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    PV design software

    I have decided to do a PV system, it will be on my home for the first one. I have been looking at PV design software and they range from free to ungodly expensive, neither of which is appealing to me. I’m looking for recommendations. If I decide PV is something I want to offer, it will be for residential and some commercial/industrial mostly servicing existing customers.

    #2
    IMO, one doesnt really need PV software unless you are getting into PV in a big way and/or with big systems. For energy production, PV Watts is supposed to be quite accurate, and the only other thing it would be nice to have software for is optimizing DC/AC ratio, but you are kinda splitting hairs with that unless its a large system.


    I played around with PVSyst as they offer a 30 day free trail. You could get the trial version to get a feel for DC/AC ratio vs energy loss in your area for different system types.
    Ethan Brush - East West Electric. NY, WA. MA

    "You can't generalize"

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      #3
      See what the manufacturer you're using offers. Solaredge and SMA both have tools that are plenty good enough for residential. Otherwise PVwatts.

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        #4
        Originally posted by jaggedben View Post
        See what the manufacturer you're using offers. Solaredge and SMA both have tools that are plenty good enough for residential. Otherwise PVwatts.
        I think what I am looking for is something to help me with making the single line diagram, calculating roof layout and production per the azimuth and angle, conductor sizing, that sort of thing. Like I said, this will be my first PV system.

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          #5
          Originally posted by five.five-six View Post
          I think what I am looking for is something to help me with making the single line diagram, calculating roof layout and production per the azimuth and angle, conductor sizing, that sort of thing. Like I said, this will be my first PV system.
          Helioscope supposedly does all that, but I found the interface to be clunky to the point of unusability. I use AutoCAD for layout and line drawings, and I do my wire sizing by hand. We use Aurora for general information but to produce good layouts we have found no viable substitute for boots on the roof site assessment measurements and photos. Sometimes Aurora gets things very wrong; I wouldn't totally depend on it.

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            #6
            Originally posted by ggunn View Post
            Helioscope supposedly does all that, but I found the interface to be clunky to the point of unusability. I use AutoCAD for layout and line drawings, and I do my wire sizing by hand. We use Aurora for general information but to produce good layouts we have found no viable substitute for boots on the roof site assessment measurements and photos. Sometimes Aurora gets things very wrong; I wouldn't totally depend on it.
            Yea, I don’t think I would quote or order anything without using a tape measure first


            I was looking at one app that prompted me to order a report from roofreports.com I got the report and it seemed accurate but then the first app I looked at says it’s limited to roof under 4000 sq ft. So that’s not something I want to get setup on.

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              #7
              Why not just submit the basic measurements to a PV design professional. For 300 bucks they will make you a beautiful set of drawings to take to the permitting office. SLD, site plan, layout, section, mounting hardware detail, spec sheets, wire calcs.
              It will also contain the code references and info needed.
              Whereas, Each time the permitting folks find something is missing you gotta go back and re design and re submit....time is money.

              Although most will want YOU to know what size wire and production etc.....they will just draw it nicely (which is very valuable in its own right for permitting)

              Sounds like you still need to learn the design basics. (e.g. calculations on determining performance, V and A limitations, conductor sizing, etc etc.......)

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                #8
                Originally posted by Zee View Post
                Why not just submit the basic measurements to a PV design professional. For 300 bucks they will make you a beautiful set of drawings to take to the permitting office. SLD, site plan, layout, section, mounting hardware detail, spec sheets, wire calcs.
                Wow, Engineering is pretty cheep in your area. Do they sign/seal the drawings too?
                Ron

                Comment


                  #9
                  Originally posted by Zee View Post
                  Why not just submit the basic measurements to a PV design professional. For 300 bucks they will make you a beautiful set of drawings to take to the permitting office. SLD, site plan, layout, section, mounting hardware detail, spec sheets, wire calcs.
                  It will also contain the code references and info needed.
                  Whereas, Each time the permitting folks find something is missing you gotta go back and re design and re submit....time is money.

                  Although most will want YOU to know what size wire and production etc.....they will just draw it nicely (which is very valuable in its own right for permitting)

                  Sounds like you still need to learn the design basics. (e.g. calculations on determining performance, V and A limitations, conductor sizing, etc etc.......)

                  I have been talking to a few PV design professionals and $300 seems to be right in the ballpark. Some don’t do SLD, others outsource structural... really, I am thinking I need to budget in the area of $700 for engineering for a 3-10KVA residential system. Perhaps I just need to find the right PV designer.

                  I really don’t want to spend my time drawing things.

                  Comment


                    #10
                    How do you select your modules? The variety available is overwhelming.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      There is no software that is going to spit out an SLD that you can use to get a permit that I know of. The best I have seen will give you something that you can use to start from to make your own SLD after you do a little massaging. But for residential you really can get by very well with PVWatts for getting an idea of the energy production. NREL's SAM is a good free program if you need more horsepower.

                      The plan set companies can be great for getting inexpensive plan sets to get a permit. Do not confuse PV design services with engineering services though. Two completely different animals and while PV design is fairly inexpensive, engineering is not. That's one reason engineers almost never get involved in residential work outside of the occasional structural review. A residential project budget just can't pay for licensed engineering work. I've had contractors come to me with stories about how an AHJ is making them get an electrical PE stamp on their residential plans and there is just no money in the project for an engineer. I feel sorry for those in that situation.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by five.five-six View Post
                        How do you select your modules? The variety available is overwhelming.

                        See whats available from your local supply house that specializes in PV. CED Greentech is a popular option. See whats in stock then do some homework based on those options. SunPower, LG, Qcells, seem to be safe residential options now-a-days.

                        As previously stated, producing an appropriate drawing set using virtual means is dicey. I've NEVER seen a respectable set come from the el-cheapo options online that outsouce to a drafter overseas. Find a designer/engineer at a local solar company and ask if he would do some work on the side, or perhaps the supply house could direct you to a local freelancer.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Originally posted by BandGap1.1eV View Post
                          See whats available from your local supply house that specializes in PV. CED Greentech is a popular option. See whats in stock then do some homework based on those options. SunPower, LG, Qcells, seem to be safe residential options now-a-days.

                          As previously stated, producing an appropriate drawing set using virtual means is dicey. I've NEVER seen a respectable set come from the el-cheapo options online that outsouce to a drafter overseas. Find a designer/engineer at a local solar company and ask if he would do some work on the side, or perhaps the supply house could direct you to a local freelancer.
                          I found this outfit, they don't seem el-chepo but they do seem reasonable. Their office is inside my territory.

                          https://yoursolarplans.com/services/

                          Comment


                            #14
                            The top-tier modules (SunPower, Panasonic, Canadian Solar — depending on what you consider “top tier”) are all going to have 25-30+ year service lives and warrantees. You should pick based on price, availability, and if they face the street, appearance. I’m trying to get a local installer to do my new-to-me house and they prefer front-contact (“wires where you can see them”) panels because they are cheaper. I hate them and I like my house.

                            As for design — DO NOT let software, or an idiot, design any layout that can be seen by anyone who can make your life miserable. I worked for a manufacturer who gave us an “employee discount” and the installers they partnered with designed some of the ugliest arrays I’ve ever seen. If you can use microinverters or DC optimizers, do that. But also, don’t be hesitant to add a module or two (if you’re using panel-level electronics) if it balances the appearance of the array. Dittos for moving a stack over a ridge if you’ve got a stack that’s making your array look ugly. Design the layout by hand, then feed it to software.

                            I know this isn’t “electrical”, but I’m tired of ugly solar and the stuff is as cheap as can be these days — I paid $1,000 for 175 watt modules 12 years ago and 300+ watt modules are less than 1/4th that price today.
                            Julie in Austin

                            Born to brew, forced to work ...

                            Comment


                              #15
                              So, I did find a local outfit who produced a submittal package for me for $250

                              I looks very good and I expect it will sail through plancheck.

                              The. Only thing is that I had given them drawings with 3 strings of 9 modules for a total of 27

                              the drawings they returned had 1 string of 14 and another string of 13.

                              They said that SolarEdge will work wit different sized strings.

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