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Photovoltaic Design and Installation

Bucknell University Solar Scholars Program

Presenters: Colin Davies 08 Eric Fournier 08


Why Renewable Energy? The Science of Photovoltaics System Configurations Principle Design Elements The Solar Scholars program at Bucknell (walking tour)

Whats wrong with this picture?

Pollution from burning fossil fuels leads to an increase in greenhouse gases, acid rain, and the degradation of public health. In 2005, the U.S. emitted 2,513,609 metric tons of carbon dioxide, 10,340 metric tons of sulfur dioxide, and 3,961 metric tons of nitrogen oxides from its power plants.


85% of our energy consumption is from fossil fuels!

Why Sustainable Energy Matters

The worlds current energy system is built around fossil fuels Problems:
Fossil fuel reserves are ultimately finite Two-thirds of the world' s proven oil reserves are locating in the Middle-East and North Africa (which can lead to political and economic instability)

Why Sustainable Energy Matters

Detrimental environmental impacts Extraction (mining operations) Combustion Global warming? (could lead to significant
changes in the world' s climate system, leading to a rise in sea level and disruption of agriculture and ecosystems)

A Sustainable Energy Future

Develop and deploy renewable energy sources on a much wider scale Bring down cost of renewable energy Make improvements in the efficiency of energy conversion, distribution, and use Three Methods: - Incentives - Economy of scale - Regulation

Making the Change to Renewable Energy

Solar Geothermal Wind Hydroelectric

Todays Solar Picture

Germany leads solar production (over 4.5 times more then US production) Japan is 2nd (nearly 3 times more then US production) this is mainly due to incentives

Financial Incentives

Investment subsidies: cost of installation of a system is subsidized Net metering: the electricity utility buys PV electricity from the producer under a multiyear contract at a guaranteed rate Renewable Energy Certificates ("RECs")

Solar in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is in fact a leader in renewable energy Incentives

Local & state grant and loan programs Tax deductions RECs (in 2006: varied from $5 to $90 per MWh, median about $20)

Harnessing the Sun

Commonly known as solar cells, photovoltaic (PV) devices convert light energy into electrical energy PV cells are constructed with semiconductor materials, usually silicon-based The photovoltaic effect is the basic physical process by which a PV cell converts sunlight into electricity When light shines on a PV cell, it may be reflected, absorbed, or pass right through. But only the absorbed light generates electricity.


Part 2: Learning Objectives

Compare AC and DC electrical current and understand their important differences Explain the relationship between volts, amps, amp-hours, watts, watt-hours, and kilowatthours Learn about using electrical meters

Electricity Terminology

Electricity = Flowing electrons Differences in electrical potential create electron flow Loads harness the kinetic energy of these flowing electrons to do work Flowing water is a good conceptual tool for understanding

Electricity Terminology

Voltage (E or V)

Unit of electromotive force Can be thought of as electrical pressure Rate of electron flow Electrical current 1 Amp = 1 coulomb/second = 6.3 x 1018 electrons/second

Amps (I or A)

Electricity Terminology

Resistance (R or )

The opposition of a material to the flow of an electrical current Depends on

Material Cross sectional area Length Temperature

Electricity Terminology

Watt (W) are a measure of Power

Unit rate of electrical energy

Amps x Volts = Watts 1 Kilowatt (kW) = 1000 watts

Electricity Terminology

Watt-hour (Wh) is a measure of energy

Unit quantity of electrical energy (consumption and production) Watts x hours = Watt-hours

1 Kilowatt-hour (kWh) = 1000 Wh

Power and Energy Calculation

Draw a PV array composed of four 75 watt modules. What size is the system in watts ?

Electricity Terminology

Amp-hour (Ah)

Quantity of electron flow Used for battery sizing Amps x hours = Amp-hours Amp-hours x Volts = Watt-hours

A 200 Ah Battery delivering 1A will last _____ hours 200 Ah Battery delivering10 A will last _____ hours 100 Ah Battery x 12 V = _____ Wh

Types of Electrical Current

DC = Direct Current

PV panels produce DC Batteries store DC Utility power Most consumer appliances use AC

AC = Alternating Current

Meters and Testing

Clamp on meter Digital multimeter

Never test battery current using a multimeter!

System Types

Part 1: Learning Objectives

Understand the functions of PV components Identify different system types

Photovoltaic (PV) Terminology

Cell < Module < Panel < Array Battery stores DC energy Controller senses battery voltage and regulates charging Inverter converts direct current (DC ) energy to alternating current (AC) energy Loads anything that consumes energy

Systems with DC Loads

DC System Options

Battery backup vs. discontinuous use LVD option in charge controller Load controllers

Systems with AC loads

AC System Options

Combined AC and DC loads Hybrid system with back up generator Grid tied utility interactive system without batteries Grid tied interactive with battery backup (why might you need this?)

Grid-Tied System
(Without Batteries)


Low: Easy to install (less components) Grid can supplement power No power when grid goes down

Grid Interaction

Grid-Tied System
(With Batteries)


High: Due to the addition of batteries Grid still supplements power When grid goes down batteries supply power to loads (aka battery backup)

Grid Interaction

PV Modules

Part 3: Learning Objectives

Learn how a PV cell produces electricity from sunlight Discuss the 3 basic types of PV cell technologies Understand the effects of cell temperature and solar insolation on PV performance Gain understanding of module specification Identify the various parts of a module

Solar Cells and the PV Effect

Usually produced with Semi-conductor grade silicon Doping agents create positive and negative regions P/N junction results in 0.5 volts per cell Sunlight knocks available electrons loose Wire grid provides a path to direct current

Inside a PV Cell

Available Cell Technologies

Single-crystal or Mono-crystalline Silicon

Polycrystalline or Multi-crystalline Silicon

Thin film

Ex. Amorphous silicon or Cadmium Telluride

Monocrystalline Silicon Modules

Most efficient commercially available module (11% - 14%) Most expensive to produce Circular (square-round) cell creates wasted space on module

Polycrystalline Silicon Modules

Less expensive to make than single crystalline modules Cells slightly less efficient than a single crystalline (10% - 12%) Square shape cells fit into module efficiently using the entire space

Amorphous Thin Film

Most inexpensive technology to produce Metal grid replaced with transparent oxides Efficiency = 6 8 % Can be deposited on flexible substrates Less susceptible to shading problems Better performance in low light conditions that with crystalline modules

Selecting the Correct Module

Practical Criteria

Size Voltage Availability Warranty Mounting Characteristics Cost (per watt)

Current-Voltage (I-V) Curve

Voltage Terminology

Nominal Voltage

Ex. A PV panel that is sized to charge a 12 V battery, but reads higher than 12 V) Ex. A PV panel with a 12 V nominal voltage will read 17V18V under MPPT conditions)

Maximum Power Voltage (Vmax / Vmp)

Open Circuit Voltage (Voc )

This is seen in the early morning, late evening, and while testing the module)
25 C (77 ) cell temperature and 1000 W/m2 insolation

Standard Test Conditions (STC)

Effects of Temperature

As the PV cell temperature increases above 25 C, the module Vmp decreases by approximately 0.5% per degree C

Effects of Shading/Low Insolation

As insolation decreases amperage decreases while voltage remains roughly constant

Other Issues

Surface temperature can be measured using laser thermometers Insolation can be measured with a digital pyranometer Attaching a battery bank to a solar array will decrease power production capacity

PV Wiring

Part 4: Learning Objectives

List the characteristics of series circuits and parallel circuits Understand wiring of modules and batteries Describe 12V, 24V, and 48V designs

Series Connections

Loads/sources wired in series

VOLTAGES ARE ADDITIVE CURRENT IS EQUAL One interconnection wire is used between two components (negative connects with positive) Combined modules make series string Leave the series string from a terminal not used in the series connection

Parallel Connections

Loads/sources wired in parallel:

VOLTAGE REMAINS CONSTANT CURRENTS ARE ADDITIVE Two interconnection wires are used between two components (positive to positive and negative to negative) Leave off of either terminal Modules exiting to next component can happen at any parallel terminal

Quiz Time

If you have 4 12V / 3A panels in an array what would the power output be if that array were wired in series? What if it were wired in parallel? Is it possible to have a configuration that would produce 24 V / 6 A? Why?

Dissimilar Modules in Series

Voltage remains additive

If module A is 30V / 6A and module B is 15V / 3A the resulting voltage will be?

Current taken on the lowest value

For modules A and B wired in series what would be the current level of the array?

Dissimilar Modules in Parallel

Amperage remains additive

For the same modules A and B what would the voltage be?

Voltage takes on the lower value.

What would the voltage level of A and B wired in parallel be?

Shading on Modules
Depends on orientation of internal module circuitry relative to the orientation of the shading. SHADING can half or even completely eliminate the output of a solar array!

Wiring Introduction

PV installations must be in compliance with the National Electrical Code (NEC)

Refer to NEC Article 690 (Solar Photovoltaic Systems) for detailed electrical requirements Wire types, wire sizes Cables and conduit Voltage drops Disconnects Grounding

Discussion points

Wire Types

Conductor material = copper (most common) Insulation material = thermoplastic (most common)

THHN: most commonly used is dry, indoor locations THW, THWN, and TW can be used indoors or for wet outdoor applications in conduit UF and USE are good for moist or underground applications

Wire exposed to sunlight must be classed as sunlight resistant

Color Coding of Wires

Electrical wire insulation is color coded to designate its function and use
Alternating Current (AC) Wiring Direct Current (DC) Wiring Color Red
(not NEC req.)

Color Black White

Application Ungrounded Hot Grounded Conductor

Application Positive Negative or Grounded Conductor


Green or Bare
Red or any other color

Equipment Ground
Ungrounded Hot

Green or Bare Equipment Ground

Cables and Conduit

Cable: two or more insulated conductors having an overall covering

As with typical wire insulation, protective covering on cable is rated for specific uses (resistance to moisture, UV light, heat, chemicals, or abrasion) PVC is a common conduit used Using too many wires or too large of wires in a given conduit size can cause overheating and also causes problems when pulling wire

Conduit: metal or plastic pipe that contains wires

Wire Size

Wire size selection based on two criteria:

Ampacity Voltage drop The larger the wire, the greater its capacity to carry current Wire size given in terms of American Wire Gauge (AWG) The higher the gauge number, the smaller the wire

Ampacity: current carrying ability of a wire

Voltage drop: the loss of voltage due to a wires resistance and length

Function of wire gauge, length of wire, and current flow in the wire

Safety Considerations

Unsafe Wiring

Splices outside the box Currents in grounding conductors Indoor rated cable used outdoors Single conductor cable exposed Hot fuses

Disconnects Overcurrent Protection (Fuses & Breakers)

Safety Equipment


Overcurrent Protection

Allow electrical flow to be physically severed (disconnected) to allow for safe servicing of equipment

Protect an electrical circuit from damage caused by overload or short circuit Fuses Circuit Breakers


Limit voltages due to:

Lightning Power line surges Unintentional contact with higher voltage lines

Provides a current path for surplus electricity to travel too (earth) Two types of grounding:

Equipment grounding (attach all exposed metal parts of PV system to the grounding electrode) System grounding (at one point attach ground to one current carrying conductor)

DC side of system => Negative to ground AC side of system => Neutral to ground


Part 4: Learning Objectives

Battery basics Battery functions Types of batteries Charging/discharging Depth of discharge Battery safety

Batteries in Series and Parallel

Series connections

Builds voltage Builds amp-hour capacity

Parallel connections

Battery Basics
The Terms: Battery A device that stores electrical energy (chemical energy to electrical energy and vice-versa) Capacity Amount of electrical energy the battery will contain State of Charge (SOC) Available battery capacity Depth of Discharge (DOD) Energy taken out of the battery Efficiency Energy out/Energy in (typically 80-85%)

Functions of a Battery

Storage for the night Storage during cloudy weather Portable power Surge for starting motors

**Due to the expense and inherit inefficiencies of batteries it is recommended that they only be used when absolutely necessary (i.e. in remote locations or as battery backup for grid-tied applications if power failures are common/lengthy)

Batteries: The Details


Primary (single use) Secondary (recharged) Shallow Cycle (20% DOD) Deep Cycle (50-80% DOD)
Unless lead-acid batteries are charged up to 100%, they will loose capacity over time Batteries should be equalized on a regular basis


Battery Capacity

Amps x Hours = Amp-hours (Ah)

100 Amp-hours = 100 amps for 1 hour 1 amp for 100 hours 20 amps for 5 hours

Capacity changes with Discharge Rate The higher the discharge rate the lower the capacity and vice versa The higher the temperature the higher the percent of rated capacity

Rate of Charge or Discharge

Rate = C/T

C = Batterys rated capacity (Amp-hours) T = The cycle time period (hours)

Maximum recommend charge/discharge rate = C/3 to C/5

Cycle Life vs. Depth of Discharge

# of Cycles

Depth Of Discharge (DOD) %

Battery Safety

Batteries are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS; handle with care! Keep batteries out of living space, and vent battery box to the outside Use a spill containment vessel Dont mix batteries (different types or old with new) Always disconnect batteries, and make sure tools have insulated handles to prevent short circuiting

Battery Wiring Considerations

Battery wiring leads should leave the battery bank from opposite corners

Ensures equal charging and discharging; prolongs battery life

Make sure configuration of battery bank allows for proper connections to be easily made

Controllers & Inverters

Part 5: Learning Objectives

Controller basics Controller features Inverter basics Specifying an inverter

Controller Basics

To protect batteries from being overcharged


Maximum Power Point Tracking Tracks the peak power point of the array (can improve power production by 20%)!!

Additional Controller Features

Voltage Stepdown Controller: compensates for differing voltages between array and batteries (ex. 48V array charging 12V battery) By using a higher voltage array, smaller wire can be used from the array to the batteries Temperature Compensation: adjusts the charging of batteries according to ambient temperature

Other Controller Considerations

When specifying a controller you must consider: DC input and output voltage Input and output current Any optional features you need Controller redundancy: On a stand-alone system it might be desirable to have more then one controller per array in the event of a failure

Inverter Basics

An electronic device used to convert direct current (DC) electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity Efficiency penalty Complexity (read: a component which can fail) Cost!!


Specifying an Inverter

What type of system are you designing?

Stand-alone Stand-alone with back-up source (generator) Grid-Tied (without batteries) Grid-Tied (with battery back-up) AC Output (watts) Input voltage (based on modules and wiring) Output voltage (120V/240V residential) Input current (based on modules and wiring) Surge Capacity Efficiency Weather protection Metering/programming


Solar Site

Part 6: Learning Objectives

Understand azimuth and altitude Explain magnetic declination Describe proper orientation and tilt angle for solar collection Describe the concept of solar window

Site Selection Panel Direction

Face south Correct for magnetic declination

Orientation and Tilt Angle

Sun Chart for 40 degrees N Latitude

Site Selection Tilt Angle

Max performance is achieved when panels are perpendicular to the suns rays

Year round tilt = latitude Winter + 15 lat. Summer 15 lat.

Solar Access

Optimum Solar Window 9 am 3 pm

Array should have NO SHADING in this window (or longer if possible)

Solar Pathfinder

An essential tool in finding a good site for solar is the Solar Pathfinder Provides daily, monthly, and yearly solar hours estimates

Practical Determinants for Site Analysis

Loads and time of use Local climate characteristics Distance from power conditioning equipment Accessibility for maintenance Aesthetics

Energy Efficiency

Part 7: Learning Objectives

Identify cost effective electrical load reduction strategies List problematic loads for PV systems Describe penalties of PV system components Explain phantom loads Evaluate types of lighting; efficiency comparison

Practical Efficiency Recommendations

For every $1 spent on energy efficiency, you save $3-$5 on system cost Adopt a load dominated approach

Do it efficiently Do it another way Do with less Do without Do it using DC power Do it while the sun shines

Typical Wattage Requirements

Appliance Blender Wattage 350

TV (25 inch)
Washer Sunfrost Refrigerator (7 hours a day) refrigerator/freezer (13 hours a day) Hair Dryer Microwave (.5 sq-ft) Microwave (.8 1 sq-ft)

1450 112

1000 750 1400

Appliances to Avoid

Electric oven or stove Electric space heater Dishwasher with heaters Electric water heater Electric clothes dryer

Improving Energy Efficiency in the Home

Space Heating:

Super insulation Passive solar design Wood stoves Propane Solar hot water Radiant Floor/ baseboard Efficient windows

Domestic hot water heating

Solar thermal Propane/natural gas No electric heaters On demand hot water

Improving Energy Efficiency in the Home

Kitchen Stoves


Solar cookers Gas burners- no glow bar ignition Microwaves High efficiency horizontal axis

Washing machines

Ceiling fans Window shades Evaporative cooling Insulation Trees Reflective attic cover Attic fan

Phantom Loads

Phantom Loads

Cost the United States:

$3 Billion / year 10 power plants 18 million tons of CO2 More pollution than 6 million cars

TVs and VCRs alone cost the US $1 Billion/year in lost electricity

Lighting Efficiency

Factors effecting light efficiency

Type of light Positioning of lights Fixture design Color of ceilings and walls Placement of switches

Incandescent Lamps



Most common Least expensive Pleasing light

Low efficiency Short life ~ 750 hours

Electricity is conducted through a filament which resists the flow of electricity, heats up, and glows Efficiency increases as lamp wattage increases


Fluorescent Bulbs

Les wattage, same amount of lumens Longer life (~10,000 hours) May have difficulty starting in cold environments Not good for lights that are repeatedly turned on and off Contain a small amount of mercury

Light Emitting Diode (LED) Lights



Extremely efficient Long life (100,000 hours) Rugged No radio frequency interference

Expensive (although prices are decreasing steadily) A relatively new technology


Part 8: Learning Objectives

Evaluate structural considerations

List hardware requirements

Pros and cons of different mounting techniques

General Considerations

Weather characteristics

Wind intensity Estimated snowfall Corrosive salt water Animal interference Vandalism Theft protection Aesthetics

Site characteristics

Human factors

Basic Mounting Options


Roof, ground, pole Integrated Pole (active & passive)


Pole Mount Considerations

Ask manufacturer for wind loading specification for your array

Pole size Amount of concrete Etc.

Array can be in close proximity to the house without penetrations to roof structure

Tracking Considerations

Can increase system performance by:

15% in winter months 40% in summer months

Adds additional costs to the array

Passive Vs. Active


Have no motors, controls, or gears Use the changing weight of a gaseous refrigerant within a sealed frame member to track the sun


Linear actuator motors controlled by sensors follow the sun throughout the day

Roof Mount Considerations

Penetrate the roof as little as possible Weatherproof all holes to prevent leaks

May require the aid of a professional roofer

Re-roof before putting modules up Ballasted roof mounts work on certain roofs Leave 4-6 airspace between roof and modules On sloped roofs, fasten mounts to rafters not decking

Building Integrated PV

Ready for a field tour?

If you are interested in anything you have seen today and would like to get involved, please contact any member of the Solar Scholars team:

Colin Davies, Eric Fournier, or Jess Scott (cjdavies, efournie, jpscott)


Thank you for participating in this lecture series Now lets go out into the field and take a look at the systems that we have already installed.