Research Solar

Equipment needed for Solar PV System

Residential

Equipment needed for Setup

  • Solar panels
  • Mounting Structure
  • Inverter
  • Electrical Panel with switches & circuit breakers
  • DC & AC Electric cables
  • Power Meter

With all the technology, we can finally have an electricity power plant on top of the house. All the required equipment, to setup a Solar PV System at top of your house or for acre-spread power station are as discussed further.

1. Solar Panels

Solar panels are electronic devices that convert light energy of thesun into electricity. Used in satellites for decades, solar panels are now made viable economically for masses to adopt and use it. All the solar panels fit into three major categories:

  • Mono-crystalline
  • Poly-crystalline
  • Thin-film

Mono-crystalline Panels

Overview

Made from single silicon cells, Mono-panels are ideal for premium market that seek long-lasting power efficient PV system like solar farms.

Pros
  • Have highest efficiency rates of up to 22 % with output power range of 350 – 380 Watts.
  • Space-efficient.
  • High temperature variation tolerance.
Cons
  • High-cost.

Polycrystalline Panels

Overview

Made from multiple silicon cells, poly-panels are ideal for residential setups and cost conducive applications.

Pros
  • Reaching the efficiency standards of Mono panels with power range 315 – 345 Watts.
  • Simple and cost-friendly manufacturing process.
Cons
  • Require more space.
  • Efficiency range in 14-16 %.
  • Temperature fluctuations shall affect the output.

Thin Film Panels

Overview

Most ideal for specific applications only like electronic powering circuits, home-light applications, etc.

Pros
  • Simple and cost-friendly manufacturing process.
  • Very flexible.
  • Less affected by shade and temperature changes.
Cons
  • Require more space and safety measures.
  • Have less life-span and efficiency (in range of 6-10 %).

Moreover, the thin films have lost their space in PV systems and are preferably used in solar products like lamps, portable chargers etc. The mono and poly panels have widespread use and are getting more efficient with all the research and advancements each day.

2. Mounting Structure

Generally made of steel or aluminium, mounting structures are needed for panels’ installation as a support structure for following reasons:

  • Raise from the ground to provide space for cabling.
  • Combat water clogging.
  • Tilt panels at an optimal angle to receive maximum sunlight.

Lightweight, cost-efficient and low or no maintenance structures are preferable.

There are three major types of mounting structures: Single pole, Rooftop Mounting/Double Pole, Tin Shade.

Single Pole

Easiest and straightforward type of solar installation.

Need a lot of un-used space.

Ideal for limited commercial and agricultural installations.

Rooftop Mounting or Double Pole

Used anywhere in yard, field, or residential rooftops.

Needs dedicated space.

The height can be raised to use the space below.

Tin Shade

These mounting structures are ideal for slanting rooftops.A variety of construct designs options are available based on the roof material and type.

Weight balancing and roof strength are considerable parameters for choice of mounting construct.

  • Standard Rails
  • Rail-less
  • Shared-Rails
  • Non-penetrating System for weight balance.

Ballasts

Systems onunused flat roofs are ballasted at an optimal angle by using simple ballast structures.

These can be steel, aluminium or plastic and polymerized structures.

The type of mounting structure one should prefer for a given PV system moreover depends on the site of installation and its pre and post installation usage.

Aluminium Triangular Structure

3. Inverters

There are three major types of solar inverters: central inverters, power optimizer-based systems, and micro-inverters.

String Inverters

Ideal for roofs:
  • Straight and continuous rooftops
  • Constant sunshine throughout the day
How does it work?

A single central inverter will efficiently convert the DC electricity produced by panels to AC electricity. In case of huge power plants, the panels are connected into string-sets to a string inverter, which are further connected to a single central inverter.

Pros
  • The inverter can be placed in-house thus preventing it from harsh weather conditions like heat, snow, rains, etc.
  • Might need low maintenance.
Cons
  • The inverters do not provide panel-level optimization. The string of solar panels can produce as much electricity as its least efficient panel. Thus, even if there is break-down or shading in one panel, the entire system output goes down.
  • The DC current has to travel all the way to the inverter. Loose connections might cause arcing and lead to fire outbreak.
Costing

Central and string inverters are a least expensive inverter option.

Micro-inverters

Ideal for roofs:
  • complex rooftops
  • rooftops that experience partial or complete shading during the day
How does it work?

A micro-inverter converts the electricity from DC to AC right at the panel. Which means, each panel has its own micro-inverter attached to it.

Pros
  • Cancel out the negative impact of partial or complete shading.
  • Provides for maximum efficiency of the system setup.
  • Monitoring performance of individual panels is feasible.
  • Reduced risk of arcing as DC current path is short and thus, less chances of fire.
Cons
  • The inverters are to be connected to each panel of the setup, thus cost increases significantly.
  • The circuit setup is prone to fluctuating whether conditions, thus, the functionality might go down post 5-6 years.
Costing

Since we need a micro-inverter with each panel, the costing is ought to be higher based on the PV system size. However, the prices are certainly decreasing with tech advancements and demand.

Power Optimized Inverters

Ideal for roofs:
  • complex rooftops
  • rooftops that experience partial or complete shading during the day
How does it work?

Power Optimized inverters working is similar to that of micro-inverters. The only difference is that they condition the DC electricity and send it to String or Central Inverter. It is a more cost-efficient option than micro-inverter.

Pros
  • Cancel out the negative impact of partial or complete shading.
  • Provides for maximum efficiency of the system setup.
Cons
  • The DC current has to travel all the way to the inverter. Loose connections might cause arcing and lead to fire outbreak.
Costing

The power optimizers are additional components for each panel apart from the string inverter. These are costliest of all the inverters but certainly worth for the system efficiency enhancement.

However, the efficiency and warranty should be key considerable parameters while choosing an optimal inverter for your solar system.

4. Electrical Panel with Switches & Circuit Breakers

The electrical panel with switches and circuit breakers are used to protect all the electronic equipment against various electrical faults and hazards like:

  • Earth faults
  • Short-circuit
  • Over-current
  • Over-voltage

The requirement may vary based on the PV system capacity. There might be PV designs wherein, we would just not need the system at all.

5. DC & AC Electric Cables

AC current flows through outer surface due to 'Skin Effect'. AC cable needs Multi-stranded Copper or Aluminium Conductor bunch for their efficient flow of current.

Whereas DC current flows throughout the whole cross section diameter of conductor. So DC cable needs Single Strand.

The quantity of required cables may vary based on the inverter setup you choose for your PV system, as discussed before.

6. Power Meter

The use of meters in this case differs from State to State.

Some states may require only one meter that reads the 'net' energy consumed by the system owner.

However, few other states may require two meters – one to measure solar energy generation and the second to measure the units consumed from the utility grid.