applications because they
are spill proof and easily transported, and they require no water additions making
them ideal for remote applications were maintenance is infrequent or unavailable.
However, a common failure mode for these batteries in PV systems is excessive
overcharge and loss of electrolyte, which is accelerated in warm climates. For this
reason, it is essential that the battery charge controller regulation set points are
adjusted properly to prevent overcharging.
This battery technology is very sensitive to charging methods, regulation voltage and
temperature extremes. Optimal charge regulation voltages for captive electrolyte
batteries vary between designs, so it is necessary to follow manufacturers
recommendations when available. When no information is available, the charge
regulation voltage should be limited to no more than 14.2 volts at 25 oC for nominal
12-volt batteries. The recommended charging algorithm is constant-voltage, with
temperature compensation of the regulation voltage required to prevent overcharge.
A benefit of captive or immobilized electrolyte designs is that they are less
susceptible to freezing compared to flooded batteries. Typically, lead-calcium grids
are used in captive electrolyte batteries to minimize gassing, however some designs
use lead-antimony/calcium hybrid grids to gain some of the favorable advantages of
lead-antimony batteries.
In the United States, about one half of the small remote PV systems being installed
use captive electrolyte, or sealed batteries. The two most common captive
electrolyte batteries are the gelled electrolyte and absorbed glass mat designs.

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Gelled Batteries
Initially designed for electronic instruments and consumer devices, gelled lead-acid
batteries typically use lead-calcium grids. The electrolyte is 'gelled' by the addition of
silicon dioxide to the electrolyte, which is then added to the battery in a warm liquid
form and gels as it cools. Gelled batteries use an internal recombinant process to
limit gas escape from the battery, reducing water loss. Cracks and voids develop
within the gelled electrolyte during the first few cycles, providing paths for gas
transport between the positive and negative plates, facilitating the recombinant
process.
Some gelled batteries have a small amount of phosphoric acid added to the
electrolyte to improve the deep discharge cycle performance of the battery. The
phosphoric acid is similar to the common commercial corrosion inhibitors and metal
preservers, and minimizes grid oxidation at low states of charge. Gelled batteries
represent over 90% of the captive electrolyte batteries used in small PV systems in
the United States.

Absorbed Glass Mat (AGM) Batteries


Another sealed, or valve regulated lead-acid battery, the electrolyte in an AGM
battery is absorbed in glass mats that are sandwiched in layers between the plates.
However, the electrolyte is not gelled. Similar in other respects to gelled batteries,
AGM batteries are also intolerant to overcharge and high operating temperatures.
Recommended charge regulation methods stated above for gelled batteries also
apply to AGMs.
A key feature of AGM batteries is the phenomenon of internal gas recombination.
As a charging lead-acid battery nears full state of charge, hydrogen and oxygen
gasses are produced by the reactions at the negative and positive plates,
respectively. In a flooded battery these gasses escape from the battery through the
vents, thus requiring periodic water additions. In an AGM battery the excellent ion
transport properties of the liquid electrolyte held suspended in the glass mats, the
oxygen molecules can migrate from the positive plate and recombine with the slowly
evolving hydrogen at the negative plate and form water again. Under conditions of
controlled charging the pressure relief vents in AGM batteries are designed to
remain closed, preventing the release of any gasses and water loss.
While these batteries are successfully used in PV systems, unfavorable
performance of AGM batteries in early PV applications has limited their use to less
than 10% of the captive electrolyte batteries currently used in small PV systems in
the United States.

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Components Battery Technology

Lead-Acid Battery Chemistry


Now that the basic components of a battery have been described, the overall
electrochemical operation of a battery can be discussed. Referring to Figure 10-1,
the basic lead-acid battery cell consists of sets positive and negative plates, divided
by separators, and immersed in a case with an electrolyte solution. In a fully
charged lead-acid cell the positive plates are lead dioxide (PbO2), the negative
plates are sponge lead (Pb), and the electrolyte is a diluted sulfuric acid solution.
When a battery is connected to an electrical load, current flows from the battery as
the active materials are converted to lead sulfate (PbSO4).

Lead-Acid Cell Reaction


The following equations show the electrochemical reactions for the lead-acid cell.
During battery discharge the directions of the reactions listed goes from left to right.
During battery charging, the direction of the reactions is reversed, and the reactions
go from right to left. Note that the elements as well as charge are balanced on both
sides of each equation.

Lead-Acid Cell Electrochemical Reactions


At the positive plate or electrode:
PbO2 + 4 H + + 2e Pb 2 + + 2 H 2 O
Pb 2 + + SO42 PbSO4
At the negative plate or electrode:
Pb Pb 2 + + 2e
Pb 2 + + SO42 PbSO4
Overall lead-acid cell reaction:
PbO2 + Pb + 2 H 2 SO4 2 PbSO4 + 2 H 2 O

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Some consequences of these reactions are interesting and important. As the


battery is discharged, the active materials PbO2 and Pb in the positive and negative
plates, respectively, combine with the sulfuric acid solution to form PbSO4 and
water. Note that in a fully discharged battery the active materials in both the positive
and negative plates are converted to PbSO4, while the sulfuric acid solution is
converted to water. This dilution of the electrolyte has important consequences in
terms of the electrolyte specific gravity and freezing point that will be discussed later.

Formation
Forming is the process of initial battery charging during manufacture. Formation of a
lead-acid battery changes the lead oxide (PbO) on the positive plate grids to lead
dioxide (PbO2), and to metallic sponge lead (Pb) on the negative plates. The extent
to which a battery has been formed during manufacture dictates the need for
additional cycles in the field to achieve rated capacity.

Stratification
Stratification is a condition that can occur in flooded lead-acid batteries in which the
concentration or specific gravity of the electrolyte increases from the bottom to top of
a cell. Stratification is generally the result of undercharging, or not providing enough
overcharge to gas and agitate the electrolyte during finish charging. Prolonged
stratification can result in the bottom of the plates being consumed, while the upper
portions remaining in relatively good shape, reducing battery life and capacity. Tall
stationary cells, typically of large capacity, are particularly prone to stratification
when charged at low rates. Periodic equalization charges thoroughly mix the
electrolyte and can prevent stratification problems.

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Specific Gravity
Specific gravity is defined as the ratio of the density of a solution to the density of
water, typically measured with a hydrometer. By definition, water has a specific
gravity of one. In a lead-acid battery, the electrolyte is a diluted solution of sulfuric
acid and water. In a fully charged battery, the electrolyte is approximately 36%
sulfuric acid by weight, or 25% by volume, with the remainder water. The specific
gravity of the electrolyte is related to the battery state of charge, depending on the
design electrolyte concentration and temperature.
In a fully charged flooded lead-acid battery, the specific gravity of the electrolyte is
typically in the range of 1.250 to 1.280 at a temperature of 27o C, meaning that the
density of the electrolyte is between 1.25 and 1.28 times that of pure water. When
the battery is discharged, the hydrogen (H+) and sulfate (SO42-) ions from the sulfuric
acid solution combine with the active materials in the positive and negative plates to
form lead sulfate (PbSO4), decreasing the specific gravity of the electrolyte. As the
battery is discharged to greater depths, the sulfuric acid solution becomes diluted
until there are no ions left in solution. At this point the battery is fully discharged,
and the electrolyte is essentially water with a specific gravity of one.
Concentrated sulfuric acid has a very low freezing point (less than -50o C) while
water has a much higher freezing point of 0o C. This has important implications in
that the freezing point of the electrolyte in a lead-acid battery varies with the
concentration or specific gravity of the electrolyte. As the battery becomes
discharged, the specific gravity decreases resulting in a higher freezing point for the
electrolyte.
Lead-acid batteries used in PV systems may be susceptible to freezing in some
applications, particularly during cold winters when the batteries may not be fully
charged during below average insolation periods. The PV system designer must
carefully consider the temperature extremes of the application along with the
anticipated battery state of charge during the winter months to ensure that lead-acid
batteries are not subjected to freezing. Table 10-2 shows the properties and
freezing points for sulfuric acid solutions.

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Components Battery Technology

Properties of Sulfuric Acid Solutions


Specific Gravity

1.000
1.050
1.100
1.150
1.200
1.250
1.300



H2SO4 (Wt%)

H2SO4 (Vol%)

Freezing Point
(oC)

0.0
7.3
14.3
20.9
27.2
33.4
39.1

0.0
4.2
8.5
13.0
17.1
22.6
27.6

0
-3.3
-7.8
-15
-27
-52
-71

Adjustments to Specific Gravity


In very cold or tropical climates the specific gravity of the sulfuric acid solution in
lead-acid batteries is often adjusted from the typical range of 1.250 to 1.280. In
tropical climates where freezing temperatures do not occur, the electrolyte specific
gravity may be reduced to between 1.210 and 1.230 in some battery designs. This
lower concentration electrolyte will lessen the degradation of the separators and
grids and prolong the batterys useful service life. However, the lower specific
gravity decreases the storage capacity and high discharge rate performance of the
battery. Generally, these factors are offset by the fact that the battery is generally
operating at higher than normal temperatures in tropical climates.
In very cold climates, the specific gravity of the electrolyte may be increased above
the typical range of 1.250 to 1.280 to values between 1.290 and 1.300. By
increasing the electrolyte concentration, the electrochemical activity in the battery is
accelerated, improving the low temperature capacity and lowers the potential for
battery freezing. However, these higher specific gravities generally reduce the
useful service life of a battery.
While the specific gravity can also be used to estimate the state of charge of a leadacid battery, low or inconsistent specific gravity reading between series connected
cells in a battery may indicate sulfation, stratification, or lack of equalization between
cells. In some cases a cell with low specific gravity may indicate a cell failure or
internal short-circuit within the battery. Measurement of specific gravity can be a
valuable aid in the routine maintenance and diagnostics of battery problems in
stand-alone PV systems.

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Sulfation
Sulfation is a normal process that occurs in lead-acid batteries resulting from
prolonged operation at partial states of charge. Even batteries that are frequently
fully charged suffer from the effects of sulfation as the battery ages. The sulfation
process involves the growth of lead sulfate crystals on the positive plate, decreasing
the active area and capacity of the cell. During normal battery discharge, the active
materials of the plates are converted to lead sulfate. The deeper the discharge, the
greater the amount of active material that is converted to lead sulfate. During
recharge the lead sulfate is converted back into lead dioxide and sponge lead on the
positive and negative plates, respectively. If the battery is recharged soon after
being discharged the lead sulfate converts easily back into the active materials.
However, if a lead-acid battery is left at less than full state of charge for prolonged
periods (days or weeks), the lead sulfate crystallizes on the plate and inhibits the
conversion back to the active materials during recharge. The crystals essentially
lock away active material and prevent it from reforming into lead and lead dioxide,
effectively reducing the capacity of the battery. If the lead sulfate crystals grow too
large they can cause physical damage to the plates. Sulfation also leads to higher
internal resistance within the battery, making it more difficult to recharge.
Sulfation is a common problem experienced with lead-acid batteries in many PV
applications. As the PV array is sized to meet the load under average conditions,
the battery must sometimes be used to supply reserve energy during periods of
excessive load usage or below average insolation. As a consequence, batteries in
most PV systems normally operate for some length of time over the course of a year
at partial states of charge, resulting in some degree of sulfation. The longer the
period and greater the depth of discharge, the greater the extent of sulfation.
To minimize sulfation of lead acid batteries in photovoltaic systems the PV array is
generally designed to recharge the battery on the average daily conditions during the
worst insolation month of the year. By sizing for the worst months weather, the PV
array has the best chance of minimizing the seasonal battery depth of discharge. In
hybrid systems using a backup source such as a generator or wind turbine, the
backup source can be effectively used to keep the batteries fully charged even if the
PV array can not. In general, proper battery and array sizing, as well as periodic
equalization charges can minimize the onset of sulfation.

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Components Battery Technology

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
Nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries are secondary, or rechargeable batteries and
have several advantages over lead-acid batteries that make them attractive for use
in stand-alone PV systems. These advantages include long life, low maintenance,
survivability from excessive discharges, excellent low temperature capacity
retention, and non-critical voltage regulation requirements. The main disadvantages
of nickel-cadmium batteries are their high cost and limited availability compared to
lead-acid designs.
A typical nickel-cadmium cell consists of positive electrodes made from nickelhydroxide (NiO(OH))and negative electrodes made from cadmium (Cd) and
immersed in an alkaline potassium hydroxide (KOH) electrolyte solution. When a
nickel-cadmium cell is discharged, the nickel hydroxide changes form (Ni(OH)2) and
the cadmium becomes cadmium hydroxide (Cd(OH)2). The concentration of the
electrolyte does not change during the reaction so the freezing point stays very low.

Sintered Plate Ni-Cads


Sintered plate nickel cadmium batteries are commonly used in electrical test
equipment and consumer electronic devices. The batteries are designed by heat
processing the active materials and rolling them into metallic case. The electrolyte
in sintered plate nickel-cadmium batteries is immobilized, preventing leakage,
allowing any orientation for installation. The main disadvantage of sintered plate
designs is the so called 'memory effect', in which a battery that is repeatedly
discharged to only a percentage of its rated capacity will eventually 'memorize' this
cycle pattern, and will limit further discharge resulting in loss of capacity. In some
cases the 'memory effect' can be erased by conducting special charge and
discharge cycles, regaining some of its initial rated capacity.

Pocket Plate Ni-Cads


Large nickel cadmium batteries used in remote telecommunications systems and
other commercial applications are typically of a flooded design, called flooded
pocket plate. Similar to flooded lead-acid designs, these batteries require periodic
water additions, however, the electrolyte is an alkaline solution of potassium
hydroxide, instead of a sulfuric acid solution. These batteries can withstand deep
discharges and temperature extremes much better than lead-acid batteries, and they
do not experience the 'memory effect' associated with sintered plate Ni-Cads. The
main disadvantage of pocket plate nickel cadmium batteries is their high initial cost,
however their long lifetimes can result in the lowest life cycle cost battery for some
PV applications.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-23

Components Battery Technology

Nickel-Cadmium Battery Chemistry


Following are the electrochemical reactions for the flooded nickel-cadmium cell:

Nickel-Cadmium Cell Reactions


At the positive plate or electrode:
2 NiO(OH ) + 2 H 2 O + 2e 2 Ni(OH ) 2 + 2OH
At the negative plate or electrode:
Cd + 2OH Cd (OH ) 2 + 2e
Overall nickel cadmium cell reaction:
Cd + 2 NiO(OH ) + 2 H 2 O Cd (OH ) 2 + 2 Ni(OH ) 2

Notice these reactions are reversible and that the elements and charge are balanced
on both sides of the equations. The discharge reactions occur from left to right,
while the charge reactions are reversed.
The nominal voltage for a nickel-cadmium cell is 1.2 volts, compared to about 2.1
volts for a lead-acid cell, requiring 10 nickel-cadmium cells to be configured in series
for a nominal 12-volt battery. The voltage of a nickel-cadmium cell remains relatively
stable until the cell is almost completely discharged, where the voltage drops off
dramatically. Nickel-cadmium batteries can accept charge rates as high as C/1, and
are tolerant of continuous overcharge up to a C/15 rate. Nickel-cadmium batteries
are commonly subdivided in to two primary types; sintered plate and pocket plate.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-24

Components Battery Technology

Exercises


 
    
  
 
 
               

       
       
 
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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-25

Components Battery Technology




  
   
 

    
 

    
   
 
  

 
     






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Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-26

Components Battery Technology

Battery Strengths and Weaknesses


Each battery type has design and performance features suited for particular
applications. Again, no one type of battery is ideal for PV system applications. The
designer must consider the advantages and disadvantages of different batteries with
respect to the requirements of a particular application. Some of the considerations
include lifetime, deep cycle performance, tolerance to high temperatures and
overcharge, maintenance and many others. The table below summarizes some of
the key advantages and disadvantages of the different battery types discussed in the
preceding section.
Battery Type
Flooded Lead-Acid
Lead-Antimony

Advantages

Disadvantages

low cost, wide availability,


good deep cycle and high
temperature performance,
can replenish electrolyte
low cost, wide availability,
low water loss, can
replenish electrolyte

high water loss and


maintenance

Lead-Calcium Sealed Vent

low cost, wide availability,


low water loss

Lead Antimony/
Calcium Hybrid

medium cost, low water


loss

poor deep cycle performance,


intolerant to high
temperatures and
overcharge, can not replenish
electrolyte
limited availability, potential
for stratification

medium cost, little or no


maintenance, less
susceptible to freezing,
install in any orientation
medium cost, little or no
maintenance, less
susceptible to freezing,
install in any orientation

fair deep cycle performance,


intolerant to overcharge and
high temperatures, limited
availability
fair deep cycle performance,
intolerant to overcharge and
high temperatures, limited
availability

wide availability, excellent


low and high temperature
performance,
maintenance free
excellent deep cycle and
low and high temperature
performance, tolerance to
overcharge

only available in low


capacities, high cost, suffer
from memory effect

Lead-Calcium Open Vent

Captive Electrolyte Lead-Acid


Gelled

Absorbed Glass Mat

Nickel-Cadmium
Sealed Sintered-Plate

Flooded Pocket-Plate

poor deep cycle performance,


intolerant to high
temperatures and overcharge

limited availability, high cost,


water additions required


        

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10-27

Components Battery Technology

Battery Cycling
One of the main parameters that distinguishes battery types is their ability to cycle.
A battery cycle refers to the process of charging and discharging a battery. Battery
discharge is the process that occurs when a battery delivers current, quantified by
the discharge current or rate. Charging is the process when a battery receives or
accepts current, quantified by the charge current or rate. A discharge followed by a
recharge is considered one cycle.
The discharge can be very small or shallow, or it can be very severe or deep. A 100
percent depth of discharge cycle provides a measure of the total battery capacity at
a given discharge rate. All batteries can be cycled, but the question is how deeply
and how many times before a permanent loss of capacity occurs. Batteries used in
photovoltaic applications will definitely be subjected to cycling on a daily basis, and
perhaps deeply cycled occasionally.
We can think of a battery as being full of charge, even though it is actually full of
chemicals that hold potential energy. We use the capacity of a battery bank in a
photovoltaic power system to operate the loads during each night, and during
periods of heavy load use or below average insolation. If a series of below average
weather days occurs in a row, then the battery is not fully recharged at the end of
each daily cycle, and the capacity and state of charge of the battery reduces daily.

B attery C ycling
B attery capacity

O ne discharge and
recharge is one cycle
B attery life depends on
how deep and how
m any tim es the battery
is cycled
B atteries designed for
shallow cycling w ill
w ork, but for short tim e
Solar system s need
deep cycling batteries

+
available
for use

on e d ays use

leave unused




Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-28

Components Battery Technology

Battery Discharging
When a battery is discharged the chemical reaction on the plates proceeds inward
toward the grid. The deeper the discharge, the deeper the chemical reaction occurs.
In lead-acid batteries the lead-sulfate molecules that are formed are larger than the
lead or lead-oxide molecules, and the bonding of the active material to the plates is
gradually weakened due to grid growth. Figure 10-3 illustrates the discharge
process.

Discharge Process
Discharge reaction
proceeds inward toward
grid
100% discharge
weakens adhesion
Increased resistance
produces heat
Degradation accelerates

grid
active material
coated onto grid




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-29

Components Battery Technology

Charge/Discharge Rates Expressed as


Time
Battery manufacturers often refer to rates of charge or discharge not in amperes but
by the time it would take to completely charge or discharge a battery at a specific
current. The rate of charge or discharge of a battery is expressed as a ratio of the
nominal battery capacity to the charge or discharge time period in hours. For
example, a 100 Ah battery is discharging at the rate of 2 amps. The time to
completely discharge a fully charged battery at this rate would be the capacity
divided by the current, or 100 Ah / 2 amps = 50 hours. So we would say that the
battery is discharging at the "50 hour rate" or at "C/50".

Rate in Amperes =

Capacity in Amp - Hours C


=
Time in Hours
T

This notation is helpful because it allows us to talk about relative rates of battery
charge and discharge, without referring to the exact size of a battery. For example,
most manufacturers recommend charging their batteries no faster than the C/5 rate
to limit gassing and overcharge. This means 20 amps for a 100 Ah battery, and 100
amps for a 500 Ah battery. Moderate charge rates are around C/20 or C/30, while
trickle charging at C/100 will hardly produce any gassing at all in most batteries.
This notation is used for discussing discharge rates as well. For example, batteries
used for UPS systems generally have their capacity measured at the C/5 or C/2 hour
rate, because in the event of a utility power failure, the UPS system is expected to
operate for only 2 or 5 hours. Batteries used in electric forklift operations will have
their capacity rated at the C/8 hour rate, because it is anticipated that they will be
discharged during a typical 8-hour shift.
Batteries used in typical PV systems experience very low rates of charge and
discharge compared to these common industrial applications. For example, the
maximum charge rates from the PV array to battery are commonly about C/40, and
typical discharge rates supplied to the loads may be as low as C/100 to C/200.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-30

Components Battery Technology

Depth of Discharge (DOD)


The depth of discharge (DOD) of a battery is defined as the percentage of capacity
that has been withdrawn from a battery compared to the total fully charged capacity.
By definition, the depth of discharge and state of charge of a battery add to 100
percent. The two common qualifiers for depth of discharge in PV systems are the
allowable or maximum DOD and the average daily DOD and are described as
follows:

Allowable Depth of Discharge


The maximum percentage of full-rated capacity that can be withdrawn from a battery
is known as its allowable depth of discharge. The allowable DOD is the maximum
discharge limit for a battery, generally dictated by the cut off voltage and discharge
rate. In stand-alone PV systems the low voltage load disconnect (LVD) set point of
the battery charge controller dictates the allowable DOD limit at a given discharge
rate. Furthermore, the allowable DOD is generally a seasonal deficit, resulting from
low insolation, low temperatures and/or excessive load usage. Depending on the
type of battery used in a PV system, the design allowable depth of discharge may be
as high as 80% for deep cycle, motive power batteries, to as low as 15-25% if SLI
batteries are used. The allowable DOD is related to the autonomy, in terms of the
capacity required to operate the system loads for a given number of days without
energy from the PV array. A system design with a lower allowable DOD will result in
a shorter autonomy period.

Average Daily Depth of Discharge


The average daily depth of discharge is the percentage of the full-rated capacity that
is withdrawn from a battery with the average daily load profile. If the load varies
seasonally, for example in a PV lighting system, the average daily DOD will be
greater in the winter months due to the longer nightly load operation period. For PV
systems with a constant daily load, the average daily DOD is generally greater in the
winter due to lower battery temperature and lower rated capacity. Depending on the
rated capacity and the average daily load energy, the average daily DOD may vary
between only a few percent in systems designed with a lot of autonomy, or as high
as 50 percent for marginally sized battery systems. The average daily DOD is
inversely related to autonomy; meaning that systems designed for longer autonomy
periods (more capacity) have a lower average daily DOD.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-31

Components Battery Technology

Autonomy Determines Capacity and Depth


of Discharge
The number of days of reserve or autonomy is the main factor that determines the
size of the battery and therefore the magnitude of the daily battery depth of
discharge. The greater the number of days of autonomy sized into the battery, the
larger the total capacity and therefore the smaller the percentage used each day for
a typical daily cycle.
The relationship between days of autonomy and depth of discharge is shown below,
for both deep cycling batteries (maximum allowable DOD = 80%) and for shallow
cycling batteries (maximum allowable DOD = 50%).

Autonomy (Reserve)
Determines Daily Discharge
Depth of
Discharge (%)
80
70
60
80% Maximum D.O.D.

50
40
30

50% Maximum D.O.D.

20
10
0

11

13

15

17

19

Number of Days of Autonomy




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-32

Components Battery Technology

Example:

A photovoltaic power system is designed with deep cycling batteries to


give 5 days of autonomous operation to a final discharge depth of
80%. Reading up from 5 days on the graph to the 80% Maximum
DOD line, the typical daily depth of discharge would be only 15%.
If the battery were a shallow cycling type and could only be 50%
discharged at the end of 5 days, the average daily depth of discharge
would be only 10%.

Since most remote PV power systems are designed with at least 4 days of
autonomy, batteries in remote photovoltaic systems will be shallow cycled on an
average daily basis, whether deep or shallow cycling type batteries are used.
However, we recommend using deep cycling batteries in remote photovoltaic power
systems, even though they will typically be shallow cycled, perhaps 15-10% daily or
even less. By using deep cycling type batteries, the system can withstand the
expected seasonal drops in capacity due to below average insolation. Shallow
cycling batteries can be used as well, but shorter life should be expected.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-33

Components Battery Technology

Exercises



3   


 
  
   
   
 
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Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-34

Components Battery Technology

State of Charge (SOC)


The state of charge (SOC) is defined as the amount of energy in a battery,
expressed as a percentage of the energy stored in a fully charged battery.
Discharging a battery results in a decrease in state of charge, while charging results
in an increase in state of charge. A battery that has had three quarters of its
capacity removed, or been discharged 75%, is said to be at 25% state of charge.
The figure below illustrates the seasonal variation in battery state of charge and
depth of discharge for a typical PV system.




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-35

Components Battery Technology

Temperature Limits Discharge Depth


As discussed earlier, if the internal temperature of a battery reaches the freezing
point of the electrolyte, the electrolyte can freeze and expand, causing irreversible
damage to the battery. In a fully charged lead-acid battery, the electrolyte is
approximately 35% by weight and the freezing point is quite low (approximately -60
o
C). As a lead-acid battery is discharged, the becomes diluted, so the concentration
of acid decreases and the concentration of water increases as the freezing point
approaches the freezing point of water, 0 oC. The figure below shows the
relationship between the maximum allowable depth of discharge and corresponding
minimum temperature to avoid freezing in a typical flooded lead-acid battery. Notice
that this is the similar to the information presented in Table 10-2 on the discussion of
specific gravity.

Temperature Limits Maximum


Discharge Depth
Maximum D.O.D. (%)
80
60
40
20
0

-60

-40

-20

Lowest Battery Temperature (deg.C)





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Components Battery Technology

The maximum depth of discharge must not be allowed to exceed the point that
would allow freezing. The photovoltaic power system must be designed with enough
battery capacity so that after the maximum expected days of autonomous operation,
the depth of discharge does not exceed the danger point. If the coldest expected
battery temperatures are not known, the coldest 24-hour average temperature for
the location may be used.
You can see that if the coldest temperature does not go below -8 oC, then there is no
effect on the allowable maximum depth of discharge to prevent freezing. This factor
is only applicable in very cold climates.

Example:

At a remote telecommunications site on a mountain top, the coldest


24-hour temperature is approximately -20 oC. Read up from -20 oC in
Figure 10-6 to a value of approximately 50%.
This means that the maximum allowable depth of discharge would be
approximately 50%, even if "deep cycling" type batteries were used
and the manufacturer had indicated that they can be designed for
maximum discharges of 80%.

The example system should be designed so that at maximum discharge, the


batteries would be only 50% discharged (at the end of the autonomy period). If
allowed to discharge more during this coldest time of the year, they might be in
danger of freezing.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-37

Components Battery Technology

Exercises



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Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-38

Components Battery Technology

Shallow and Deep Cycle Batteries


Batteries are sometimes classified as deep or shallow cycling, but there are only
general classifications and are not always truly indicative of actual battery
performance and cell design. Shallow cycle batteries generally a type of SLI or
automotive starting battery. These batteries are made with lead-calcium grids and
should not be cycled greater than 15% on a daily (or nightly) basis. They should not
be allowed to discharge more than 50% under any circumstances, because they
become very difficult to recharge from beyond that depth of discharge. This is
especially true for low cost automobile batteries that might be used for simple rural
electrification systems. These types of batteries are designed to provide large
currents for short periods, and are not designed to sustain deep discharges. They
will give about 500-1000 cycles to 15% depth of discharge before loosing too much
capacity and requiring replacement.

Shallow Cycle Batteries


500 - 1000 cycles to 15% maximum daily discharge
50% maximum allowable depth of discharge

Deep cycle batteries are often traction of motive power types and can handle greater
discharges for longer times than typical shallow cycle batteries. Even so they should
not be cycled to 100% discharge. Most manufacturers recommend that deep cycling
batteries be discharged to no more than 80% of the rated capacity, to prevent
reactions from occurring close to the grid. The expansion from lead and lead dioxide
molecules into large lead sulfate molecules can severely weaken the bonding of the
active materials to the grid, causing increased internal resistance and heating.
Typically deep cycle batteries can deliver 1500-1800 cycles to 80% depth of
discharge before needing replacement, and will deliver 3000-4000 cycles if
discharged more moderately to 25% depth of discharge or less.

Deep Cycle Batteries


3000 - 4000 cycles to 25% depth of discharge
500 - 1800 cycles to 80% maximum allowable depth of discharge

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Components Battery Technology

The difference in cycle life between deep and shallow cycle batteries is shown in the
figure below. The general trend for both types of batteries is that a greater depth of
discharge yields a fewer number of cycles. All batteries deliver fewer cycles at
greater depths of discharge.

Depth of Discharge Affects Cycle Life


Number of Cycles to 20% Loss of Capacity
5000
4000

Deep Cycling Batteries

3000
2000
1000
0

Shallow Cycling Batteries


10

30

50

70

Depth of Discharge (%)




What determines when a battery should be replaced? Most all battery


manufacturers recommend that when a battery has lost 20% of its capacity it has
reached the end of its useful life, and should be replaced. The cycle graph
presented above is based on the number of cycles until 20% capacity has been lost,
or in other words until only 80% of the original capacity is left. However, this chart
should only be used as a rough guideline for battery cycle life. The specific battery
type and design, temperature, rates, charging methods, maintenance and other
factors all have an effect on battery cycle life.
Example:

If a shallow cycling battery is discharged to approximately 15% each cycle,


you could expect about 500 cycles before it would need replacing. This
would correspond to about 1-2 years of operation if the cycling were once a
day. If it were discharged to about 50% each cycle, you could expect a few
hundred cycles, corresponding to less than a year.
If a deep cycling battery were discharged to 80% each cycle, you could
expect about 1500-1800 cycles, corresponding to about 4-5 years of
operation if there were one cycle each day. Cycling to only 20% each cycle
could give about 4000 cycles, or about 10 years of operation.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Capacity
Capacity is a measure of a battery's ability to store or deliver electrical energy,
commonly expressed in units of ampere-hours.

Ampere-Hour Definition
The ampere-hour (Ah) is the common unit of measure for a battery's electrical
storage capacity, obtained by integrating the discharge or charge current in amperes
over a specific time period. An ampere-hour is equal to the transfer of one ampere
over one hour, equal to 3600 coulombs of charge. For example, a battery that
delivers 5 amps for 20 hours is said to have delivered 100 ampere-hours.

Factors Affecting Battery Capacity


Capacity is generally specified at a specific discharge rate, or over a certain time
period. The capacity of a battery depends on several design factors including; the
quantity of active material, the number, design and physical dimensions of the
plates, and the electrolyte specific gravity. Operational factors affecting capacity
include; the discharge rate, depth of discharge, cut-off voltage, temperature, age
and cycle history of the battery. Sometimes a battery's energy storage capacity is
expressed in kilowatt-hours (kWh), which can be approximated by multiplying the
rated capacity in ampere-hours by the nominal battery voltage and dividing the
product by 1000. For example, a nominal 12 volt, 100 ampere-hour battery has an
energy storage capacity of (12 x 100)/1000 = 1.2 kilowatt-hours.

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Components Battery Technology

Effects of Temperature on Capacity


Cold temperatures decrease the total capacity available from a battery. During
discharge, the electrolyte does not penetrate as deeply into the active material on
the plates, and the cut-off voltage is reached sooner at cold temperatures.
PV system designers must be acutely aware of the effects of temperature on battery
capacity. Battery manufacturers generally rate capacity at a temperature of 25 oC.
If the required battery size in a PV system is calculated based on the expected
capacity at 25 oC, the battery may be too small to provide the storage necessary to
achieve the design autonomy period during cold temperatures. As a result the
battery could be severely discharged and the system loads may not be satisfied.
Additional battery capacity must be installed in stand-alone PV power systems to
compensate for the expected reduction in capacity at low temperatures.

Standard Temperature for Rated Battery Capacity

25 oC

Battery Capacity Must Be Derated For Low Temperature Operation


Conversely, a battery operated at temperatures greater than 25 oC will deliver more
than the rated capacity. However, under no circumstances should a battery be
heated or operated at elevated temperatures to increase the available capacity.
Higher than rated operating temperatures significantly reduce battery life. Most
battery manufacturers recommend their batteries be operated in temperature ranges
of between 20 and 30 oC.
How is this information used in the sizing and design of batteries in PV systems?
We apply this data during our battery sizing calculations to insure that even when
the batteries are at their coldest, the system has the capacity it requires. In other
words, when we calculate the amount of capacity we need to give the days of
autonomy desired, the calculated value must be increased by an appropriate factor if
the battery is operated below 25 oC.

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Components Battery Technology

Example:

Assume that 1000 ampere-hours of battery capacity is required to


operate a specific load for the required days of autonomy. Also
assume that the average discharge rate is C/120 or about 8 amps.
If the battery temperature could get as low as -20 oC during operation,
1000 Ah of capacity is still required at these lower temperatures. Since
most battery manufacturers rate capacity at 25 oC, the rated capacity
must be derated to the available capacity at -20 oC. How much
capacity is required at 25 oC to ensure that 1000 Ah are available at 20 oC at the C/50 rate?
To determine the increase in capacity required, we refer to the figure
below which shows the percent of standard rated capacity (at 25 oC) as
a function of the discharge rate and temperature. At -20 oC at the
C/120 rate, the capacity of a typical lead-acid battery is about 82% of
the rated capacity at 25 oC. To calculate the increased capacity
required, simply divide the 1000 Ah required at 25 oC by 0.82 to give
1000 / 0.82 = 1220 Ah. Therefore, by installing about 1220 Ah of
battery capacity (rated at 25 oC), we still have 1000 Ah available when
the battery is at -20 oC.

Temperature and Discharge Rate


Effects on Lead-Acid Battery Capacity
Percent of Rated Capacity

120
110
100
90
80
70
60

C/500
C/50
C/0.5

50
40

C/120
C/5

30
-30

-20

-10

10

20

30

40

Battery Operating Temperature - C




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

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Components Battery Technology

Discharge Rate Affects Capacity


When a battery is discharged, the lead sulfate and water reaction products get in the
way of further reaction. At high discharge rates, the reactions are confined to the
layers of the active material that are in immediate contact with the free electrolyte,
limiting the cell capacity. This is because there is insufficient time for the electrolyte
to diffuse into the pores of the plates, and the sulfate molecules forming at the
surface clogs the pores, preventing full use of all the active material. This effect is
amplified as the discharge rate increases. The result is that final cut-off voltage is
reached sooner and less total capacity is usable at faster rates of discharge. So
battery capacity is not a fixed value, but depends on how fast the battery is
discharged. Discharging a battery slowly delivers more capacity from the battery,
while discharging it quickly delivers less total capacity.
This effect is not permanent. For example, if a battery is discharged at a fast rate, it
only delivers a fraction of its rated capacity. If it is then fully recharged and it is
discharged at a slower rate, then more capacity will be available. However, a few
cycles may need to be performed on the battery to achieve stable capacities at the
new rates.
The rate of discharge must therefore be included in any statement of battery
capacity. Rates are not usually stated in amperes, but in hours for full discharge to a
specified cut-off voltage. Most manufacturers use the ten-hour rate for their nominal
ratings (some use eight hours or twenty hours). For example, if a battery capacity is
presented by the manufacturer as "180 Ah at the 10 hour rate", this means that if the
battery were discharged for ten hours at a constant C/10 rate (180/10 = 18 amps),
then 180 Ah would have been discharged from it to the cut off voltage. Batteries
used for industrial or motive power applications often have capacity measured at the
6 or 8 hour rate, because the time of a normal working shift is that long.
The terminology of the rate of discharge in hours, for example the 10 hour rate ,
tells us how fast the battery is being discharged. It does not necessarily mean that a
battery will in fact actually be discharged for ten hours and drop in voltage to the final
cut-off voltage. It means only that it is being discharged at a rate that would fully
discharge it in that time. In practice, it may only be discharged for a few hours.
Capacity ratings for longer periods are appropriate for photovoltaic power systems
because the battery is usually designed to discharge steadily over many days of bad
weather. For example, discharging a battery bank for a remote home designed with
five days autonomy would take 120 hours (5 days x 24 hours/day). And a battery
designed for a critical remote telecom repeater with 14 days of autonomy would take
over 300 hours (14 days X 24 hours/day) to completely discharge.

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Components Battery Technology

Typical Discharge Times


Industrial, motive applications

10 hours

Photovoltaic applications

100-300 hours

The time we need to specify is the time to TOTAL discharge (100% DOD). But we
do not allow batteries to fully discharge every cycle. In fact, most manufacturers
recommend that shallow cycling type batteries only be discharged to a maximum of
50% of their full capacity, and that deep cycling batteries be discharged to a
maximum of 80% of their capacity. This is to prevent weakening of the bond
between the active materials and the grids.

Maximum Recommended Depth of Discharge for Lead Acid Batteries


Shallow cycling types

50%

Deep cycling types

80%

Thus we need to take into account the maximum allowable depth of discharge in
calculating the time it would take to fully discharge a battery. The time (hours) to
discharge to the maximum DOD limit is simply the number of days of autonomy
reserve times the number of hours each day that the loads operate.
Time to discharge to max. DOD = Days of Reserve X Load Operating Time
For continuous loads, such a microwave repeaters or navigational systems, the
operating time might be 24 hours/day. For simple home lighting systems, the load (a
single fluorescent light for example) might be specified as 4 hours/day. For systems
with a variety of intermittent loads, a weighted average for the load operating time
can be calculated by summing each load (amps DC, or watts AC) multiplied times its
operating time and dividing this by the sum of the load values alone. This weights
the average load operating time for a collection of different loads based on the size
of the load and its operating time.

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Components Battery Technology

Load Operating Time:

Continuous Loads:
Single Load Systems:
Multiple Load Systems:

use 24 hours
use load operating time
use weighted average load operating time

Weighted Average Load Operating Time =

load time
loads

The formula for the time to total discharge (not just to max. DOD as described
above) is time to discharge to the maximum DOD divided by the maximum allowed
discharge.

Time to fully discharge

Example:

Days of Reserve X Load Operating Time


Maximum Depth of Discharge (%)

The small remote cabin used in the Load Estimation Chapter has a
variety of loads. The weighted average load operating time would be
given by dividing the sum of the load X time by the sum of the loads
only:
Weighted Average =
Load Time
=

69.4 Ah
(2 x 3.3) + (3 x .92) + (1 x 3.3) + (1 x 2)
4.7 hours

The system will be designed with 4 days of reserve autonomy in the


battery bank. If low cost shallow cycling batteries are to be used, the
limit to maximum DOD is 50%. The battery discharge rate, given in
time to total discharge would be given by:
Time to full discharge

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4 days X 4.7 hours/day


0.5

37.6 hours

10-46

Components Battery Technology

Example:

A small remote telemetry system is to be designed with 5 days of


reserve battery capacity. Deep cycling industrial batteries are to be
used that can discharge to 80%. The load is a continuous (24-hour)
load. The average discharge rate, expressed in hours, is given by
Time to full discharge

5 days X 24 hours/day
0.80

150 hours

In the example a battery is designed to give five days of reserve or autonomy. We


choose a deep cycling type battery, so the maximum depth of discharge (DOD) can
be up to 80%, or in other words down to 20% state of charge. As the battery is
discharged over time the state of charge decreases. By the end of 5 days or 120
hours, we would have discharged the battery to 80% depth of discharge (20% state
of charge) if there were no input from the PV array.
But the figure shows that the time to fully discharge the battery is actually 150 hours,
or about 6.25 days. So we are really discharging this particular battery at the 150
hour rate or the C/150 rate, and not the C/120 rate. We would not actually
discharge this battery over 150 hours to 100% depth of discharge or to 0% state of
charge, but this is the time that it would take if we did. Although it is this number that
is used to determine the available capacity from the battery with this autonomy
period.

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10-47

Components Battery Technology

Hour Rate Indicates Time to


Total Discharge
5 days (120 hours) reserve to 80% DOD gives 150 hours discharge time

1 2 0

Time to total discharge:


1 0 0

State
of
Charge
(%)

#Days X 24 hrs
Max % Discharge

8 0

# Days X 24 hours
6 0

4 0

Limit of discharge
recommended by manufacturer

2 0

2 0

4 0

6 0

8 0

1 0 0

1 2 0

1 4 0

1 6 0

Time Duration of Discharge (hours)




Literature Example Showing Capacity at Different Rates of


Discharge
A portion of a typical battery capacity specification sheet is shown on the next page
to demonstrate the dependence of the rate of discharge on battery capacity.
As an example, battery type 3-35A27 listed at the bottom of the sheet will deliver
468 Ah if discharged in 8 hours, but will deliver 610 Ah if discharged more slowly
taking 48 hours, and will deliver 624 Ah if discharged over 100 hours. Note that the
cut-off voltage of 1.75 volts per cell (VPC) is included in the specification. This
would mean that when a 12-volt battery, made of two of the 3-35A27 battery
modules connected in series, has reached 10.5 volts (6 x 1.75) the manufacturer
considers the battery to be fully discharged.
This manufacturer has listed a "Nom AH Cap" or nominal ampere-hour capacity for
each battery. The numbers shown are slightly higher than those found in the 8 Hr
column, so they reflect capacity obtained by discharging a bit more slowly than the 8
hour rate. Most likely they are using a common battery industry standard 10-hour

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10-48

Components Battery Technology

rate. So the manufacturers nominal capacity for the 3-35A27 is 470 Ah at the 10
hour rate, but the capacity obtained at the slower 100 hour rate would be 624 Ah. If
a range of rates is given, use the formula presented previously for calculating the
time for full discharge to determine the proper rate to use. If the exact discharge
time is not given by the manufacturer just use the time that is closest or less than the
actual time to conservatively size the battery.

Example:

In our example of the remote telemetry system presented above, the


rate of discharge, stated in hours, was given as 150 hours. The
manufacturers literature presented here goes only to the 100-hour
rate. So use that column to select the capacity available from the
battery. The capacity at the 150 hour rate would be slightly greater,
but not that much different.
If 600 Ah at 12 volts were required for the telecom project, you could
select two 6-35A15 batteries and connect them in parallel, to get 2 x
336 Ah = 672 Ah at the 100 hour rate.
Or you could select the 3-35A27 that has 624 Ah at the 100 hour rate,
but it is only 6 volts. So you would need to use two of them and
connect them in series to get 12 volts.

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Components Battery Technology

Type

Volts

Nominal
AH
Capacity

Horizontal Stacking Dimensions

AH Capacities of Single Cell


to 1.75 vpc average
at 25 deg.C.

Width

Height

Depth

Cell Type

8h

24
h

48
h

100
h

35A05

72

86

94

96

in

mm

in

mm

in

mm

6-35A05

12

75

17.23

438

8.60

218

14.2

361

6-35A07

12

110

21.67

550

35A07

108

129

141

144

6-35A09

12

145

26.17

665

35A09

144

172

188

192

6-35A11

12

180

30.67

779

35A11

180

215

235

240

6-35A13

12

215

35.17

893

35A13

216

258

282

288

6-35A15

12

250

39.67

1008

35A15

252

301

329

336

3-35A17

290

24.52

623

35A17

288

344

376

384

3-35A19

325

26.77

680

35A19

324

387

423

432

3-35A21

360

29.02

737

35A21

360

430

470

480

3-35A23

395

31.27

794

35A23

396

473

517

528

3-35A25

430

33.52

851

35A25

432

516

563

576

3-35A27

470

35.77

909

35A27

468

559

610

624


    !"#$%& ! '  '$$(
)'# * 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-50

Components Battery Technology

Cut-Off Voltage Affects Capacity


The cut off voltage is the lowest voltage that a battery system is allowed to reach in
operation, and defines the battery capacity at a specific discharge rate.
Manufacturers often rate capacity to a specific cut off, or end of discharge voltage at
a defined discharge rate. For lead-acid batteries the cut off voltage used to rate
capacity is generally 1.75 volts per cell, or 10.5 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery.
The cut off voltage for nickel-cadmium cells is typically 1.0 volt. If the same cut off
voltage is specified for different discharge rates, the capacity will generally be higher
at the lower rate. Note that the cut off voltage defined by a battery manufacturer
most often represents a fully discharged battery. Typically, batteries used in PV
systems are never allowed to reach this low of a cut off voltage, and in practice are
generally limited to no more than an 80% depth of discharge as determined by the
low voltage load disconnect point of the battery charge controller.

Voltage (volts)

Battery Voltage Over Time


2.2
2.1
2
1.9
1.8
1.7
1.6
1.5
0

20

40

60

80

100

Time (hours)
C/100

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C/10

Components Battery Technology

Effects of Self Discharge Rate on Capacity


In open-circuit mode without any load or charging a battery undergoes a natural
reduction in state of charge, due to internal mechanisms and losses within a battery.
Different battery types have different self-discharge rates, the most significant factor
being the active materials and grid alloying elements used in the design. Higher
temperatures result in higher discharge rates, particularly for lead-antimony designs.
The figure below shows the effects of battery cell temperature on the self-discharge
rate for lead-acid batteries with lead-calcium and lead-antimony grids.

Lead-Acid Battery Self Discharge Rate

Self Discharge Rate


(% of rated capacity per week)

20

Lead-Antimony Grid (end of life)


Lead-Antimony Grid (new)
Lead-Calcium Grid (typical)

15
10
5
0
-50

-25

25

50

75

Battery Operating Temperature ( C)




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10-52

Components Battery Technology

Exercises


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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-53

Components Battery Technology

Voltage Changes During Charging


and Discharging
We will now begin to examine some of the many factors that affect battery
performance. We begin with the most basic of characteristics--battery voltage.
Nominal values for battery voltage were given previously, namely 2.0 volts for a lead
acid battery cell and 1.2 volts for a nickel-cadmium cell. But these values are only
nominal, and the actual voltage of a cell or a battery will depend on several factors.
The fact that batteries operate over a range of voltages has direct impact on at least
three other components of a typical photovoltaic power system. The DC loads and
the inverter must be designed to accept the wide voltage range typical in
photovoltaic systems. If there is a problem with the extent of the range, a DC power
supply or voltage regulator must be included in the system, to keep the voltage
range with the limits of the inverter or DC loads. And the current or charge
regulators commonly used in photovoltaic systems must be designed to anticipate
the wide battery voltage range.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Voltage and State of Charge are


Related
A fully charged battery is said to be at 100% state of charge (SOC). As the battery
is discharged, the chemical balances change, and it moves away from 100% SOC to
some partial SOC. The change in SOC is reflected in both the composition and
density of the electrolyte and in the voltage of the battery.
If the electrolyte could be accessed the state of charge could be determined by
measuring the specific gravity as discussed earlier. In a fully charged lead-acid cell,
the specific gravity is typically about 1.265, while a completely discharged cell would
have a specific gravity close to water, or 1.000.
While specific gravity can be used to approximate the battery state of charge in
remote PV systems, it is seldom recorded except during periodic maintenance
checks. However, the open-circuit battery voltage (without a charge or discharge
load, battery at rest for some time) may be used to estimate the state of charge.
The figure below illustrates that there is a fairly linear relationship between the SOC
of a lead-acid battery and the open-circuit voltage.
For example, if a battery were 50% discharged, or at a SOC of 50%, we could
measure a specific gravity of approximately 1.17, or a battery open-circuit voltage of
about 12.0 volts. So in this case, reading 12.0 volts on a "12 volt" battery means
that the battery is about 50% discharged! Precise digital meters are needed to
accurately determine the voltage and SOC of a battery.

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Components Battery Technology

It is essential to know the immediate history of the battery prior to measurement of


the battery voltage, since a charge or discharge immediately preceding the
measurement may significantly alter the accuracy of the measurement.

Lead-Acid Battery Voltage and


Specific Gravity as a Function of
State of Charge
1.300

13
Open Circuit Voltage

Voltage
(volts)

Specific
Gravity

12

1.200

11

1.100

Specific
Gravity

1.000

10
100

80

60

40

20

State of Charge (%)




Note that there is little variation in specific gravity with state of charge for nickelcadmium cells and voltage trends are different than lead-acid batteries.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Voltage Depends on Rate of


Charge or Discharge
Discussing battery open-circuit voltage refers to a battery that is at rest, neither
being charged nor discharged. When a battery is being charged, the voltage is
temporarily elevated above its open-circuit voltage. And conversely when under
discharge, the voltage is temporarily depressed below the open-circuit voltage. This
is primarily due to the internal resistance of the battery. Other reasons are due to
the variation in electrolyte concentration at the immediate vicinity of the pores of the
plates, which is a result of the diffusion of electrolyte from an area of higher
concentration (at the bulk of electrolyte) to an area of lower concentration (near the
plates) while the battery is under discharge. During the charging process the
electrolyte concentration is higher at the plates when compared to the bulk of the
electrolyte. So not only is voltage affected by the state of charge of the battery, but
an added factor is the rate of discharge or charge.
The voltage measured at the battery terminals when the battery is being charged or
discharged is called the terminal voltage. As the rate of charge or discharge is
increased, the deviation from the pure open circuit voltage is increased. For
example, when charging, the voltage measured at the 20 hour rate of charge (C/20)
is always higher than for the 50 hour or 100 hour rate at a given battery SOC.
It is difficult therefore to determine battery state of charge simply by measuring
voltage, because in remote PV power systems the battery may be charging or
discharging. The voltage measured (terminal voltage) may be elevated or
depressed with respect to the accurate measure of SOC, the open circuit voltage.
One practical application of this occurs with charge regulator design in photovoltaic
systems. A typical regulator will allow full array current to flow into the battery bank
until the voltage begins to rise steeply, usually around 14.5 volts for a 12 volt battery.
In Figure 10-13, this corresponds to about 80% SOC. At this steep rise area, the
voltage of the battery could continue to go up, but no progress toward 100% SOC
would occur. This is the region of "gassing", where there is enough voltage to break
up water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen gas. A typical regulator design will
reduce the array current at this point. For example, the regulator might reduce the
current down from the C/20 rate to the C/50 rate. At the lower rate, the voltage
drops below 14.5, and begins to rise more slowly as the battery approaches 100%
SOC. The regulator will continue to decrease the array current as the voltage rises
again, and in this way very gently approach 100% SOC. Referring again to Figure
10-13, the battery depicted will be very near 100% SOC at the C/100 rate and still be
below 14 volts.

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Components Battery Technology

In addition to estimating the state of charge from the battery terminal voltages at
different rates of charge and discharge, these curves can also be used to determine
the voltage set point for the charge controller low voltage load disconnect set point
or alarm settings. For example, if it is desired to limit the maximum battery depth of
discharge to 80% at the 40 hour rate, the corresponding load disconnect voltage
should be about 11.5 volts.

Battery Charging and


Discharging
Voltage (volts)

17
20 hour rate
16
50 hour rate

15

Open Circuit Voltage


100 hour rate

14

40 hour rate

13

5 hour rate
12

11
cut-off voltage
10
0

20

40

60

80

State of Charge (%)

20

40

60

80

100

Depth of Discharge (%)




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Components Battery Technology

Battery Charging
Methods and procedures for battery charging vary considerably. In a stand-alone
PV system the ways in which a battery is charged are generally much different from
the charging methods battery manufacturers use to rate battery performance. The
various methods and considerations for battery charging in PV systems are
discussed in the next chapter on battery charge controllers.
Battery manufacturers often refer to three modes of battery charging: normal or bulk
charge, finishing or float charge and equalizing charge.

Bulk or Normal Charge: Bulk or normal charging is the initial portion of a


charging cycle, performed at any charge rate which does not cause the
cell voltage to exceed the gassing voltage. Bulk charging generally occurs
up to between 80 and 90% state of charge.

Float or Finishing Charge: Once a battery is nearly fully charged, most


of the active material in the battery has been converted to its original form,
and voltage and or current regulation are generally required to limit the
amount over overcharge supplied to the battery. Finish charging is usually
conducted at low to medium charge rates.

Equalizing Charge: An equalizing or refreshing charge is used


periodically to maintain consistency among individual cells. An equalizing
charge generally consists of a current-limited charge to higher voltage
limits than set for the finishing or float charge. For batteries deep
discharged on a daily basis, an equalizing charge is recommended every
one or two weeks. For batteries less severely discharged, equalizing may
only be required every one or two months. An equalizing charge is
typically maintained until the cell voltages and specific gravities remain
consistent for a few hours.

Battery Gassing and Overcharge


Gassing occurs in a battery during charging when the battery is nearly fully charged.
At this point, essentially all of the active materials have been converted to their fully
charged composition and the cell voltage rises sharply. The gas products are either
recombined internal to the cell as in sealed or valve regulated batteries, or released
through the cell vents in flooded batteries.

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Components Battery Technology

In general, the overcharge or gassing reaction in batteries is irreversible, resulting in


water loss. However in sealed lead-acid cells, an internal recombinant process
permits the reforming of water from the hydrogen and oxygen gasses generated
under normal charging conditions, allowing the battery to be sealed and requiring no
electrolyte maintenance. All gassing reactions consume a portion of the charge
current that cannot be delivered on the subsequent discharge, thereby reducing the
battery charging efficiency.
In flooded lead-acid and nickel-cadmium batteries, gassing results in the formation
of hydrogen at the negative plate and oxygen at the positive plate, requiring periodic
water additions to replenish the electrolyte. The following electrochemical reactions
show the overcharge process in typical lead-acid and nickel-cadmium cells.

Lead-Acid Cell Overcharge Reaction


At the negative plate or electrode:
2 H + + 2e H 2
At the positive plate or electrode:
H 2 O 2e 12 O2 + 2 H +
Overall lead-acid cell overcharge reaction:
H 2 O H 2 + 21 O2

Nickel-Cadmium Cell Overcharge Reaction


At the negative plate or electrode:

4H 2 O + 4e 2H 2 + 4OH
At the positive plate or electrode:

4OH 2H 2 O + O2 + 4e
Overall nickel-cadmium cell overcharge reaction:

2H 2 O 2H 2 + O2

Flooded Batteries Require Some Gassing


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Components Battery Technology

Some degree of gassing is required to agitate and prevent stratification of the


electrolyte in flooded batteries. When a flooded lead-acid battery is charged, heavy
sulfuric acid forms on the plates, and falls to the bottom of the battery. Over time the
electrolyte stratifies, developing greater acid concentrations at the bottom of the
battery than at the top. If left unmixed the reaction process would be different from
the bottom to the top of the plates, greater corrosion would occur, and battery
performance would be poor. By gently gassing flooded batteries, the electrolyte is
mixed preventing electrolyte stratification. However, excessive gassing and
overcharge dislodges active materials from the grids, reducing the battery life.
Excessive gassing may also lead to higher temperatures, which accelerates
corrosion of the grids and shortens battery life.

Captive Electrolyte Batteries Should Avoid Gassing


Gassing control is especially important for captive electrolyte or sealed batteries.
These are not flooded, and electrolyte cannot be replaced if allowed to escape due
to overcharging. These batteries do not need for their electrolyte to be mixed, as in
flooded batteries. For these types of batteries, the charging process should be
controlled more carefully to avoid gassing.

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Components Battery Technology

Charge Regulation Voltage Affects


Gassing
The charge regulation voltage, or the maximum voltage that a charge controller
allows a battery to reach in operation plays an important part in battery gassing.
Charge controllers or regulators are used in photovoltaic power systems to allow
high rates of charging up to the gassing point, and then limit or disconnect the PV
current to prevent overcharge. The highest voltage that batteries are allowed to
reach determines in part how much gassing occurs. To limit gassing and electrolyte
loss to acceptable levels proper selection of the charge controller voltage regulation
set point is critical in PV systems. If too low of a regulation voltage is used, the
battery will be undercharged. If too high of a regulation voltage is used, the battery
will be overcharged. Both under and overcharging will result in premature battery
failure and loss of load in stand-alone PV systems. In general, sealed maintenance
free valve-regulated batteries (using lead-calcium grids) should have lower charge
regulation voltage set points than flooded deep cycling batteries (using leadantimony grids).

Other Factors Affecting Battery Gassing


The onset of gassing in a lead-acid cell is not only determined by the cell voltage,
but by the temperature as well. As temperatures increase, the corresponding
gassing voltage decreases for a particular battery. Regardless of the charge rate,
the gassing voltage is the same, however gassing begins at a lower battery state of
charge at higher charge rates. The grid design, whether lead-antimony or leadcalcium also affects gassing. Battery manufacturers should be consulted to
determine the gassing voltages for specific designs. The figure on the following
page shows the relationships between cell voltage, state of charge, charge rate and
temperature for a typical lead-acid cell with lead-antimony grids.

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Components Battery Technology

Lead-Acid Battery Charging Voltage as a


Function of State of Charge

3.0
2.9

Lead-Antimony Grids

Charge Rate

Cell Voltage (volts)

2.8

C/2.5

2.7
2.6

Gassing Voltage at 0

C/5

2.5

C/20
Gassing Voltage at 27 oC

2.4

Gassing Voltage at 50 oC

2.3
2.2
2.1
2.0
0

20

40

60

80

100

Battery State of Charge (%)





By examining the figure, one can see that at 27o C and at a charge rate of C/20, the
gassing voltage of about 2.35 volts per cell is reached at about 90% state of charge.
At a charge rate of C/5 at 27o C, the gassing voltage is reached at about 75% state
of charge. At a battery temperature of 0o C the gassing voltage increases to about
2.5 volt per cell, or 15 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery. The effects of temperature
on the gassing voltage is the reason the charge regulation voltage is sometimes
temperature compensated - to fully charge batteries in cold weather and to limit
overcharge during warm weather. This type of information is needed to properly
select battery charge controller voltage regulation set points in order to limit the
amount of gassing for a specific battery design and operational conditions.
Some recommended ranges for charge regulation voltages (at 25o C) for different
battery types used in PV systems are presented in Table 10-4 below. These values
are typical of voltage regulation set points for battery charge controllers used in
small PV systems. These recommendations are meant to be only general in nature,
and specific battery manufacturers should be consulted for their suggested values.

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Components Battery Technology

Battery Type
Charge
Regulation
Voltage at 25 oC

Flooded
LeadAntimony

Flooded
LeadCalcium

Sealed, Valve
Regulated
Lead-Acid

Flooded
Pocket Plate
NickelCadmium

Per nominal 12
volt battery

14.4 - 14.8

14.0 - 14.4

14.0 - 14.4

14.5 - 15.0

Per Cell

2.40 - 2.47

2.33 - 2.40

2.33 - 2.40

1.45 - 1.50




The charge regulation voltage ranges presented in Table 10-4 are much higher than
the typical charge regulation values often presented in manufacturers literature.
This is because battery manufacturers often speak of regulation voltage in terms of
the float voltage, or the voltage limit suggested for when batteries are float charged
for extended periods (for example, in non-interruptible power supply (UPS) systems).
In these and many other commercial battery applications, batteries can be trickle or
float charged for extended period, requiring a voltage low enough to limit gassing.
Typical float voltages are between 13.5 and 13.8 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery,
or between 2.25 and 2.30 volts for a single cell.
In a PV system however, the battery must be recharged within a limited time (usually
during sunlight hours), requiring that the regulation voltage be much higher than the
manufacturers float voltage to ensure that the battery is fully recharged. If charge
regulation voltages in a typical PV system were set at the manufacturers
recommended float voltage, the batteries would never be fully charged.

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Components Battery Technology

Exercises



.!  


   

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

10-65

Components Battery Technology

Balancing Life Cycle and Initial Costs


First costs often determine which battery is selected by a designer; however,
recurring costs, including battery maintenance and replacement are burdened by the
system owner/operator. The sum of the initial cost and amortized recurring costs
are what determine a battery's life cycle cost. In many cases, a battery with high
initial costs may have the lowest life cycle costs, all factors being considered. This is
sometimes the case in the use of higher cost nickel-cadmium cells used for critical
applications.
When deciding between the lower cost of shallow cycling batteries, or the higher
initial cost of deeper cycling batteries, photovoltaic system designers are faced with
the common decision of pay now or pay later. There is not one perfect battery
choice for all users and applications, and paying now may be best in one situation
while paying later may be more appropriate in another.

Battery Trade-Off
Pay Now or Pay Later

Pay less initially for starting type batteries, but get short life (1-2 years)

Pay more initially for deep discharge batteries, and get longer life (4-8
years)

Starting types may be more available, but may not be the best value in
the long run

For low-income rural villagers, the high cost of a better longer life deep cycling
battery may be prohibitive. But they may be able to afford a lower cost, more readily
available and replaceable shallow cycling, starting type battery. In a year or two,
they can afford to buy a replacement. For them, the more affordable choice may be
to not pay now for the best (longest life) but to pay later (for replacements).
On the other hand, a remote telecom site in a difficult or dangerous location would
be best designed with the longest life battery possible. The cost of poor
performance would be much greater than the small savings of a cheaper battery.
The budget would probably be present for purchasing the better longer life battery
initially. The cost savings in reduced maintenance and replacement costs over time
would be of primary consideration in this case.

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Factors Affecting Battery Life


Lower than expected battery life is a common problem in small stand-alone PV
applications. The battery bank is typically the second most expensive component in
most photovoltaic power systems, next to the PV array. Over a twenty to thirty year
life of a PV system, the replacement and maintenance costs for batteries may be the
highest life cycle component in a PV system. For these reasons, PV system
designers and users should have a good understanding of the issues affecting
battery life.
Battery lifetime is dependent upon a number of cell design and operational factors,
including the components and materials of battery construction, temperature,
frequency and depth of discharges, average state of charge and charging methods.
As long as a battery is not overcharged, overdischarged or operated at excessive
temperatures, the lifetime of a battery is proportional to its average state of charge.
A typical flooded lead-acid battery that is maintained above 90% state of charge will
provide two to three times more full charge/discharge cycles than a battery allowed
to reach 50% state of charge before recharging. This suggests limiting the
maximum allowable and average daily DOD to prolong battery life. The actual point
that determines the end of life for a battery is arbitrary, but most often it is assumed
to be when the battery will no longer deliver 80% of its full rated capacity. It is
important that the PV system designer understand the consequences of capacity
loss as a battery ages, as this may affect the reliability of system operation.
Lifetime can be expressed in terms of cycles or years, depending on the particular
type of battery and its intended application. Exact quantification of battery life is
difficult due to the number of variables involved, and generally requires battery test
results under similar operating conditions. Often, battery manufacturers do not rate
battery performance under the conditions of charge and discharge experienced in
PV systems. This makes the accurate estimation of battery life in PV systems very
difficult, if not impossible. However, there are well known operating practices and
procedures that tend to maximize battery life. A discussion of these considerations
follows.

What Maximizes Battery Life?


There are several general guidelines that can lead to maximizing the useful life of
batteries in PV systems. Each of these is reviewed next.

Cool operating temperatures


Shallow depth of discharge
Prevention of overcharging and discharging
Proper and frequent maintenance and water additions
Full recharges after discharging as soon as possible

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Components Battery Technology

Temperature Affects Battery Life


Temperature has important effects on battery life that are important to PV system
designers. The main enemy to battery life is operation at high temperatures. In
general, as the temperature increases by 10 oC, the rate of an electrochemical
reaction doubles, resulting in the recommendations from battery manufacturers that
battery life decreases by a factor of two for every 10 oC increase in average
operating temperature. Higher operating temperatures accelerate corrosion of the
positive plate grids, result in greater gassing and electrolyte loss, and shortened
battery life. Lower operating temperatures generally increase battery life, however
the capacity is reduced significantly, particularly for lead-acid batteries. Where
severe temperature variations from room temperatures exist, battery are sometime
located in an insulated or other temperature regulating enclosure to minimize battery
temperature swings.

Effects of Temperature on Battery Life

Battery Life
(% life at 25 oC)

1000
Lead-Antimony Grids
Lead-Calcium Grids
Nickel-Cadmium

100

10
5

10

15

20

25

30

35

40

45

Battery Operating Temperature (oC)





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Components Battery Technology

As sown in the figure, the grid alloying elements play an important part in battery life.
The lifetime of batteries with lead-calcium grids is more affected by temperature than
lead-antimony grids or nickel-cadmium batteries.
The importance of temperature can be seen by looking at an example of a
manufacturers warranty statement. A portion of the warranty for GNB Absolyte IIP
batteries is presented on the next page. The portion of interest to us now is
highlighted below.
The wording of the warranty statement has been condensed to focus attention on
the temperature factor.

GNB also warrants ...that GNB ABSOLYTE IIP batteries used in photovoltaic
service will furnish... 80% of the specified capacity...for m years...provided that the
following conditions are satisfied.
.....The average daily ambient temperature in the area of use in any year is
established:
not to exceed 25 degrees C
m equal to 10 years
not to exceed 30 degrees C
m equal to 7 years
not to exceed 35 degrees C
m equal to 5 years

Notice that the warranty period decreases substantially as the average operating
temperature of the battery increases. Notice that with a temperature change from
25 to 35 oC the warranty period decreases by 50%, as per the general rule stated
previously.

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+   ,!"#$%-,!$ '$( ,! 

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Components Battery Technology

Effects of Discharge Depth on Battery Life


The battery depth of discharge also affects battery life. If the discharge depth is kept
shallow (less than 25%), then the adhesion of the active materials to the grids
remains strong, prolonging the life and performance of the battery. In PV systems,
the average daily depth of discharge is generally low because the battery capacity is
sized to provide a large number of days of reserve or autonomy. Typically, the
battery bank in PV system is designed to provide 5 to 10 days of reserve operation
during the lowest insolation to load ratio period, so the average daily depth of
discharge is generally only 10 to 20% of the total installed capacity. The more days
of reserve or autonomy that are designed in to the battery, the shallower the average
daily depth of discharge is, and the longer the battery life. Of course, the greater
capacity installed to give more reserve days results in higher initial costs. Once
again there is a tradeoff of initial cost against long life.

Effects of Depth of Discharge on


Lead-Acid Battery Cycle Life

Battery Life
(Cycles)

10000

1000

100
Motive Power Battery (deep cycle)
Automotive (SLI) Battery (shallow cycle)
10
0

20

40

60

80

100

Battery Depth of Discharge (%)





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Components Battery Technology

Overcharging Shortens Battery Life


Overcharging leads to excessive gassing and loss of electrolyte. The gas bubbles
generated can actually scrub the outside of the plates as they rise, and can
accelerate the erosion of active material from the plates, reducing battery life.
Excessive heating during overcharging accelerates the natural corrosion process.
Corrosion is the electrochemical activity resulting from the immersion of two
dissimilar metals in an electrolyte, or the direct contact of two dissimilar metals,
causing one material to undergo oxidation, or lose electrons, and the causing the
other material to undergo reduction, or gain electrons. Corrosion of the grids
supporting the active material in a battery is an ongoing process, and may ultimately
dictate the battery's useful lifetime.
Overcharging is prevented in PV systems by using a charge controller or regulator
between the PV array and batteries that limits battery gassing, the maximum voltage
and state of charge.

Maintenance Affects Battery Life


Any component of a system will last longer if it is frequently maintained, and this
certainly applies to batteries. Keeping the electrolyte level topped up means the
acid concentration is kept constant and at the correct value, and that the plates are
always fully immersed in liquid. If the electrolyte level is allowed to drop below the
top of the plates, corrosion and loss of capacity and life are accelerated greatly.
Keep the electrical terminals clean and free of corrosion, and make sure the battery
cables are firmly connected to the terminals. Loose or corroded terminals
connections can lead to voltage drops and hot spot heating, and batteries can
experience unequal charging. With unequal voltage potentials across batteries,
ones with good connections will be overcharged while ones with bad connections will
be undercharged. Both of these conditions will lead to loss of battery life over time.

Fully Recharging Affects Battery Life


If lead-acid batteries are left at partial state of charge for weeks, sulfation will set in
and capacity can be permanently lost. Sulfate crystals can grow and warp or short
out the plates. To the degree that systems can be designed to fully recharge the
batteries, the battery life will be extended.

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Battery Efficiency
Battery efficiency is dependent on the type of battery, charging methods, rates of
charge and discharge, depth of discharge and temperature. In general, the
efficiency of a battery is much greater at lower states of charge than when the
battery is nearly fully charged. The total or round-trip battery energy efficiency is
composed of two types of efficiencies. There is a voltage or voltaic efficiency, and a
charge or coulombic efficiency. They measure different characteristics of batteries,
and are often confused.

Battery Voltage (Voltaic) Efficiency


The voltaic efficiency of a battery is determined by the charge and discharge rates
and the battery temperature. The voltaic efficiency is expressed as the ratio of the
battery voltage under discharge to the voltage under charge. High rates and low
temperatures act to decrease battery voltaic efficiency.

Battery Voltaic Efficiency =

Voltage During Discharge


Voltage During Charge

Recall how battery voltage increases during charging and decreases during
discharging as compared to the open-circuit voltage. Battery voltage in a PV system
may vary considerably, depending on state of charge and rate of charge or
discharge. An overall average voltaic efficiency can be calculated by assuming that
on the average, a battery is charged at about 14 volts and discharged at about 12
volts at the given charge and discharge rates in the system. This approximation
yields an overall voltaic efficiency of about 85%.

Approximate Voltaic Efficiency =

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12 volts
= 0.85 = 85%
14 volts

Components Battery Technology

The charge and discharge curves presented below illustrate battery voltaic
efficiency. During charging the voltage is elevated above the open circuit voltage,
and during discharging the voltage is depressed below it. Since the rate of charge
or discharge determines the battery voltage at a certain state of charge, the voltaic
efficiency is higher at lower rates of charge and discharge.

Battery Voltaic Efficiency


16.0
Charge Rates

C/5

Battery Voltage

15.0

C/20

14.0
13.0
C/20

Open-Circuit Voltage

12.0
11.0

Discharge Rates

C/5

10.0
0

20

40

60

80

100

Battery State of Charge (%)





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Battery Charge (Coulombic) Efficiency


The coulombic or charge efficiency of a battery is defined as the ratio of the amperehours withdrawn from a battery during discharge to the ampere-hours provided to
recharge the battery. Due to electron losses from gassing and other internal
mechanisms, a battery can not deliver as many amp-hours as it takes to charge it at
the same rate. At low states of charge, a battery accepts current readily, there is
little gassing and the coulombic efficiency is high. As a battery nears full state of
charge, gassing and internal heating tend to reduce the coulombic efficiency.

Battery Coulombic Efficiency =

Discharge Amp - Hours Output


Charge Amp - Hours Input

Typical industrial applications using motive power or traction batteries must fully
recharge deeply discharged batteries in a limited time, usually less than 8 to 10
hours. To accomplish this, high charge rates (C/5 to C/10) are required resulting in
low coulombic efficiencies. In PV systems, the coulombic efficiency of batteries is
generally very good due to the relatively low charge rates used. Typical charge rates
in PV systems are often C/20 or lower, because the amount of battery storage
required for autonomy is relatively large with respect to the PV array charging
currents. While an accurate estimation of coulombic efficiency is difficult to
determine, 90% is a typical value for most batteries used in small stand-alone PV
systems.

Using Coulombic Efficiency in Sizing Calculations


The coulombic efficiency is used to calculate the PV array size required in a
photovoltaic system. In the load estimation chapter, we showed how to calculate an
average daily load demand in units of ampere-hours. The PV array must not only be
sized to meet the load amp-hour demand, but must also overcome the battery
coulombic inefficiency. To determine the total amp-hours that the PV array must
produce, we divide the total load demand by the estimated battery coulombic
efficiency.

Amp - Hours PV Array Must Produce =

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Daily Load Demand in Amp - Hours


Battery Coulombic Efficiency

Components Battery Technology

Example:

The load demand for a remote home is estimated to be 200 Ah/day at


12 volts. Using an average battery coulombic efficiency of 90%, the
total Ah that the array must produce is given by:
Ah From Array

200 Ah Daily Load Demand


0.90

222 Ah

Battery Round-trip or Energy


Efficiency
The energy or round-trip efficiency of a battery is defined as the product of the
coulombic and voltaic efficiencies. This efficiency defines the ratio of the energy
withdrawn from a battery during discharge to the amount of energy supplied to bring
a battery back to full state of charge.

Battery Energy
Efficiency

Voltaic Efficiency X Coulombic Efficiency

.85

.80 or 80%

.95

The round-trip battery energy efficiency is often used when discussing batteries.
However it is the coulombic efficiency that is most commonly used in photovoltaic
system sizing methods using the amp-hour approach. In cases where energy or
watt-hour approach is used in system sizing, the energy or round-trip battery
efficiency is sometimes used to account for the voltage as well as the charge
efficiency of the battery, especially for quantifying losses due to gassing. For the
sizing calculations presented in the chapter on System Sizing, the only battery
efficiency that needs to be considered will be the charge or coulombic efficiency,
which is usually about 90% for most batteries.

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Exercise



6   



 
  

 
  
 -&! 

   
   4
3 





&+   
-++ 

> 
8
-& 
8

"        $   !   !




        ?+,
)))))))))) "
 



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Components Battery Technology

Battery Selection Criteria


The selection of a battery for use in PV systems involves many decisions and trade
offs, and depends on many factors. While no specific battery is appropriate for all
PV applications, common sense and a careful review of the battery literature with
respect to the particular application needs will help the designer narrow the choice.
Some decisions on battery selection may be easy to arrive at, such as physical
properties, while other decisions will be much more difficult and may involve making
tradeoffs between desirable and undesirable battery features. With the proper
application of this knowledge, designers should be able to differentiate among
battery types and gain some application experience with batteries they are familiar
with. The list below summarizes some of the key considerations in battery selection.

Battery Selection Criteria

Nominal system voltage


Charge regulation requirements
Required capacity or autonomy
Ampere-hour capacity at discharge rate
Daily and maximum depth of discharge
Self-discharge rate
Gassing characteristics
Efficiency
Temperature effects
Size, weight and structural needs
Susceptibility to freezing
Susceptibility to sulfation, stratification
Electrolyte type, concentration
Auxiliary equipment
Maintenance requirements
Terminal configurations
Battery life (cycles/years)
Availability and shipping requirements
Cost and warranty

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Desirable Battery Construction Features


Selection of a durable battery design is as equally important as the proper sizing and
treatment in improving the longevity of batteries in PV systems. A few of the
important battery design characteristics promoting deep-cycle, long-life performance
are listed as follows:

Low-antimony, thick plates for reducing water loss and providing adequate
mechanical strength for long cycle life.

Separator envelopes around the positive plates, and appropriate plate edge
protection to minimize internal short-circuit potential.

Large electrolyte volume below plates to allow for shed materials to accumulate
without causing short circuits.

Sufficient electrolyte volume above plates to minimize frequency of water


additions.

Transparent battery containers to allow for visual inspections.

Size and Weight


Due to their large size and weight, the physical characteristics of batteries often
place restrictions on battery selection. A typical 12 volt, 100 ampere-hour flooded
lead-acid battery weights anywhere between 20 and 40 kilograms, depending on the
weight of active material, grid and interconnect design and amount of electrolyte.
Special lifting devices may be required for large capacity batteries.
For remote PV applications where the transportation of heavy equipment is
cumbersome or otherwise difficult, the designer may choose to use several smaller
batteries or cells rather than a few larger batteries. The physical properties of
batteries also require consideration of the strength and dimensions of the enclosure
or area in which they are to be installed.

Availability
Due to the weight and hazardous nature of batteries, shipping costs are high, and
results in most batteries produced at regional plants being used to supply to local
markets. In developing regions, the optimal battery for a given application may not
be locally available. In these cases, the best battery available should be used, with
special attention paid to properly sizing and treating the battery for maximum life.

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Battery Auxiliary Equipment


Battery auxiliary equipment includes any systems or other hardware necessary to
safely and effectively operate a battery system. Some of the more important battery
auxiliary systems and equipment are discussed below.

Ventilation
Batteries often produce toxic and explosive mixtures of gasses, namely hydrogen,
and adequate ventilation of the battery enclosure is required. In most cases,
passive ventilation techniques such as vents or ducts may be sufficient. In some
cases, fans may be required to provide mechanical ventilation. Required air change
rates are based on maintaining minimum levels of hazardous gasses in the
enclosure. Under no circumstances should batteries be kept in an unventilated area
or located in an area frequented by personnel.

Catalytic Recombination Caps


A substitute for standard vented caps on lead-antimony batteries, catalytic
recombination caps (CRCs) primary function is to reduce the electrolyte loss from
the battery. CRCs contain particles of an element such as platinum or palladium,
which surfaces adsorb the hydrogen generated from the battery during finishing and
overcharge. The hydrogen is then recombined with oxygen in the CRC to form
water, which drains back into the battery. During this recombination process, heat is
released from the CRCs as the combination of hydrogen and oxygen to form water
is an exothermic process. This means that temperature increases in CRCs can be
used to detect the onset of gassing in the battery. If CRCs are found to be at
significantly different temperatures during recharge (meaning some cells are gassing
and others are not), an equalization charge may be required. The use of CRCs on
open-vent, flooded lead-antimony batteries has proven to reduce electrolyte loss by
as much as 50% in subtropical climates.

Battery Monitoring Systems


Monitoring and instrumentation for battery systems can range from simple analog
meters to more sophistication data acquisition systems. Lower level monitoring of
battery systems might include voltage and current meters or battery state of charge
indicators, while higher level monitoring may include automated recording of voltage,
current, temperature, specific gravity and water levels. For small stand-alone PV
systems, monitoring of the battery condition is generally done only occasionally
during routine maintenance checks, or by simple meters or indicators on the battery
charge controller.

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Enclosures
Batteries are generally required by local electrical codes and safety standards to be
installed in an enclosure separated from controls or other PV system components.
The enclosure may also be insulated, or may have active or passive cooling/heating
mechanisms to protect the batteries from excessive temperatures. Battery
enclosures must be of sufficient size and strength hold the batteries, and can be
located below ground if needed to prevent freezing. If the enclosure is located
above ground, care should be taken to limit the direct exposure to sunlight, or some
type of shading or reflective coating should be provided.

Passive Cooling Enclosures


We have shown that temperature is a critical factor affecting battery performance
and life expectancy. Any actions taken by the system designer to reduce
temperature swings will be rewarded with better battery performance, longer life, and
lower maintenance.
One approach to moderating the influence of ambient temperature swings on battery
temperature is the use of passive cooling enclosures, without the need for active
components such as motors, fans or air conditioners. The use of active temperature
regulation means generally requires additional electrical power, and adds
unnecessarily to the complexity, size and cost of the PV system. By using a
thermodynamically passive approach, maximum benefits are gained with minimal
complexity and maximum reliability -- key features of any PV system installation.
An example of a passive cooling enclosure is the Zomeworks Cool Cell TM that is
designed for small to medium sized battery banks (illustrated on the next page).
During the heat of the day, cool water in the enclosure absorbs heat from the
ambient air and batteries, effectively moderating battery temperature. During the
night, the warmed water naturally rises to a specially designed lid where the heat is
radiated from the lid to the cool night sky. As the water in the lid cools, the natural
thermosiphon action allows the heavier cooled water to circulate back into the
enclosure as it is replaced by warmer, less dense water from the enclosure. This
circulation loop relies on the density differences between warm and cool water,
eliminating the need for a circulation pump.

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Components Battery Technology


", ! '$$ '$

The performance of the Cool CellTM depends on the ambient temperature and the
extent and type of cloud cover. In areas with exceedingly high ambient
temperatures, this enclosure can provide a significant reduction in battery
temperatures compared to a standard box or insulated enclosure. Cloud cover plays
an important effect on the performance of the Cool CellTM as this affects the
radiation heat transfer from the lid. Clear skies generally have an effective
temperature (for purposes of radiation calculations) of below -40 oC, however cloudy
skies have a much higher effective temperature. Since the radiation heat transfer is
proportional to the effective temperature raised to the fourth power, overcast skies
can reduce the cooling effectiveness of this type of battery enclosure.

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Components Battery Technology

The relative performance of the Cool Cell is illustrated below. Four conditions are
compared: (a) the widely varying case of an uninsulated steel box; (b) the ambient
air; (c) a concrete vault with an insulated lid; and (d) the moderated temperature
swings of the passively cooled enclosure.




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Components Battery Technology

Battery Safety Considerations


Due to the hazardous materials and chemicals involved, and the amount of electrical
energy which they store, batteries are potentially dangerous and must be handled
and used with caution. Typical batteries used in stand-alone PV systems can deliver
up to several thousand amps under short-circuit conditions, requiring special
precautions. Depending on the size and location of a battery installation certain
safety precautions are required.

IMPORTANT:
Exercise extreme caution and follow recommended practices when
working with batteries!

Handling Electrolyte
The caustic sulfuric acid solution contained in lead-acid batteries can destroy
clothing and burn the skin. For these reasons protective clothing such as aprons
and face shields should be worn by personnel working with batteries. To neutralize
sulfuric acid spills or splashes on clothing, the spill should be rinsed immediately
with a solution of baking soda or household ammonia and water. For nickelcadmium batteries, the potassium hydroxide electrolyte can be neutralized with a
vinegar and water solution. If electrolyte is accidentally splashed in the eyes, the
eyes should be forced open and flooded with cool clean water for fifteen minutes. If
acid electrolyte is taken internally, drink large quantities of water or milk, followed by
milk of magnesia, beaten eggs or vegetable oil. Call a physician immediately.
If it is required that the electrolyte solution be prepared from concentrated acid and
water, the acid should be poured slowly into the water while mixing. The water
should never be poured into the acid. Appropriate non-metallic funnels and
containers should be used when mixing and transferring electrolyte solutions.

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Components Battery Technology

Personnel Protection
When performing battery maintenance, personnel should wear protective clothing
such as aprons, ventilation masks, goggles or face shields and gloves to protect
from acid spills or splashes and fumes. If sulfuric acid comes into contact with skin
or clothing, immediately flush the area with a solution of baking soda or ammonia
and water. Safety showers and eye washes may be required where batteries are
located in close access to personnel. As a good practice, some type of fire
extinguisher should be located in close proximity to the battery area if possible. In
some critical applications, automated fire sprinkler systems may be required to
protect facilities and expensive load equipment. Jewelry on the hands and wrists
should be removed, and properly insulated tools should be used to protect against
inadvertent battery short-circuits.

Dangers of Explosion
During operation, batteries may produce explosive mixtures of hydrogen and oxygen
gasses. Keep spark, flames, burning cigarettes, or other ignition sources away from
batteries at all times. Explosive gasses may be present for several hours after a
battery has been charged. Active or passive ventilation techniques are suggested
and often required, depending on the number of batteries located in an enclosure
and their gassing characteristics. The use of battery vent caps with a flame arrestor
feature lowers the possibility of a catastrophic battery explosion. Improper charging
and excessive overcharging may increase the possibility of battery explosions.
When making and breaking connections to a battery from a charging source or
electrical load, ensure that the charger or load is switched off as to not create sparks
or arcing during the connection.

Battery Disposal and Recycling


Batteries are considered hazardous items as they contain toxic materials such as
lead, acids and plastics that can harm humans and the environment. For this
reason laws have been established which dictate the requirements for battery
disposal and recycling. In most areas batteries may be taken to the local landfill,
where they are in turn taken to approved recycling centers. In some cases battery
manufacturers provide guidelines for battery disposal through local distributors and
may in fact recycle batteries themselves. Under no circumstances should batteries
be disposed of in landfills, the electrolyte allowed to seep into the ground, or the
battery burned.

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Components Battery Technology

Selected References
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "IEEE Recommended Practice for Installation and
Operation of Lead-Acid Batteries for Photovoltaic (PV) Systems", ANSI/IEEE Std. 937-1987, New
York, NY, 1987.
Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, "IEEE Recommended Practice for Installation and
Operation of Nickel-Cadmium Batteries for Photovoltaic (PV) Systems", ANSI/IEEE Std. 11451990, New York, NY, 1990.
Stand-Alone Photovoltaic Systems - A Handbook of Recommended Design Practices, Sandia National
Laboratories, SAND87-7023, revised November 1991.
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Maintenance and Operation of Photovoltaic Power Systems,
NAVFAC MO-405.1, December 1989.
Exide Management and Technology Company, Handbook of Secondary Storage Batteries and Charge
Regulators in Photovoltaic Systems - Final Report, for Sandia National Laboratories,
SAND81-7135, August 1981.
Bechtel National, Inc., Handbook for Battery Energy Storage in Photovoltaic Power Systems, Final Report,
SAND80-7022, February 1980.
S. Harrington and J. Dunlop, "Battery Charge Controller Characteristics in Photovoltaic Systems",
Proceedings of the 7th Annual Battery Conference on Advances and Applications, Long Beach,
California, January 21, 1992.
H.A. Kiehne, Battery Technology Handbook, Marcel Dekker, Inc., 1989.
G.W. Vinal, Storage Batteries, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Fourth Edition, 1954.
D. Linden, Handbook of Batteries and Fuel Cells, McGraw Hill, Inc., 1984.

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Components Battery Technology

(End of Chapter)

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CHAPTER TEN
BATTERY TECHNOLOGY

10-1

Purpose of Batteries in Photovoltaic

10-2

Systems
Energy Storage Capacity and Autonomy
Voltage and Current Stabilization
Supply Surge Currents

10-2
10-3
10-4
10-5

Battery Design and Construction


Cell
Active Material
Electrolyte
Grid
Plate
Separator
Element
Terminal Posts
Cell Vents
Case

10-6
10-6
10-6
10-7
10-8
10-8
10-8
10-9
10-9
10-9
10-9

Battery Types and Classifications


Primary Batteries
Secondary Batteries

10-10
10-10
10-10

Lead-Acid Battery Classifications 5.3.3.1

10-12

Lead-Acid Batteries
SLI Batteries
Motive Power or Traction Batteries
Stationary Batteries

10-12
10-12
10-12
10-12

Types of Lead-Acid Batteries


Lead-Antimony Batteries
Lead-Calcium Batteries
Lead-Antimony/Lead-Calcium Hybrid
Captive Electrolyte Lead-Acid Batteries

10-13
10-13
10-14
10-14
10-16

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Components Battery Technology

Lead-Acid Battery Chemistry


Lead-Acid Cell Reaction
Formation
Stratification
Specific Gravity
Sulfation

10-18
10-18
10-19
10-19
10-20
10-22

Nickel-Cadmium Batteries
Sintered Plate Ni-Cads
Pocket Plate Ni-Cads
Nickel-Cadmium Battery Chemistry

10-23
10-23
10-23
10-24

Battery Strengths and Weaknesses

10-27

Battery Cycling
Battery Discharging
Charge/Discharge Rates Expressed as Time
Depth of Discharge (DOD)
Autonomy Determines Capacity and Depth of Discharge
State of Charge (SOC)
Temperature Limits Discharge Depth
Shallow and Deep Cycle Batteries

10-28
10-29
10-30
10-31
10-32
10-35
10-36
10-39

Battery Capacity
Ampere-Hour Definition
Factors Affecting Battery Capacity
Effects of Temperature on Capacity
Discharge Rate Affects Capacity
Cut-Off Voltage Affects Capacity
Effects of Self Discharge Rate on Capacity

10-41
10-41
10-41
10-42
10-44
10-51
10-52

Voltage Changes During Charging and Discharging


Battery Voltage and State of Charge are Related
Battery Voltage Depends on Rate of Charge or Discharge

10-54
10-55
10-57

Battery Charging
Battery Gassing and Overcharge
Charge Regulation Voltage Affects Gassing

10-59
10-59
10-62

Balancing Life Cycle and Initial Costs

10-66

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10-89

Components Battery Technology

Factors Affecting Battery Life


What Maximizes Battery Life?
Temperature Affects Battery Life
Effects of Discharge Depth on Battery Life
Overcharging Shortens Battery Life
Maintenance Affects Battery Life
Fully Recharging Affects Battery Life

10-67
10-67
10-68
10-71
10-72
10-72
10-72

Battery Efficiency
Battery Voltage (Voltaic) Efficiency
Battery Charge (Coulombic) Efficiency
Battery Round-Trip or Energy Efficiency

10-73
10-73
10-75
10-76

Battery Selection Criteria

10-78

Battery Auxiliary Equipment


Ventilation
Catalytic Recombination Caps
Battery Monitoring Systems
Enclosures

10-80
10-80
10-80
10-80
10-81

Battery Safety Considerations


Handling Electrolyte
Personnel Protection
Dangers of Explosion
Battery Disposal and Recycling

10-84
10-84
10-85
10-85
10-85

Selected References

10-86

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10-90

Components Battery Technology

Chapter 10 Answers
Battery Technology



a. Positive Plate
PbO2 + 4H+ + 2e- Pb2+ + 2H2O
Element / Ions
Lead (Pb)
Oxygen (O)
Hydrogen (H)
Ion Charges

Qty on Left
1
2
4
+4 -2 = +2

Qty on Right
1
2
4
+2

Qty on Left
1
4
1
+2 -2 = 0

Qty on Right
1
4
1
0

Qty on Left
1
0

Qty on Right
1
+2 -2 = 0

Qty on Left
1
4
1
+2 -2 = 0

Qty on Right
1
4
1
0

Pb2+ + SO42- PbSO4


Element / Ions
Lead (Pb)
Oxygen (O)
Sulfur (S)
Ion Charges

b. Negative Plate
Pb Pb2+ + 2eElement / Ions
Lead (Pb)
Ion Charges

Pb2+ + SO42- PbSO4


Element / Ions
Lead (Pb)
Oxygen (O)
Sulfur (S)
Ion Charges

c. Overall lead - acid cell reaction


PbO2 + Pb + 2H2SO4 2PbSO4 + 2H2O
Element / Ions
Lead (Pb)
Oxygen (O)
Sulfur (S)
Hydrogen (H)
Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

Qty on Left
2
10
2
4
10-1

Qty on Right
2
10
2
4
Battery Technology



For a 24-volt (nominal) battery, we need
24 volts / 2.1 volts per cell = 11.4 = 12 lead acid cells
24 volts / 1.2 volts per cell = 20 nickel cadmium cells
Note: in most cases a lead-acid cell is assumed to have a nominal voltage of 2.0 volts.


We assume the nominal voltage of a lead-acid cell is 2 volts. Then 24 cells will have a
total nominal voltage of 24 X 2 Volts = 48 Volts.



b. Lower than



b. Left at partial state of charge for a long period




Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


b. Less


a. A smaller


Referring to the chart of Temperature Limits for Maximum Depth of Discharge, we see
that at a temperature of -25 C, the maximum recommended depth of discharge is
approximately 45%.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

10-2

Battery Technology



Referring to the chart of Temperature Limits for Maximum Depth of Discharge, we see
that at a temperature of -40 C, the maximum recommended depth of discharge is
approximately 25%.
At first, we might be tempted to answer that we need a battery that is four times as
large. However, this would only be true if we assumed that we could use 100% of the
original battery. Since the maximum recommended depth of discharge is 80% at
normal temperature, the battery for the mountain application needs to be larger by a
factor of
80% = 3.2 times larger
25%
An example helps make this clearer. Assume we need 800 Ahr of storage. A 1000 Ahr
battery designed for use at normal temperatures can provide 800 Ahr storage to 80%.
Now, if we can only discharge the battery to 25% DOD, the battery must provide the
same 800 Ahr capacity. Using the ratio of 3.2 that we calculated above, we choose a
3,200 Ahr battery. Notice that 25% discharge = 25% X 3200 = 800 Ahrs as is required.
Since low temperatures can have a significant impact on the required battery size, we
would be very interested in any methods that might keep the battery from getting cold.
Some possible techniques to do this might include:
Keeping the batteries in a heated area (e.g. an equipment shelter)
Locating the batteries in a buried vault
Providing insulation to minimize the temperature changes


Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


a. 0 oC and C/120?

92%

b. 0 oC and C/50?

85%

c. -10 oC and C/120?

90%

d. 25 oC and C/500?

100%

e. 10 oC and C/120?

95%

These values are taken from the chart showing Temperature and Discharge effects on
Lead Acid Capacity.
Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

10-3

Battery Technology



Referring to the chart, we see that at -15 C and C/500, the battery will have about 90%
of its standard rated capacity (at 25 C). The increased capacity required is
1500 Ahr
0.90

1667 Ahr at 25 C



At 5 C and C/50, the battery will have about 87% of its standard rated capacity (at 25
C). The increased capacity required is
200 Ahr
0.87

230 Ahr at 25 C



Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


At 12 volts, the current required by the loads is:
Lights
20 watts / 12 volts = 1.7 amps
Refrigerator 100 watts / 12 volts = 8.3 amps
System Description:

12 Volt Rural Electrification System

DC Loads
Lights
Refrigerator

:
:

Qty.
2
1

X
X

Amps
1.7
8.3

X
X

Hours
/day
6
12

DC Loads (Ah)

Ah From Array

120.4 Ah Daily Load Demand


0.90 coulombic efficiency

133.8 Ah

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

10-4

=
=

Daily
Demand (Ah)
20.4
100.0
120.4

Battery Technology

Chapter Eleven
Inverter Technology
The photovoltaic array and battery produce DC current and voltage. If the loads require
AC power an inverter can be used to convert from DC to AC. Commonly available
inverters can output in 1- or 3-phase, 50 or 60 hertz, and 117 or 220 volts and can
range in continuous output power from a few hundred watts to thousands of kilowatts.
Large utility scale inverters are made to output at 480 volts AC or higher and have
capacities exceeding 1000 kilowatts.
In this section we will examine some of the technical features and characteristics of
inverter technology commonly used in photovoltaic systems. The three most important
characteristics of inverters that we will discuss will be:

Output power and surge power

Output efficiency

Output waveform

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Components Inverter Technology

Inverter Power Rating


Power Is A Function Of Time
An inverter's capability to output power depends on its ability to dissipate the heat
generated within the inverter. An inverter's rated output power is generally the power
level it can maintain for a long period. An inverter can put out greater power than its
nominal rating before it overheats and shuts off, but only for a short period of time.
Some inverters can output a great deal more power than their nominal rating for a few
minutes, allowing very large loads to operate, for example large power tools and or
pump motors.
However, there is no standard period of time accepted by all manufacturers for inverter
output rating. There is a trend for manufacturers to rate their inverters on a
continuous basis indicating the power the inverter could output for many hours. This
is a safe, conservative rating method, although most inverters would not be operating at
their full rated output level for 24 hours a day. In most real situations the output is
required for a few hours or minutes.
Some manufacturers rate their inverter output for 30 minutes and some even rate them
based on 15-minute output. The problem with this situation is that you as a system
designer have the burden of discovering the exact method of output rating so that you
can make a fair comparison.
Instead of reading a single power number it is best to find a chart or graph that
describes the output against different times, as shown below.
An example of an inverter with a fairly generous power vs. time curve is shown in the
figure. The literature mentions that the inverter is rated at 2000 watts output, but
notice that this is for 30 minutes. For periods longer than 30 minutes, the power level
will be less. Continuous output would be more like 1700 watts.

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Components Inverter Technology

Surge Power
Notice that the output power of the inverter in the figure above can exceed the nominal
2000 watts for a few minutes. Often this is referred to as the surge capability of the
inverter, although strictly surge power may be defined as the power that the inverter can
output for less than a second to start large inductive (motor) loads. Recall from our
discussions in the chapter on Load Estimation that many inductive loads (motors,
compressors, refrigerators, washing machines, and large water pumps) can draw 5-6
times their nominal running power when they start!
For example, a remote home might have non-inductive loads of 1000 watts and a
3/4-hp water pump motor. Normally the water pump might draw about 700 watts, so
the total continuous power needed from the inverter would be about 1700 watts. But
when the pump turns on it draws about 3500 watts. If it turned on when the other 1000
watts of load were operating, the inverter would have to output about 4500 watts (1000
non-inductive + 3500 inductive surge) for a few moments to start the motor. The
inverter example used above in the figure could output about 6000 watts for a few
seconds, so this would be adequate. An inverter with a lower surge capacity might not
be able to start the pump.

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Components Inverter Technology

Power vs Time
Output Power (watts)

Power of 2000 watt inverter

6000

5000

4000

3000

2000

1000
0

20

40

60

Time (minutes)

 

The surge power of an inverter is again not a single fixed number, but varies with the
amount of time. A good inverter can typically output 200-300% of its nominal power for
a few seconds. Some low cost inverters can only output 110% of their output for a
short time. These would have limited surge capacity and would not be useful for
systems where inductive loads would operate.

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Components Inverter Technology

Temperature Affects Power Rating


Another source of confusion in inverter rating is the temperature of the rating. The
output can be maintained so long as the inverter design adequately dissipates the
internal heat generated. But this ability will depend on the ambient temperature. If the
air temperature is hotter, the inverter design will not be able to passively dissipate as
much heat, and the power rating will be lower.
Most US manufacturers rate their output at 25 o C. Some others (often international
manufacturers) will rate at 20o C. And some manufacturers take the extreme case of
rating their inverter output at 40o C. This must be looked at to fairly compare product
capability.
The use of a high temperature such as 40o C is conservative and safe. An inverter
rated at 40o C will output more power for a longer period of time at lower temperatures.
But it may not be difficult for the electronics of an inverter to see 35-40o C conditions
inside the inverter case, so this rating is not unreasonable.

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11-5

Components Inverter Technology

Exercise



           
           
         
   
        
!        
      
"  
   #      
  
"      $ #%

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11-6

Components Inverter Technology

Inverter Efficiency
An inverter consumes some power itself. This adds to the total load that the
photovoltaic array must operate and increases array size and initial cost. The inverter
should be as efficient as possible, certainly above 90% over most of its normal
operating range. Many moderately priced inverters can achieve 94% efficiency. The
efficiency may depend on the nature of the load. Pure resistive loads may operate the
inverter at a higher efficiency than inductive loads that absorb the power differently.

Efficiency Depends On Load


Inverter efficiency is not a single fixed value, but varies depending on the amount of
power being generated. A curve of efficiency vs. output power is the best way to
examine how the inverter will perform in a variety of situations. It is difficult or
impossible to predetermine exactly what will be the power demand on the inverter at
any moment, so guesses must be made. You must estimate at what power levels your
system will operate and determine average efficiency from a curve such as the one
presented below.
Older technology using silicon controlled rectifiers (SCR) were not as efficient as more
current designs using new power transistor technology. Efficiencies can now reach
above 90% over much of the range of operation. Notice how the efficiency curve rises
quickly even for small loads, and then gradually drops as power continues to increase.
This shows the effect of the internal power losses increasing with higher currents.
For example, reading from the new transistor efficiency curve, you can see that the
efficiency at full rated load is about 85% while the efficiency at only 10% of full load is
about 93%. This is good news compared to older technology. Because it means that
you can choose a large inverter to handle the heavy loads, you might have in a complex
residential system and yet not sacrifice on efficiency when operating only a few small
appliances or lights in the evening for example. With older technology you would pay a
steep efficiency penalty when running loads much smaller than the full rated capacity of
the inverter.

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11-7

Components Inverter Technology

Inverter Efficiency
Efficiency
100
new Transistor type
90
80
old SCR type
70
60
50
40
30
20
10
0
0

20

40

60

80

100

Percent of Full Load (%)



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11-8

Components Inverter Technology

Inductive vs. Resistive Loads


Resistive loads are the simplest for inverters to operate. Another measurement would
use inductive loads, such as motors, and the efficiency curve would probably be slightly
different. Inductive loads tend to push some power back into the inverter, and some
manufacturers designs may handle the inductive loads more efficiency that others.
Measuring the AC output to inductive loads becomes more complex because the
current and voltage will not be in phase as they are with pure resistive loads. You must
use a power meter on the output, or measure the current and voltage and also the
phase difference between them. This is the power factor and it can reduce the real
power delivered to an inductive load 10-30% or more. This is why most manufacturers
measure their inverter output power and efficiency into pure resistive loads. This
method however does not give the total picture of what efficiency you would actually get
in a complex residential or industrial system with many large inductive loads.

Test Set-up For Measuring Efficiency


It is fairly easy to create your own inverter efficiency curve by plotting power into a
variable load against the power consumed by the inverter. A circuit of incandescent
lights or heaters can serve as a variable pure resistive load. Measure the current and
voltage output to the loads, and compare to the current and voltage drawn from the
battery bank by the inverter. Operate loads from about 10% of the full rated output to
well beyond 100% of the rating, to create an efficiency curve similar to that shown.

(+)

12 v DC

(+)

120 v AC
Inverter

battery

variable
load
(ex: lights) .

(-)

(-)

shunt #2
shunt #1

      

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11-9

Components Inverter Technology

Exercise




          
 &   &  & 
  &'     
'      &
!
   &      
&  (   '     '  %



)
  &
   
* ++,-
     ./0/ , 
  %
1   &2

3333333333/ 

45&2

3333333333/ 

&
   &    &
6   7  
  &./  
          
  &      


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11-10

Components Inverter Technology

Inverter Output Waveform


The waveform of the inverter output can be an important factor in matching inverter to
load. The waveform describes the way the current and voltage vary over time. There
are three general classes of waveform: squarewave; modified squarewave or modified
sinewave; and sinewave.

Squarewave
Generally the most inexpensive inverters are "squarewave" types. The input DC power
is chopped and boosted in voltage, with little filtering or modulation of the output. The
resulting output contains many unwanted harmonics, or waves of various frequencies
that fight against each other. The measure of this unwanted waveform content, the
total harmonic distortion, can be 40% or greater. Typically squarewave inverters cannot
surge significantly, perhaps only 10-20 % above the maximum continuous power. The
efficiency can be as low as 50-60%. And they have little output voltage regulation.
However these inverters may be useful for small inductive loads or resistive loads.

Squarewave Inverters

 

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Components Inverter Technology

Modified Squarewave or
Modified Sinewave
Another type of inverter output is available that produces a "modified squarewave"
output. Sometimes these are referred to as modified sinewave in manufacturers
literature, although the form more closely resembles a squarewave with a delay through
zero. The peak voltage of the waveform is only about 150 volts, while utility sinewave
power peaks at about 175 volts. The total harmonic distortion is significantly less than a
squarewave, perhaps less than 20%. Also they can surge 300-400% above the
continuous power, and have good voltage regulation. Efficiencies of greater than 90%
are common. These types of inverters are quite popular in remote homes, and can
operate a wide variety of common appliances and electronic loads including home
computers and stereos. However there are reported problems with operating some
specific loads. Some models of laser printers malfunction or are damaged; microwave
ovens may not heat as much and may have to be operated longer; and small electronic
clocks may run twice as fast. You should check with the manufacturer to see if any
incompatibility with your planned loads have been reported.

Modified Squarewave Inverters

 

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Components Inverter Technology

Sinewave
Finally there are types of inverters that output a nearly pure "sinewave. These types of
inverters may involve extensive and carefully tuned filtering or digital synthesis. In the
past these types of inverters tended to have efficiencies and surge capabilities slightly
below the modified sinewave types, but recently models have been introduced with
efficiencies above 90% and costs below some modified squarewave models. In
general, it is always best to choose a sinewave inverter and supply a sinewave output
to your AC loads. This is what they were designed for, and little or no problems will
occur with respect to harmonic distortions or inadequate peak voltages. Some classes
of electronic loads, such as telecommunications or delicate instrumentation may require
a sinewave power waveform.

Sinewave Inverters

 

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11-13

Components Inverter Technology

Exercise


8$  
           
    &
  
  5&    & 




9   &


  :

;  
   

    


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11-14

Components Inverter Technology

Inverter Circuit Topologies


The topology of inverter design refers to the electrical approach to the conversion
process and the electrical principals applied to designing the control and power circuits.
One fundamental topology difference is where and how the inverter circuit changes
from DC to AC and from the input voltage to the output voltage. Basically there are two
choices

First convert to the final output frequency of 60/50Hz AC and then transform voltage
Upconvert the voltage first and then convert to 60/50 Hz AC for final output.

Final Frequency First, Then Transform


Voltage
In the first topology a 60/50 Hz switching circuit is used to chop the input DC voltage
at the desired final output frequency. The input voltage (typically 12 or 24 volts)
remains the voltage of the output of this first stage of the inverter circuitry. Then this
low voltage AC waveform is put on one side of a large transformer. The ratio of the
number of windings on either side of the transformer determines the change in voltage
through the transformer. For example, to transform 12 volts AC to 120 volts AC, the
output side (120 volts) of the transformer would need to have ten times the number of
windings of the input side (12 volts). The output of this stage of the inverter would then
be a desired frequency and would be at the desired voltage. The transformer is
between the switching transistors and the AC output side of the inverter. This may be
seen as an advantage as the transformer can absorb high energy spikes coming IN to
the inverter (from lightning, load spikes, etc.) and act to protect the more delicate
transistor switching components.

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Components Inverter Technology

First Transform Voltage, Then Final


Frequency
In the second topology, very high frequency switching of the order of 25,000 Hz is
performed on the input DC voltage. The output at this stage is still 12 or 24 volts but
the frequency is very high. This waveform is then applied to one side of a transformer
with the winding ratio needed to output at 165 volts. This voltage is the peak-to-peak
voltage of nominal 120-volt power. This high frequency high voltage waveform is then
rectified, or returned to DC power. It is still at 165 volts. The power is now switched at
the desired final output frequency (60/50 Hz), to give the final output waveform at the
desired voltage and frequency. The advantage of the high frequency switching is that
the size of the transformer, and the associated weight and cost, is less than that
needed for 50/60 Hz switching. However the transformer is now no longer between the
AC output and the final switching transistors, and they are more vulnerable to high
energy spikes and noise coming into the inverter.

Pulse Width Modulation


An approach to creating a sinewave output is to apply Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
switching to the power. Pulses are first made very short, then gradually longer until in
the middle of the wave the pulse is the longest. Then the pulses gradually get shorter.
In this way the time-average of the energy of the pulses forms a sinusoidal voltage
curve. This PWM switching can be done either before or after the main transformer, as
described above.

Multiple Transformers
Another newer topology (used in the sinewave utility interactive Trace Engineering
inverters for example) involves not one but three transformers. One transformer ratio is
3:1, another is 9:1 and another is 27:1. These are switched on and off in an additive or
subtractive manner to create a variable ratio configuration producing many small steps
(around 50 for the Trace model, depending on battery voltage). This allows for a
stepped approximation to a sinewave output waveform.

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Components Inverter Technology

Utility Interactive Inverters


There is a class of inverters used in photovoltaic systems that interact with the utility
grid. They draw power from the grid when the solar array cannot supply all the loads,
and feed power into the grid when excess power is available from the array. In order to
synchronize with the utility power waveform, their output must be sinewave also. Until
recently they have been completely dependent on utility power to operate and have not
allowed battery interaction. But recent developments have produced models that are
bi-directional and that can feed utility power into batteries or can instantaneously draw
from batteries if there is a utility power failure.
These types of inverters are primarily used in situations where the grid is reliable, as
different from traditional markets for remote photovoltaic power systems where grid
power is non-existent or unreliable. Power from an array can be fed directly into a
home or business and displace power that would be needed to run daytime loads, such
as air-conditioning or lighting. This approach is especially cost effective where utilities
have established time-of-day rates. Typically they charge higher rates during the peak
of the day, right when photovoltaic systems would be displacing the most power and
saving the most. Then at night when power would be draw from the utility, the rates are
lower and the costs to the user are lower.
Systems that are utility interactive are simpler than typical stand-alone power systems.
They do not involve batteries or charge regulators and are therefore lower in total cost
per watt.
Some models of utility interactive inverters operate at nominal 45 volts so they would
need strings of only three modules in series, while others operate at up to +/- 240 volts
and require strings of 32 modules in series.

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Components Inverter Technology

Bi-Directional Utility Interactive Inverters


Until recently utility interactive inverters have been completely dependent on utility
power to operate and have not allowed battery interaction. But new developments have
produced models that are bi-directional and that can feed utility power into batteries or
can instantaneously draw from batteries if there is a utility power failure. For example,
Trace Engineering in the US has introduced a 4000-watt bi-directional inverter that
gives new possibilities to the utility interactive market. Their inverter operates from 24
or 48 volts DC input and outputs a synthesized sinewave output waveform suitable for
the utility grid. Their design draws power instantaneously from either the grid or the
battery and solar array to power AC loads, and can pass power back to the utility or the
battery as needed. If there is a utility power failure, power is seamlessly drawn from the
battery and there is no transfer switch glitch.
A critical requirement of utility interactive inverters is to stop supplying power into the
utility grid when the grid is shut off. This is an important safety requirement, because
when utility linemen shut off a section of the grid for maintenance or repairs, they do not
want any sources of power to be feeding into those lines! Any photovoltaic power
system connected to those lines must also be shut off immediately. Otherwise a small
island of dangerous power would exist on the line. In the past concerns over
islanding would lead utilities to require an external switch that the linemen could
manually switch off outside of any utility connected residence. Now, however, utility
interactive inverters use a variety of methods to detect that grid power is absent and
stop inverting automatically. These methods include (a) voltage over or under detect;
(b) frequency over or under detect; and (c) waveform steps detection.
The market for utility interactive photovoltaic systems is still in its infancy with only a few
thousand systems worldwide. But new developments in inverter technology are making
that market more cost effective and exciting.

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Components Inverter Technology

Exercise



8$   &  



      
     5  
'
    
' &'   
 &   

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11-19

Components Inverter Technology

Summary of Inverter Features


Below is presented a summary table listing various features of inverters, and discussing
some of the most important issues related to photovoltaic system design.
Feature

Explanation

Considerations in PV System
Design

Output
Voltage and
Current

Inverters manufactured in the


US are 120 or 240 vac 60 Hz
output to match utility output.

Almost all US inverter makers


also make "export" models with
220 or 240 vac 50 Hz output.
Some inverters are "cascadable"
such that their power outputs
can be combined.

Waveform
Type

See previous discussion in this


manual. There are three types;
sine wave, modified sine wave,
and square wave

Sine waves are best for


applications requiring low noise;
e.g. audio/video, computers, and
communications. Modified sine
waves are best for situations
requiring high efficiency. Square
waves are cheap and best suited
for resistive loads.

Inverters are designed for a


PV Input
Voltage Limits specific DC input voltage (i.e.
12, 24, etc.). For the specified
input voltage, there will be upper
and lower limits. For a typical
12-volt inverter, it might range
from 11 to 16 volts.

If one is using alkaline batteries


(Nicads), this figure may be of
important as alkaline batteries
may reach 16 VDC while under
recharge.

    

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11-20

Components Inverter Technology

No Load
Consumption

This is the amount of power that


the inverter consumes when
operating, but not powering any
loads.

Total
Harmonic
Distortion

THD is a measure of how


The lower the THD, the less
perfectly an inverter's waveform amount of noise and radio
matches the ideal sine wave.
frequency interference.
Sine wave inverters have a THD
of 1 - 5%. Modified sine wave
have THD of 10-30% and square
wave of a THD > 30%. As a
reference, in the US, commercial
utility power has a THD of
around 3 - 8 %

Output Power

This refers to the "continuous"


output power for the inverter

A few inverter manufacturers


may still publish output power
that is not continuous, but
derated over time.

Surge Power

The surge capability of an


inverter allows it to have a
starting wattage of 2 to 4 times
its rated output wattage. The
type of motor that you are
running can require a surge of 3
times (Brush Type) to 7 times
(split phase). The bigger the
inverter surge wattage, the larger
the electric motor you can run.

The new 25,000 Hz


"transformerless" inverters have
lower surge capabilities
compared to the traditional 60
Hz inverters. This means that
you may need more inverter
capacity in order to run motors if
you are using 25,000 Hz
inverters.

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Many inverters have sleep


circuits, which puts the inverter
to "sleep" in a mode where no
power is consumed.

Components Inverter Technology

RMS Voltage
and Peak
Voltage

To be close to emulating grid


power, inverter RMS voltage
should to be within 10% of the
standard utility RMS voltage and
peak voltage should be within
15% of the standard utility peak
voltage.

Low RMS and peak voltage will


cause poor operation of motors
and appliances that have
transformers (TVs, stereos, etc.).
RMS voltage and peak voltages
that are too high will damage
appliances

Power Factor

Ideally an inverter should be


able to deal with all power
factors, from -1 to 1, where +1
represents a pure resistive load
and -1 representing a pure
inductive load.

The inverter industry has been


successful in producing products
to accommodate a wide range of
power factors. Most reactive
loads (appliances) in homes
have power factors greater than
0.5.

Protective
Circuitry

Inverters are now designed with


a broad range of protection (e.g.
fault, overload, overtemperature, and high/low
voltage).

Good design will have this


protection.

Battery
Charger

Some manufactures build in the


circuitry for battery charging into
the inverter housing. Since the
transformer already exists, the
inverter drives the transformer
backwards as a battery charger.

Three-stage charging is
preferred; Stage One: Bulk
Charge with maximum charge
amps to maximum voltage.
Stage Two: Constant
Voltage/Absorption, where
current tapers off at rate required
to hold voltage constant. Stage
Three: Float Voltage, which
holds full charge without
gassing. In addition an
equalization stage should be
included which allows charging
to a voltage high enough to gas
batteries in order to remove
sulfation.

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Components Inverter Technology

Utility
Transfer
Relay

Many inverters with battery


chargers are capable of
transferring their load to the
utility or an engine/generator.

If the transfer is performed with


electro-mechanical relays, then
the time of transfer may
unsuitable for continuous
operation of computers and
other electronic loads.

UL Listing

This tells the user that the


inverter is not a fire hazard.

Important feature to have in


meeting NEC code for
residential systems.

Grounding

NEC requires that the green


equipment grounding conductor
and the white neutral conductor
be grounded on the AC side.
Current should not flow in the
grounding wire. The equipment
grounding conductor should be
sized for the DC input.

Proper grounding of the inverter


is important to meet code.
Many non-UL listed inverters do
not have a provision for the
equipment ground connection.
Some inverters ground their
chassis to the negative
conductor that will not pass UL
standards.

Efficiency

To date efficiency has been


measured using resistive loads,
which has little meaning
because most loads being run
are primarily reactive like motors
and appliances.

This is considered by many a


meaningless figure until inverters
are tested for efficiency with
reactive loads.

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Components Inverter Technology

Further Discussion of Selected


Inverter Characteristics
When choosing an inverter for a particular system, the factors of surge capacity,
efficiency and waveform are perhaps the most fundamental. The inverter must be able
to surge to start all the expected inductive loads. It must have enough continuous
output power to handle all the expected loads that might be on at one time. And the
waveform must be appropriate for all the electronic equipment. There are some other
design parameters that should be considered as well. These are described below.

DC Input Voltage
The input DC voltage tends to be a function of the size of the inverter. As the power
through the inverter increases, more current flows and there is greater internal heating.
Manufacturers tend to increase the DC voltage for larger inverters to keep the currents
at a manageable level, around 100 amps or so. So small inverters from 100-2500 watts
continuous tend to be available in 12 volts, while inverters in the 2000-3500 watt range
are made to operate at 24 volts, and models from about 2400-5000 watts are designed
with 48 volt input. Inverters with output greater than 5 kW can have input DC voltages
of 120 to 240 volts and even higher.
If all the loads in a system will be AC then the choice of input voltage is fairly free to
make. The higher the DC voltage the lower the currents into the inverter. This means
that smaller wire can be used, as well as smaller and less expensive disconnect
switches or circuit breakers and fuses. The DC voltage of the inverter will set the
voltage of the battery bank and the array as well.
Do not make the common mistake of thinking that a 24-volt inverter will need twice as
many modules as a 12-volt inverter. The 24-volt choice will use just as many total
modules, but they will be configured differently. Instead of all the modules being
connected in parallel for 12 volts, half as many will be connected in parallel but each
module will be connected to another in series. The total will be the same. And
comparing a 48-volt choice to a 24-volt choice would be similar. Strings of four
modules in series would be used to develop the 48 volts instead of strings of two in
series for 24 volts, but there would be half as many strings in parallel compared to a 24volt case. If DC and AC loads are to be operated in the same system, then the choice
of input voltage is pretty well restricted to 12, or perhaps 24 volts in some cases. Most
all DC loads are designed to operate at 12 volts. Some ballasts for fluorescent lights
and some refrigerator models come in a 24 volt version.
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Components Inverter Technology

Voltage Regulation
At high power levels, the inverter draws larger currents from the battery. This causes
the battery voltage to fall. The inverter should be able to compensate for this voltage
drop and maintain output AC voltage fairly well. This information may not be presented
with the usual efficiency curves and is quite important. If output voltage drops too
much, then loads may not operate correctly.

Serviceability
The inverter design should allow easy servicing in the field, or allow for cards to be
swapped and exchanged to minimize down time.

Adjustable Threshold
Most inverters have some threshold of load power requirement before they actually
"turn on" and commutate to produce AC power. This may be a fixed power level, or
may be adjustable by the user. If the load threshold is higher than some small loads in
a house, for example a small electronic clock, the inverter may not sense the load and it
will not operate alone. Some other loads must be on so that the total power is greater
than the threshold value. Some inverter models offer an adjustable threshold level.
However, the lower the threshold level the slightly lower the efficiency of the inverter.

Paralleling For Greater Power


Some inverters can be connected together in parallel and synchronized to increase the
maximum continuous power output. This allows for a small inverter to be installed
initially, and then more power installed later if loads increase or if budget allows.

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Components Inverter Technology

(End Of Chapter)

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Components Inverter Technology

CHAPTER ELEVEN
INVERTER TECHNOLOGY

11-1

Inverter Power Rating


Power Is A Function Of Time
Surge Power
Temperature Affects Power Rating

11-2
11-2
11-3
11-5

Inverter Efficiency
Efficiency Depends On Load
Inductive vs. Resistive Loads
Test Set-up For Measuring Efficiency

11-7
11-7
11-9
11-9

Inverter Output Waveform


Squarewave
Modified Squarewave or Modified Sinewave
Sinewave

11-11
11-11
11-12
11-13

Inverter Circuit Topologies


Final Frequency First, Then Transform Voltage
First Transform Voltage, Then Final Frequency
Pulse Width Modulation
Multiple Transformers

11-15
11-15
11-16
11-16
11-16

Utility Interactive Inverters


Bi-Directional Utility Interactive Inverters

11-17
11-18

Summary of Inverter Features

11-20

Further Discussion of Selected Inverter Characteristics


DC Input Voltage
Voltage Regulation
Serviceability
Adjustable Threshold
Paralleling For Greater Power

11-24
11-24
11-25
11-25
11-25
11-25

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Components Inverter Technology

Chapter 11 Answers
Inverter Technology



Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


The average efficiency of the transistor based inverter is about 92%. The average
efficiency of the SCR based inverter is about 75%.


Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


Compare waveforms to those shown in the text.


Refer to the manufacturer's literature.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

11-1

Inverter Technology

Chapter Twelve
Charge Regulators and
System Controls
Photovoltaic modules are highly reliable and virtually maintenance-free; but,
modules alone do not solve a customers power problem. Other components are
generally required to properly control, distribute and store the energy produced by
the array to power an electrical load.
In stand-alone PV systems the array is usually connected to batteries that store the
array energy and supply power to the electrical loads on demand. In most cases,
when batteries are included in a PV system, a charge regulator or controller is
required to protect the batteries from being overcharged by the array and
overdischarged by the system loads. In some designs the charge regulator or
system controller may also provide status information to the user/operator on system
performance and battery state of charge.
In this chapter we will discuss the purpose of battery charge regulators and controls
in PV systems, their important features, and how different types operate to control
the flow of energy in a remote PV power system.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Purpose of Charge Regulators and


System Controls
Battery charge regulation and control of the energy produced by the PV array is a
critical function in PV systems. System control equipment can consist of simply a
battery charge regulator or can include a complex collection of equipment designed
to serve many purposes. Seven of the more important functions of battery charge
regulators and system controls are listed below.
1. Prevent Battery Overcharge

to limit the energy supplied to the


battery by the PV array when the
battery becomes fully charged.
2. Prevent Battery Overdischarge
to disconnect the battery from
electrical loads when the battery
reaches low state of charge.
3. Provide Load Control Functions
to automatically connect and
disconnect an electrical load at a
specified time, for example operating
a lighting load from sunset to sunrise.
4. Provide Status Information to
to display or indicate system
System Users/Operators
operational information such as
battery voltage and current, charging
status, load operation, and other
data.
5. Interface and Control Backup
to integrate alternative sources, such
Energy Sources
as a wind turbine and backup
generator with the PV electrical
system.
6. Divert PV Energy to an Auxiliary
to supply energy to non-critical or
Load
secondary loads when the main
battery bank reaches full state of
charge and the array energy would
otherwise be wasted.
7. Serve as a Wiring Center
to provide a termination or connection
point for other components in the
system, including the PV array,
battery and electrical load.
 
   

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Prevent Battery Overcharge


A remote stand-alone photovoltaic system with battery storage is designed so that it
will meet the system electrical load requirements under reasonably determined
worst-case conditions, usually for the month of the year with the lowest insolation to
load ratio. When the array is operating under good-to-excellent weather conditions
(typically during summer) energy generated by the array often exceeds the electrical
load demand. To prevent battery damage resulting from overcharge a charge
regulator or charge controller is used to protect the battery. A charge regulator
should prevent overcharge of a battery regardless of the system sizing/design and
seasonal changes in the load profile, operating temperatures and solar insolation.

Charge regulation is the primary function of a battery charge controller and perhaps
the single most important issue related to battery performance and life. The purpose
of a charge controller is to supply power to the battery in a manner that fully
recharges the battery without overcharging. Without charge control the current from
the array will flow into a battery proportional to the irradiance, whether the battery
needs charging or not. If the battery is fully charged unregulated charging will cause
the battery voltage to reach exceedingly high levels, causing severe gassing,
electrolyte loss, internal heating and accelerated grid corrosion. In most cases if a
battery is not protected from overcharge in PV system, premature failure of the
battery and loss of load are likely to occur.
Charge regulators prevent excessive battery overcharge by interrupting or limiting
the current flow from the array to the battery when the battery becomes fully
charged. Charge regulation is most often accomplished by limiting the battery
voltage to a maximum value, often referred to as the voltage regulation (VR) set
point. Sometimes other methods such as integrating the ampere-hours into and out
of the battery are used. Depending on the regulation method the current may be
limited while maintaining the regulation voltage, or remain disconnected until the
battery voltage drops to the array reconnect voltage (ARV) set point. A further
discussion of charge regulation strategy set points is contained later in this chapter.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Prevent Battery Overdischarge


During periods of below average insolation and/or during periods of excessive
electrical load usage the energy produced by the PV array may not be sufficient
enough to keep the battery fully recharged. When a battery is deeply discharged the
reaction in the battery occurs close to the grids, and weakens the bond between the
active materials and the grids. When a battery is excessively discharged repeatedly
loss of capacity and life will eventually occur. To protect batteries from
overdischarge most charge regulators include an optional feature to disconnect the
system loads once the battery reaches a low voltage or low state of charge
condition.
In some cases the electrical loads in a PV system must have sufficiently high
enough voltage to operate. If batteries are too deeply discharged the voltage falls
below the operating range of the loads, and the loads may operate improperly or not
at all. This is another important reason to limit battery overdischarge in PV systems.
Overdischarge protection in charge regulators is usually accomplished by opencircuiting the connection between the battery and electrical load when the battery
reaches a pre-set or adjustable low voltage load disconnect (LVD) set point. Most
charge regulators also have an indicator light or audible alarm to alert the system
user/operator to the load disconnect condition. Once the battery is recharged to a
certain level, the loads are again reconnected to a battery.

Non-critical system loads are generally always protected from overdischarging the
battery by connection to the low voltage load disconnect circuitry of the charge
controller. If the battery voltage falls to a low but safe level, a relay can open and
disconnect the load, preventing further battery discharge. Critical loads can be
connected directly to the battery, so that they are not automatically disconnected by
the charge regulator. However, the danger exists that these critical loads might
overdischarge the battery. An alarm or other method of user feedback should be
included to give information on the battery status if critical loads are connected
directly to the battery.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Provide Load Control Functions


In some cases regulators may have optional features that allow regulation or control
of the PV system electrical load. Load control in PV lighting system regulators is a
popular feature. This control can take place at sunset or sunrise as sensed by a
photosensor or the array current or voltage output. In other cases the controller may
have a timing function to cycle the load operation for a specified period or at a
certain time of day. Experience has shown that these load control functions may
require adjustment and proper specification for the array type and site conditions
such as temperature and background lighting. While these features add to the cost
and complexity of the controller they can also greatly simply the use and operation of
the PV system.
Where load voltage fluctuations may be detrimental to certain loads, load voltage
regulation may be desirable to limit the voltages at which the loads operate. A few
advanced PV system controllers are designed to perform this function.

Provide Status Information To Users


Many charge regulators used in PV systems can provide status information on the
operation of the system and condition of the battery. These optional features of
regulators can allow users to intelligently manage their use of energy and gain a
better understanding of how the system operates to fully utilize its potential.
Battery voltage and/or state of charge is an essential piece of information that can
be indicated by charge regulators. This can be incorporated as a gas gauge with a
simple dial voltmeter showing green, yellow or red regions corresponding to different
battery voltage ranges. Or a digital readout of exact battery voltage can be provided
for more sophisticated users. While random battery voltage readings are interesting,
the user must know how to interpret this information. For example, they must know
at what voltage levels they should begin to curtail their energy usage, to prevent
battery overdischarge.
Many regulators also indicate with a lamp or ammeter whether the array is charging
the battery, or if the array or load is disconnected. Load currents or even the net
battery amp-hours can also be displayed on some regulator/controller designs.
Knowledge of the array and load currents gives users a sense of how much energy
they are producing with the array and consuming with electrical loads. This may
allow them to plan their load usage to better correspond with the energy availability
of their system during low insolation periods.

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12-5

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Interface and Control Backup Energy


Sources
In the case of a hybrid PV power systems using one or more backup energy sources
in addition to the array more advanced system control centers may be designed to
interface these alternate sources with the PV electrical system. One example would
be a controller that activates a backup generator at low battery state of charge. The
control center would start the generator at a pre-set low battery voltage, and turn it
off when the battery is recharged or reaches a higher voltage limit.
The control of backup energy sources can also be performed by other components
in the PV system. For example, some stand-alone inverters used in PV systems will
start a backup generator or divert the loads to utility power when the battery reaches
low state of charge. Once the battery has been recharged to a pre-set level, the
loads are again connected to and powered by the battery bank.

Divert PV Energy To Auxiliary Load


Batteries in photovoltaic systems are often fully recharged by the middle of the day
during the summer. Normally, the charge regulator disconnects the array to prevent
battery overcharging, wasting valuable array energy. To utilize this excess energy,
some controllers allow the diversion of array energy to power an auxiliary load once
the primary battery bank is fully charged. In most cases the regulator will be
bypassed, directly-coupling the PV array to the auxiliary load. The auxiliary load is
typically a backup battery, a DC water pump, a resistive element in a water heater,
or a fan or some other simple motor load that can be operated from the array without
voltage regulation. In this way all the energy that the array can produce is being
utilized for some purpose.
When the battery voltage falls, and array power is once again needed to run the
regular loads, the auxiliary load is then disconnected. So the auxiliary load must be
an optional, non-critical load that can be operated whenever excess array energy is
available.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Serves As Wiring Center


In most cases the charge regulator or system controller serves as the termination
and connection point between the conductors leading to the various components in
a PV system. For example, the charge regulator in a small residential lighting
system commonly has the PV array, battery and load all connected to the regulator
terminals. A fuse or circuit breaker for array and battery protection can also be
included in the regulator design.
Larger PV systems generally have overcurrent protection and disconnect devices
included as part of the system control center. With these devices included in the
system controller, the conductors leading to the PV array, battery and loads are
connected at a centralized point in the system. The control center may also be the
principle grounding point in the system and include surge suppression devices. With
this centralized configuration for the system connection and controls, the installation,
operation and maintenance of the system is greatly simplified.

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12-7

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Terminology
While the specific regulation method or algorithm may vary among different charge
regulators, all have basic functions and characteristics. Charge regulator
manufacturer's data generally provides information about these functions and their
specifications.

Nominal System Voltage


The nominal system voltage is the voltage at which the battery and charge regulator
operate in a PV system. Most charge regulators are designed for operation at a
specific nominal system voltage, while some may allow operation at multiple
voltages, for example with 12 or 24-volt systems.
As mentioned other places in this manual, the selection of the nominal system
voltage has important ramifications on many aspects of design and equipment
selection. For systems with higher load power demands a higher nominal system
voltage is generally used to lower the peak operating currents, reducing the size and
ratings of conductors, overcurrent and disconnect devices and the charge regulator.
However, most equipment for small stand-alone PV systems is widely availability in
12 or 24-volt dc models, and this may dictate the designers selection of the nominal
system voltage.

Nominal Load and PV Array Current


Charge regulators are rated for their ability to handle certain maximum and nominal
currents for the PV array and load. Often, surge conditions may exist from the array
and loads, and the regulator must be tolerant of these conditions. A further
discussion of selecting and sizing charge regulators is presented later in this
chapter.

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12-8

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Charge Regulator Set Points


The battery voltage levels at which a charge regulator performs control or switching
functions are called the regulator set points. Four basic control set points are
defined for most charge regulators that have battery overcharge and overdischarge
protection features. The voltage regulation (VR) and the array reconnect voltage
(ARV) refer to the voltage set points at which the array is connected and
disconnected from the battery. The low voltage load disconnect (LVD) and load
reconnect voltage (LRV) refer to the voltage set points at which the load is
disconnected from the battery to prevent overdischarge. Figure 12-1 shows the
basic regulator set points on a simplified diagram plotting battery voltage versus time
for a charge and discharge cycle. A detailed discussion of each charge controller
set point follows.

Charge Regulator Set Points

Battery Voltage

Voltage Regulation (VR)


Voltage Regulation Hysteresis (VRH)
Array Reconnect Voltage (ARV)

Load Reconnect Voltage (LRV)


Low Voltage Disconnect Hysteresis (LVDH)
Low Voltage Load Disconnect (LVD)

Charging

Discharging

Time
  

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12-9

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Voltage Regulation (VR) Set Point


The voltage regulation (VR) set point is one of the key specifications for charge
regulators. The voltage regulation set point is defined as the maximum voltage that
the charge regulator allows the battery to reach, limiting the overcharge of the
battery. Once the controller senses that the battery reaches the voltage regulation
set point, the controller will either discontinue battery charging or begin to regulate
(limit) the amount of current delivered to the battery. In some regulator designs, dual
regulation set points may be used. For example, a higher regulation voltage may be
used for the first charge cycle of the day to provide a little battery overcharge,
gassing and equalization, while a lower regulation voltage is used on subsequent
cycles through the remainder of the day to effectively float charge the battery.
Proper selection of the voltage regulation set point may depend on many factors,
including the specific battery chemistry and design, sizes of the load and array with
respect to the battery, operating temperatures, and electrolyte loss considerations.
For flooded batteries the regulation voltage should be selected at a point that allows
the battery to achieve a minimal level of gassing. However, gassing should be
avoided for sealed, valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries. Temperature
compensation of the voltage regulation set point is often incorporated in charge
controller design, and is highly recommended for VRLA batteries and if battery
temperatures exceed 5o C from normal ambient temperatures (25o C). A
discussion on voltage regulation set point selection and temperature compensation
is contained later in this chapter.
An important point to note about the voltage regulation set point is that the values
required for optimal battery performance in stand-alone PV systems are generally
much higher than the regulation or float voltages recommended by battery
manufacturers. This is because in a PV system, the battery must be recharged
within a limited time period (during sunlight hours), while battery manufacturers
generally allow for much longer recharge times when determining their optimal
regulation voltage limits. By using a higher regulation voltage in PV systems the
battery can be recharged in a shorter time period, however some degree over
overcharge and gassing will occur. The designer is faced selecting the optimal
voltage regulation set point that maintains the highest possible battery state of
charge without causing significant overcharge.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

High Voltage Alarm


In some regulator designs a high voltage alarm is included to alert the system
user/operator of a dangerously high battery voltage condition. In the event of a
controller failure, or failure of a backup source regulator, the high voltage alarm
sends an audible or visible signal to the operator if the battery voltage exceeds a
pre-set level. The settings for the high voltage alarm should be slightly higher than
the maximum expected voltage regulation set point of the charge regulator (including
any increases for temperature compensation). For most applications typical high
voltage alarm settings range upward from about 14.8 volts.

Array Reconnect Voltage (ARV) Set Point


In interrupting (on-off) type regulators, once the array current is disconnected at the
voltage regulation set point, the battery voltage will begin to decrease. The rate at
which the battery voltage decreases depends on many factors, including the charge
rate prior to disconnect, and the discharge rate dictated by the electrical load. If the
charge and discharge rates are high, the battery voltage will decrease at a greater
rate than if these rates are lower. When the battery voltage decreases to a
predefined voltage, the array is again reconnected to the battery to resume charging.
This voltage at which the array is reconnected is defined as the array reconnect
voltage (ARV) set point.
If the array were to remain disconnected for the rest of day after the regulation
voltage was initially reached, the battery would not be fully recharged. By allowing
the array to reconnect after the battery voltage reduces to a set value, the array
current will cycle into the battery in an on-off manner, disconnecting at the
regulation voltage set point, and reconnecting at the array reconnect voltage set
point. In this way, the battery will be brought up to a higher state of charge by
pulsing the array current into the battery.
It is important to note that for some regulator designs, namely constant-voltage and
pulse-width-modulated (PWM) types, there is no clearly distinguishable difference
between the VR and ARV set points. In these designs the array current is not
regulated in a simple on-off or interrupting fashion, but is only limited as the battery
voltage is held at a relatively constant value through the remainder of the day. A
discussion on these types of regulators is included later in this chapter.

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12-11

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Voltage Regulation Hysteresis (VRH)


The voltage span or difference between the voltage regulation set point and the
array reconnect voltage is often called the voltage regulation hysteresis (VRH). The
VRH is a major factor that determines the effectiveness of battery recharging for
interrupting (on-off) type regulators. If the hysteresis is to great, the array current
remains disconnected for long periods, effectively lowering the array energy
utilization and making it very difficult to fully recharge the battery. If the regulation
hysteresis is too small, the array will cycle on and off rapidly, perhaps damaging
regulators which use electro-mechanical switching elements. The designer must
carefully determine the hysteresis values based on the system charge and discharge
rates and the charging requirements of the particular battery.
Most interrupting (on-off) type regulators have hysteresis values between 0.4 and
1.4 volts for nominal 12-volt systems. For example, for a regulator with a voltage
regulation set point of 14.5 volts and a regulation hysteresis of 1.0 volt, the array
reconnect voltage would be 13.5 volts. In general, a smaller regulation hysteresis is
required for PV systems that do not have a daytime load. This is because daytime
loads will pull the battery voltage down past the reconnect voltage and initiate array
charging during the day. If only nighttime loads are operated, then the amount of
time that on-off type regulators spend with the array connected will be less than if
loads were operating throughout the day.

Low Voltage Load Disconnect (LVD) Set Point


Overdischarging the battery can make it susceptible to freezing and shorten its
operating life. If battery voltage drops too low, due to prolonged bad weather for
example, certain non-essential loads can be disconnected from the battery to
prevent further discharge. This can be done using a low voltage load disconnect
(LVD) device connected between the battery and non-essential loads. The LVD is
either a relay or a solid-state switch that interrupts the current from the battery to the
load, and is included as part of most regulator designs. In some cases the low
voltage load disconnect unit may be a separate unit from the main charge regulator.
In regulators or controls incorporating a load disconnect feature the low voltage load
disconnect (LVD) set point is the voltage at which the load is disconnected from the
battery to prevent overdischarge. The LVD set point defines the actual allowable
maximum depth-of-discharge and available capacity of the battery operating in a PV
system. The available capacity must be carefully estimated in the PV system design
and sizing process using the actual depth of discharge dictated by the LVD set point.
In more sophisticated designs a hierarchy of load importance can be established,
and the more critical loads can be shed at progressively lower battery voltages.
Very critical loads can remain connected directly to the battery so their operation is
not interrupted.

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12-12

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The proper LVD set point will maintain a healthy battery while providing the
maximum battery capacity and load availability. To determine the proper load
disconnect voltage, the designer must consider the rate at which the battery is
discharged. Because the battery voltage is affected by the rate of discharge, a lower
load disconnect voltage set point is needed for high discharge rates to achieve the
same depth of discharge limit. In general, the low discharge rates in most small
stand-alone PV systems do not have a significant effect on the battery voltage.
Typical LVD values used are between 11.0 and 11.5 volts, which corresponds to
about 75-90% depth of discharge for most nominal 12 volt lead-acid batteries at
discharge rates lower than C/30.
A word of caution is in order when selecting the low voltage load disconnect set
point. Battery manufacturers rate discharge capacity to a specified cut-off voltage
that corresponds to 100% depth of discharge for the battery. For lead-acid batteries,
this cut-off voltage is typically 10.5 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery (1.75 volts per
cell). In PV systems, we never want to allow a battery to be completely discharged,
as this will shorten its service life. In general, the low voltage load disconnect set
point in PV systems is selected to discharge the battery to no greater than 75-80%
depth of discharge.
In cases where starting (SLI) batteries are used or it is otherwise desired to limit the
battery depth of discharge to prevent freezing or prolong cycle life, a higher LVD set
point may be desired. To protect the battery from freezing, the LVD set point may
be temperature compensated in some cases to increase the load disconnect voltage
automatically with decreasing battery temperature.
To properly specify the LVD set point in PV systems the designer must know how
the battery voltage is affected at different states of charge and discharge rates. In a
few designs, current compensation may be included in the LVD circuitry to lower the
LVD set point with increasing discharge rates to effectively keep a consistent depth
of discharge limit at which the LVD occurs.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Low Voltage Alarm


An optional regulator feature is a low voltage alarm (LVA) designed to alert the user
of a low battery state of charge condition. If the charge regulator were to fail, or the
array damaged, or during long periods of below average insolation, the battery state
of charge might drop below safe levels. A low-voltage alarm can be included in a
remote power system to monitor battery voltage and send an audible, visual or
electronic alarm if the battery voltage drops below some predetermined safe range.
Typical low voltage alarm settings for nominal 12-volt batteries are about 11.8-11.5
volts, corresponding to about 60-70 % depth of discharge.
One advanced feature of some controllers is current compensation of the LVA
voltage. When high load currents are flowing the battery voltage will be temporarily
lowered due to the internal voltage drop in the battery. This temporary low voltage
should not activate the LVA. It should only come on when a low battery voltage is
sustained for a long period of time. Current compensation circuitry monitors the load
current and lowers the LVA set point correspondingly, so that nuisance alarms are
avoided.

Load Reconnect Voltage (LRV) Set Point


The battery voltage at which a regulator allows the load to be reconnected to the
battery is called the load reconnect voltage (LRV). After the regulator disconnects
the load from the battery at the LVD set point, the battery voltage rises to its opencircuit voltage. When the array or a backup source provides additional charge the
battery voltage rises even more. At some point the controller senses that the battery
voltage and state of charge are high enough to reconnect the load, called the load
reconnect voltage set point.
The selection of the load reconnect set point should be high enough to ensure that
the battery has been somewhat recharged, while not to high as to sacrifice load
availability by allowing the loads to be disconnected too long. Many controller
designs effectively lock out loads until the next day or when the controller senses
that the array is again recharging the battery. Typically LVD set points used in small
PV systems are between 12.5 and 13.0 volts for most nominal 12-volt lead-acid
batteries. If the LRV set point is selected too low, the load may be reconnected
before the battery has been charged, possibly cycling the load on and off, keeping
the battery at low state of charge and shortening its lifetime.
As in the selection of the other regulator set points, the designer must consider the
charge rates for the loads and array and how these rates affect battery voltage at
different states of charge.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Low Voltage Load Disconnect Hysteresis (LVDH)


The voltage span or difference between the LVD set point and the load reconnect
voltage is called the low voltage disconnect hysteresis (LVDH). If the LVDH is too
small the load may cycle on and off rapidly at low battery state-of-charge (SOC),
possibly damaging the load or controller, and extending the time it takes to fully
charge the battery. If the LVDH is too large, the load may remain off for extended
periods until the array fully recharges the battery. With a large LVDH, battery health
may be improved due to reduced battery cycling but with a reduction in load
availability. The proper LVDH selection for a given system will depend on load
availability requirements, battery chemistry and size, and the PV and load currents.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Other Functions Associated With


Charge Regulation
Backup Energy Source Control
Another optional feature of some charge regulators is the control of auxiliary or
backup energy sources. Sometimes operating in conjunction with low voltage alarm
(LVA) circuits, the controller switches power to start a backup generator and
connects it to the battery when the state of charge and voltage reach a low level. An
audible alarm can be used for an occupied site to alert the user that it is time to
manually turn on the generator. Or the control unit can automatically switch on a
generator with electric start. Another control can be set to a higher voltage to turn
the generator off as the battery voltage reaches a predetermined higher state of
charge.

Equalizing Charge Capability


For some battery types, particularly for tall flooded lead-antimony types, periodic
equalization charges are required to maintain optimal battery performance. Under
most circumstances, this requires user intervention in system operation, by
bypassing the normal charge regulation circuit for the duration of the equalization
charge. To perform equalization charging automatically, some new regulators allow
their VR set point to be overridden periodically, either when the battery voltage has
dropped particularly low, or at regular time intervals (e.g. 15-20 days). The
frequency and extent to which equalization charges occur can be programmed into
the controller microprocessor circuitry.

Set Point Adjustability


While some charge controllers use fixed resistors to pre-set the controller set points
many have the ability to adjust or change the regulation and load disconnect set
points. Some also have provisions to adjust the hysteresis values as well.
Adjustments are typically made with potentiometers (single or multi-turn), DIP (dual
in-line package) switches, or circuit board jumpers. Although the system designer or
installer may need access to properly set the controller for the type of battery and
system configuration, user/operator access to regulator adjustments should be
discouraged.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Load Voltage Regulation


For some PV applications with critical loads such as telecommunications and
telemetry equipment, the load must operate at a specific voltage or within a
prescribed voltage range. While an external dc-dc converter between the battery
bank and load sometimes accomplishes this task, some advanced charge regulator
types can provide load voltage regulation. A DC-DC converter may be incorporated
in the controller circuitry, or a simple voltage regulator circuit may be used if the load
voltage requirements are less than the lowest expected battery voltage.

Regulation/Control Element Design


The regulation or switching control element in charge regulators can be either a
solid-state device or an electro-mechanical relay. Simple interrupting or on-off
regulators may use relays, however in most cases MOSFETs or power transistors
are used rather than relays because they have lower power requirements, are
smaller, and can operate for many more cycles. The regulator switching elements
must be properly rated for the application. The steady-state dc current ratings for
the regulator element should be at least 125% of the maximum PV array short-circuit
current. The peak or surge DC current ratings for the element should be at least
150% of maximum expected PV array short-circuit current.
The switching element that controls the low voltage load disconnect circuit is
generally an electro-mechanical relay, as the number of cycles this switching
element experiences is very limited compared to the regulation element. Generally,
relay contacts should be plated, or hermetically sealed and rated to handle at least
125% of the rated dc load current. Peak or surge dc current ratings for the load
switching element should also be able to handle expected high current surges from
the system loads.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Operational Limits
The environmental and mechanical design limits of charge regulators are an
important consideration for most PV applications. Generally, PV systems and
components are installed in remote areas, in unconditioned spaces, and subject to
the extremes of the weather. For these reasons most regulators have minimum and
maximum ratings for ambient temperature, battery temperature and relative
humidity. Where extreme environmental conditions exist the designer should
consider these specifications when selecting charge regulators.
The packaging and physical characteristics are another important characteristic of
charge regulators. In general, the regulator circuitry should be sealed from the
environment, either by conformably coating or potting the circuitry. A rigid case
should protect the regulator or the controller may be installed in a weatherproof
enclosure.
Terminations used to connect wiring to the charge regulator should be corrosion
resistant, and be large and sturdy enough to accept the conductor sizes that may be
used in the system.

Surge Protection and Grounding


Most regulators include some type of surge suppression devices on the array and
load circuits. Commonly, these devices are metal-oxide varistors (MOVs), which are
connected between the positive and negative terminals, and from this terminal to
ground. Under normal operating conditions MOVs are high impedance devices.
However under surge conditions, MOVs shunt energy to ground, bypassing sensitive
electrical circuits of the controller. While these devices do not always protect the
controller circuitry from harmful surges, they are strongly recommended for
regulators used in lightning prone areas and in dc/ac systems using inverters.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Service Disconnects and Overcurrent


Protection
Other features that are sometimes included system control centers are overcurrent
protection and disconnect devices. The requirements for overcurrent protection and
disconnect requirements are discussed in detail elsewhere in this manual. In
general, disconnects and overcurrent protection are needed between the PV array
source circuits and regulators, between the battery and regulators, and perhaps on
load circuits. When these components are included as part of the system control
center, the installation, operation and maintenance of the system are simplified.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Standard Configurations Of
Charge Regulation and Control
Systems
There are a number of ways that battery charge regulation and system controls are
configured photovoltaic systems. Depending on the type and size of the system, the
cost and availability of hardware, and designer choice, certain regulation and control
configurations may be more appropriate than others. Some of the more common
configurations of charge regulation and system control are described below. The
electronic design of charge regulators is presented in the next section.

Simple Series Path Configuration


The most common configuration is to install the charge regulator/controller in series
between the array and the battery. When the battery reaches the charge regulation
voltage set point of the controller, the regulator mechanism may either open-circuit
or short-circuit the array, or limit the current to lower than the peak array current.
The following figure shows two typical series regulator configurations used in PV
systems. The top diagram shows a simple design where the charge regulator is only
used to protect the battery from overcharge, but does not protect it from
overdischarge. In this configuration, the regulator is placed in series between the
PV array and battery, while the load is connected directly to the battery.
The bottom diagram in the figure shows a series configuration with battery
overdischarge protection. The charge regulator used in this design includes a low
voltage load disconnect circuit, and the load is connected to the charge regulator at
the load terminals rather than directly to the battery. Charge regulators of this type
are common and are designed to handle PV array currents up to 30 amps. Where
the load currents exceed the ratings of these controllers an external relay is often
driven by the charge regulator to control the load.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Simple Series Configurations


Without Overdischarge Protection
PV Array

Charge
Regulator

Battery

Load

With Overdischarge Protection


PV Array

Charge
Regulator

Load

Battery

  

Auxiliary Load Path Configuration


Photovoltaic systems are usually sized so that the array produces enough energy to
fully operate the loads during the winter months, in order to keep the battery fully
charged. When the solar insolation is high and the load usage is low the charge
regulator disconnects the array from the battery to prevent overcharge, wasting
valuable energy. Where a backup or non-essential load can be utilized the excess
array power can be diverted directly to the backup load or through the battery to the
backup load.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The figure below shows a basic configuration for auxiliary load connection in PV
systems with similar battery overdischarge protection as described for the series
path configuration. In this case when the battery reaches full state of charge, the
charge regulator diverts the array power to an auxiliary load while the primary load
continues to operate from the battery. In most cases these regulators connect the
array directly to the auxiliary load, and bypass the circuit to the battery. In this
design it should be noted that the array power and voltage delivered to the load will
not be regulated, so the load must be compatible with the array output. Electrical
loads that can be directly connected to the array output include auxiliary batteries,
DC motor appliances such a pumps or fans, or resistive elements used for water or
space heating. Whenever excess energy is available from the array, these types of
loads can absorb it. When the primary battery voltage drops and array power is
once again needed to recharge it the auxiliary loads power is cut off.
During the summer months charge regulation limits the array energy utilization by as
much as 50% in most small stand-alone PV applications. The use of an auxiliary
load can make full use of all the array energy throughout the year that would
otherwise be wasted. Array energy diversion to auxiliary loads is usually used in
remote homes or cabins, where the primary load usage is intermittent or infrequent,
and where a non-essential load can be utilized. Generally, commercial and
industrial PV applications have little need for the common types of auxiliary loads.

Auxiliary Load Configuration


With Overdischarge Protection
Primary
Load

PV Array

Auxiliary load is OPTIONAL


to utilize excess array energy

Charge
Regulator

Battery

Auxiliary
Load

  
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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Parallel Path Configuration


A less common approach to battery charge regulation is a parallel path
configuration. In this configuration the auxiliary load is no longer an option - it is
necessary and required to protect the battery from overcharging.
The figure below shows a diagram of a parallel path configuration with
overdischarge protection. The charge regulator is not in series between the array
and battery, but is placed in parallel with the battery. The current from the array is
fed directly to the battery at all times. When the battery reaches full state of charge,
the regulator begins to pass excess array power to the auxiliary load. If the battery
is fully charged then all the power from the array flows across the battery terminals
and to the auxiliary load. The primary load will continue to operate.
The concern with this configuration is that the auxiliary load must always be
available and must be able to fully utilize the maximum expected array power. If not,
failure of the load or battery overcharge may occur. The advantage of this type of
configuration is that multiple sources of power can be connected to the battery.
Sources such a wind generators that produce large variations in current could
damage some regulators configured in series. But in this approach, the large battery
bank acts as a buffer, absorbing all the wind generator energy, and the regulator
must only gradually divert the energy away to the auxiliary load as the battery
becomes charged.

Parallel Path Configuration


With Overdischarge Protection
Primary
Load

PV Array

Battery

Auxiliary load is MANDATORY


to regulate battery overcharge

Charge
Regulator

Auxiliary
Load

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Sub-Array Switching Configuration


For larger arrays, the commonly available charge regulators used for small standalone PV applications may alone not be rated to handle the higher array currents.
Charge regulation for arrays larger than 500 to 1000 peak watts is generally
accomplished by grouping the array into parallel sub-groups or sub-arrays, and by
regulating each of the sub-arrays independently. The common operational mode for
sub-array switching controllers is that each sub-array regulator is set to a slightly
different cut-off voltage. As the battery voltage rises, first one sub-array disconnects
at the lowest regulation voltage, and then the next is disconnected, gradually
reducing the charge current into the battery as the voltage increases to the highest
regulation voltage set point.

Sub-Array Switching Configuration


Sub-Array #1

Charge
Regulator

Sub-Array #2

Charge
Regulator

Sub-Array #3

Charge
Regulator

Battery

Optional LVD

Sub-Array #3
One sub-array may be connected directly to the
battery for finishing charge

Load

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

For this configuration, a common design approach is that several regulators are
used in parallel, each with its own sub-array connected. Another approach is one
that a master controller operates relays switching each sub-array, each set to a
slightly different voltage point. For example, a 12 volt array could have one subarray disconnected at 13.8 volts, a second at 14.0 volts, a third at 14.2 volts, and so
on. In this way the charge current is reduced in steps, and the battery gradually
approaches full charge. This approach allows for the use of simple on-off type
controls and yet results in the same gentle approach to full charge as complex multistage and constant-voltage regulators.
The switching elements used in sub-array switching control designs can either be
electro-mechanical relays or long-life mercury displacement relays. By separating
the control mechanism (relay) from the charge control circuitry greater flexibility in
design can be enjoyed, and very large array currents can be regulated with simple
single stage on-off type control elements (relays).
In systems with many sub-arrays one small sub-array may be left connected directly
to the battery (with appropriate fusing and disconnect switch for wire protection and
code compliance). This final sub-array current provides a gentle finishing charge at
the end of the day. The general requirement is that this one sub array contributes
only low charge rates (for example C/90 or less) to the battery to limit the battery
voltage.
The number of parallel sub-arrays determines the number of regulators or relays
required. To determine the number of regulators or sub-array relays required, divide
the maximum possible array current by the current capacity of one regulator or relay.
The maximum array current is the short circuit current of the entire array increased
by a safety factor for possible cloud and ground reflectance, usually a factor of 130%
is used.

Number of Sub-Arrays
and Regulators

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Number of Parallel Modules X Isc X 1.3


Current Capacity of One Regulator

12-25

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Example:

A large microwave repeater system requires 4 kW of solar array at 24


volts. If 35-watt modules are used, this means that a total of 114
modules are required.
4000 watts

35 watts/ module

114 modules

Since the system requires 24 volts, this means that two modules are
wired in series and 57 strings of two-in-series are wired in parallel. So
the number of parallel modules is 57.
114 modules total

2 in series

57 in parallel

A typical size charge regulator is rated at 30 amps (some are larger,


some smaller). Using the Isc of 2.15 amps for an 35 watt module, the
number of regulators and sub-arrays is given by
Number of Regulators

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57 parallel X 2.15 amps X 1.30


30 amps/regulator

5.3 regulators, rounded up to 6

12-26

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Exercise


 
  
 
  
 
    
  
 !   
    


   "#
$%!
 
&'  
((((((((((
 




)&'!!*&'    



 
*# 
# # 
# 
 + 
  , # 
 
    &!
'!
#%!
 !
&!!

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Electronic Designs for Charge


Regulation
.
The discussion in the preceding section show the different ways battery charge
regulation can be configured in photovoltaic systems. There are also a number of
variations in the function and electronic design of charge regulators.
Two basic methods exist for controlling or regulating the charging of a battery from a
PV module or array - shunt and series regulation. While both of these methods are
effectively used, each method may incorporate a number of variations that alter their
basic performance and applicability. Simple designs interrupt or disconnect the
array from the battery at regulation, while more sophisticated designs limit the
current to the battery in a linear manner that maintains a high battery voltage.
The algorithm or control strategy of a battery charge regulator determines the
effectiveness of battery charging and PV array utilization, and ultimately the ability of
the system to meet the electrical load demands. Most importantly, the controller
algorithm defines the way in which PV array power is applied to the battery in the
system. In general, interrupting on-off type controllers require a higher regulation set
point to bring batteries up to full state of charge than controllers that limit the array
current in a gradual manner.
Some of the more common design approaches for charge regulators are described
in this section. Typical daily charging profiles for a few of the common types of
regulators used in small PV lighting systems are presented in the next section.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Shunt Regulator Designs


Since photovoltaic cells are current-limited by design (unlike batteries) PV modules
and arrays can be short-circuited without any harm. The ability to short-circuit
modules or an array is the basis of operation for shunt regulators.
The figure shows an electrical design of a typical shunt type regulator. The shunt
controller regulates the charging of a battery from the PV array by short-circuiting the
array internal to the regulator. All shunt regulators must have a blocking diode in
series between the battery and the shunt element to prevent the battery from shortcircuiting when the array is regulating. Because there is some voltage drop between
the array and regulator and due to wiring and resistance of the shunt element, the
array is never entirely short-circuited, resulting in some power dissipation within the
controller. For this reason, most shunt controllers require a heat sink to dissipate
power, and are generally limited to use in PV systems with array currents less than
20 amps.
The regulation element in shunt regulators is typically a power transistor or MOSFET
depending on the specific design. There are three general variations of the shunt
regulator design. The first is a simple interrupting, or on-off type regulator design.
The second type limits the array current in a gradual manner, by increasing the
resistance of the shunt element as the battery reaches full state of charge. A third
approach is to pulse the current through the shunt element and vary the pulse time
or width depending on the battery state of charge (Pulse Width Modulation or PWM).
These variations of the shunt regulator are discussed next.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

B a s ic S h u n t R e g u la to r D e s ig n
L o a d S w itc h in g E le m e n t

B lo c k in g D io d e

+
PV
A rra y

R e g u la tio n
C o n tro l

LVD
C o n tro l

DC
Load

B a tte ry

S h u n t E le m e n t

 

Shunt-Interrupting Design
The shunt-interrupting regulator completely disconnects the array current in an
interrupting or on-off fashion when the battery reaches the voltage regulation set
point. When the battery decreases to the array reconnect voltage, the regulator
connects the array to resume charging the battery. This cycling between the
regulation voltage and array reconnect voltage is why these regulators are often
called on-off or pulsing controllers. These are NOT to be confused with a true
pulsing or PWM type control, discussed later. Shunt-interrupting regulators are
widely available and are low cost, however they are generally limited to use in
systems with array currents less than 20 amps due to heat dissipation requirements.
In general, on-off shunt regulators consume less power than series type regulators
that use relays (discussed later), so they are best suited for small systems where
even minor parasitic losses become a significant part of the system load.
Shunt-interrupting charge regulators can be used on all battery types, however the
way in which they apply power to the battery may not be optimal for all battery
designs. In general, constant-voltage, PWM or linear regulator designs are
recommended by manufacturers of gelled and AGM lead-acid batteries. However,
shunt-interrupting regulators are simple, low cost and perform well in most small
stand-alone PV systems.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Shunt-Linear Design
Once a battery becomes nearly fully charged a shunt-linear regulator maintains the
battery at near a fixed voltage by gradually shunting the array through a
semiconductor regulation element. In some designs a comparator circuit in the
regulator senses the battery voltage, and makes corresponding adjustments to the
impedance of the shunt element, thus regulating the array current. In other designs
simple Zener power diodes are used, which are the limiting factor in the cost and
power ratings for these regulators. There is generally more heat dissipation in a
shunt-linear regulator than in shunt-interrupting types.
Shunt-linear regulators are popular for use with sealed VRLA batteries. This
algorithm applies power to the battery in a preferential method for these types of
batteries, by limiting the current while holding the battery at the regulation voltage.

Shunting Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) Design


This algorithm uses a semiconductor switching element across the array and battery
that is switched on/off at a high frequency with a variable duty. The time duration or
duty cycle of the pulses is varied to increase or decrease the time-average amount
of current passed on to the battery, and this maintains the battery at or very close to
the voltage regulation set point. Similar to the shunt-linear, constant-voltage
algorithm in performance, power dissipation within the regulator is considerably
lower in PWM design.
By electronically controlling the high speed switching or regulation element the PWM
regulator breaks the array current into pulses at some constant frequency, and
varies the width (time duration) of the pulses to regulate the amount of charge
flowing into the battery as shown in the figure. When the battery is at low state of
charge the current pulse width is practically fully on all the time. As the battery is
charged and the voltage rises, the pulse width is decreased, effectively reducing the
magnitude of the charge current.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The PWM design allows greater control over exactly how a battery approaches full
charge, and the high speed switching elements generate little heat. PWM type
regulators can be used with all battery types, however the controlled manner in
which power is applied to the battery makes them preferential for use with sealed
VRLA types batteries over on-off type controls. To limit overcharge and gassing, the
voltage regulation set points for PWM and constant-voltage controllers are generally
specified lower than those for on-off type regulators. For example, a PWM regulator
operating with a nominal 12 volt flooded lead-antimony battery might use a VR set
point of 14.4 to 14.6 volts at 25o C, while an on-off regulator used with the same
battery might require a VR set point of between 14.6 and 14.8 volts to fully recharge
the battery on a typical day.

P u ls e -W id th -M o d u la te d (P W M )
R e g u la to r D e s ig n
B a tte ry a t L o w S ta te o f C h a rg e
U n til th e b a tte ry is fu lly c h a rg e d ,
th e c u rre n t p u ls e s to th e b a tte ry
a re w id e .

B a tte ry a t H ig h S ta te o f C h a rg e
O n c e th e b a tte ry b e c o m e s fu lly
c h a rg e d , th e c u rre n t p u ls e s to
th e b a tte ry b e c o m e n a rro w e r.

  !

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Series Regulator Designs


As the name implies, this type of regulator works in series between the array and
battery, rather than in parallel as for the shunt regulator. There are several
variations to the series type regulator, all of which use some type of control or
regulation element in series between the array and the battery. While this type of
controller is used in small PV systems, it is the most practical choice for larger
systems due to the current limitations of shunt controllers. The figure shows an
electrical design of a typical series type regulator.
In a series regulator design array current is controlled in one of three ways.

A relay or solid-state switch can open the circuit between the array and the
battery to discontinue charging.
Array current is pulsed rapidly, and the pulse time or width is varied to keep the
battery voltage constant (PWM type).
A control circuit limits the current in a series-linear manner to hold the battery
voltage at a high value.

Because the series regulator open-circuits rather than short-circuits the array as in
shunt-controllers, no blocking diode is needed to prevent the battery from shortcircuiting when the controller regulates.

B as ic S eries R eg u lato r D e sig n


S e ries E le m e n t

L o a d S w itc h in g E le m e n t

+
PV
A rray

R e g u latio n
C o n tro l

LVD
C o n tro l

DC
Load

B a tte ry

  "

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Series-Interrupting 1-Step Design


The most simple series regulator is the series-interrupting type, involving a one-step
control, turning the array charging current either on or off. The charge regulator
constantly monitors battery voltage, and disconnects or open-circuits the array in
series once the battery reaches the regulation voltage set point. After a pre-set
period of time, or when battery voltage drops to the array reconnect voltage set
point, the array and battery are reconnected, and the cycle repeats. As the battery
becomes more fully charged, the time for the battery voltage to reach the regulation
voltage becomes shorter each cycle, so the amount of array current passed through
to the battery becomes less each time. In this way, full charge is approached
gradually in small steps or pulses, almost identical to the shunt-interrupting type
controller discussed earlier. The principle difference between the two is whether the
regulation is through shunting or series interrupting.
As mentioned with the shunt-interrupting type regulator, the 1-step seriesinterrupting type designs are best suited for use with flooded batteries and NOT for
sealed VRLA types, due to the fact that gassing results from the relatively long on
pulses.

Series-Interrupting, 2-Step, Constant-Current Design


This type of controller is similar to the 1-step series-interrupting type, however when
the voltage regulation set point is reached, instead of totally interrupting the array
current, a limited constant current remains applied to the battery. This trickle
charging continues either for a pre-set period of time, or until the voltage drops to
the array reconnect voltage due to load demand. Then full array current is once
again allowed to flow, and the cycle repeats. Full charge is approached in a
continuous fashion, instead of smaller steps as described above for the on-off type
regulators. Some two-stage controls increase array current immediately as a load
pulls down battery voltage. Others keep the current at the small trickle charge level
until the battery voltage has been pulled down below some intermediate value
(usually 12.5-12.8 volts) before they allow full array current to resume.

Series-Interrupting, 2-Step, Dual Set Point Design


This type of regulator operates similar to the series-interrupting type, however there
are two distinct voltage regulation set points. During the first charge cycle of the
day, the controller uses a higher regulation voltage to provide some equalization
charge to the battery. This may be applied on a preset frequency (e.g. every 15-20
days) or may be programmed to occur after the battery has been discharged to a
low state of charge.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Once the array is disconnected from the battery at the higher regulation set point,
the voltage drops to the array reconnect voltage and the array is again connected to
the battery. However, on the second and subsequent cycles of the day, a lower
regulation voltage set point is used to limit battery overcharge and gassing.
This type of regulation strategy can be effective at maintaining high battery state of
charge while minimizing battery gassing and water loss for flooded lead-acid types.
The designer must make sure that the dual regulation set points are properly
adjusted for the battery type used. For example, typical set point values (at 25o C)
for this type of controller used with a flooded lead-antimony battery might be 15.0 to
15.3 volts for the higher regulation voltage, and between 14.2 and 14.4 volts for the
lower regulation voltage.

Series-Linear, Constant-Voltage Design


In a series-linear, constant-voltage regulator design the regulator maintains the
battery voltage at the voltage regulation set point. The series regulation element
acts like a variable resistor controlled by the regulator battery voltage sensing circuit
of the regulator. The series element dissipates the balance of the power that is not
used to charge the battery, and generally requires heat sinking. The current is
inherently controlled by the series element and the voltage drop across it.
Series-linear, constant-voltage regulators can be used on all types of batteries.
Because they apply power to the battery in a controlled manner, they are generally
more effective at fully charging batteries than on-off type regulators. These designs,
along with PWM types are recommended over on-off type regulators for sealed
VRLA type batteries, because they gradually approach, but do not exceed, the
gassing voltage.

Series-Interrupting, Pulse Width Modulated (PWM) Design


This algorithm uses a semiconductor switching element between the array and
battery that is switched on/off at a high frequency with a variable duty cycle to
maintain the battery at or very close to the voltage regulation set point. Shunt-type
PWM designs (with the switching element across the array and battery) were
discussed earlier. Power dissipation within the series-interrupting PWM regulator is
considerably low, similar to the series-linear, constant-voltage algorithm.
As with all series type designs, there is no need for a blocking diode to prevent
battery shorting, unlike the shunt-type PWM designs.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Exercise


.
 
#
/
 
0
#     

*   
 


  ** 1+2#    

0 3  #  # 
  

  4  
  

 *  #   
 

  # #

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Daily Operational Profiles for


Charge Regulators
The following sections present typical daily operational profiles for a few of the
different types of battery charge regulators commonly used in small stand-alone PV
systems. These daily profiles show how the different charge controller algorithms
regulate the current and voltage from the PV array to protect the battery from
overcharge.

About the Charge Regulator Daily


Profiles
The data presented in the graphs were measured during tests on operational PV
lighting systems at the Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC) in February 1993.
Several identical systems were monitored, with the exception that each system used
a different battery charge controller. The data presented here are for a selected
clear day with no cloud cover, clearly showing the charge controller regulation
effects.
To properly understand the data presented in the graphs, it is helpful to know how
they were measured. The measured parameters included among others the solar
irradiance (Sun), battery voltage (Vbat) and current (Ibat), and PV array voltage
(Vpv) and current (Ipv). The designations in parenthesis are used in the legend key
for the daily profiles.
Each parameter was sampled every 10 seconds and averaged over a six-minute
period and recorded for a total of 240 data points daily. In addition, the minimum
and maximum of the battery voltage samples were recorded every six minutes.
These minimum and maximum voltages (based on 10 second samples) are key to
understanding how a battery charge controller operates.
In each of the following figures showing charge controller daily performance, there
are two graphs. The top graph shows the battery and PV array voltage versus time
for the clear day. Note that for clarity, the battery voltage is plotted on the left yaxis, while the PV array voltage is plotted with respect to the right y-axis on a
different scale. The bottom graph shows the battery and PV array currents over the
day, as well as the solar irradiance. Note that the currents are plotted on the left yaxis, and the irradiance is plotted on the right y-axis.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The sizing of the battery, PV array and load profile in the test systems was
configured to typify commercially available PV lighting systems. The different
charge controllers were selected from those commonly used in these type and sizes
of systems. The following table lists the nominal specifications for the FSEC test
systems.

Nominal System Specifications

Location:
Design Insolation:
PV Array:
Battery:
Load:

Florida Solar Energy Center (FSEC)


5 kWh/m2-day
Nominal 100 watt Pmp, 6 amps Imp
Flooded Lead Antimony, 12 volt, 100 Ah @ 20 hr rate
Nominal 3 amps, 8 hours nightly, 24 amp-hours per day

A final word of caution when examining the following daily operational profiles for the
different charge controllers. Since these were test systems designed to investigate
not only the behavior of the different controllers, but the effects the regulation set
points had on maintaining battery state of charge, the set points were not always
optimized for the specific system design. In some cases this was intentional while in
other cases was the result of the controller operating characteristics. The main point
to emphasize however is that the daily profiles presented here show how the charge
controllers typically operate in PV systems.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Shunt-Interrupting Charge Regulator


Daily Profile
A 24-hour daily profile for a small stand-alone PV lighting system operating with a
shunt-interrupting (on-off) type battery charge regulator is shown in Figure 12-9.
Beginning at the left of the two graphs (midnight), the constant lighting load is
operating (indicated by the approximate -3 amp load battery current), and battery
voltage decreases steadily from about 12.1 volts to 11.9 volts. At about 0400 hours
the lighting load is disconnected by the charge controller load regulation/timing
circuit (LVD cutoff voltage). At this point the battery current goes to zero, and there
is a sharp rise in the battery voltage as it approaches an open-circuit (no load)
voltage of about 12.35 volts. At sunrise (about 0700 hours), the battery voltage
begins to increase as the PV array current is fed into the battery. Until about
noontime (1200 hours), the PV array current and the battery voltage increase
steadily with increasing insolation as the battery is being recharged. Note that
during this period, the battery charge controller is not regulating and nearly all the PV
array current is fed into the battery.
At approximately Noon (1200 hours) the battery voltage reaches the regulation
voltage set point for the battery charge controller, and the controller begins to
regulate the PV array current. When this occurs, the battery current decreases in a
jagged manner characteristic of the 1-step interrupting (on-off) algorithm. The shunt
characteristic is demonstrated by the fact that once regulation begins, the array
current continues to follow the same profile as the solar irradiance, while the 6minute average PV array voltage decreases to an average of about 5 volts (time
averaging between zero and battery voltage). When this controller shunts, or shortcircuits the PV array at regulation, it causes the PV voltage to reduce to zero and
forces the array current to the short-circuit current value.
Up until regulation the minimum and maximum battery voltages closely match the
six-minute average battery voltage throughout the morning and during load
operation. With the onset of regulation the minimum and maximum battery voltages
are different from the 6-minute averaged voltages and indicate the approximate
controller set points. During regulation the maximum battery voltage is between 14.3
and 14.5 volts, corresponding to the voltage regulation set point for the battery
charge controller. The minimum battery voltage is consistently about 13.7 volts,
corresponding to the voltage at which the charge controller reconnects the array to
the battery to resume charging. The fact that the minimum voltage is consistent over
the regulation period indicates that the controller is regulating or cycling the battery
voltage between the voltage regulation and array reconnect set points at least once
every six minutes. The differences in the minimum and maximum battery voltages
during regulation demonstrate the operation of an interrupting or on-off type
controller algorithm. This voltage difference is often referred to as the controllers
hysteresis, or array regulation voltage span.

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The hysteresis is an important specification for on-off controllers, and must be


selected properly to achieve good array energy utilization and proper battery
recharging.
Towards the end of the sunlight hours (1600-1700 hours) the PV array current
output reduces to a low enough value, in this case about 2.5 amps, wherein
regulation is not required to limit the battery voltage below the regulation set point of
the controller. Once the sun sets (about 1800 hours) the battery voltage begins a
gradual decrease to its open-circuit voltage.
Notice how the open-circuit voltage at the end of the day is higher than in the
morning, indicating that indeed the battery was charged and is now at a higher state
of charge. At about 2030 hours, the 3-amp load is reconnected and the battery
voltage begins to steadily decrease in transition to the next day.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Shunt-Interrupting Charge Regulator


Clear Day Operational Profile
Battery Voltage (V)

PV Array Voltage (V)

15

25

Vbat, max
20
14

Vbat, avg
15

13

Vbat, min
10

12
5

Vpv, avg
11

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)


Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Sun
7.5

Ipv, avg

800

5
600
2.5
400
0

Ibat, avg

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

  #

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

1-Step Series-Interrupting Regulator


Daily Profile
A 24-hour daily profile for a small stand-alone PV lighting system operating with a 1step series-interrupting (on-off) type battery charge regulator is shown in Figure 1210. The night and early morning activity is similar to the first system described
earlier.
Until about Noon-time (1200 hours) the PV array current and the battery voltage
increase steadily with increasing insolation as the battery is being recharged. Note
that during this period the battery charge controller is not regulating and the PV array
current is approximately the same as the battery current. However, the minimum
battery voltage shows values slightly lower than the average and maximum battery
voltages during the morning charging period. This is a particular characteristic of the
charge controller in this test system, by which the array is periodically disconnected
from the battery to sense nighttime conditions.
At about Noon (1200 hours) the battery voltage reaches the regulation voltage of the
battery charge controller (about 14.1 volts), and the controller begins to regulate the
PV array current. When this occurs the battery current decreases to the jagged
characteristic of the 1-step interrupting (on-off) algorithm. The series characteristic
can be seen by the fact that once regulation begins, the average PV array current
decreases (time averaging between battery charging current and zero), while the
average PV array voltage approaches the array open-circuit voltage (time averaging
between battery charging voltage and Voc). When this controller open-circuits the
array during regulation, the result is zero PV current while operating the array at the
open-circuit voltage point.
With the onset of regulation the minimum and maximum battery voltages are
distinguished from the 6-minute average voltage, and show the approximate
controller set points. After regulation, the maximum battery voltage is about 14.1
volts. This maximum battery voltage corresponds to the voltage regulation set point
for the battery charge controller. The minimum battery voltage is between 13.2 and
13.4 volts, corresponding to the voltage at which the charge controller reconnects
the array to the battery to resume charging.
After sunset (~1800 hours) the battery voltage begins a gradual decrease to its
open-circuit voltage, which is again higher than it was in the morning, indicating
battery recharging has occurred. At about 2030 hours, the 3-amp load is
reconnected and the battery voltage begins to steadily decrease in transition to the
next day. In comparison with the shunt-interrupting controller discussed previously,
the regulation set point for this 1-step series-interrupting controller was considerably
lower, resulting in a lower battery state of charge. This is indicated by the lower
battery voltage just prior to the load being disconnected in the early morning.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Series-Interrupting Charge Regulator


Clear Day Profile in PV Lighting System
Battery Voltage (V)

PV Array Voltage (V)

15

25

Vpv, avg
20

Vbat, max

14

Vbat, avg
15
13
10

Vbat, min
12

11

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)


Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Sun
7.5

800

Ipv, avg

600

2.5
400
0

Ibat, avg

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

  $

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Modified Series Interrupting 2-Step


Constant Current Charge Regulator
Daily Profile
A 24-hour daily profile for a small stand-alone PV lighting system operating with a
modified series interrupting 2-step constant current type battery charge regulator is
shown in Figure 12-11. The morning profiles are again similar to the previous
patterns.
At about Noon (1200 hours) the battery voltage reaches the regulation voltage set
point for the battery charge controller (about 14.9 volts), and the controller begins to
regulate the PV array current. In contrast to the series- and shunt-interrupting
controllers discussed previously, the battery current is not entirely disconnected from
the battery, but only limited to a lower value. When this occurs the battery current
decreases to below 2 amps, and remains in a current-limited mode through the
remainder of the day. The series characteristic is shown by the fact that once
regulation begins, the average PV array current also decreases while the average
PV array voltage approaches the open-circuit array voltage. This controller
regulates the array in a series-linear manner, by increasing the resistance between
the PV array and battery. The resistance is held at such a value that a limited
amount of current is allowed to flow from the PV array to battery after initial
regulation.
With the onset of regulation, the minimum and maximum battery voltages are
indistinguishable from the six-minute average voltage, indicating that the controller is
NOT an on-off interrupting type design. After the initial battery regulation at 14.9
volts, the voltage after regulation remains at about 14.1 volts through the remainder
of the day.
Once the sun sets (~ 1800 hours), the battery voltage begins a gradual decrease to
its open-circuit voltage. At about 2030 hours, the 3-amp load is again reconnected
and the battery voltage begins to steadily decrease as the battery is discharged.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Modified Series Charge Regulator


Clear Day Profile in PV Lighting System
Battery Voltage (V)

PV Array Voltage (V)

15

25

Vbat, max
Vbat, avg
14

20

Vbat, min
15

13
10

Vpv, avg
12

11

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)


Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Sun
7.5

800

5
600

Ipv, avg
2.5

400
0

Ibat, avg

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Daily Profile for Constant-Voltage


Series Charge Regulator
A 24-hour daily profile for a small stand-alone PV lighting system operating with a
constant-voltage series type battery charge controller is shown in Figure 12-12.
Again the morning profiles are similar to previous cases.
At about Noon (1200 hours) the battery voltage reaches the regulation voltage set
point for the battery charge controller (about 14.5 volts), and the controller begins to
regulate the PV array current. When this occurs the battery current gradually
decreases to about 1 amp by the end of the day. The series characteristic of this
controller is shown by the fact that once regulation begins, the average PV array
current also decreases while the average PV array voltage approaches the opencircuit array voltage. In principle this controller regulates the array in a series-linear
manner, by increasing the resistance between the PV array and battery through
semiconductor devices such as MOSFETs. The resistance is held at such a value
that limits amount of current that is allowed to flow from the PV array to battery after
initial regulation, while holding the array voltage at a constant value corresponding to
he controllers regulation voltage.
With the onset of regulation the minimum and maximum battery voltages are
indistinguishable from the six-minute average voltage, indicating that the controller in
not an on-off interrupting type design. After the initial regulation at 14.5 volts, the
voltage after regulation remains at this level through the remainder of the day.
Moving toward sunset (about 1800 hours), the array current is no longer high
enough to maintain the battery at the regulation voltage, and the battery voltage
begins a gradual decrease to its open-circuit voltage. At about 2030 hours, the 3
amp load is again reconnected and the battery voltage begins to steadily decrease
until the next day when charging resumes.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Constant-Voltage Series Charge Regulator


Clear Day Profile in PV Lighting System
Battery Voltage (V)

PV Array Voltage (V)

15

25
Vbat, avg
Vbat, min
Vbat, max

14

Vbat, max
Vbat, avg
Vbat, min

20

Vpv, avg
15
13

Vpv, avg
10

12
5

11

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Sun
7.5

800

Ipv, avg

600
2.5
400
0

Ibat, avg

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

PWM Series Charge Regulator


Daily Profile
A 24-hour daily profile for a small stand-alone PV lighting system operating with a
pulse-width-modulated (PWM) series type battery charge regulator is shown in
Figure 12-13.
At about Noon (1200 hours) the battery voltage reaches the regulation voltage set
point for the battery charge controller (about 14.5 volts), and the controller begins to
regulate the PV array current. When this occurs the battery current decreases in a
jagged manner, and remains in a current-limited mode through the remainder of the
day. The series characteristic can be seen by the fact that once regulation begins,
the average PV array current also decreases while the average PV array voltage
approaches the open-circuit array voltage.
In the PWM design an oscillating signal operating at a frequency of several hundred
Hertz is used to regulate the array current. When the controller is not regulating, the
full array current is applied to the battery. When the regulation voltage is reached,
the current pulses are gradually reduced to hold the battery voltage at the regulation
set point.
In effect, the PWM design operates similar to the constant-voltage controller, with
the exception that there is a small hysteresis between the minimum and maximum
battery voltage after regulation. The PWM is essentially a high switching speed onoff type or interrupting type controller that does not allow the battery voltage to drop
significantly during regulation.
Once the sun sets (about 1800 hours), the battery voltage begins a gradual
decrease to its open-circuit voltage. At about 2030 hours, the 3-amp load is
reconnected and the battery voltage begins to steadily decrease in transition to the
next day.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Pulse-Width-Modulated Series Charge Regulator


Clear Day Profile in PV Lighting System
Battery Voltage (V)

PV Array Voltage (V)

15

25

Vbat, max
Vbat, avg
Vbat, min

14

20

15
13

Vpv, avg

10

12
5

11

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)


Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Sun
7.5

Ipv, avg

800

5
600
2.5
400
0

Ibat, avg

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Exercises


5# # #


#
" 
6
&'&&    # 
 
#   #
#
 6
&'&'
&'&%  #  
 7 # 

 #  #  *
# #  
    
    

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Voltage Regulation Set Point


Selection
In stand-alone PV systems the ways in which a battery is charged are generally
much different from the charging methods battery manufacturers recommend. A
battery in a PV system must be fully recharged during the few daylight hours, a
much shorter time period than typically used for recharging standby batteries in UPS
applications (days or weeks) or industrial cycle applications (18-24 hours). For this
reason, the voltage regulation set point must be set higher than the usual float
voltage given by battery manufacturers, to permit full utilization of the array current,
but not to high as to excessively overcharge and gas the battery.
The optimal voltage regulation set point allows a maximum amount of Ah to be
replaced into a battery with minimum water loss and gassing. This is usually arrived
at empirically, and is different for different types of batteries and even different
manufacturers of the same type of battery.
The set points are probably more important than the particular type of regulator
design. A relatively simple charge regulator design with proper set points may work
better than a sophisticated controller which is not set properly for the type of battery
or the environment.

Battery Gassing is Key To Voltage


Regulation Set Point Selection
The onset of gassing in a lead-acid cell is determined by cell voltage, temperature,
and charge rate.

Under standard conditions, at a certain voltage (usually ~ 2.35 volts), the


chemical potential is high enough to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen,
causing water loss through gassing.
At higher battery temperatures, the internal chemical reactions occur faster and
the corresponding gassing voltage decreases. This is the primary reason why
temperature compensation is used for the voltage regulation set point.
At higher charge rates the internal voltage drop in the battery elevates the
voltage and brings on gassing sooner than would occur for a slower charge rate.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Some degree of gassing and overcharge is required for flooded lead-acid batteries,
but can be harmful to sealed VRLA captive electrolyte type batteries for which lost
electrolyte can not be replaced. In general, sealed maintenance free valveregulated batteries (using lead-calcium grids) require lower charge regulation voltage
set points than flooded deep cycling batteries (using lead-antimony grids). Battery
manufacturers should be consulted to determine the gassing voltages for specific
designs.
The figure shows the relationships between cell voltage, state of charge, charge rate
and temperature for a typical lead-acid cell with lead-antimony grids. At 27o C and at
a charge rate of C/20, the gassing voltage of about 2.35 volts per cell is reached at
about 90% state of charge (point A). At a charge rate five times faster (C/5) at 27o
C, the gassing voltage is reached at only 75% state of charge (point B). At a low
battery temperature of 0o C gassing does not occur until about 2.5 volt per cell, or 15
volts for a nominal 12-volt battery.

Lead-Acid Battery Charging Voltage as a


Function of State of Charge

3.0
2.9

Lead-Antimony Grids

Charge Rate

Cell Voltage (volts)

2.8

C/2.5

2.7
2.6

Gassing Voltage at 0

C/5

2.5

C/20
Gassing Voltage at 27 oC

2.4

Gassing Voltage at 50 oC

2.3
2.2
2.1
2.0
0

20

40

60

80

100

Battery State of Charge (%)


  
B

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Suggested Voltage Regulation Set


Points
o
Some recommended ranges for charge regulation voltages at 25 C for different
battery types used in PV systems are presented in the table below. These values
are typical of voltage regulation set points for battery charge controllers used in
small PV systems. These recommendations are meant to be only general in nature,
and specific battery and regulator manufacturers should be consulted for their
suggested values.

Regulator Parameters

Battery Parameters

Regulator
Design Type

Charge
Regulation
Voltage at
25o C

Flooded
LeadAntimony

Flooded
LeadCalcium

Sealed,
Valve
Regulated
Lead-Acid

Flooded
Pocket Plate
NickelCadmium

On-Off,
Interrupting

Per 12 volt
battery
Per Cell

14.6 - 14.8

14.2 - 14.4

14.2 - 14.4

14.5 - 15.0

2.44 - 2.47

2.37 - 2.40

2.37 - 2.40

1.45 - 1.50

Per 12 volt
battery

14.4 - 14.6

14.0 - 14.2

14.0 - 14.2

14.5 - 15.0

Per Cell

2.40 - 2.44

2.33 - 2.37

2.33 - 2.37

1.45 - 1.50

ConstantVoltage,
PWM, Linear

 % 


 
The charge regulation voltage ranges presented in the table are much higher than
the typical values presented in manufacturers literature. This is because battery
manufacturers often speak of regulation voltage in terms of the float voltage, for
when batteries are float charged for extended periods (for example, in noninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems). In these and many other commercial
battery applications, batteries can be trickle or float charged for an extended
period, requiring a voltage low enough to limit gassing. Typical float voltages are
between 13.5 and 13.8 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery, or between 2.25 and 2.30
volts for a single cell.
In a PV system however, the battery must be recharged within a limited time (usually
during sunlight hours), requiring that the regulation voltage be much higher than the
manufacturers float voltage to ensure that the battery gets as much charge as
possible in a short period of time. If the charge regulation voltage in a typical PV
system were set at the manufacturers recommended float voltage, the batteries
would never be fully charged.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Temperature Compensation
As discussed previously, the electrochemical reaction and gassing in a battery is
highly dependent on temperature. Lower battery temperatures slow down the
reaction, reduce capacity and raise the voltage required for gassing. Conversely,
higher temperatures accelerate the reaction, increase grid corrosion, and lower the
gassing voltage.
For these reasons temperature compensation (TC) of the VR set point is
recommended in PV systems where battery temperature might vary more than 5 o C
from 25o C. Temperature compensation is also required for all type of sealed VRLA
captive electrolyte batteries where any gassing means permanent loss of electrolyte
and life. By using TC a battery can be fully charged during cold weather, and
protected from overcharge during hot weather.
A widely accepted value of temperature compensation for lead-acid batteries is -5
mV/ o C /cell. For a nominal 12 volt battery, this amounts to -30 mV /o C. Where
battery temperatures vary by as much as 30o C, temperature compensation may
result in the regulation set point varying by as much as 1.0 volt in a 12 volt system.
It is important to notice that the TC coefficient is negative, meaning that increases in
temperature require a reduction in the charge regulation voltage. If battery
temperatures are lower than the design condition, the regulation voltage is increased
to allow the battery to reach a moderate gassing level and fully recharge.
Conversely, the regulation set point is reduced if battery temperatures are greater
than design conditions.
Battery temperatures may be sensed with an external probe connected to the
regulator, or approximated with an on-board sensor in regulator circuitry.

Typical Temperature Compensation Coefficient


-.005 volts/o C

for one lead-acid cell

-.030 volts/o C

for a 12-volt lead-acid battery

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

If the electrolyte concentration has been adjusted for local ambient temperature
(increase in specific gravity for cold environments, decrease in specific gravity for
warm environments) and temperature variation of the batteries is minimal,
compensation may not be as critical. Typically, the LVD set point is not temperature
compensated unless the batteries operate below 0o C on a frequent basis.
A graphical representation of the change in the charge regulation voltage with
temperature for a typical 12-volt lead acid battery is shown in the figure below. At
25o C the charge regulation about 14.5 volts. As the battery temperature decreases,
the charge regulation voltage increases. Conversely, as the battery temperature
increases, the charge regulation voltage must be reduced.

Temperature Compensation
Final Charging Voltage
for a 12 volt battery (volts)
16
15
14
13

10
30
20
40
Battery Temperature (deg.C)

50

  

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Example:

A 12-volt battery has a nominal final charge voltage of 14.5 volts at


standard temperature (25o C).
If the battery operated in the winter at about 15o C., the final charge
voltage should not be 14.5 volts but should be increased to almost
14.8 volts.
Voltage Change

Final voltage

factor X temperature change

-.030 volts/o C X (15o C - 25o C)

+.3 volts

14.5 + .3

14.8 volts

And conversely, if the battery is in a hot climate, and the battery


temperature is 35o C., the final charge voltage should be reduced to
about 14.2 volts.

With temperature compensation built into the regulator, batteries in cold climates will
receive the full charging they require, and batteries in hot climates will not be
overcharged and gassed excessively. It is often considered an option, but should be
incorporated into every system. It should always be included when sealed batteries
are used, as they are especially sensitive to temperature effects. The battery is too
important and expensive a component to not include such a feature.

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Exercises




 
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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Oversizing Charge Regulators


The regulator must not only be able to handle typical or rated voltages and currents,
but must also be sized to handle expected peak or surge conditions from the PV
array or required by the electrical loads that may be connected to the regulator. It is
extremely important that the regulator be adequately oversized for the intended
application. If an undersized regulator is used and fails during operation, the costs
of service and replacement will be higher than what would have been spent on a
regulator that was initially oversized for the application.
Typically, we would expect that a PV module or array produces no more than its
rated maximum power current at 1000 W/m2 irradiance and 25o C module
temperature. However, due to possible reflections from clouds, water or snow, the
sunlight levels on the array may be enhanced up to 1.3 times the nominal 1000
W/m2 value used to rate PV module performance. The result is that peak array
current could be 1.3 times the nominal peak rated value if reflection conditions exist.
For this reason the peak array current ratings for charge regulators should be sized
for at least 130% of the nominal peak maximum power current ratings for the
module or array.
The figure below shows the irradiance profile for a typical clear day and for a cloudy
day with periods of enhanced irradiance due to cloud-reflectance. Note that during
the cloudy day irradiance levels peaked above 1300 w/m2!

   & ' ('$$$)*+

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The size of a regulator is determined by multiplying the peak rated current from an
array times this enhancement safety factor. The total current from an array is
given by the number of modules or strings in parallel, multiplied by the module
current. To be conservative, the short-circuit current (Isc) is generally used instead
of the maximum power current (Imp). In this way, shunt type regulators that operate
the array at short-circuit current conditions are covered safely.

Regulator Size (amps)

Example:

# Modules or Strings in Parallel X Isc X 1.3

An array of 10 parallel 35-watt modules is needed for a 12-volt remote


home system.
Total array current =

Regulator size

10 modules X 2.15 amps Isc

21.5 amps array Isc

21.5 amps X 1.3 safety factor

28 amps

In the example, the array would produce 21 amps of current, but the regulator
should be sized to control up to 28 amps of current. A single regulator rated at 30
amps would be adequate, or two regulators rated at 15 or 20 amps could be used in
parallel. If two controllers were chosen the array would be split into two sub-arrays
of five modules each, and the output from the two regulators would be combined into
one battery. The two regulators could be set to slightly different final charge
voltages, and a two-step charging system would be the result.
Consult with regulator manufacturers to determine if they have already built a safety
factor into their rating value. Oversizing the regulator by 130% may not be
necessary if you are sure that the regulator design can handle any possible high
currents for short periods.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Exercises



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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Operating Without a Charge


Regulator
In most cases a charge regulator is an essential requirement in stand-alone PV
systems. However there are special circumstances where a charge regulator may
not be needed in small systems with well-defined loads. Beacons and aids to
navigation are a popular PV application, which operate without charge regulation.
By eliminating the need for the sensitive electronic charge regulator, the design is
simplified, at lower cost and with improved reliability.
The system design requirements and conditions for operating without a charge
regulator must be well understood because the system is operating without any
overcharge and overdischarge protection for the batteries. There are two cases
where battery charge regulation may not be required:

when a low voltage self-regulating module is used in the proper climate


when the battery is very large compared to the array.

Each of these cases is discussed next.

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Using Low-Voltage Self-Regulating


Modules
The use of low-voltage or self-regulating PV modules is one approach used to
operate without battery charge regulation. This does not mean that the modules
have an electronic charge regulator built-in, but rather it refers to the low voltage
design of the PV modules. When a low voltage module, battery and load are
properly configured, the design is called a self-regulating system.
Typical silicon power modules used to charge nominal 12-volt batteries usually have
36 solar cells connected in series to produce and open-circuit voltage of greater than
21 volts and a maximum power voltage of about 17 volts. Why do we generally use
modules with a maximum power voltage of 17 volts when we are only charging a 12volt battery to maybe 14.5 volts? Because voltage drops in wiring, disconnects
overcurrent devices and controls, as well as higher array operating temperatures
tend to reduce the array voltage measured at the battery terminals in most systems.
By using a standard 36 cell PV module we are assured of operating to the left of the
knee on the array I-V curve, allowing the array to deliver its rated maximum power
current. Even when the array is operating at high temperature, the maximum power
voltage is still high enough to charge the battery. If the array were operated to the
right of the I-V curve knee, the peak array current would be reduced, possibly
resulting in the system not being able to meet the load demands.
In the case of using self-regulating modules without battery charge regulation we
want to take advantage of the fact that the array current falls off sharply as the
voltage increases above the maximum power point. In a self-regulating low voltage
PV module, there are generally only 28-30 silicon cells connected in series, resulting
in an open-circuit voltage of about 18 volts and a maximum power voltage of about
15 volts at 25o C. Under typical operating temperatures, the "knee" of the IV curve
falls within the range of typical battery voltages. As a battery becomes charged
during a typical day, its voltage rises and results in the array operating voltage
increasing towards the maximum power point or knee of the IV curve. In addition,
the module temperature increases, resulting in a reduction of the maximum power
voltage. At some point, the battery voltage high enough that the operating point on
the IV curve is to the right of the knee. In this region of the IV curve, the current
reduces sharply with any further increases in voltage, effectively reducing the charge
current and overcharge to the battery.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Self-Regulation Using
Low-Voltage Module
Phoenix in July at 3:00 p.m.

Current (amps)
2

M55

1
M65

8
10 12
Voltage (volts)

14

16

18

20

  !
The figure shows a comparison of operating points in the afternoon in a hot climate
between a 36-cell (M55) module and a "self-regulating" 30-cell (M65) module. As
the battery voltage rises there is a more dramatic reduction in current from the 30cell module. In the afternoon, in this example, the battery voltage has risen to about
14.4 volts, and the current from the 30-cell module is almost one third that from the
36-cell module. The battery is reaching full charge, and the current should be
reduced. The reduction in charging current that would be accomplished by a charge
regulator for the 36-cell module is performed automatically with the low-voltage 30cell module.
Self-regulating modules are popularly used in the recreational vehicle (RV) market.
A single 30-cell module can be safely matched to a single large 120-150 Ah battery
without needing a regulator. The current from the module in the afternoon is low
enough so that the battery is not overcharging.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

However, there are conditions that must be met, even with RVs, for a selfregulating design to work properly. If more than one module were connected to
only one 120-150 Ah battery, or if the battery were too small (less than 120 Ah), then
overcharging could occur each day, and a small charge regulator would be needed
in the system. Other factors must also be considered before using a self regulating
module. These are discussed below.

Special Considerations For Using Self-Regulating Module


Using a "self-regulating module" does not automatically assure that a photovoltaic
power system will be a self-regulating system. For self-regulation and no battery
overcharge to occur, the following three conditions must be met:
1. The load must be used daily. If not, then the module will continue to
overcharge a fully charged battery. Every day the battery will receive excessive
charge, even if the module is forced to operate beyond the "knee" at current
levels lower than its Imp. If the load is used daily, then the amp-hours produced
by the module are removed from the battery, and this energy can be safely
replaced the next day without overcharging the battery. So for a system to be
"self-regulating", the load must be consistent and predictable. This eliminates
applications where only occasional load use occurs, such as vacation cabins or
RVs that are left unused for weeks or months. In these cases, a charge
regulator should be included in the system to protect the battery.
2. The climate cannot be too cold. If the module stays very cool, the "knee" of
the IV curve will not move down in voltage enough, and the expected drop off in
current will not occur, even if the battery voltage rises as expected. Often "selfregulating modules" are used in arctic climates for lighting for remote cabins for
example, because they are the smallest and therefore least expensive of the
power modules, but they are combined with a charge regulator or voltage
dropping diodes to prevent battery overcharge.
3. The climate cannot be too hot. If the module heats up too much, then the drop
off in current will be too extreme, and the battery may never be properly
recharged. The battery will sulfate, and the loads will not be able to operate.

In summary, a self-regulating system design can simplify system design by


eliminating the need for a charge regulator, however these type of designs are only
appropriate for a very narrow range of applications and conditions. In most all
stand-alone PV system designs, a charge regulator is required.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Using a Large Battery or Small Array


A charge regulator may not be needed if the charge rates delivered by the array to
the battery are small enough to prevent the battery voltage from exceeding the
gassing voltage limit when the battery is fully charged and the full array current is
applied. In certain applications, a long autonomy period may be used, resulting in a
large amount of battery storage capacity. In these cases, the charge rates from the
array may be very low, and can be accepted by the battery at any time without
overcharging. These situations are common in critical application requiring large
battery storage, such as telecommunications repeaters in alpine conditions or
remote navigational aides. It might also be the case when a very small load and
array are combined with a large battery, as in remote telemetry systems.
In general a charging rate of C/100 or less is considered low enough to be tolerated
for long periods even when the battery is fully charged. This means that even during
the peak of the day, the array is charging the battery bank at the 100-hour rate or
slower, equivalent to the typical trickle charge rate that a regulator would produce
anyway.
To determine if a regulator is needed calculate the peak rate of charge expected
from the array and see if this rate is near or slower than the 100 hour rate. The
number of modules in parallel is multiplied by the module peak current (Imp) to give
the array peak current. Dividing the battery capacity by this current gives the hours
to fully charge the battery.

Peak Charge Rate (hours) =

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Installed Battery Capacity (Ah)


Number of Parallel Modules X Imp

12-65

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Example:

Four 75-watt modules are wired in parallel and connected to a battery


bank of four 120 Ah batteries in parallel.

Peak Charge Rate

120 Ah X 4 batteries in parallel


4 modules X 4.4 amps

480 Ah total
17.6 amps total

27 hours or the C/27 rate.

Because the 27-hour rate is faster than the general guideline of 100hour rate, this system would indeed need a charge regulator.

But if more autonomy were built into the battery bank, the ratio of charging current to
capacity would be reduced.
Example:

If five 360 Ah batteries were connected in parallel, the battery capacity


would be 1800 Ah, and the charge rate from four 75 watt modules
would be lower:
Peak Charge Rate

360 Ah X 5 batteries in parallel


4 modules X 4.4 amps

1800 Ah total
17.6 amps total

102 hours or the C/102 rate.

This example meets the general criteria presented, so this system


could operate safely without a charge regulator between the array and
battery bank. Proper fuses and disconnects would also be required for
safety.

The ratio of module charge rate to battery capacity depends on the local weather
data and the desired reserve or autonomy capacity built into the battery bank, so it
varies for each location and application. The 100-hour rate does not occur until
there is about 15 days of autonomy or more designed into the battery. This amount
of autonomy is unusual, and would occur only for systems that are designed to
operate in climates with extremely bad seasonal weather. This might be the case for
remote telecom repeaters in mountainous regions. In that type of application, the
cost savings of not including a regulator are minor compared to the cost of the
overall system. A charge regulator would probably be included anyway, for added
system control.
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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

The preceding discussion illustrates that the conditions and circumstances


that allow photovoltaic systems to be designed without charge regulators are
quite special. In most applications, a charge regulator is required.

Exercises



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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Selecting Charge Regulators


The selection and sizing of charge regulators and system controls in PV systems
involves the consideration of several factors, depending on the complexity and
control options required. While the primary function is to prevent battery overcharge,
many other functions may also be used, including low voltage load disconnect, load
regulation and control, control of backup energy sources, diversion of energy to and
auxiliary load, and system monitoring. The designer must decide which options are
needed to satisfy the requirements of a specific application. In review of the material
presented in this chapter, the following table lists some of the basic considerations
when selecting charge regulators and controls.

Charge Regulator Selection Criteria

System voltage
PV array and load currents
Battery type and size
Regulation algorithm and switching element design
Regulation and load disconnect set points
Environmental operating conditions
Mechanical design and packaging
System indicators, alarms, and meters
Overcurrent, disconnects and surge protection devices
Costs, warranty and availability

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Selected References
Stand-Alone Photovoltaic Systems - A Handbook of Recommended Design Practices, Sandia National
Laboratories, SAND87-7023, revised November 1991.
Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Maintenance and Operation of Photovoltaic Power Systems,
NAVFAC MO-405.1, December 1989.
Exide Management and Technology Company, Handbook of Secondary Storage Batteries and Charge
Regulators in Photovoltaic Systems - Final Report, for Sandia National Laboratories,
SAND81-7135, August 1981.
Bechtel National, Inc., Handbook for Battery Energy Storage in Photovoltaic Power Systems, Final Report,
SAND80-7022, February 1980.
S. Harrington and J. Dunlop, "Battery Charge Controller Characteristics in Photovoltaic Systems",
Proceedings of the 7th Annual Battery Conference on Advances and Applications, Long Beach,
California, January 21, 1992.

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

(End of Chapter)

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

CHAPTER TWELVE
CHARGE REGULATORS AND SYSTEM CONTROLS

12-1

Purpose of Charge Regulators and System Controls


Prevent Battery Overcharge
Prevent Battery Overdischarge
Provide Load Control Functions
Provide Status Information To Users
Interface and Control Backup Energy Sources
Divert PV Energy To Auxiliary Load
Serves As Wiring Center

12-2
12-3
12-4
12-5
12-5
12-6
12-6
12-7

Terminology
Nominal System Voltage
Nominal Load and PV Array Current
Charge Regulator Set Points

12-8
12-8
12-8
12-9

Other Functions Associated With Charge Regulation


Backup Energy Source Control
Equalizing Charge Capability
Set Point Adjustability
Load Voltage Regulation
Regulation/Control Element Design
Operational Limits
Surge Protection and Grounding
Service Disconnects and Overcurrent Protection

12-16
12-16
12-16
12-16
12-17
12-17
12-18
12-18
12-19

Standard Configurations Of Charge Regulation and


Control Systems
Simple Series Path Configuration
Auxiliary Load Path Configuration
Parallel Path Configuration
Sub-Array Switching Configuration

12-20
12-20
12-21
12-23
12-24

Electronic Designs for Charge Regulation


Shunt Regulator Designs
Series Regulator Designs

12-28
12-29
12-33

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Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Daily Operational Profiles for Charge Regulators


About the Charge Regulator Daily Profiles
Shunt-Interrupting Charge Regulator
Daily Profile
1-Step Series-Interrupting Regulator
Daily Profile
Modified Series Interrupting 2-Step Constant Current
Charge Regulator Daily Profile
Daily Profile for Constant-Voltage Series Charge Regulator
PWM Series Charge Regulator Daily Profile

12-37
12-37
12-39
12-39
12-42
12-42

Voltage Regulation Set Point Selection


Battery Gassing - Key to Voltage Regulation Set Point Selection
Suggested Voltage Regulation Set Points
Temperature Compensation

12-51
12-51
12-53
12-54

Oversizing Charge Regulators

12-58

Operating Without a Charge Regulator


Using Low-Voltage Self-Regulating Modules
Using a Large Battery or Small Array

12-61
12-62
12-65

Selecting Charge Regulators

12-68

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12-44
12-46
12-48

Components Charge Regulators/Controls

Chapter 12 Answers
Charge Regulators & System Controls



According to the data sheet, an SP75 module has a peak power of 75 Watts and an Isc
of 4.8 amps (when configured at 12 Volts).
Since the array is 750 Watts total, there must be 750 75 = 10 modules.
With a 12-volt system, the array will have all 10 modules in parallel. The maximum
amount of current that the array can produce is 10 times the Isc of one module. We
can therefore calculate the number of regulators required as
Number of Regulators

10 parallel X 4.8 amps X 1.30 (Safety factor)


30 amps/regulator

2.08 regulators, rounded up to 3



The array of 1200 Watts is split into two sub-arrays. Therefore, each sub-array is 600
Watts. Using 75-Watt modules, the number of modules in one array is
600 watts 75 watts/ module = 8 modules
At 12 volts, the array is configured as 8 modules in parallel. We use 4.8 amps as the
Isc for the SP75 modules. Since the sub-array is supposed to have a single regulator it
must handle the full amount of current for the 8 modules (including the safety factor).
Size of Regulator

8 parallel X 4.8 amps X 1.30 (Safety factor)

49.92 amps

This is greater than 30 amps, so we can not use a 30-amp regulator. However, we can
use a 50-amp regulator since the maximum expected current is slightly less than this
value. The correct answer is

d. 50 amps.


Refer to the manufacturer's literature.

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Charge Regulators and System Controls



The shaded area shows indicating greater total charge being put into the battery over
the period of the day.

Battery & PV Array Current (A)

Irradiance (W/m2)
1000

10

Constant
voltage

7.5

800

5
600
2.5
400
0

Modified
series

-2.5

200

-5

0
4

12

16

20

24

Time of Day (EST)



According to the Voltage Regulation Setpoint Table, the proper ending voltage for a
sealed VRLA battery is 2.33 - 2.37 volts when using a PWM controller. We will use the
average of this range, 2.35 volts, as our starting point. For a nominal 12-volt system,
the ending voltage will be equal to 6 times this (since there are 6 two-volt cells).
6 X 2.35 volts = 14.1 volts.
So, under normal circumstances (25 C), we would stop charging when the battery
reached 14.1 volts. However, this needs to be reduced because of the high
temperatures.
Voltage Change

Final voltage

factor X temperature change

-0.030 volts/C X (40 C - 25 C)

-0.45 volts

14.1 - 0.45 volts = 13.65 Volts

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12-2

Charge Regulators and System Controls



Refer to the manufacturer's literature.


At 12 volts, all four modules will be in parallel. The maximum array current will be four
times the Isc of the module.
Total array current =

Regulator size

4 modules X 4.8 amps Isc

19.2 amps

19.2 amps X 1.3 safety factor

24.96 amps

The necessary size is greater than the smallest regulator size available (20 amps). We
need to use a regulator that is greater than 24.96 amps, so the correct answer is

b. 25-amp regulator


The shunt regulator is rated for 25 amps. However, this needs to include the 1.30
safety factor. The amount of array current that is allowed is:
Array Current

25 amps
1.30

19.23 amps

Using an Isc of 2.4 for the SP36 module, the maximum number of modules is
Maximum Modules

19.23
2.4

8.01

We round down and can use a maximum of 8 modules. The correct answer is:

b. 8 modules

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12-3

Charge Regulators and System Controls



According to the module literature, a 6-Watt module has a Imp of 0.39 amps. The peak
charge rate is determined as
Peak charge rate

Battery capacity
Array peak amps

Battery capacity

Peak charge rate X Array peak amps

100 hours X 0.39 amps

39 Ah

So,

Remember, if the battery size is greater than 39 Ah, the charge rate will be slower
than a C/100 peak charge rate. The decision to use a charge regulator would depend
on the available types of regulators, the pattern of load use and the environment. Since
the application is located in the desert (hot conditions) this might not be a good situation
to use a self-regulating module.


The required battery capacity is given as 250 Ah battery capacity. The peak charge
rate is:
Peak charge rate

250 Ah
2.5 amps

100 hours peak charge rate

This is just at the edge of the recommended peak charge rate for self-regulated system.
A regulator is probably not necessary from a charging standpoint. However, the
decision whether or not to use a regulator requires good judgement of the advantages
and disadvantages, as well as attention to overall system needs.

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Charge Regulators and System Controls

Chapter Thirteen
Energy Enhancement
Through Tracking
Technology
There are two methods for enhancing the output of a photovoltaic power system that
are commonly employed by system designers. Both of these approaches improve
the match between the potential output of solar modules and the load. Both
methods involve the word tracking, although one is electronic and the other is
mechanical. In this chapter we will discuss these methods for getting more out of
you solar generators.
The first method involves physically tracking the sun as it moves throughout the day
and the seasons. The second method involves electronically monitoring the
maximum power point of an array and transferring this maximum power to the loads.

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Components Tracking

Tilting The Array To Match The


Load Profile
The most basic approach to tracking the sun position is to mount the array at a
fixed angle tilted up from horizontal so that the module surface faces the sun as it
passes through the sky each day. The mounting hardware can be ground mounted
or have the modules mounted at the top of a pole.
The sun path is high in the summer and low in the winter. The best system design
has the array tilted to an angle so that the variation or profile of insolation throughout
the year matches the load profile.
An example of the variation in insolation throughout a year is shown. The insolation
on a flat surface varies greatly, with the least during the winter and the greatest
during the summer. If the load demand is small in winter and large in summer, as
with air conditioning loads or water pumping for irrigation, then tilting the array near a
flat angle will give an insolation profile that best matches those load requirements.
If however, the load is relatively constant every month of the year, as might be the
case for a navigational aid or a constantly transmitting repeater, then a different
angle is better. Tilting the array up increases the insolation intercepted during the
winter months and sacrifices some during the summer months, with a resulting
profile that is more constant throughout the year. This more constant insolation
profile better matches the profile of a constant load.
Notice that as the tilt angle increases from horizontal, that a double peak profile
emerges. The insolation profile never gets perfectly flat. The spring and fall have
more insolation than the winter or the summer. This double-peak profile is typical for
latitudes above the Tropic of Cancer or Capricorn. Nearer to the equator, the suns
path actually passes overhead twice during the year. During the spring and fall, the
path will pass nearly straight overhead. During the winter and summer, the path will
actually be further down from straight above.
If a tilt angle is chosen that does not match the insolation profile to the load profile,
then the array will have to be quite large to produce enough output when insolation
is low and will produce wasted energy when insolation is high. By choosing a tilt
angle for the array that gives the best match, array size is minimized. Computer
models or repetitive hand calculations can predict the best angle to give a match
between load demand and insolation.

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13-2

Components Tracking

New Delhi Insolation Profiles


Latitude 29 deg. N

Insolation (Langleys)

600
500
400
300
200
100

0 deg.

15 deg.

30 deg.

Dec

Nov

Oct

Sep

Aug

Jul

Jun

May

Apr

Mar

Feb

Jan

45 deg.

60 deg.

Trivandrum Insolation Profiles


Latitude 8 deg. N

Insolation (Langleys)

600
500
400
300
200
100

0 deg.

10 deg.

20 deg.

30 deg.

Dec

Nov

Oct

Sep

Aug

Jul

Jun

May

Apr

Mar

Feb

Jan

40 deg.


    

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-3

Components Tracking

Exercise


 

 
  
 

       

    
  

 
       
   
  
   
 
 
 
 
   


 
   
Trivandrum

Insolation Profile Data (Langleys)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

-15 deg.

0 deg.

15 deg.

30 deg.

45 deg.

404
452
495
474
454
382
388
428
433
389
359
366

461
494
515
471
436
362
371
419
441
413
399
422

519
533
528
461
414
342
352
406
444
436
442
481

546
540
509
424
367
302
313
370
421
433
458
511

540
516
464
366
305
252
262
317
378
408
447
509

Leh

Insolation Profile Data (Langleys)

Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Latitude: 8 deg. N

Latitude: 34 deg. N

0 deg.

15 deg.

30 deg.

45 deg.

60 deg.

75 deg.

207
262
332
438
476
503
494
457
422
340
262
209

268
317
375
464
484
502
497
476
467
404
336
278

316
355
394
461
462
471
470
465
481
445
393
335

343
369
388
434
419
420
423
431
467
456
423
369

349
363
364
388
361
356
361
380
430
442
427
381

334
336
323
327
293
284
290
314
373
404
406
369

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13-4

Components Tracking

Trivandrum Insolation Profiles


600
500

400

300

200

100

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Apr

May

Jun

July

Aug

Sep

Oct

Nov

Dec

Leh Insolation Profiles


600
500

400

300

200

100

Jan

Feb

Mar

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13-5

Components Tracking

Sun Position Tracking


Although fixed angle mounting structures are simple and worry free, modules do not
get good solar exposure in the morning and evening. By mounting the modules on a
tracking structure, gains in total daily output of power of 30% or greater can be
achieved because the modules are facing the sun directly during the morning and
evening hours. Sun position trackers can move along one axis to capture most of
the suns energy daily, or can also adjust along a second axis for the altitude of the
sun and enhance seasonal performance.
The effect of sun position tracking is shown below for Leh at 34-deg. N latitude. The
module is tilted to 50 degrees, to give the best output during the winter. The daily
enhancement is shown for the summer and for the winter, as well as the
performance over a typical year.
During the middle of the day, the single axis tracking gives the same output as the
fixed array, because they are at the same angle at that time. But in the morning and
evening, notice that the single axis tracking gives more output. The array is tilted to
face the morning or afternoon sun directly, while the fixed array is still facing due
South in the Northern Hemisphere (and due North in the Southern Hemisphere).
The increased area under the curve for tracking indicates the increased energy
produced by the modules.
The winter performance in the same location is shown below. During the winter, the
sun is making a low path with only a few hours of exposure. The sun is out in front
of the fixed array during most of the arc of the day, so tracking and fixed receive
about the same amount of exposure. The enhancement during winter is lower than
in summer because there is less sun path to track!
Tracking adjustments by employing a second axis adds some output, depending on
the month and the latitude. The sun makes the same path in the sky during spring
and fall. It deviates up about 23.5 degrees in the summer and deviates down about
23.5 degrees in the winter, for a total angle change of about 47 degrees summer to
winter. Adjusting for this seasonal change adds mostly during the summer, when
the path in the sky is large and there are many hours of exposure.

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13-6

Components Tracking

One S L-35 in Le h, June


2

Amps

1.5
1
0.5
0
5

11

13

15

17

19

Ho ur
Fix ed

Single A x is

Double A x is




One S L-35 in Le h, Ja nua ry


2

Amps

1.5
1
0.5
0
5

11

13

15

17

19

Ho u r
Fix ed

Single A x is

Double A x is



Ah/day

One S L-35 in Le h
18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
Jan

Mar
Fix ed

May

Jul

Sep

Single A x is

Nov
Double A x is



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-7

Components Tracking

The enhancement of sun position tracking will be different depending on the latitude.
The performance curves of a module in Minicoy are shown below. The latitude of
the site is only 8 deg. north of the equator. The enhancement from tracking is more
uniform throughout the year, compared to the heavier gain only in the summer for
Leh at 34-deg. latitude. Winter and summer daily enhancements are about the
same, because the suns path is always a large arc in the sky.

One SL-35 in Minicoy, June


2

Amps

1.5
1
0.5
0
5

11

13

15

17

19

Hour
Fixed

Single Axis

Double Axis




Ah/day

One SL-35 in Minicoy


18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
Jan
Fixed

Mar

May

Jul

Single Axis

Sep

Nov

Double Axis



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-8

Components Tracking

Exercise


     


!



  
 "


   
  
 
   

 
   

    


#

  $




%
 


 $





 
 

%

%

& %
 


 '





 
 

%

%

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-9

Components Tracking

Solar Powered (Passive) Sun Tracker


The typical commercial solar powered tracker design involves two tubes of Freon on
the east and west sides of the array. Each tube is partially shaded by a metal sheet
or cover, as shown in Figure 13-7. As the sun moves, one tube becomes more
exposed to the sun than the other. The Freon expands and either pushes a piston
or transfers oil to the other side, which causes the structure to move to follow the
sun.
Trackers can follow the sun along only one axis or can have dual axis tracking for
complete seasonal compensation. Most large utility scale photovoltaic systems
have the modules mounted on trackers, to maximize module output and minimize
acreage costs.

At very high latitudes, the tilt angle of the structure is great, and the difference in
weight between the two sides becomes less. Therefore, it may be more difficult for
solar powered trackers to adequately perform at high latitudes.
Shadow Masks

Freon Tubes

!



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13-10

Components Tracking

Electrically Powered (Active) Sun


Tracker
Electrically powered trackers use motors to move the structure holding the modules.
One design uses photocells at the base of a tall vertical block. As the sun moves,
the shadow from the block moves across the photocells. Logic in the tracker
controller tells the motors to move the structure until the photocells see the same
amount of irradiance. This keeps the block, and the modules, pointed straight at the
sun all day long. The energy needed to operate the tracker is drawn from the
modules themselves, but is quite small, about 1/2 watt during daylight hours.
Two designs for active trackers are shown below. One design uses a tilt-and-roll
design where linear motors push the array around the azimuth and tilt the array up
or down to accommodate altitude tracking. A second approach uses a vertical axis
tracking design where a gear drive mechanism rotates the array about a vertical axis
while a linear motor tilts the array for altitude adjustments. Both designs use the
same form of electronic control unit mounted on the upper edge of the array.


'()% & 

" #$% 
& 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-11

Components Tracking


*+),-%. / 

Trackers can be designed to hold from 4-24 modules or even more. Wind loading of
large tracker structures should be a concern. But most designs can handle winds up
to 40 mph or greater.
Because the tracking is driven by electronics, it can operate equally well in all
latitudes. There is no greater difficulty tracking at high latitudes as might occur with
solar powered trackers.

Exercise


(  



 ! )


   


 *
 

 
 
 

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-12

Components Tracking

Electronic Power Tracking


A second method for enhancing the output of a solar array into a load involves the
use of an electronic maximum power point tracking circuit (MPT) between the
modules and the load. Such a device can be used for battery charging systems, but
has its greatest benefit when used with direct coupled water pumping systems.

Power Tracking With DC Motors


We have discussed how the load determines the operating voltage for an array. DC
motors (and batteries to some extent) will probably operate an array away from its
maximum power voltage (Vmp) throughout a typical day. This means that the
module-load matching is not optimized and that system efficiency is not maximized.
A maximum power tracking device (MPT) operating between the array and load will
force the array to operate at its maximum power voltage at all times. The circuitry
chops the DC from the array at high frequency, and rectifies it back to DC but at a
different voltage and current, keeping the total POWER (current X voltage) the
same. It translates array power into power at the optimum voltage for the load. So
the array and the load operate at different voltages and currents.

Pmax (array)
Imp (array) X Vmp (array)

Power (load)

I (load) X V (load)

An IV curve is shown with the point of maximum power indicated. If this power is
translated to a lower voltage, the current must rise to keep the value of power
constant. Thus a MPT effectively changes the shape of an IV curve from having a
flat region where current is almost constant into a descending geometric curve of
constant power. Thus the current available at voltages less than the Vmp of the
module actually increases. Dont think that energy or power has somehow been
magically created. The total power available stays the same. It is just the current
and voltage values that have been changed. Their product, the power, stays the
same.
This substantially increases efficiency for direct coupled DC motors and water
pumps and can even improve battery charging efficiency under certain
circumstances. The effect for a DC motor is shown below. During the middle of the
day, the module and motor should be matched in voltage by design. But in the early

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13-13

Components Tracking

morning and late afternoon, or during overcast conditions, the module would
normally supply very little current directly to the DC motor. The motor would operate
the module at point A, well away from its maximum possible power output at point C.
By using the MPT, the motor now interacts with the power curve at point B,
substantially increasing the current and the voltage. The water pump begins to pump
earlier in the day, and continues to pump later in the afternoon than would be
possible without the MPT.

M a x im u m P o w e r T ra c k in g
Current (amps)
4
curve of constant power

3.5
3
2.5

maximum power point


of module
(V m p X Im p )

2
1.5
1
0.5
0
0

12
16
Voltage (volts)

20

24




O p tim ize d O p e ra tio n W ith


D C M o to rs
C u rre n t (a m p s)
4

W ith o u t M P T

m o to r cu rve

3 .5
A

3
2 .5

m o to r

m o d u le

1 .5
1
0 .5
0

W ith M P T

C
A
M 5 5 m o d u le cu rve
P h o e n ix, A rizo n a , 8 :0 0 a .m .
4

12
16
V o lta g e (vo lts)

C
m o d u le

20

B
m o to r

24




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13-14

Components Tracking

Power Tracking With Batteries


The enhancement of MPT for battery charging is less dramatic. This is because
modules are designed to charge typical 12-volt batteries, and the number of solar
cells in series has been chosen deliberately to match the voltage requirements for
charging batteries. In very cold conditions however, there may be a slight mismatch
of the battery operating voltage and the module Vmp. The cold module temperature
will keep the voltage potential of the IV curve out beyond the typical charging voltage
of the battery.
An inherent efficiency of about 95% has been assigned to the MPT device. One of
the issues of using MPT with batteries is that the enhancement must be greater than
the internal efficiency of the device itself, or there will be no net gain at all.
An example of battery charging with MPT is shown below for a hot location, Raipur,
during the coolest and hottest months. A 36-cell SL-35 module is used. Even in the
coolest month in Raipur, September, the gain from MPT is so small that the inherent
inefficiency of the MPT actually penalizes the output into the battery, compared to
directly connecting the module to the battery. During the hottest month, May, the
input into the battery is even more reduced. The module output voltage potential is
already reduced due to high temperatures, and the MPT only subtracts its
inefficiency burden from the output.
The annual performance is shown below as well. In this hot climate, MPT does not
increase input into the battery at all during the year. The annual input without MPT
is approximately 57.3 kwh/year from one module, while the input with MPT at 95%
efficient is only 56.0 kwh/year.

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Components Tracking

O ne S L-35 in Ra ipur in S e pte m be r


30

Watts

25
20
15
10
5
0
5

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Ho u r

MPT @ 95% ef f ic ienc y

Battery




One S L-35 in Ra ipur in M a y


30

Watts

25
20
15
10
5
0
5

9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19
Ho u r

MPT @ 95% ef f ic ienc y

Battery




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Components Tracking

O ne S L-35 in Ra ipur
200

Wh/day

150
100
50
0
Jan

Mar

May

Jul

Sep

MPT @ 95% ef f ic ienc y

Nov
Battery




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-17

Components Tracking

Another example is shown, this time in Leh. The temperatures here will be lower
than in the case of Raipur, and the difference in benefit of MPT with battery charging
will show more clearly. The enhancement is positive throughout the year, higher in
the cool month of January and less in the hot month of August. But here again, the
relative heat in all months makes the gain small. The annual total charge put into a
battery directly is 50.3 kwh/year while the input through a MPT is 53.6 kwh/year.

One Sl-35 in Leh in January


25

Watts

20
15
10
5
0
5

11

13

15

17

Hour
MPT @95% ef ficiency

19

Battery




One Sl-35 in Leh in August


25

Watts

20
15
10
5
0
5

11

13

15

17

19

Hour
MPT @ 95% efficiency

Battery


!
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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-18

Components Tracking

The annual performance profile shows that there is a greater contribution from MPT
in a cold climate throughout the year, again more so in the winter than in the warmer
summer.

One SL-35 in Leh


200

Wh/day

150
100
50
0
Jan

Mar

May

Jul

MPT @ 95% efficiency

Sep

Nov
Battery


'

The negative trade-off that must be considered is the cost of the device, and the
increased risk of failure. Also the MPT must overcome its own energy inefficiency
(usually about 5%) to prove economical.

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13-19

Components Tracking

Summary and Comparison of


Power Tracking and Sun Position
Tracking
By way of summary, we should compare the benefits of the two types of tracking
that have been described in this chapter. Both sun position tracking and maximum
power tracking enhance the transfer of power from a solar array to a load. They do
so in different ways, and are optimum in different environmental conditions.
Simply put, a sun position tracker maximizes the input of power into the system in
the first place, while an MPT device maximizes the output of the power to the load
(but does not affect or increase the power input to the modules).
A sun tracker would be beneficial in a climate of clear sky and not extremely high
winds. If the sky is overcast often, then the tracker will not yield any benefit. It
wouldnt matter where the module was facing
An MPT tracker would be of most benefit in the overcast situation. The modules
would capture what solar energy they could, and the MPT would help transfer that
energy on to the loads.
Both types of trackers can enhance output into batteries, although MPT matching is
less dramatic than sun position tracking. But both systems would be of greatest
benefit when coupled with DC motors, as in water pumping. There are thousands of
working systems worldwide that use sun position tracking or MPT to enhance water
pumping.

Exercise


(
 )


!
  

 !


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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-20

Components Tracking

(End of Chapter)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

13-21

Components Tracking

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
ENERGY ENHANCEMENT THROUGH TRACKING
TECHNOLOGY

13-1

Tilting The Array To Match The Load Profile

13-2

Sun Position Tracking


Solar Powered (Passive) Sun Tracker
Electrically Powered (Active) Sun Tracker

13-6
13-10
13-11

Electronic Power Tracking


Power Tracking With DC Motors
Power Tracking With Batteries

13-13
13-13
13-15

Summary and Comparison of Power Tracking and


Sun Position Tracking

13-20

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13-22

Components Tracking

Chapter 13 Answers
Energy Enhancement through Tracking Technology


Location: Trivadrum

Trivandrum

600
500

-15
0
15
30
45

400
300
200
100
0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

The total annual insolation is

Annual

-15 Deg 0 Deg 15 Deg 30 Deg 45 Deg


152,740 158,169 162,810 157,789 144,693

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

13-1

Energy Enhancement Through Tracking

Location: Leh

Leh

600
500
400

0
15
30
45
60
75

300
200
100
0
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

The total annual insolation is

Annual

0 Deg 15 Deg 30 Deg 45 Deg 60 Deg 75 Deg


134,051 148,188 153,617 150,351 139,972 123,245



Location: Leh, Latitude 34 N
Month
Largest June
Smallest Jan.

Fixed Axis
Ah/day
9
8

Double Axis
Ah/day
16
10

Percent
Increase
77%
25%

Fixed Axis
Ah/day
8
13

Double Axis
Ah/day
13
17

Percent
Increase
62%
31%

Location: Minicoy, Latitude 8 N


Month
Largest June
Smallest Jan.

The differences in enhancement are due to the different site latitudes.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

13-2

Energy Enhancement Through Tracking



Refer to the manufacturer's literature.




Refer to the manufacturer's literature.

Siemens Solar Basic Photovoltaic Technology

13-3

Energy Enhancement Through Tracking

Chapter Fourteen
Diodes in Photovoltaic
Systems
This chapter discusses the function of a very specific piece of equipment used in
photovoltaic systems, the solid state diode. This device performs two different
functions, depending on where it is installed, and those functions are often confused
and misunderstood. The purpose of this chapter is to clarify the differences in
performance and to make clear why diodes are used in photovoltaic systems.
A diode is a solid state device made of P-type and N-type silicon. In fact a silicon
solar cell is a diode. Solar cells use the internal electrostatic field of their P/N
junction to prevent electrons from flowing back into the cell after they have been
knocked loose by light. Diodes use their internal field to allow electric current to flow
one way in a circuit and prevent it from flowing back.
When diodes are installed in series with a string of modules they perform a blocking
function, preventing backflow down the module string. When diodes are installed in
parallel with modules they perform a bypass function allowing current to pass around
a shaded area of a module. These two functions will be explained next.

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14-1

Components Diodes in PV Systems

Bypass Diodes For Shading


Shading Causes Mismatched Currents
When part of a photovoltaic module is shaded the shaded cells will not be able to
produce as much current as the unshaded cells. Since all the cells are connected in
series the same amount of current must flow through every cell. The unshaded cells
will force the shaded ones to pass more current than their new Isc. The only way
the shaded cells can operate at a current higher than their Isc is to operate in a
region of negative voltage, that is to cause a net voltage loss to the system. The
current times this negative voltage gives the negative power produced by the shaded
cells. In other words, the shaded cells will dissipate power as heat and cause "hot
spots". And the shaded cells will drag down the overall IV Curve of the group of
cells.

Mismatched Cells in Series


unshaded cell

25% shaded cell

series combination




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

14-2

Components Diodes in PV Systems

Effect Depends On How Shaded


A module curve is shown with varying degrees of shading. Even with only one cell
out of 36 shaded by 50%, there is a significant loss of power in the voltage range of
battery charging. One cell completely shaded is even worse, but note that the
module is not "turned off" by one completely shaded cell.
For a module with three cells shaded the impact is of course worse still. But notice
that the effect of 25% shading on three cells is not as bad as 75% shading on one
cell, the same total area of shading. Having the shading spread over many cells is
not as severe as having all the shading located in one or a few cells.

Effect of Shading on Output


Potential
One cell shaded

Three cells shaded

same amount of shading


Current 3

Current 3
25%

25%

2
50%

50%

75%

-10

75%

100%

10

100%

20

-10

Voltage

10

20

Voltage



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14-3

Components Diodes in PV Systems

How Bypass Diode Reduces Loss


An example of a module partially shaded will illustrate how bypass diodes can help
to reduce the looses associated with shading. Lets look at two cases, one with a
module with three cells 50% shaded, and another with three cells 100 % shaded.
The exact amount of loss of power will depend on the amount of shading and on
where the shaded module operates on its new reduced IV curve. Where a shaded
module operates depends on the operating current of the other modules
connected to it.
In the example in the figure, the shaded module is connected in series with many
other modules. The other unshaded modules try to operate at a their normal peak
current, creating a high current level. If the new reduced Isc of the shaded module
remains above the operating current of the other series modules in the group, then
the shaded module will be able to operate in the forward part of its curve (at point A
in the figure), and will still be able to contribute voltage to the series string. The
voltage out of the module or cell string will be higher than going into the module, as
is the normal case.

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14-4

Components Diodes in PV Systems

Shaded Module In Series String


Isc for shaded
cells is below
the Isc for
unshaded cells.

Isc for unshaded cells


Level of current in array is
determined by other modules

A
3 cells 50% shaded

3 cells 100% shaded

-10

-5

Shaded module removes


voltage from system

10

15

20

Shaded module can still contribute voltage

(-)
Voltage

(+)
Current

Current

Voltage
(-)

(+)



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14-5

Components Diodes in PV Systems

However when the shading in a module is severe enough so that the new Isc of the
shaded module falls below the operating current of the other series modules in the
group, then the shaded module as a whole is forced to operate at a negative voltage
to pass that level of current (point B in the figure). The entire module subtracts
voltage from the group of modules. The voltage out of the module is actually lower
going into the module. It would be better if the entire module were taken out of the
circuit temporarily. It is also important to limit the amount of local heating that result
from this negative voltage to prevent damage to the plastic and stress to the cells.
This can be done by installing diodes in parallel with groups of cells in each module.
These are called bypass diodes, because they allow current to pass around
shaded cells and thereby reduce the voltage losses through the module.
A diode passes current when the voltage is higher on one side, but blocks any
current flow when the voltage is higher on the other side. In condition A, the diode
sees the same voltage polarity as the module, with the voltage going out of the
module higher than going in. Current that tries to flow from the high voltage side of
the module to the lower voltage side through the diode is blocked. The diode is
"reverse biased" and does not allow any current to backflow around the module. The
current produced by the shaded module passes on to the next module. It is as if the
diode were not in the circuit at all.
However under condition B, where enough cells become shaded so that the module
is forced to operate at a negative voltage, the final voltage going out of the module is
actually lower than the voltage going in. The voltage polarity shown is positive at
the beginning of the module and negative at the end, the opposite of the normal
case. The voltage across the diode becomes reversed ("forward biased") and it
conducts current through itself. All the current greater than the shaded cell's new Isc
is "bypassed" through the diode, thus reducing drastically the amount of local
heating at the shaded area. The diode also holds the entire shaded module or
group of cells to a small negative voltage of approximately -0.7 volts, thus limiting the
reduction in array output.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Severely shaded module is


limited to operating at only
-0.7 volts by the bypass
diode.

Shaded
Module
With
Bypass
Diode

-10

10

20

Current at
Current above
passes through
passes through diode
module

No current
passes
backwards
through bypass
diode

(-)
All current
passes through
module and

(+)

on to loads.

(+)
(-)



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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Placement Of Bypass Diode In Module


Cell Circuit
The simplest way to include bypass diodes in a module cell circuit is to connect the
negative of the diode to the negative starting point of a module, and the positive of
the diode to the positive end of the module. When there is severe shading, then the
bypass diode will bypass the entire module circuit.
To preserve more of the modules voltage, a diode can be placed around a portion
of the cells in the circuit. Two methods can be used due to different junction box
configurations. For modules with three strings of cells, as shown below, with the
circuit beginning at one end of the module and ending at the opposite end, one
bypass diode is installed in each of the two junction boxes at opposite ends of the
module. If the cell circuit is stretched out into a long string, you can see more clearly
how each diode is connected around 24 cells, and how the two diodes overlap in cell
coverage.
In the case of severe shading, current can flow through a group of 12 cells and then
through the bypass diode. Thus only 24 cells or 2/3 of the module circuit is
bypassed.

Dual Bypass Diode Placement


Overlapping Design



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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Another typical circuit design has four strings of cells, with the circuit beginning and
ending at the same end of the module. Only one junction box is used, and both
diodes are placed inside that box. Looking at the cell circuit stretched out, each
diode is connected around 18 cells and there is no overlap. In the case of severe
shading, current can pass through an unshaded group of 18 cells and then into a
bypass diode. Thus only 18 cells or 1/2 of the module is bypassed. This design
allows for even less voltage loss than the three-string configuration.

Dual Bypass Diode Placement


Adjacent Design




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

An Example Of Bypass Diode Reducing


Losses
An example serves to illustrate the effect of bypass diodes in (1) reducing the
amount of local heating and (2) preserving the array output to the load. Five 53-watt
36-cell modules (Siemens SM55) are connected in series with a nominal 60-volt
battery bank. The battery bank sets the operating voltage for the system at about
67.5 volts, which then determines the array current at 2.4 amps. Each module
therefore operates at 2.4 amps and each module contributes 13.5 volts (67.5 / 5
modules = 13.5 volts).

Array Of Five Modules


In Series With No Shading
Curve for
one module

-20

20

40

60

80

100

Battery determines voltage


for entire array.



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Components Diodes in PV Systems

For this example, assume that three cells in one module become 75% shaded. We
first show the result without bypass diodes, and then on the next page show the
effect with bypass diodes in place.
The entire array output potential is dragged down. The battery as always
determines the operating point for the array, and now results in an array current of
about 1.3 amps. The new Isc for the shaded module is only 1.1 amps, so the
shaded module is forced to operate at a negative voltage of -8 volts. The negative
voltage times the current gives the net power dissipated by the shaded module:
-8 volts X 1.3 amps = -10.4 watts

So about 10 watts of power is lost in shaded cells, in the form of heat. Remember
that an M55 module produces only 53 watts peak at standard conditions, and about
45 watts in field conditions when it is heated. So this potential power loss is quite
high.

Three Shaded Cells


Reduces Entire Array Output
Array current is
dragged down
by shaded cells

Shaded
module
is forced
to operate
at a
negative
voltage

-20

20

40

60

80

100

Voltage (volts)
Battery determines voltage
for entire array.



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Components Diodes in PV Systems

(For simplicity, we show the benefit of one single bypass diode around the entire
module). With a bypass diode installed in parallel with the shaded module, the
result is quite different. There are two regions to examine one below the Isc of the
shaded module and the other above it.
Looking at current levels below the new Isc of the shaded module, everything is left
as is. The bypass diode can do nothing here.
Looking above the new Isc of the shaded module however, the shaded module
cannot operate beyond approximately -0.7 volts, as this is the maximum negative
voltage allowed by the diode. So the output potential of the array is not dragged
down as severely (-0.7 volts instead of -8 volts!). For current levels above the new
Isc of the shaded module, the shaded module is completely bypassed, so the
composite curve for the entire array is that of only four unshaded modules instead of
five.
The battery voltage now operates the entire array at a current of almost 2.0 amps,
nearly back to the full-unshaded potential (instead of only 1.3 amps as before with
no diode).
The shaded module operates at a net power loss of only:
-0.7 volt X 2.0 amps = -1.4 watts
Thus the total dissipated power in shaded cells and bypass diode is only about
-1.4 watts instead of -10 watts as before. This can be broken down into the power
dropped in the shaded cells and the power loss through the diode. The module
passes slightly more than its Isc of 1.1 amps at -0.7 volts so it is dissipating only a
small amount of power itself:
-0.7 volts X 1.1 amps = -0.77 watts
And the current going through the diode is just the difference between the shaded
module current the array current, given as 2.0 amps - 1.1 amps = 0.9 amps. At a
voltage of -0.7 volts across the diode, this means that the power lost in the diode is
given by:
-0.7 volts X 0.9 amps = -0.63 watts
In summary, we have reduced the power lost from 10.4 watts to only 1.4 watts, with
0.77 watts dissipated in the cells and 0.63 watts dissipated across the diode. The
two main benefits of bypass diodes are quite evident: (1) array output is preserved;
and (2) local heating is minimized.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Bypass Diode Preserves


Array Output
Above this point, array output
is missing one module, but
is no longer dragged down
by shaded cells.

3
Voltage
loss
2
through
shaded
module is
1
limited to
-0.7 volts
-20

20

40

60

80

100




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14-13

Components Diodes in PV Systems

Bypass Diodes In High Voltage Arrays


Recall from the discussion in the chapter on Wiring, there are two general ways to
wire systems of voltage higher than 12 volts. The modules can be wired in parallel
first to create current, and then have the parallel wired groups connected in series to
get voltage. Or modules can be wired in series strings first to get voltage, and then
the strings can be wired in parallel to get current. The recommended way is the
latter, to wire in series groups. The discussion below illustrates another reason why
this is the preferred method.

Parallel Wired Groups


If modules are wired in parallel groups there is a need for a large external diode
around each parallel group, as shown below.

Bypass Diodes For


Parallel Wired Groups




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

If modules in a parallel group are shaded, then the group cannot produce the current
of the other groups in series with it. The unshaded modules in the group can
compensate by trying to produce more current. They do this by operating at lower
voltage, which moves their operating point up in current along their IV curve.
If the shading is bad enough, and the current compensation needs to be very large,
then the entire group will continue to compensate by operating further and further
down in voltage. The group can actually go past zero volts and operate in the region
of negative voltage to try to get the current level up to that of the other unshaded
groups in series with it. If this happens, all the bypass diodes in the separate
modules will begin to pass current. Now the current is not just that of one module,
but could be the current of the entire array. The small diodes for each module would
be overloaded and could fail.
The solution is to install an external diode large enough to handle the current of the
entire array. If a shaded group compensates by going into negative voltage, then
the current from the other groups bypasses the entire group through the large diode,
and no damage occurs. This can involve extra wiring and cost.

Current Compensation of
Parallel Wired Modules
current level of other modules

-Voltage

+Voltage




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Series Wired Groups


In the case of modules wired in series groups the bypass diodes installed in each
module will be sufficient. No extra diode protection is needed. This is because the
current that can flow through a bypass diode is just one modules worth and no
more. The current flowing in a string is just the current of one module. If a module
becomes shaded, the current flows through the bypass diode and on to the other
modules in that string.

Bypass Diodes For


Series Wired Strings




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Blocking Diodes Prevent Leakage


Diodes placed in series with cells or modules can perform another function that of
blocking reverse leakage current backward through the modules. There are two
situations where blocking diodes can help prevent this phenomenon.

Blocking reverse flow of current from battery through module at night.


In battery charging systems the module potential drops to zero at night, and the
battery could discharge all night backward through the module. This would not
be harmful to the module, but would result in loss of precious energy from the
battery bank. Diodes placed in the circuit between the module and the battery
can block any nighttime leakage flow.

Blocking reverse flow down damaged modules from parallel modules during day.
Blocking diodes placed at the head of separate series wired strings in high
voltage systems can perform yet another function during daylight conditions. If
one string becomes severely shaded, or if there is a short circuit in one of the
modules, the blocking diode prevents the other strings from loosing current
backwards down the shaded or damaged string. The shaded or damaged string
is "isolated" from the others, and more current is sent on the load. In this
configuration, the blocking diodes are sometimes called "isolation diodes".

Each of these situations will be discussed next.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Preventing Nighttime Leakage


The IV curves presented on the next page show how the module is operated during
the day and night by the battery. At night the IV curve passes through zero volts and
amps, and slowly slopes downward from there. The battery maintains its voltage
even at night, so the module is operated at about 12 volts. Since the entire curve is
below zero amps, the current passing through the module is "negative", or going the
wrong way. The amount of current leaked from the battery depends on the shape of
the IV curve at night. The fewer number of cells in series in the module, or the
poorer the curve shape, the greater the leakage current. Leakage currents for some
modules are only about 50 mA, so the power dissipated through the cells would be
only 12 volts X 0.050 amps = 0.6 watts. The power is spread evenly through all the
cells, so the power dissipated by any one cell would be only about 0.6 watts / 36
cells = 0.017 watts or 17 milliwatts.

Curve Shape Determ ines


Nighttim e Leakage
Daytime flow
of current

(+) Current
(+)

(+)
(-)

( -)

Leakage flow of
current at night

(-) Current

(+)

(+)

( -)

(-)




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

This can be prevented by installing a diode in series between the array and battery.
The diode allows current to flow into the battery, but "blocks" reverse flow at night.
So in this configuration, the diode is called a "blocking" diode. There is a small
penalty to pay in the form of a 0.6-1.0 volt drop across the diode.

12 Volt System

Blocking Diode

+
PV
Module
-

Battery

Load




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

If a single module or a 12-volt string of parallel modules is involved a single large


diode can be placed between the module or 12 volt array and the battery. Often
charge controllers have a blocking diode built in to the circuitry. If a higher voltage
array is made of groups of parallel wired modules then one large blocking diode can
be used for the entire array.

Parallel-Wired Strings




This is not the preferred way to connect modules in a higher voltage array though. If
one or more modules in a group are damaged, or if maintenance work must be done
on a group, the entire array will not be able to produce power at the required voltage.
It is recommended to connect modules in series strings first, and then connect those
groups in parallel. This is described next.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Preventing Daytime Leakage


The preferred method of wiring higher voltage arrays is to first connect modules in
series strings and then connect them in parallel. Each series string should have its
own blocking diode. Do not think that if there are four strings, as shown, that the
current from any string must flow through all four diodes. Current flows from each
string through only one diode and combines with the current from the other strings,
so there is no increase in voltage penalty.
Blocking diodes placed at the head of each parallel string can perform another
function during daylight operation. If one string becomes severely shaded, or if there
is a short circuit in one of the modules, the blocking diode prevents the other strings
from loosing current backwards down the shaded or damaged string. The shaded or
damaged string is "isolated" from the others, and more current is sent on the load.
In this configuration, the blocking diodes are sometimes called "isolation diodes".

Series-Wired Strings




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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Typically in this configuration all the blocking or isolation diodes are grouped
together in a field combiner box located at each structure. All the positive wires from
the series strings are fed separately into the box, and the diodes are mounted on
some type of wiring block. The separate outputs from the diodes are combined into
a large diameter wire, and all the current from the strings flows on to the controls
and battery. The negative wires are combined into a large diameter wire also.

Series-Wired Strings With


Combiner Box
Dual J-box
style modules

Single J-box
style modules

Field Combiner Box




Other functions that can be performed at the field combiner box include a disconnect
switch or circuit breaker and lightning protection devices. These could be
conveniently built in to the box and would allow further protection of the system from
short circuits and lightning strikes.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

An example of a commercial field combiner box is shown below. This unit is


manufactured by Solar Electric Specialties in the US and includes blocking diodes,
separate pull fuses for each series string, a DC rated circuit breaker and a silicon
oxide varistor (SOC) lightning protection unit. The negative block combines the
negative wires from the strings and a ground wire from the lightning protection unit.
The block is then connected to a ground rod driven into the earth at the array. If
there is a lightning strike at the array, the dangerous current spike will be shunted to
ground at the array instead of passing through the wires all the way back to the
system controls.



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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Current and Voltage Rating of


Diodes
To insure the diodes are not stressed, the current rating of blocking and bypass
diodes should be twice the Isc that might flow through them, and the reverse voltage
rating should be twice the entire array Voc.

Current Rating of Diodes

Double Isc

Voltage Rating of Diodes

Double Voc

Most power modules produce current in the range of 3-4 amperes, so this means
that the current rating of bypass diodes should be at least 6-8 amps, a relatively
small value. Since the manufacturer does not know what the voltage of the final
array will be, the voltage rating of bypass diodes should be the highest reasonable
commercial value, usually 600 volts.
In the case of a single blocking diode for a 12-volt parallel string, the current rating
must be the Isc for the entire array. For example, if 8 35-watt modules were
connected in parallel for a 12-volt system, the single blocking diode needed should
have a current rating of at least
2 X 8 parallel modules X 2.15 amps (Isc) = 34.4 amps.

The voltage rating of the blocking or isolation diodes should be twice the full array
open circuit voltage (Voc). Do not use just the nominal system voltage. For the
simple 12-volt array with 8 modules in parallel, the number of series modules is only
one, so the voltage rating should be
2 X 1 series module X 20 volts (Voc) = 40 volts.

For a 48-volt nominal array, with 4 modules in series, the voltage should be at least
2 X 4 series modules X 20 volts (Voc) = 160 volts.

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Exercise




     

    

   


 

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

(End of Chapter)

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
DIODES IN PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS

14-1

Bypass Diodes For Shading


Shading Causes Mismatched Currents
Effect Depends On How Shaded
How Bypass Diode Reduces Loss
Placement Of Bypass Diode In Module Cell Circuit
An Example Of Bypass Diode Reducing Losses
Bypass Diodes In High Voltage Arrays

14-2
14-2
14-3
14-4
14-8
14-10
14-14

Blocking Diodes Prevent Leakage


Preventing Nighttime Leakage
Preventing Daytime Leakage

14-17
14-18
14-21

Current and Voltage Rating of Diodes

14-24

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Components Diodes in PV Systems

Chapter 14 Answers
Diodes in Photovoltaic Systems



First Array:
Blocking

Bypass

Bypass

Bypass

Bypass

A diode should be rated for twice the expected Isc and twice the full array Voc. The
bypass diodes are connected to 4 modules in parallel, so their rating should be:
Current Rating 8 X Isc
Voltage Rating 8 X Voc

The blocking diode must handle all 4 parallel strings, so its rating should be:
Current Rating 8 X Isc
Voltage Rating 8 X Voc

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14-1

Diodes

Second Array:
Blocking

Blocking

Bypass

Bypass

Bypass

Bypass

The bypass diodes are now connected to a single module, so the rating should be:
Current Rating 2 X Isc
Voltage Rating 8 X Voc

Each blocking diode is connected to a single parallel string, so each will be rated at:
Current Rating 2 X Isc
Voltage Rating 8 X Voc

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14-2

Diodes

Chapter Fifteen
System Sizing
The purpose of photovoltaic system sizing is to calculate the number of solar
modules and batteries needed to reliably operate the load throughout a typical year.
This involves balancing the often-opposing goals of maximum reliability and
minimum cost.
This section presents simple methods for calculating array and battery size for
standalone systems. While reading this chapter keep in mind that not all choices in
system sizing are based on calculations. There are decisions that require judgment
on the part of the designer and the user. The mechanics of the calculations are
quite simple. It is the judgment of the designer about the efficiency and
appropriateness of the loads that makes a system well designed and cost effective.

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System Design System Sizing

Basic Principles

The solar array is sized to replace the load on a daily basis based on average
weather conditions. The average is made up of below average days and above
average days so the array and battery must work together.

The array is NOT sized based on how quickly it can recharge the array after a
few days of below average weather. This would result in a large array most of
which is not needed or used during most of the year.

The battery has the job of supplying energy to the loads when the insolation is
below average. The array will replenish the battery during subsequent days of
above average insolation.

If there are concerns about quickly recovering from a storm or prolonged period of
below average weather then the designer should be considering a hybrid system
design. The backup generator (usually a diesel, gas or propane generator) would be
used to bring the batteries back to near full charge every few days during the winter
or periods of prolonged bad weather. The generator might not even be needed
during the summer months.
The sizing calculations presented in this chapter are based on designing a
standalone photovoltaic, non-hybrid and system. Hybrids are discussed in the
chapter on Hybrid Systems

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System Design System Sizing

Size Array For Worst Season


When first thinking about array sizing for standalone systems one could begin by
sizing so that the array output would be equal to the mathematical average of the
load during the entire year. In that way, on the average over the year, the array
would put back into the system as much energy as the load used. But this means
that for half the months of the year, every year, the battery would be partially
discharged. During such long periods of sustained partial charge sulfation of the
battery plates would occur. In standalone systems there is no generator available
on demand to recharge the batteries during below average weather. Battery
performance and life would be very poor, and the overall cost of the system over
time would be very high.
The proper approach to array sizing is to calculate the array needed during the worst
season of the year. This means that one would expect the battery to be fully
recharged even during the worst season and certainly during all the rest of the year.
This approach will reduce the sulfation that might occur on the battery plates and
lead to long system operating life and low maintenance costs over time.
If the worst season of the year is very far below the average for the year then sizing
for the worst month will give an array that is quite oversized for the rest of the year,
resulting in high initial costs. In that case it would make sense to consider a hybrid
system with a backup generator. But for small systems where a generator would be
too expensive, or in remote situations where the operation and maintenance of a
generator would be a burden, designing a standalone photovoltaic system will be the
most cost-effective approach.

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System Design System Sizing

Battery Sizing
Days of Autonomy or Reserve
The battery bank is sized to operate the loads during a long sequence of below
average insolation days. We can think of the battery as being full of charge.
During a below average day the array cannot supply all the amp-hours of charge
needed to replace what the load draws from the battery. So the battery ends up
being discharged at the end of the day. If the next day is again below average then
the battery again discharges some to operate the loads. This process can go on for
only so long before the battery is discharged to a point that is may become
damaged. The system designer must build into the battery capacity enough
equivalent days of charge to operate the loads autonomously, meaning without any
input of energy from the solar array. We refer to these equivalent days of reserve as
days of autonomy.
The usual rough values that are used in most system sizing calculations are about 35 days for non-critical applications and 7-14 days or even more for more critical
applications. Non-critical situations usually involve occupied systems, where the
users can adjust their load demand a little to accommodate the bad weather.
Critical situations might involve commercial or governmental systems for
communications or navigation, or important health needs such as hospitals and
clinics. And very remote systems must have a large capacity in their battery bank to
allow for the time it would take a maintenance crew to arrive at the site.

Rough Guide to Days of Reserve or Autonomy


Non-critical Applications

3-5 days

Typical 4 days

Critical Applications

7-14 days

Typical 10 days

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System Design System Sizing

Basic Battery Sizing Calculation


The basic formula for calculating battery size is presented below. It involves
multiplying the number of days of reserve or autonomy times the amount needed
daily for the load. This gives the first approximation to the size of the battery
capacity.
But we cannot allow all of the battery capacity to be discharged during the days of
autonomy. Manufacturers recommend that only 80% of even deep cycling
batteries, and only about 50% of shallow cycling batteries, be discharged. So we
must divide by the maximum percentage usable to give the amount of capacity to
install.

Maximum Percentage Usable


Deep Cycling Battery Type

Up to 80%

Shallow Cycling Battery Type

Up to 50%

The basic version of the formula is given below for calculating the battery capacity
that must be installed.

Battery Capacity =

Number of Days of Autonomy X Daily Load


Maximum % Usable

Each battery has a nominal voltage, depending on how many single cells are
connected by the manufacturer. Some large cells are only two volts; some smaller
units are six or twelve volts. The formula for the number of batteries to connect in
series to give the voltage for the loads is simply the nominal system voltage divided
by the nominal battery voltage.

Number of Series Batteries

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Load Nominal Voltage


Battery Nominal Voltage

System Design System Sizing

To illustrate these basic equations lets use the remote school system that was sized
on Page 11 in the Load Estimation chapter as an example.

Example:

The AC load demand for the school summed to 9104 Wh/day. If we use the
Trace 4024 sinewave inverter, and assume that the efficiency is about 90%
and the input voltage is 24 volts, then the DC load will be 421 Ah/day (9104
Wh 0.9 24 V = 421 Ah).
We shall consider this a non-critical system because the users can be a bit
flexible in their usage depending on the weather, so we will design for 5 days
of autonomy. We will assume that deep cycling industrial batteries are used.
The maximum % usable will therefore be 80%.
Battery Capacity

5 days X 421 Ah/day


0.8

2631 Ah of capacity

2105
0.8

If they were to use Trojan L16 deep cycling flooded batteries, rated at 350 Ah
and 6 volts then they would need about eight in parallel and four in series:
(2631 Ah 350 Ah = 7.5, round up to 8) and (24 volts 6 volts = 4).

As another example, look again at the small remote cabin system sized on Page 10
of the Load Estimation chapter. Assume that it will be used as only a weekend
cabin and that cost is a problem so low cost batteries will be used. Recall that it is a
pure DC system with no AC loads.

Example:

The remote weekend cabin load was calculated to be about 70 Ah/day at 12


volts. If low cost starting batteries are to be used, then we can use only 50%
of the capacity for days of reserve. If the cabin is to be used only for the
weekends, then only 2 days of reserve need to be built into the battery
capacity.
Battery Capacity

2 days X 70 Ah/day =
0.5

280 Ah of capacity

140
0 .5

If they were to use Delco 2000 shallow cycling batteries, rated at 105 Ah at
12 volts each, they would need three batteries in parallel (280 105 = 2.7)

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System Design System Sizing

Exercise





  

 



  



   


 


 


 
       ! 

 

   "#
 



   


 

 

$   % 

      
     &
 "%#



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15-7

System Design System Sizing

Correcting For Cold Temperature


The basic formula presented must be modified to properly account for some
performance factors that affect battery capacity and depth of discharge. The first
factor that must be taken into account is the fact that batteries loose capacity when
they get cold. Recall from the discussion in the Battery Technology chapter that a
lead acid battery can deliver only a little more than 90% of its rated capacity at 0o C
and only about 80% at -20o C.
This reduction in available capacity with cold temperatures means that MORE
capacity must be installed than you would calculate at standard temperatures of
25o C. Install more than you need at 25o C so that when the battery gets cold, it will
still have the capacity that you need.
We do this by dividing by the Capacity Correction Factor given in manufacturers
literature. A typical reduction curve is shown below. Estimate the average
discharge rate using the method given on page 46 of the Battery Technology
chapter. The average rate of discharge for photovoltaic systems is given by the
formula:
Average Rate of Discharge (hours) = # Days of Autonomy X Load Operating Time
Maximum % Usable
where Load Operating Time can be estimated as follows:
use 24 hours
Continuous Loads:
use load operating time
Single Load Systems:

Multiple Load Systems: Weighted Average Load Operating Time =

load time
loads

Percent of Rated Capacity

Temperature and Discharge Rate


Effects on Lead-Acid Battery Capacity
120
110
100
90
80
70
60
50
40
30

C/500
C/50
C/0.5

-30

-20

-10

10

C/120
C/5

20

30

40

50

Battery Operating Temperature - oC



Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course
Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-8

System Design System Sizing

Example:

A remote data acquisition system is installed on a mountain top where


the average 24 hour temperature can get as low as -10o C. The
system has 10 days of autonomy in the battery bank and uses deep
cycling batteries (maximum DOD of 80%).
The system has only one load of 2 amps operating 24 hours/day, so
the weighted average load time is just 24 hours.
Weighted Average Load Operating Time = 2 amps X 24 hours = 24 hrs
2 amps

The average discharge rate can be estimated to be:


10 days X 24 hours
0.8 max discharge

= 300 hour rate.

Reading between the 120 hour and 500 hour rate curves, the loss of
capacity factor reading up from -10 is about 0.91 or 91%. This means
that at this temperature, there would be only 91% of the capacity
available at 25o C. To have the capacity you really need for your
autonomy requirements, you would need to install 9% more.
For this example, the daily load of the data acquisition system is
2 amps X 24 hours/day = 48 Ah/day. Using the basic formula
presented earlier (not accounting for cold temperature) the capacity
would be given by:
Simple Capacity Calc

10 days X 48 Ah
0.8

600 Ah

But this is the capacity that we want, even during the coldest period
when it gets down to -10o C. To account for the loss of capacity at 10oC we need to divide by the correction factor to calculate the amount
to install when rated at 25o C:
Temperature Adjusted
Capacity Calc

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

600 Ah needed at low temp.


0.91 temperature factor

660 Ah at 25o C

15-9

System Design System Sizing

Cold Temperature Data


Data indicating the lowest 24-hour average temperature are extracted from the
Siemens Solar database for various sites and presented in the Appendix section. It
is assumed that the battery is a large thermal mass and will not quickly cool off to
the coldest temperature in the night, but rather will slowly move between the heat of
the day and the cold of the night.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-10

System Design System Sizing

Specifying Battery Capacity At Proper


Discharge Rate
Another factor that needs to be considered when sizing batteries is that battery
capacity increases with slower discharge rates. Typically manufacturers list their
capacity at a standard rate of 8 or 10 hours of discharge. But in photovoltaic
systems, it is typical for systems to have discharge rates of 100-200 hours or slower,
due to all the extra capacity built into the battery for autonomy.
Most manufacturers give the capacity of their batteries at different rates of
discharge. You need to be able to specify the capacity needed for your system
at the proper discharge rate. Average rate of discharge was discussed in the
Battery Technology chapter, and is presented again here.
The average rate of discharge for photovoltaic systems is given by the formula:

Average Rate of Discharge (hours) = # Days of Autonomy X Load Operating Time


Maximum % Usable

The average load operating time is either 24 hours for a continuous load, or the
actual load operating time if a single load or the weighted average time if several
intermittent loads are present.

Load Operating Time:

Continuous Loads:
Single Load Systems:
Multiple Load Systems:

use 24 hours
use load operating time
use weighted average load operating time

Weighted Average Load Operating Time =

load time
loads

Some examples of industrial battery manufacturers literature are shown on the next
page.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


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15-11

System Design System Sizing

C&D Battery Company:


Cell Type

AH Capacity @ 25 deg. C.
1.75
vpc

Overall Dimensions

to 1.9 vpc

Length

Width

Weight
Height

8 h

72 h

120h

240h

480h

in.

mm

in.

mm

in.

mm

lbs.

kgs.

3DCPSA- 3

31

44

46

48

49

5.28

134

7.38

187

10.31

262

27.7

12.6

3DCPSA- 5

62

72

73

74

75

5.28

134

7.38

187

10.31

262

33.6

15.2

3DCPSA- 7

94

133

139

145

150

9.47

241

7.38

187

10.31

262

54.3

24.6

DCPSA-11

156

222

230

240

249

6.38

162

7.38

187

10.75

273

37.0

16.8

DCPSA-13

188

267

277

290

300

6.38

162

7.38

187

10.75

273

39.0

17.7

DCPSA-15

219

295

300

306

310

6.38

162

7.38

187

10.75

273

41.0

18.6

3KCPSA- 5

225

315

324

333

340

8.53

217

10.44

265

18.25

464

131.0

59.4

KCPSA- 7

337

384

389

394

400

3.62

92

10.44

265

18.25

464

58.0

26.3

KCPSA- 9

450

506

513

520

524

4.62

117

10.44

265

18.25

464

79.0

35.8

KCPSA-11

562

618

628

638

644

5.59

142

10.44

265

18.25

464

96.0

43.5

KCPSA-13

675

743

755

766

773

6.59

167

10.44

265

8.25

464

113.0

51.3

KCPSA-15

787

1011

1031

1047

1060

8.53

217

10.44

265

18.25

464

139.0

63.0




Varta Battery Inc.:


Type

Vb2306
Vb2308
Vb2310
Vb2312
Vb2407
Vb2408
Vb2409
Vb2410
Vb2412
Vb2414
Vb2416
Vb2418
Vb2420

Capacity (Ah) to 1.85 vpc final voltage


5 hour

10 hour

24 hour

48 hour

72 hour

120 hour

240 hour

270
360
450
540
630
720
810
900
1080
1260
1440
1620
1800

300
400
500
600
700
800
900
1000
1200
1400
1600
1800
2000

360
480
600
720
840
960
1080
1200
1440
1680
1920
2160
2400

408
544
680
816
952
1088
1224
1360
1632
1904
2176
2448
2720

432
576
720
864
1008
1152
1296
1440
1728
2016
2304
2592
2880

450
600
750
900
1050
1200
1350
1500
1800
2100
2400
2700
3000

468
624
780
936
1092
1248
1404
1560
1872
2184
2496
2808
3120




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-12

System Design System Sizing

Example:

A remote telecom site will use deep cycling industrial batteries (maximum
DOD of 80%). The system will have 10 days of autonomy designed into the
battery. Two loads are present:
Load 1:
Load 2:

Microwave Repeater
Radio

Weighted Average
Load Operating Time

Average Rate of Discharge

10 amps
7 amps

24 hours/day
12 hours/day

= 10 amps X 24 hours + 7 amps X 12 hours


10 amps + 7 amps
=

19 hours

10 days X 19 hours/day
0.8 max. discharge

238 hour rate

The nearest rate used by either manufacturer shown on the previous page is
the 240 hour rate, so use values from this column for this system. If your
calculated average discharge rate is between rates used by a manufacturer,
use the next faster rate (shorter time) to be conservative.
--------------------------Compare the capacity available at the 240-hour rate to the nominal rates of
the manufacturers:
C&D Literature: use as an example the KCPSA-15 battery. Capacity at the
slow 240 hour photovoltaic rate is 1047 Ah, and capacity at their standard 8
hour rate is 787 Ah. So a typical C&D battery will deliver about
1047 Ah @ 240 hr / 787 Ah @ 8 hr = 0.33 or 33% more capacity at the slow
photovoltaic rate compared to their standard rate.

Varta literature: use as an example the Vb2410 battery. Capacity at the slow
240 hour photovoltaic rate is about 1560 Ah, and capacity at their standard
10 hour rate is 1000 Ah. So a typical Varta battery will deliver 1560 Ah @
240 hr / 1000 Ah @ 10 hr = 0.56 or 56% more capacity at the slow
photovoltaic rate compared to their standard rate.

Rule of Thumb: You will have about 30% more capacity available from a battery at
typically slow photovoltaic discharge rates (usually C/100 to C/300) compared to
manufacturers standard or nominal rates (usually C/8 or C/10). This is only a rough
rule of thumb to use when no other capacity vs. rate information is available.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-13

System Design System Sizing

Limiting Maximum Depth of Discharge To


Prevent Freezing
A final factor that must be included in battery sizing is the adjustment to the
maximum allowed depth of discharge to prevent freezing. As a battery discharges
the electrolyte turns into water, and the freezing point rises toward the freezing point
of pure water at 0o C. In cold climates, if the battery is allowed to discharge too
much, the electrolyte might freeze, damaging the battery.
Even if a deep cycling industrial battery is used in a system, the maximum depth of
discharge might have to be limited to less than the usual 80%. The adjustment can
be read from a chart as given below.

Correct for Limited Discharge


Due to Possible Freezing
Maximum D.O.D. (%)
80
60
40
20
0
-60

-40

-20

Lowest Battery Temperature (deg.C)




Using the lowest 24-hour average battery temperature read up to find the maximum
allowed depth of discharge. This concern applies only for temperatures below minus
8o C. For example, if the battery would get to -20o C, the maximum allowed depth of
discharge should only be about 53%, not the usual 80%.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-14

System Design System Sizing

Complete Battery Sizing Calculation


Putting all these correcting factors together, we develop a final formula for
calculating the capacity of a photovoltaic battery bank.

Battery Capacity
(@ specified rate)

Number of Days of Autonomy X Daily Load


Max % Usable X Temperature Derating Factor

(A) The Maximum Percent Usable is either the standard value of 50% for shallow
cycling batteries, 80% for deep cycling batteries, or a reduced value based on
freezing concerns. The designer can also reduce this value simply as a way to build
in more life to the system. For example, a designer might use a shallow cycling
battery, but size based on using only 30% of the capacity and not the usual 50%.
This might not impact the cost of the system too much, and would mean the battery
life would be extended.
(B) The Temperature Derating Factor is included to make sure that more capacity is
installed at 25o C so that when the battery gets cold and loses some capacity, there
will still be the required capacity present.
(C) The specified rate insures that you are taking into account the change of
capacity with slow discharge rate. Use manufacturers literature to choose a battery
that will give you the capacity you need at the average discharge rate of your
system.
An Array/Battery Sizing Form is presented next. Use this form for your battery
calculations. All the factors are indicated. An example is worked for your reference.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-15

System Design System Sizing

Example:

Calculate the capacity needed for the remote school example again, this time
with more information. The local meteorologist reports that it gets to an
o
average of -20 C in the winter at the site. This will mean that we
compensate for both loss of capacity with cold temperature, and limit the
maximum depth of discharge to prevent freezing.
(A) Using the freezing phenomenon chart in Figure 15-2, we determine that
the maximum allowable depth of discharge is about 50% or 0.5 , even though
we are using deep cycling type batteries that usually can be discharged to
80%.
(B) Calculate average rate of discharge. The weighted average load
operating time for the loads on p. 9-11 is given by:
Weighted Average
Load Operating Time =

9104 Wh/day
(8X40)+(2x11)+(2x200)+ 300+800+200 watts
4.5 hours

The number of days of autonomy was given as 5 and the maximum


discharge is limited to 50% due to freezing, so the average rate is given by
Avg. Rate of Discharge

5 days X 4.5 hours/day


0.5 max. discharge

= 45 hr rate

(C) Use Figure 15-1 to determine the Temperature Derating Factor. Use the
50-hour curve (closest to our 45-hour rate), and determine that the
o
Temperature Derating Factor at -20 C is 70% or 0.70.
(D) Calculate the capacity. We will use Varta batteries for this example.
Battery Capacity

5 days X 421 Ah/day load


0.5 X 0.70

6014 Ah

@ 45 hour rate

Looking at the Varta capacity Table 15-2, use the 48 hour column (closest to
our 45 hour rate) to select a particular model to use. We could choose 4 of
the Vb2412 units, as each gives about 1/4 of the capacity we need at that
rate.
Since they are 2-volt cells, we would need strings of 12 cells connected in
series to give the 24 volts for the inverter.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-16

System Design System Sizing

Array/Battery Sizing Form


Remote School

System Description:
Max. Daily Load

421 Ah

System Voltage

24 V

Average Discharge
Rate

Number of Days X Load Operating Time


Maximum Battery % Usage

Number of Reserve Days


Maximum Battery % Usage =

Coldest Avg Temperature. =

-20 C

Battery Capacity
(@ 45 hour rate)

Number of Days X Max. Daily Load


Maximum % Usage X Temp. Derating

Chosen Battery
Capacity =

5
0.5

] X [ 421 ]
] X [ 0.70 ]

[
[

Varta Vb 2412

Voltage

Battery Capacity

6014

0.5
45
(hours)

Temperature Derating =

1632 @ 48 hour rate

Parallel Batteries

0.85

6014 Ah

2-volt cell
= 3.7

round to

4
[ 1632 ]

Chosen Battery Cap.

System Voltage
= [ 24 ]
= 12
Chosen Battery V.
[ 2 ]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Daily Load = ________ Module : _______ Module Output = ______

Series Batteries

Parallel Modules

Daily Load
.
Module X Derating X Charge
Output
Factor
Efficiency

[
[

Series Modules

= System Voltage
12

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

]
]X[

]X[
=

[________]
[
]

15-17

__________

__________

System Design System Sizing

Exercise



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.   % 

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1. 
   
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, 2
3
   


 
    
"#


Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-18

System Design System Sizing

Battery Cell Size


When you calculate the capacity of your battery bank, you will have to decide how
many real battery units you will put together in parallel to give you your capacity. Do
you choose just one huge cell, or a couple in parallel, or three, or ten?
For example, if you calculated that you needed 1000 Ah of capacity, would you
choose a single 1000 Ah cell, or two 500 Ah cells, or four 250 Ah cells?
In general, you want to keep the number of parallel connected batteries to a
minimum. This will reduce the possibility of the batteries getting out of equalization
with each other. Some parallel connected batteries could become more or less
charged than others.

Rule of Thumb: As a general guideline, it is recommended that you connect no


more than four batteries in parallel. Use this as a general rule of thumb.

If you find that your choice of battery means you have to connect 20 batteries in
parallel, for example, you should look at choosing a larger capacity unit so you need
fewer in parallel!
Many system designers prefer to design their system with two parallel strings. In this
way, if there is a problem with a battery cell, part of the battery bank can be removed
and worked on, while the system still has nominal voltage and can operate.
Different designers will have different preferences.

Exercise



0  



!4 
-    
" 
 
  "#
5

 


  6 
7

  8  

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-19

System Design System Sizing

Array Sizing
In the previous discussion we showed how battery sizing was based on operating
the loads during a period of below average insolation days, or days of autonomy.
Now we look at how to size the array based on replacing the daily load on the
average every day.

Basic Array Sizing Calculation


The basic method to calculate the array size is to divide the average daily Ah load by
the number of Ah that one module will produce in a day. This will give the number of
modules needed in parallel to produce the current for the load. The number of
modules needed in series is given by dividing the nominal system voltage by the
nominal voltage of one module.

Number Parallel Modules=

Daily Load Demand (Ah)


Module Daily Output (Ah)

Number Series Modules =

Nominal System Voltage (volts)


Nominal Module Voltage (volts)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-20

System Design System Sizing

Modifications To Array Sizing Formula


Derate Module Output By 10%
In the real world, modules loose some of their output due to environmental factor.
Dirt, dust and gradual aging can reduce the module output. The standard practice is
to derate the calculated output of a module by 10% to account for these
unpredictable factors. Think of this as a normal engineering safety factor, required
in the case of photovoltaic system design because we are relying on the weather.
Variations are to be expected. So we build in a margin of safety to insure that the
system works year after year.

Increase Load By 10% For Battery Coulombic Efficiency


During the charging process, flooded lead acid batteries will gas. This means that
some of the charge pushed through the battery by the modules is not turning into
usable capacity but is escaping the system. Thus a little extra current must be
generated to overcome this loss. This is the coulombic efficiency of the battery.
Usual practice allows for about 5-10 % loss due to gassing. So we must increase
the array size by about 10% over the load demand to account for this inefficiency in
the battery.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-21

System Design System Sizing

Complete Array Sizing Calculation


We must therefore modify the simple array sizing formula to account for these
factors.
(A) Divide the Daily Load by the Battery Coulombic Efficiency. This effectively
increases the daily load and gives the true load that the array must replace.
(B) Multiply the Module Daily Output by the Derating Factor. This reduces the
expected output from a module due to environmental and aging losses, and gives a
more conservative estimate of what can be expected from a module in the real
world.
Together these factors give the complete array sizing formula.

Number Parallel Modules

Daily Load (Ah)


Coulombic X [ Module X Derating ]
Efficiency
Output
Factor

Number Series Modules

Nominal System Voltage (volts)


Nominal Module Voltage (volts)

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-22

System Design System Sizing

Seasonal Variations Require Monthly Calculations


If the load profile is not constant it is wise to perform this calculation for the different
seasons or for each month. There is usually more output available in the summer,
spring and fall than in the winter. But the load may be greater in the summer as
well. The expected module output for each month or season should be divided into
the load for that month or season to calculate the number of modules needed for
each month. The required size would be the largest number needed during the
year.
For example, you may calculate that you need nine modules in the winter, but only
need seven modules in the summer. You would have to install the larger number to
meet your load demand throughout the year.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-23

System Design System Sizing

Choose A Module With The Proper Number


Of Cells In Series
The daily output of a module will depend greatly on the number of cells in series. All
cells and modules loose voltage with increasing temperature. This is a natural
phenomenon well understood by manufacturers. Modules are designed to operate
in different temperature climates for this reason.

36-Cell Modules For Hot Temperatures or MPT Applications


Manufactures usually produce a standard line of modules with 36 cells in series.
Modules with 36 cells in series are designed to operate near their Imp even in the
hottest of climates. The presence of 36 cells in series means that the Vmp at
standard temperature of 25 oC is about 17 volts, much more than needed to charge
a 12-volt battery. When these modules are placed in hot climates, they will loose
about two volts due to heat, and will have their Vmp at about 15 volts. This is
enough to charge all types of batteries, even in the hottest of climates. Modules with
36 cells therefore should be considered for all hot climates. They are also the
module of choice for systems with MPT, such as direct coupled water pumping
systems and utility interactive systems. All the potential power of the 36 cells will be
extracted by the MPT device, so no voltage is wasted.

33-Cell Modules For Moderate Temperatures


Solar module manufacturers may create modules with different number of cells in
series, so reduce module cost and to match different climates. The modules with 33
cells in series are designed to operate in moderate climates. The presence of 33
cells in series means that the Vmp at standard temperature of 25o C is about 16
volts, slightly more than needed to charge a 12-volt battery. When the module heats
up to about 40-45o C it will loose about one volt and will have its Vmp at about 15
volts. This is enough to successfully recharge any battery. But if the module is in a
very hot climate, then it will loose more voltage. If it heats up to 50o C or more, then
the voltage will drop to about 14 volts or less, and some current output reduction will
occur. This is not damaging to the module at all, but simply means that less than
optimal current will be generated. Thus 33 cell modules are best suited for
moderate climates and are not recommended for India.

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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-24

System Design System Sizing

Choosing A Module
36 cells:

Vmp @ 25oC = 17.4 volts


@ 50oC = 15.3 volts

hot climates
direct couple to DC motors
utility interconnection with MPT

33 cells:

Vmp @ 25oC = 15.9 volts


@ 50oC = 14.0 volts

moderate climates
general battery charging




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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-25

System Design System Sizing

Peak Hour Method Of Estimating Module


Daily Output
You can estimate module daily output by using weather data. This method involves
converting the actual measured insolation on a tilted surface into the equivalent
number of hours of peak hours of standard full sun irradiance at 1000 w/m2.
Multiplying the number of peak hours times the module peak output (Imp
measured at 1000 w/m2) gives an estimate for the number of Ah/day from a module.

Module Output Is Peak Hours X Peak Power


If the insolation data on a tilted surface is in units of kwh/m2 then the conversion to
peak hours is easy. For example, if the average insolation for a month is 6.6
kwh/m2, this can be rewritten as 6.6 hours X 1 kw/m2. But recall that 1 kwh/m2 is just
1000 watts/m2, and is just the standard irradiance used by manufacturers to rate
module output. It is as if the module was exposed to the standard peak irradiance
level of 1000 w/m2 for 6.6 hours. This of course did not happen, but it makes for a
simple calculation. The standard irradiance level of 1000 w/m2 is important because
module output at that condition is given in all manufacturers literature, so you can
simply use manufacturer's literature values. To calculate the Ah/day from a module
using peak hours, multiply the peak hours times the module Imp.

Estimating Module Output


Using Peak-Hour Method
Pretend that all real insolation was delivered at peak
irradiance level of 1000 W/m2
ex: 6.6 kwh/m2 =

1kw/m2

6.6 hours

peak
irradiance

peak
hours

Module Daily Output = Imp


(for 35 watt module)
= 2.0 amps

peak hours

6.6 hours

= 13.2 Ah



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15-26

System Design System Sizing

For example, the average daily irradiance profile is shown for a surface tilted to 20o
for Madras. The total insolation falling on that surface in March is 6.6 kw/m2. This
can be rewritten as 6.6 hours X 1 kw/m2. In the figure we show the equivalent
irradiance profile with the sun suddenly turning on to the peak irradiance level of
1000 w/m2 and staying at that level for 6.6 hours. Module output would be given by
multiplying this value for equivalent peak hours times the module Imp. For a typical
35 watt module with Imp of 2.0 amps, this would be 6.6 X 2 amps = 13.2 Ah/day.
For a typical 75-watt module with Imp of 4.4 amps, this would be 6.6 X 4.4 amps =
29 Ah/day.
If we look at the average daily irradiance profile for Madras in July, we see that the
total insolation that fell on a surface tilted to 20o would be only 4.5 kw/m2. This
would equate to 4.5 peak hours of irradiance.
Calculate array size based on the month with the lowest insolation for a load profile
that is constant throughout the year, or for each month and compare to the load
required for that month and choose the largest number of modules needed in any
month.

Peak Hours
o

Madras, Surface Tilted to 20 S

1200

Irradiance (w/m )

1000
800

6.6 kwh/m2

600
4.5 kwh/m2

400
200
0
4

10

12

14

16

18

20

Hour of Day
March

July



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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-27

System Design System Sizing

If insolation data is reported in units other than kwh/m2, such as Langleys


(calorie/cm2), megajoules/m2, or Btu/ft2, then multiply by the conversion factor
presented below to change into kwh/m2 and therefore peak hours.

Conversion Factors For Peak Hours

Unit of Insolation

Multiply by this factor to convert to peak hours...

kwh / m2 / day

1.0

Langley / day

0.01162

MJ / m2 / day

0.2777

Btu / ft2 / day

0.003155

 


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Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-28

System Design System Sizing

Weaknesses in the Peak Hour Method

There are some simplifications in the peak hour approach that should be
understood. For example, the effect of temperature on module output is
neglected in the peak hour approach. As a means to compensate the module
Imp is used in calculations. Since battery loads usually operate the module at
voltages slightly lower than the Vmp and therefore at currents slightly higher than
the Imp, using Imp for module output is being conservative. The effect of
temperature on module output is greater for modules with fewer cells in series.
So the peak hour method is more accurate for 36 cell modules, and less
accurate for 33 cell modules, especially in hot climates. Predictions in cold
climates will be more accurate for all modules.

In the peak hour method, the total measured solar insolation is translated into
peak hours of operation. Actually, at the beginning and ending of each day,
there will be some time when the irradiance will be too low and the module or
array voltage will not be sufficient to charge a battery. This error is usually quite
small, but is more pronounced for modules with fewer cells in series. Predictions
of Ah/day/module will be more accurate with this method for 36 cell modules than
for 33 cell modules.

The peak hour method assumes that module output is completely linear with
irradiance. It assumes that all modules will convert solar irradiance into electrical
power the same. But this is not the case. For example, high efficiency single
crystal solar cells can convert at low light levels more efficiently than some other
technologies. So this peak hour approach of multiplying hours times rated
current can overestimate the output of certain technologies.

In general however, the peak hour approach is a useful method for quickly
approximating module output given local measured insolation data on a tilted
surface.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-29

System Design System Sizing

Exercise



. 


69 :7

 
;< &






  
=


 
 




 
9
 
 
5$4

 >!# 
 


;?

;

@@@@@@@@@
5$4
 
>! 
 

A@@@@@@@@@@
A@@@@@@@@@@

< ?

;

@@@@@@@@@

5$4
 
>! 
 

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-30

A@@@@@@@@@@
A@@@@@@@@@@

System Design System Sizing

Leh
Latitude: 34 oN
Best Tilt: 50 oS
Jan
4.0

Feb
4.3

Mar
4.4

Apr
4.9

May
4.7

Jun
4.6

Jul
4.7

Aug
4.8

Sep
5.3

Oct
5.3

Nov
5.0

Dec
4.4

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep


5.9
6.5
6.6
6.4
5.8
5.0
4.5
4.9
5.3

    !

Oct
5.4

Nov
5.2

Dec
5.4

Madras
Latitude: 13 oN
Best Tilt: 15 oS

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-31

System Design System Sizing

Two examples of how to use the data are presented next. The first example is the
remote school, and the second is the remote cabin.

Example:

The remote school 24-volt DC load demand was determined to be 421


o
Ah/day. Use the insolation data given for Leh. We would use the 50 tilt to
produce the flattest insolation profile for the year to match the expected
constant load for the school used throughout the year.
o

The lowest insolation during the year at 50 tilt angle is 4.0 kwh/m during
January. This translates into 4.0 peak hours. Calculating the output from a
typical 75 watt module:
Module Output

4.0 peak hours

17.6 Ah/day

4.4 amps Imp

To calculate the number of modules needed for this load, we assume a


conservative battery coulombic efficiency of 90%, and apply the usual 10%
derating of module output:
Number of Parallel Modules

Number of Series Modules

421 Ah/day daily load


0.9 X [ 17.6 Ah/day X 0.9 ]

29.5 , round up to 30 modules

24 volt system voltage


12 volt module voltage (nominal)

2 in series

Total number of modules = 2 series X 30 parallel = 60 modules

The work for this example is worked out on the next page, using the lower portion of
the Array/Battery Sizing Form.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-32

System Design System Sizing

Array/Battery Sizing Form


System Description: Remote

School

(location: Leh worst

month: Jan)
Max. Daily Load

_____

Number of Reserve Days

_____

System Voltage

_____

Maximum Battery % Usage

_____

Average Discharge
Rate

Number of Days X Load Operating Time


Maximum Battery % Usage

Coldest Avg Temperature. =

_____

Battery Capacity
(@ ___ hour rate)

Number of Days X Max. Daily Load


Maximum % Usage X Temp. Derating

Chosen Battery
Capacity =

Temperature Derating

[_____ ] X [_____ ]
[
] X [

_____

_____ Ah

____________________________

_____@ _____hour rate

Parallel Batteries

= _____
(hours)

Voltage

Battery Capacity
=
Chosen Battery Cap.

[_____]
[

_____

_____

System Voltage
= [_____]
= _____
Chosen Battery V.
[
]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Week-Averaged = 421 Module : 75 watt Module Output = 17.6 Ah/day
Daily Load

Series Batteries

Parallel Modules

Daily Load
.
Module X Derating X Charge
Output
Factor
Efficiency

421 ]
[ 17.6 ] X [ 0.9 ] X [0.9 ]

Series Modules

= System Voltage
12

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

[24] =
12

15-33

29.5 -> 30

System Design System Sizing

Example:

The weekend cabin system was determined to have a daily load demand of
69.7 Ah/day. But if the system is really only going to be for weekend use,
then the array can be sized based on the Week Averaged Load Demand .
The array can be sized to replace the 2-day weekend demand over the entire
7-day week. Recalculating the 69.4 Ah/day daily load spread over the week:
69.4 Ah/day X 2 days / 7 days = 19.8 Ah/day week averaged.
Now we size the array to replace this amount on a daily basis.
Let the location for this system be near Madras. In this system we will use a
35-watt module, with a typical Imp of 2.0 amps. The best tilt angle for a
o
constant load demand throughout the year is 15 S.
o

The lowest insolation during the year at 15 tilt angle is 4.5 kwh/m during
July. This translates into 4.5 peak hours. Calculating the output from a
typical 35 watt module:
Module Output

4.5 peak hours

9.0 Ah/day

2.0 Imp

Assume the same conservative battery coulombic efficiency of 90%, and the
usual 10% module output derating factor.
The number of 35 watt modules needed for this application is given by
Number of Parallel Modules

Number of Series Modules

19.8 Ah/day avg daily load


0.9 X [ 9 Ah/day X 0.9 ]

2.7, round up to 3 modules

12 volt system voltage


12 volt module voltage (nominal)

1 module in series

Total number of modules = 1 series X 3 parallel = 3 modules

The work for this example is again worked out on the next page, using the lower
portion of the Array/Battery Sizing Form.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-34

System Design System Sizing

Array/Battery Sizing Form


System Description:

Weekend Cabin (Madras

worst month: July)

Max. Daily Load

_____

Number of Reserve Days

_____

System Voltage

_____

Maximum Battery % Usage

_____

Average Discharge
Rate

Number of Days X Load Operating Time


Maximum Battery % Usage

_____

Coldest Avg. Temperature. =

Battery Capacity
(@ ___ hour rate)

Chosen Battery
Capacity =

_____

Temperature Derating

_____

Number of Days X Max. Daily Load


Maximum % Usage X Temp. Derating
[_____ ] X [_____ ]
[
] X [

_____ Ah

_____

_____

_____

_____@ _____hour rate

Parallel Batteries

(hours)

Voltage

Battery Capacity
=
Chosen Battery Cap.

[_____]
[

System Voltage
= [_____]
= _____
Chosen Battery V.
[
]
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Week-Averaged = 19.8 Module : 35 watt Module Output = 9.0 Ah/day
Daily Load

Series Batteries

Parallel Modules

Daily Load
.
Module X Derating X Charge
Output
Factor
Efficiency

[ 19.8 ]
[9.0 ] X [ 0.9 ] X [0.9 ]

Series Modules

= System Voltage
12

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

[_12_]
12

15-35

2.7

-> 3
1

System Design System Sizing

Siemens Solar Module Output Tables


Siemens Solar has developed a variety of computer sizing programs that assist in
designing photovoltaic power systems for a wide variety of applications. The
advantage of using the output of a computer program is that all the important
variables, such as the effect of temperature on module performance, is taken into
account. Greater precision is possible when accounting for variables such as
battery efficiency and sun angle. The results of these computer calculations are
made available to you in the Appendix section to allow for more precise calculations
than is possible with peak hour estimations.
The Siemens Solar Module Output Tables contain module output values
calculated from these programs for over a hundred sites in the form of
Ah/day/module for each month of a typical year. Use these values in the complete
array sizing formula to calculate the number of modules needed.

Assumptions
For each location, the data includes the latitude and longitude, the Siemens Solar
map code identifier number, and then twelve output values, one for each month.
The values are calculated by the program PVSYSTEM, and are based on the
following assumptions:
(1) Constant load every month. This simplifies the automatic calculation process
and is applicable to a wide variety of situations.
(2) Best tilt angle for constant load. The computer chooses the array tilt angle that
best matches a constant load. This tilt angle is presented at the end of each
locations data.
(3) Module operating voltage of 14.3 volts. This is based on an assumed average
battery voltage of about 13.7 volts plus about .6 volts added for system losses
(4) Ground reflectance of 0.20 from dry grass.

Multiply SM55 Data By 1.44 To Create SP75 Data


There is a table of data for the 36-cell SM55 and for the 33-cell SM50-H. The values
for the SM55 can be used for the SP75 as well. Simply multiply the SM55 value by
1.44 to account for the larger cell used in the SP75.

Siemens Solar Basic PV Technology Course


Copyright 1998 Siemens Solar Industries

15-36

System Design System Sizing

The first page of the North American Region data table is presented to illustrate the
information presented. There are five regions of data: North America; Latin and
South America; Europe; Asia; and Africa. The most appropriate regional data for
you has been included.
NORTH AMERICAN
REGION
Module = SM55
Ah/day/module
Location

Map
Code

Lat

Long :
:
:

UNITED STATES
Alabama
BIRMINGHAM
MOBILE
MONTGOMERY
Alaska
ADAK
ANNETTE
BARROW
BETHEL
BETTLES
BIG DELTA
FAIRBANKS
GULKANA
HOMER
JUNEAU
KING SALMON
KODIAK
KOTZEBUE
MATANUSKA
MCGRATH
NOME
SUMMIT
YAKUTAT
Arizona
PHOENIX
PRESCOTT
TUCSON
WINSLOW
YUMA
Arkansas
FORT SMITH
LITTLE ROCK
California
ALPINE
ARCATA
ARROWHEAD
BAKERSFIELD
BLYTHE
BUTLER VALLEY RANCH
CARLSBAD
CARRISA PLAIN
CHULA VISTA
DAGGETT
DAVIS

867
868
224

34
31
32

87
88
86

900
901
902
136
904
905
158
907
908
909
910
911
912
185
913
914
915
916

52
55
71
61
67
64
65
62
60
58
59
58
67
62
63
65
63
60

177
132
157
162
152
146
148
145
152
135
157
152
163
149
156
165
149
140

197
871
220
873
874

33
35
32
35
33

112
112
111
111
115

875
180

35
35

94
92

692
881
693
882
695
1115
696
1223
697
884
152

33
41
34
35
34
41
33
35
33
35
39

117
124
117
119
115
124
117
120
117
117
122

:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:
:

JAN

FEB

MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEP

OCT

NOV

DEC

Best
Tilt

11.38 13.12 14.14 14.75 13.98 13.39 13.14 14.20 14.64 15.48 13.41 11.34
12.73 14.37 14.82 14.63 13.55 12.63 12.10 13.09 13.98 15.86 14.14 12.36
11.84 13.49 14.39 15.00 14.02 13.49 13.13 14.14 14.50 15.82 14.01 12.12

55
55
55

5.49
4.67
0.00
3.45
0.02
1.61
0.79
2.67
4.17
3.24
4.95
4.57
0.01
3.62
2.04
0.62
2.02
2.94

8.03
7.46
2.24
8.09
5.56
7.40
6.79
7.78
8.07
5.89
9.04
7.96
5.25
9.12
7.15
6.66
7.07
5.74

9.48
10.07
11.21
12.27
12.58
13.34
12.88
13.41
12.21
9.04
12.60
12.24
12.14
16.20
12.31
11.58
12.62
9.66

10.03
11.49
15.56
13.00
15.49
14.65
14.22
14.83
13.26
11.02
12.45
12.88
15.32
14.72
13.52
13.97
14.34
11.35

9.26
11.55
12.09
11.67
15.30
14.32
13.89
13.37
12.54
10.55
11.51
11.20
15.58
13.17
12.41
13.52
13.81
10.50

8.54
10.33
15.13
10.80
14.47
13.35
13.26
12.82
12.26
10.42
10.62
11.21
15.23
12.30
11.67
13.22
12.08
10.03

8.39
10.67
15.22
9.61
12.89
12.84
12.37
12.47
11.85
9.85
10.04
10.83
13.35
11.50
10.68
11.21
11.01
9.39

8.27
10.41
10.36
8.28
11.22
12.46
11.30
12.25
10.96
9.10
9.27
10.95
11.34
11.05
9.76
9.73
10.11
8.81

8.74
9.88
6.47
9.20
10.62
11.46
10.61
11.31
10.41
7.93
9.91
10.30
10.36
9.92
9.72
9.77
9.98
8.10

8.70
7.10
2.79
7.50
6.34
7.56
6.79
8.78
8.99
5.53
9.59
9.75
6.53
7.75
6.77
7.11
7.86
6.46

6.96
5.21
0.03
4.10
1.28
3.29
2.66
3.83
5.51
3.72
6.33
5.93
0.71
4.76
3.41
1.99
3.72
3.56

4.90
3.34
0.00
1.62
0.00
0.00
0.00
0.72
2.18
1.63
3.46
3.26
0.00
1.75
0.33
0.00
0.20
1.37

70
75
55
80
80
80
80
80
80
75
80
75
75
80
80
80
80
75

17.62
17.95
18.38
17.46
18.56

19.61
19.60
20.12
19.62
20.43

20.31
20.84
21.00
21.00
21.69

20.48
21.31
21.20
21.47
21.59

19.07
20.72
20.05
20.51
20.37

17.59
19.95
18.72
19.64
19.16

16.73
17.58
17.02
17.81
17.43