What is a Solar PV Software?
In order to get the estimated and realistic solar energy yield of a PV system, creating a computer simulation is required. This can be done by utilizing a solar PV software. It is a computer program wherein the user inputs the following information as listed below, in order to forecast the energy production of a PV system.
- Project/site location
- Quantity, specifications of solar PV modules and inverters
- Configuration of solar PV Strings
- Solar PV tilt angle and azimuth
- Total cost of the project
- Electricity costs/tariff from utilities
- Battery/electrical storage specifications and others
- Solar energy yield in kWh
- Financial analysis
- Technical reports
Why Solar PV Simulation is Important?
As part of the engineering process of solar energy installation, there will be a need to do a computer software simulation of the solar power plant that is to be installed. In other words, whether it be a small residential solar project, a solar PV system for commercial premises or a utility-scale solar PV project, computer simulation will play an important factor in determining the expected output values (kWh yield per year, CO2 emissions avoided, etc.) of the solar energy plant, as well as its bankability (ROI, years of return on assets) in relation to the quantity of solar PV panels, location of the project, shading effects and few other things.
The market is now filled with a number of solar PV simulators that everyone can use. Even some solar inverter companies provide their own solar PV softwares that can enable the user to check the output of their solar PV system by using the their own products.
However, what does it take to be the best solar PV simulation software? Here are the top 4 features that solar PV system designers and engineers look for on the list of PV Software features, when it comes to designing the solar PV system that suits to their projects’ needs.
Top 5 Features Solar PV Simulation Softwares
1. User-friendliness or User Experience Factor
Although there would always be a learning curve for each solar PV simulation software, making the program user-friendly and easy to use is still important. Having extremely complex functions, unnecessary operations and chaotic arrangements of the program user interface are some of the factors that will confuse the solar PV designer. This could be achieved by having simple progressions inside the program, making the design phase as simple as a basic installation wizard, or having drag and drop functionality. By focusing on the user-friendliness of the software, the users will take a shorter period of time finishing their design in a proper manner.
By focusing on the user experience factor of the software, the users will take a shorter period of time finishing their design in a proper manner.
2. Updatability and customizability of software database
When the designer has already specified the brands of solar PV panels and inverters, it could be annoying to find out that they are not available on the equipment list because the software does not have an updated database. Now, it could be more exasperating if there won’t an option to manually add them as well. Therefore, having a frequent database update and a feature to manually add new items to the database easily are key to becoming the most preferred solar PV software.
Nothing will ever annoy anyone more than to find out their work progress was lost due to a software glitch that has corrupted their file. That is why, having a reliable software is very important and to do this, the solar PV tool should be bug-free. If there’s any program error, a quick update should be immediately released to fix all kinds of glitches. Autosave and recovery functions must be included as basic features as well.
Whether the project is ground-mounted, roof-mounted, flat roof type, carpark, solar farm or even a combination of any of those types, the solar PV software must be able to accommodate the designers’ requirement. This could be done if the solar PV tool is flexible enough to include a large quantity of solar PV panels (especially when dealing with Megawatts/Gigawatts projects). Flexibility also includes having the feature of importing 2D/3D objects from other software files like CAD and Sketchup. By having this kind of flexibility, the shading factor will be properly represented and it can be used as a guide to the positioning of the solar PV arrays.
5. Accuracy and Precision
The most important thing of all is to get accurate, precise and near-to-reality results from the solar PV simulation. Though the climate and weather cannot be always predictable, the having the feature of historical data and statistics from reliable sources will help the software provide the best solar energy forecast. As a result, the user will have a better idea on the return on investments, yearly energy production as well as the CO2 emission avoided of the PV system.
List of Popular PV Softwares
- PVSol Premium
- Solar Pro by Laplace Systems
- NREL.gov etc.
In conclusion, a solar PV simulation software is a truly valuable tool in order to know in advance the potential solar energy generation of a solar PV system. By knowing the forecasted values, the users will be able to see how much they can save from they electricity bills and how many years it will take for the system to pay back the total installation and maintenance costs. If they are using this as a solar PV contractor or consultant, this can be their important tool in generating technical reports and financial proposals which they can show to their customers, and eventually, it will lead them to getting the projects.