New Program Improves Siting of Solar Power Plants

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Engineers have mostly designed solar power plants using CAD programs, “with every layout and every variation painstakingly generated separately,” a news release from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft writes. Now, however, researchers from Fraunhofer and researchers at Siemens Energy Photovoltaics have developed special software that simplifies this conceptual design. Here’s more from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft:

In the future, large PV plants such as the Siemens solar farm that went into operation in 2011 in Le Mées, France, can be planned quickly and effi ciently using the PVplanet software solution. © Siemens AG

[R]esearchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Mathematics ITWM in Kaiserslautern, in collaboration with Siemens Energy Photovoltaics, have developed a new planning software that 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 – to study the impact on the quality of the planning result.

Cost estimates and income calculations included

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 fi gure for the LCOE (levelized cost of energy). By comparing the plant with a large number of similar confi gurations, the planners can investigate the sensitivity of the various parameters to fi nd 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 fi nancing concept and the fi nancial 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: “Aside 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-effi cient systems. There has been no other planning software with this scope or level of detail until now.“ Interested individuals can get an impression of the successful teamwork between ITWM and Siemens Energy Photovoltaics at the Intersolar Europe trade fair in Munich, June 13-15, 2012: the software celebrates its public premiere at the Siemens booth in Hall B4, Booth B4.380.


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Zachary Shahan

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