Trina Solar recently launched its new line of Trinasmart modules, allowing for selective deployment of module-level optimization. Trinasmart modules give solar installers the flexibility to place optimizers only where they are needed for energy and cost savings. To fully assess the benefits of Trinasmart modules, it is critical to have an accurate modeling tool that is capable of simulating the effects of shade on strings of panels with module-level power electronics. There are a number of software platforms for designing PV systems, but most are system-level simulators that use aggregate models of all components in a design rather than modeling each module, inverter, and optimizer separately. Moreover, these tools do not model the actual shading on a site, but instead apply a fixed shade loss percentage across an entire design. These modeling weaknesses obscure the effects of module-level power electronics, and therefore limit the ability of these platforms to accurately model Trinasmart products.
Aurora Solar is a one-stop platform for solar design, analysis, and sales. Aurora algorithmically generates 3D models of buildings, performs sophisticated solar engineering design, and generates beautiful proposals and visualizations for customers. It leverages an NREL validated shading engine and a module-level performance simulation to simulate PV installations with industry-leading accuracy. By allowing solar installers to do all this without ever leaving their office, Aurora slashes the cost of solar installations in an effort to make solar power widely available to anyone. Engineers and computer scientists at Aurora spent two years perfecting the software before launching the product in early 2015; today, Aurora Solar processes more than 5,000 projects a week from many of the leading solar installers. Aurora’s software platform is the most effective tool for modeling designs with Trinasmart modules.
Designing a System in Aurora
Aurora offers a variety of features to take solar installers from an address to a full proposal in minutes:
2D and 3D site modeling
Starting with an address, users can immediately begin laying out a site with a rich suite of tools in a clean user interface. After outlining a roof in 2D over an aerial image of the site, users can let Aurora take over to automatically generate a 3D model. Additional features such as LIDAR can be used to further adjust the model to be as accurate as possible.
Remote shading analysis
Once a 3D model has been constructed, users can run Aurora’s shading engine to get an accurate estimate of annual and monthly solar access percentage (SAP), irradiance, total solar resource fraction (TSRF), and tilt orientation factor (TOF). Aurora performs the analysis by simulating the sun path for every daylight hour of the year and running a ray-tracing algorithm to evaluate the total irradiance for every point on a roof. Aurora’s shading analysis has been validated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and found to be within 3% of onsite shade measurements, allowing installers to perform an accurate shading analysis without having to visit the site.
“Modeling solar designs allows installers to choose the right modules and power electronics for optimal energy yield and cost.”
System design, layout, and validation
Aurora’s PV system design tools are the most flexible on the market, allowing users to place modules, inverters, and optimizers and connect the system however they choose. Aurora runs NEC validation checks on a design, giving customers the confidence their designs will be code-compliant and safe. Aurora’s component database and design validation checks have already been updated to include Trinasmart modules and selectively-deployed optimizers.
Module-level performance simulation
Aurora runs a module-level performance simulation engine that has also been validated by NREL. For every module in a design, Aurora constructs an equivalent circuit whose current-voltage characteristics exactly match those of the module type chosen. Each equivalent circuit is then wired in series and/or parallel to capture the stringing configuration of the module layout. In this way, Aurora is able to accurately simulate designs with arbitrary stringing configurations as well as designs that incorporate module-level power electronics. A 3D shading analysis is performed alongside the performance simulation to accurately model losses due to shading from trees, obstructions, and buildings. Aurora simulates the behavior of a maximum power point tracker to calculate the optimal output power of a solar design for every daylight hour of the year.
The integrated shading analysis and module-level simulation of Aurora are necessary for assessing the performance of Trinasmart modules in a design. For example, a module near a chimney may experience shade for many hours of the day and limit the performance of the string it is a part of; this module is an ideal candidate to be replaced with a Trinasmart module that will perform at its maximum power without hindering the performance of the rest of the string. Aurora’s design, shading, and performance analyses make it easy to identify a “problem” module such as this and accurately quantify the increase in production that comes with using a Trinasmart module. Other simulation platforms are not able to model the system at this level of detail.
From as little as an electric bill, Aurora can generate a model of a homeowner’s energy consumption and use the results of the performance simulation to calculate the cost – and savings – of going solar. Installers can evaluate the financial details of various designs, choosing the one that is best for a given site.
With performance simulation and financial analysis results at hand, Aurora can automatically generate a customized sales proposal that clearly explains the design, energy yield, and savings. This
Finding the right partners
Working in tandem with Aurora Solar allows Trina customers to optimize their PV designs for the highest energy yields possible. Together, Trina Solar and Aurora Solar are working hard to ensure installers have access to software tools that accurately model cutting-edge products for residential and commercial installations.
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