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System design concepts in Design, Installation, Testing, Commissioning and

Maintenance of a typical 1MW Grid Connected Solar Photovoltaic Plant are

The different aspects that are to be considered in chronological order are divided
into different headings viz.

1. Solar PV Module

2. Area Requirements

3. Plant Layout

4. Structure Design

5. Soil Parameters

6. Cable Routing and Ducting

7. Connection of Modules in a Panel(String)

8. Connection of Panels (String) in an Array

9. Junction Box Design and String Monitoring

10. Selection of Inverter

11. Control Room Requirements

12. Aggregation of 3 Power and Isolation Transformer

13. Step-up Transformer to connect the generated power to Grid

14. Circuit Breakers and Safety Measures

15. Earthing Requirements

16. Operational Maintenance issues


1. Solar PV Module
Broadly two types of PV materials are popularly used. They are 1) Thin Film
2) Crystalline. Present conversion efficiency of these materials are varying from 7%
to 14%. Accordingly to realize the targeted 1MW of power the land area to be
covered with solar panels will vary by a factor of 2. However, which type of solar PV
cells are to be employed in a particular project is largely decided by the end user.
The size of a cell is typically 156 x 156 mm2 and different modules are constructed
connecting these cells in series of 36/60/72 to give power, ranging from 130 to
300 watts with a voltage out put of 18V to 36V and current of 8Amp at standard
1000W/m2 of Sun Insolation/radiation. The weight of a typical module with (10x6)
cell structure is around 19kg and gives an out put wattage of 230W at Voltage of
30Volts and current of 8 Amp with dimensions of 1.68m x 1.00m

2. Area Requirements

Typical power of a 60 cell, each cell (156mm)2, module is 230W occupying an area
of 1.64m2. To scale up the power, such modules are mounted together (typically 12
or 24 modules) into a flat panel with suitable support frame. The support frame is
mounted on a structure at a tilt angle of (15o to 45o) towards south in the Northern
Hemisphere and towards North in the Southern Hemisphere for optimum collection
of Sun energy from morning to evening. Auto tracking models during each day and
during different seasons of the year are also available. We are at present
considering the manual tilt (15o to 45o) for optimum collection of radiation during
different seasons of the year without considering, Sun auto tracking during the day
and during different seasons. For proper ventilation/free flow of air so as to reduce
module temperature, to avoid flooding during rainy seasons and to avoid shading of
panels by bushes the lowest position of the modules is kept 0.2meters above
ground level.


Fig: 12 Modules Panel Dimensions

Fig: 36 Cell (4X9) Modules @ 10-11 Kg Fig: 54 (6X9) Cell Modules @ 15-16 Kg


Fig: 72 Cell (6 X 12) Modules
Fig: 60 Cell (6 X 10) Modules
@ 25-27 Kg
@ 17-19 Kg


Sun angle with respect to compass east during different seasons

In full auto tracking system the panel is at 90 W.r.t sunlight always.

Fig: Gap between different rows of panels


To avoid shading during different seasons, a gap of 3.4 to 4.0 meters should be
kept between two rows in India. A typical drawing is shown above with relevant

Size of a 12 modules panel : 6 x 3.2 m

Real area needed for the panel on the ground : 6 x (2.26+3.4)

Power generated by this panel : 230 x 12 = 2760w

Min panel area for 1MW : 1000000 (6 x 5.66) / 2760 m2 =12304m2

= 1.2304 Hectors = 3.04 Acres.

Max Panel Area : 1000000 (6 x 6.26) / 2760 m2 =13608m2

= 3.36 Acres.

Additional land is required for Control Room to install Inverters, LT Transformer, HT

Transformers and switch yard which may be another one acre.

As a thumb rule we need about 4.0 acres for 1MW with crystalline modules. An
additional 3.5 Acres, if we opt for thin film modules i.e. 7.5 Acres/MW.

More area is required if we opt for Auto Tracking systems.

3. Plant Layout

To optimize the cabling cost and to increase the efficiencies of Solar Power Plant,
plant layout is very important. A typical layout is depicted to illustrate the different
areas in a solar power plant. As calculated in the previous chapter the bulk of the
land is occupied by the panels. It is very critical to see that no shading comes in the
panel area and the complete panel areas should ideally surrounded the
inverter/control room. The three phase output form inverter/control room is
coupled to the LT/HT switch yard and to the grid through appropriate isolation,
step-up HV transformers and switch gear.


Fig: Typical Layout of Solar Plant

Inverters 250 KVA to 500 KVA are available modularly and the inputs have got
capacity to couple the DC power for a multi-string operation. If we consider a
typical 250 KVA inverter which three multi-string inputs with MPPT (Maximum
Power Point Tracking which will be deliberated in the succeeding chapter) facility.
Then it is better to design (ideally) three equal power stings of about 85 KVA to
each inverter i.e. about 15 number of 24 module panel. Though increasing the
voltage of each string is a better option to decrease copper losses, but a
compromise has to be made as the Max DC voltage of a typical inverter is around
900V only and also the Max voltage of a module is 1000 VDC as per IEC (Europe /
Indian Standards), 600 VDC as per UL (USA & CANADA standards) that can be
there on a module.

4. Structure Design

Standard 60 cell module has dimensions of 1657 mm x 987 mm and housed in an

aluminum frame, weighing around 19Kg which is tested for all the environmental
specification and an estimated life (tested under simulated condition) span of 25
years. Such modules are mounted on a frame structure to withstand the expected


outdoor weather conditions during the next 25 years. A typical 12 module structure
is shown below the same can be replicated 2nd time for a 24 module structure.

The structure basically has four elements. They are..

1) Base Frame to house all the 12 modules

2) A horizontal 6 meter truss to take the load of the basic frame

3) Vertical I cross-sectional beams to transfer the load vertically down to ground

4) The tilting mechanism to tilt the whole frame from 15o to 45o in the North-South

Fig: Base Frame for SPV Modules


Fig: Structure Design with Tilt

Design of the structure has to take the load of all the modules, should withstand
the probable maximum wind speed loads (130 Kmph-2400 Pa & 198 Kmph- 5400
Pa) depending upon the location during the next 25 years, should withstand
moisture and saline weather if it is a sea coast. The I beams are rammed into the
soil to a depth sufficient to take care of all the above loads. The complete top lines
of the I-beam should be at the same level to avoid shading. Proper
Galvanizing/anodizing/painting of the structure is very important as the integrity of
the structure depends heavily on these factors.



Selections of Land and Module Mounting Procedure:

Selections of Land:

Below are some of the issues that a solar power plant developer needs to consider
when selecting a site.

Quality of terrain
Sloped land, excessively rocky or sandy terrain, uneven land etc can all significantly
add to the cost of installing a Solar Power Plant.

Local weathering factors

Desert conditions often coincide with excessive dust fall, flooding and flash flooding,
high erosion etc, and these can limit the viability of a site and in many cases can
make a site non-viable.

Proximity to High Transmission Capacity Lines

One of the biggest hidden costs of a Solar Power Plant is the distance required to
connect a system to high voltage lines capable of carrying the excess production.
The costs of even a few extra kilometers can completely destroy the profitability of
a Solar Power Plant.

Local Transmission Capacity

Worse, in many places, power grids are not able to handle the excess capacity that
a Solar Power Plant would introduce. This has been a persistent problem which the
project developer has to take into consideration.

Conservation and Environmental Impact Issues

Large tracts of undeveloped land too often coincide with sensitive or protected
areas or protected species. Often the presence of a single protected species of
plant or animal can halt or completely alter the development plans for a Solar
Power Plant, and for example in California, the evidence of single endangered
burrowing owl halted the development of a Solar Power Plant project worth
hundreds of millions. Thin films are especially bad as they really require the land to
be completely covered to get a useful watts/acre ratio.

Agricultural Concerns
most government agencies responsible for agriculture do not want to see Power
Planters paving over their fields with Solar panels. Available land near electrical
demand centers is usually agricultural land this will turn into a bigger and bigger
issue as time goes on.

Local Regulations and Ownership

it is surprising the number of issues that can arise, even in a friendly regulatory
framework. Objections from the military over concerns with reflections interfering
with pilots vision or ground construction causing problems with radar installations,
construction permits and agricultural land limits on depth of holes allowed on a site
are examples of regulations that can affect a site. This has been a consistent issue



with site selection for Solar Power Plants everywhere. Further, although this
depends on local factors, land ownership of the Solar Power Plant land itself, or the
right of way required for construction access and/or connection to high voltage
transmission can severely complicate factors, especially when previously
worthless land is suddenly perceived as valuable.

Leveling: Utilizing a tripod base attached to the ground with helical pier anchors,
PV Trackers is able to install power plants quickly. Time and money are saved by
having no site leveling and grading, no pouring and curing concrete, and no on-site

Layout Plan: Layout plan describes the module layout, control room positions,
switch yard position, cable routing, junction box placement, compound wall/
fencing, water displacement position which is used for water curing, bore position.

Marking: Marking of the site of the structure plays key role in setting up a solar
power plant. Marking of structure can be done by GPS or by a zig method.

GPS method needs a GPS equipment where we need to feed the structure data to
the GPS and in turn we GPS equipment guide us to mark the each individual
structure leg where ever required as per the fed data.

Zig method needs a structure zig made of MS based on the structure design
(dimensions). For we need to have a reference point which will be marked using
GPS method.

Foundation: Base foundation of the structure is done as per the soil conditions and
climate conditions of a given particular site. Foundation of the structure can be
done by following methods

Ramming: This is a technology where we hammer the given beam or the channel
into the ground at a marked point to given length as per the site. For this
technology we require a ramming machine.

Piling: In piling technology, we pile the screw type pipe into the ground to the
given length as per the site condition. For this technology we require a pile driver or
a pile machine.

Concrete: This is the general foundation technology, where we make a concrete

base with sand, Metal and Cement with an anchor bolt support, where we assemble
the given structure on the base of the structure.



5. Soil Parameters:
Before installing the solar power system in any location, proper site survey has to
be made to finalize the location of the panel area, inverter/control room and switch
yard areas. Soil testing has to be done to determine the load taking capacity of the
soil, the depth to which the I-beams are to be rammed depends basically on the
type of soil. Salinity of the soil also has to be taken into consideration before

Fig: Beam Grouting on the Soil

deciding the Galvanization/Anodization thickness of the I-beams. Concreting of the

I-beams at the ground surface level will reduce rusting of the I-beams just above
the ground level.

Undulations of soils are to be considered to calculate the length and depth to which
the I-beams are to be grouted.

Considerations like menace from Monkeys, Nearness to Substation etc., to be

considered in the Site Survey.



6. Cable Routing and Ducting

The basic cable at the module level which is handling 8A of current is 4.0mm2 PVC
copper cable. The complete cabling within each panel is also with the same cross
section as the current handling is same ie 8 Amp. The cabling from two adjacent
panels are added with a T joint and the T leg cross section is 6/10 mm2 to handle
16Amp of current. This cable proceeds up to field installed Array junction box.
Special care has to be taken at the T joint which has to be moulded for the integrity
of the joint and not to absorb moisture and fog for the firm contact over the life
span of the plant.

Fig: Panels

Fig: Cable Routing through AJBs in Panels



Fig: Array Junction Box

A maximum of 8 such strings are coming to the Array junction box and one string
of max 120Amp is going to inverter. The minimum cross section for this cable shall
be 80mm2. To reduce overall copper losses within 2% of the generated DC power a
higher cross sectional cables may be required. All individual cables must pass
through underground HDPE pipes so as to avoid shorting of cables and to avoid rat

The cable route form the solar panels to the inverter room through the field
installed Array junction boxes shall be shortest possible length.



7. Connection of Modules in a Panel (String)

The DC voltage of each module (30V/8A) is connected in series in a panel of 24

modules to increase the power capacity of the panel to 720V/8A (5760 watts). The
orientation of junction box along with one meter cable and Male/Female connectors
to each junction box are depicted. After fixing the modules in the panel, adjacent
modules can be simply connected horizontally. Care is already taken in the junction
box, cable and connector wiring, such that fail safe wiring is achieved.

Fig: SPV Module Connection in Panel

As PV solar system is a low voltage high current power system, respect has to be
given to each cable connection, connector wiring and inter-connection of connectors
to reduce contact resistance and avoid associated thermal problem at the joints.
Two wires (string of 720V x 8A =5760Watts) from a panel is further wired to
increase the current/power capacity.



8. Connection of Panels (String) in an Array

The diagram shown is self explanatory. 15 panels in a row are interconnected

(Array) to give a typical out put of 720V x 120A (86400W) to be connected
to one of the input of inverter through a MPPT.

Fig: Connection of Panels to AJB

Initially two panels are connected parallelly for any output of 720V/16A. This can be
repeated or depending upon the site location three such panels can be coupled to
give an output of 720V/24A string.

In the sketch shown for a 15 panel array 6 output of 720V/16A and one output of
720V/24A are coming to a junction box. The junction box output is 720V/120A
(86kW). Three such outputs are given to a 250KW inverter through 3 MPPT ports.
Cable selection, cable joints and selection of (physical location) panels in an array
are important considerations before finalizing the design to reduce cable costs and
cable losses.



9. Junction Box Design and String Monitoring

A maximum of 8 strings from the field covering about 15 numbers of 24 module

panels to generate a DC power of about 85KW is connected to a IP/65 junction box.
This junction box covers panels in an area of approx 60M x 20M. Hence the
maximum cable length from the panels to the junction box is 40 meters. To reduce
both copper losses and local loop currents JB should be fixed in the centre of the
60M x 20M area covering 15 panels as shown in the sketch. Selection of JB material
with proper cable glands to withstand all weather UV light immunity. JB should
have surge suppressor for both the lines.

String current monitoring system should also be implanted at the JB level to

monitor the currents in each incoming string and the voltage of the common bus

11. Control Room Requirements

The requirements of the Control Room are to

a. Shelter all the Inverters

b. False Flooring for concealed cabling.
c. To house all LT Panels
d. SCADA Panel
e. Hot Air exhaust mechanism
f. Earthing

a. Inverters typically of 800 x 2100 x 600 (W x H x D) mm weighing 1000 Kg

need real space in the control room depending upon the size of the plant,
number of inverters and corresponding real space with proper clearance,
both at the front and rear with door opening for testing and ease of
maintenance. False flooring should be earmarked in the beginning.



b. All the DC cables from the field directly enter the control room through HDPE
pipes. The area where inverter, LT Panels and SCADA systems are physically
located should have false flooring to have concealed cabling for good looks
and better maintenance. The cables are glanded and enter inverter rack. For
identification all the cables are to be labeled.
c. The 3 voltage from the inverters is to be stepped up before connecting to
grid. But their power has to be routed through LT panels for isolation purpose
and ease of maintenance.
d. SCADA panel: the flow of input DC power and the 3 output power from
each inverter is continuously monitored from the SCADA system. The SCADA
system is connected on the web and the performance of Solar Power plant
can be monitored from the remote places as well. Certain safety parameters
are set in the SCADA system to monitor the control room operations and
shuts off the inverter in case of malfunctioning.
e. Air Handling Unit: Typically the efficiency of an inverter is in the range of
97% to 98%. For a 1MW power plant with 2/4 (500 KW-2 Nos / 250 KW-4
Nos) inverters, the total heat generated in the room is around 30KW. This
heat has to be pushed out through exhaust fans and air ducting system.
Proper ventilation and air filtering system is recommended for the control
f. Earthing: Typically power handled by control room is in the range of 5 to
10MW, proper earth pits at individual inverters level and SCADA system is
essential. Preferably SCADA earthing should not be coupled to inverter
earthing to avoid electrical surges into the SCADA system.



12. Aggregation of 3 Power and Step-up Transformer

The 3 AC power (400V) from the inverter is coupled to the 11KV step-up

transformer through LT Panel. To reduce the cost of transformers, close by

inverters can be coupled to individual primaries of the step-up transformers as

shown below.

Fig: 3- Power & Transformer connections from Inverters

The output 11kv from all such transformer will go to 11KV common line for further

stepping up before connecting it to the grid. It is to be noted that all the inverters

are grid synchronized at the inverter level itself.




Inverters are used for converting the DC power produced by photovoltaic modules

into single phase or three phase AC power with good efficiency.

Each inverter has the following elements.

Power circuit with insulated gate bipolar transistor (IGBT), film capacitors,

low inductance connections.

Microcontroller and DSP software for the digital management

400 V three phase AC output.

Fig: Schematic of an Inverter



Fig: Schematic of Circuit Breaker

A typical inverter will have features like

a) AC Connection

b) Error signal output

c) Control Voltage

d) Communication module with RS 485



Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT):

Fig: I-V & Power Curve for MPPT

The inverter is equipped with a voltage controller which adjusts the DC Voltage
automatically, such that the module can be operated at the Maximum Power

The inverter must have three phase output circuit breaker, ultra rapid fuses,
contactors for grid side insertion and iron three phase filter reactors. More
number of MPPTs at the inverter is always preferable.

The two stage design consists of a Booster and an IGBTs for DC/AC conversion
for connection to the grid.



1st Stage of Conversion:

Booster: The current coming from the PV Power plant characterized by a voltage
that varies with the solar radiation and with the temperature of the modules.
The booster of the conversion system has a dual function.

To increase the variable voltage from the PV power plant

MPPT Function: The System includes the tracking of the operating point at
maximum power. Inverters are characterized by having multiple MPPT boosters and
are mutually independent.

2nd Stage of Conversion: Regenerative inverter

The conversion from DC to AC is performed in IGBT regenerative inverter.

Centralized Boosters:

Boosters are embedded in the inverter cabinet, with a compact and simple

Fig: PV Array with Centralized Booster



Distributed Boosters:

Each string or group of strings is associated to a single booster with an independent

MPPT. The systems developed with distributed boosters have higher efficiencies for
similarities. Mismatching between strings, the losses due to shading and the
derating of the modules are reduced. The converters are equipped with touch
screen operating panel for the set up of the inverter with the intuitive control of the
operating parameters. The panel has a built in Data logger for data storage
including data collected from Individual string boxes connected to it.

Communication with remote supervision computer takes place through TCP/MOD

BUS protocol.

Easy Connection to Grid: The connection to grid is simplified by the 400 V AC

output and the direct paralleling of inverters on the same secondary winding of a

LV-MT transformer.

Fig: PV Array with Distributed Boosters



Distributed Booster Inverter: The distributed boosters are installed near the

modules and integrates the function of string monitoring and control. These

inverters are the best in all the applications, where it is important to optimize the

contribution of each string.

Strings or modules with high mismatching.

Strings with different V & I Characteristics.

Strings shaded in different ways.

Connection to the Grid:

The inverter must be connected to the star winding of the transformer and the star

point grounded. The star point of the Isolation transformer must be connected to

the Functional Neutral of each Inverter without interruptions. If a circuit breaker

(i.e., for the parallel of the converters) is inserted between the inverter and

Isolation transformer, providing a three pole switch with an external current sensor

for neutral protection. Calibration of the neutral protection must be set to 50%.

Inverters even of different sizes can be connected directly in parallel. The expected

short circuit current calculated in the point of paralleling of the inverters must not

exceed 30 KA.



Isolation Transformer:

The connection of the inverters can only occur through an external isolation

transformer (LV/LV or LV/MV), to ensure galvanic separation between three phase

AC grid and DC side of the converter.

Transformers Specifications:

Primary winding of 400 V AC 3Phase+Neutral for connection of the


Secondary Winding: Voltage on load.

AC 400 V, 3F for Connection to LV grid.

Rated MV grid for the connection to the MV grid with 2 x 2.5% adjustment


LV insolation voltage / test: 1.1 KV/3.5 KV, 50 Hz.

For LV/MV transformers, grounded shield between Primary and Secondary