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John C. Wiles
SWTDI/NMSU
Box 30001/ Dept. 3 SOLAR
Las Cruces, NM 88003
505-646-6105

FAX 505-646-3841

5A
ORAL
ANALYSES OF GROUNDED AND UNGROUNDED
PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER SYSTEMS

Ward Bower
Sandia National Laboratories
Photovoltaic Systems Applications
Albuquerque, NM 87185-0753
and
John Wiles
Southwest Technology Development Institute
New Mexico State University

Box30001/Dept3 SOLAR
Las Cruces, NM 88003

Photovoltaic (PV) modules and photovoltaic balance of systems equipment


are designed, manufactured, and marketed internationally.
Each country or
group of countries has a set of electrical safety codes, either in place or
evolving, that guide and regulate the design and installation of PV power
systems. A basic difference in these codes is that some require hard (lowresistance) grounding (the United States and Canada) and others opt for an
essentially ungrounded system (Europe and Japan). The significant design
and safety issues that exist between the two grounding concepts affect the
international PV industrys ability to economically and effectively design and
market safe, reliable, and durable PV systems in the global market place.
This paper will analyze the technical and safety benefits, penalties, and costs
of both grounded and ungrounded PV systems. The existing grounding
practice in several typical countries will be addressed.
Thiswork wasSupported
by the United
states Department of Energyunder
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documetit.

The figures below show some of the many possible grounding configurations.
They range from the entirely ungrounded system to the solidly grounded
system with equipment grounding, surge suppression, and ground-fault
detection.
Electrical shock scenarios and equipment damage due to lightning strikes,
faulty equipment, improper installations, improper usage, and faults to
higher voltage systems will be analyzed for both types of systems. The safety
of the systems in normal operation, often operated by untrained persons, will
be addressed and contrasted with safety during maintenance operations by
trained persons. The configuration of the grounding system may be dictated
by safety considerations for the user and/or the service technician. The
system may require several different operating modes or configurations
depending on the accessibility of the system to both trained and untrained
persons.

Particulargroundingtechniquesor combinationsof techniquesthat offer


significant

safety and/or

cost benefits will be identified.

Changes needed in

the design and electrical performance of commonly used electrical switchgear


in PV systems will be addressed

as well as the status of the development

and

use of ground-fault detectors (for electrical personnel safety and for fire safety)
for both types of systems.
The cost impacts in the implementation
will be addressed.

of the different grounding systems

The information contained in this paper will impact the current and future
design and installation of PV systems. It will also impact the design,
development, and manufacture of balance-of-systems equipment for PV
systems. The information will yield positive contributions to the overall
safety, reliability, and durability of photovoltaic power systems throughout
the world.
Material for this paper will be based on original research and testing by the
authors, previous IEEE papers by the authors and others, and material from
several IEEE Standards. Information from documents published by U. S.
National Laboratories, texts on grounding published by the International
Association of Electrical Inspectors, and information relating to European and
Japanese PV systems will also be used.

lnverter
PV
Array

&
Balance of
Systems

Load

IEEE-94A-1

Ungrounded

lnverter
&
Balance of
Systems

PV
Array

Load

GF

GF

I
-

Ungrounded with Ground-Fault

Detection
IEEE-94A-2
3

PV
Array

lnverter

&
Balance of
Systems

Surge Suppression

-I

Load

IEEE-94A-3

Surge Suppression

l-

PV
Array

Surge Suppression,

and Equipment Grounding

lnvetter
&
Balance of
Systems

Equipment Grounding, and System Grounding


IEEE-94A.5

ANALYSES OF GROUNDED AND UNGROUNDED PHOTOVOLTAIC POWER SYSTEMS


Ward Bower, Photovoltaic Systems Applications, Sandia National Laboratories
John Wiles, SW Technology Development Institute, New Mexico State University
Photovbltaic (PV) modules and photovoltaic balance of systems equipment are designed,
manufactured and marketed internationally. Each country or group of countries has a set
of electrical safety codes, either in place or evolving, that guide and regulate the design and
installation of PV power systems. A basic difference in these codes is that some require
hard (low-resistance) grounding (the United States and Canada) and others opt for an
essentially ungrounded system (Europe and Japan). Significant design and safety issues
exist between the two grounding concepts that affect the international PV industrys ability
to effectively design and market safe, reliable, and durable PV systems in the global market
place. This paper will analyze the technical and safety benefits, penalties, and costs of both
grounded and ungrounded PV systems. The existing grounding practice in several typical
countries will be addressed. The information contained in this paper will impact the
current and future design and installation of PV systems. It will also impact the design,
development, and manufacture of balance-of-systems equipment for PV systems. The
information
will yield positive contributions to the overall safety, reliability,
and
durability of photovoltaic power systems throughout the world. Material for this paper
will be based on original research and testing by the authors, previous IEEE papers by the
Information
from
authors and others, and material from several IEEE Standards.
documents published by U. S. National Laboratories, texts on grounding published by the
International Association of Electrical Inspectors, and information relating to European
and Japanese PV systems will also be used.