The photovoltaics industry is booming, and the market for solar farms is growing quickly all over the world. However, planning PV power plants in order to make them as efficient as possible is not an easy task. A new type of software now is supposed to simplify conceptualk design.
In the future, this approach will be improved considerably: researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern in collaboration with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics have developed a new planning software. They claim it makes it possible to build solar power plants better and more quickly.
»Our algorithms programmed exclusively for the Siemens PVplanet (PV Plant Engineering Toolbox) software provide engineers with several hundred different plant designs in a single operation. It takes less than a minute of computation time,« ITWM researcher Dr. Ingmar Schüle points out. The only user inputs are parameters such as the topography of the construction site and the module and inverter types that will be used. The user can also change a number of parameters such as the orientation, spacing and inclination of the solar arrays for studying the impact on the quality of the planning result.
To evaluate the designed PV power plants, an income calculation is performed that includes a simulation of the weather in the region in question, the course of the sun throughout the year and the physical module performance including shading effects. With the results of this computation and an estimate of the investment and operating costs, the planning tool can come up with a figure for the LCOE (levelized cost of energy). By comparing the plant with a large number of similar configurations, the planners can investigate the sensitivity of the various parameters to find the right solution from a large array of options. »The software assists the expert with decisionmaking and helps with the design of the best possible PV power plant for the site involved. Which one is ‘best‘ depends on a number of aspects – from the customer’s objectives to the site and environmental conditions, but also on the financing concept and the financial incentives for photovoltaics in the target region. All of these criteria are taken into account,« Schüle points out.
Dr. Martin Bischoff, project manager at Siemens AG, Energy Sector, is also convinced of this approach: »Beside savings, more than anything else the planning tool provides an overview of the scope for optimization. This provides the best possible support for planning the most cost-efficient systems. There has been no other planning software with this scope or level of detail until now.«