In view of the increasing number of PV commercial installations across the U.S., installers and contractors find themselves under constant pressure to complete more projects in less time. In order to achieve this, they must streamline the installation process while maintaining safety and quality standards.
The first step of the process starts with design. While most of the time the objective is to maximize roof space in order to fit as many modules as possible, it is essential to plan ahead for service and maintenance, leaving enough space between strings of modules in order to allow easy access. Once the system layout has been determined, the equipment for the project must be selected. When choosing the right inverter for the job, one must consider more than just technical specifications. It is also important to keep he installation process in mind, under what conditions the inverters will be working, and all other major requirements of a commercial PV plant, including; monitoring systems, weather stations, string aggregation, shade mitigation, racking structures, and additional BOS.
When considering all these factors it is often difficult to find an inverter that can meet all of the required metrics for the integration. Fortunately, we have the tools and the solutions to help you design a successful project that can be carried out and completed within a tight deadline.
First, SMA’s free sizing and simulation tool, Sunny Design, allows you to size systems correctly by matching SMA inverters with PV curves, and to compare design alternatives with different inverters in order to be able to make the right decision not only based on energy yield but also on economics and architectures.
As an example, we sized a 67-kWp rooftop commercial system with Sunny Design. We designed two alternatives for this project; one with the Sunny Tripower TL-US and one with the Sunny Tripower CORE1 – the latest addition to our commercial solutions portfolio. For this project, we designed a roof-mounted array with an East/West configuration and a 15o inclination.
When used in the automatic design mode, Sunny Design will do all the calculations and can offer options based on profitability or energy yield. For the first alternative we have selected a design with two STP 30000 TL-US inverters. The suggested configuration for the array has three strings in parallel connected to each input of the inverter, meaning that we will need to incorporate DC combiner boxes in order bring the six strings into the two MPPT channels of the STP inverters. The results of the simulation, including current and voltage values, can be seen below:
It is important to note the 1.1 DC/AC ratio of the design. High DC/AC ratios account for module degradation and potential higher energy yields during a calendar year.
The higher integration of the CORE1 allows you to connect up to 12 strings to the inverter eliminating the need for additional BOS like DC combiner boxes. Thanks to its higher power rating of 50kW it is possible to reduce the number of inverters and the number of connections, improving the overall installation time.
When considering the specification of the PV plant it is clear that the advanced features of the CORE 1 align better with the requirements of the project.
Multiple communication channels allow for easier monitoring and commissioning. Although best practices for monitoring involve using a physical communications channel like Speedwire (SMA’s Ethernet based protocol) because of its reliability and higher speeds, WLAN is the better option when commissioning the inverter on site. It will allow direct communication between the inverter and any smart device that can connect to a wireless network and access the WebUI through a web browser.
In part two of our series, we will outline the benefits of the CORE1 for weather data integration as well as the advantages of using Sunny Design.
Alex Avellaneda is a technical training specialist for the SMA Solar Academy.