Solar Simulation Software
While solar site evaluation tools determine the best location for the solar collectors used in a solar heating or photovoltaic installation, solar simulation software provides the software tools to help design and simulate a solar energy installation and facilitates the design making process.
Three leading companies that offer solar simulation software packages to those in the renewable energy fields are RETScreen International, Vela Solaris AG and Valentin Energy Software.
At the onset of a new renewable energy project, each one of the three companies’ software package allows the user to input information regarding the site’s location and define the energy requirements for the project. The user may then select a template or configuration from the software’s database, and in addition, may select specific commercially available products to be used. The software will generate the simulation evaluation which will include financial feasibility and potential cost savings, calculation of weather data, energy production, expected energy savings and emission reductions of the project.
RETScreen International developed their Clean Energy Project Analysis Software with the input of experts from government, industry and academia from around the world. RETscreen is applicable to various categories of renewable energy, not just solar energy. The software consists of a series of worksheets to be filled in by the user, along with a comprehensive database that is the largest and most detailed of the three software packages. The user may omit any of the worksheets that do not apply to their project. It is suitable for large commercial and governmental projects, although it may also be used with smaller residential undertakings. RETscreen software may be downloaded free from their website.
Polysun Simulation Software was developed by Vela Solaris AG, a Swiss corporation.Polysun Simulation Software is a set of four software programs specifically created for the design of heat pumps, solar thermal, photovoltaic and cooling systems. Each software program is available separately or as a complete set of four. In addition, each program is offered in three user levels, light, professional and designer. The evaluation process provides detailed reports in PDF format, including colorful graphics, and is a significant feature of this software. A Polysun demo copy may be downloaded for examination on the Vela Solaris AG website. Polysun is also available for purchase on the site.
Valentin Energy Software, based in Berlin, Germany, offers two solar energy simulation programs. Their T’SOL software was conceived for solar thermal energy systems, while their PV’SOL is for used in the design of solar photovoltaic systems. Both programs are also available in three user levels, express, professional and expert. The company’s Meteonorm software, a global climate data database, is also available separately. Customized versions of T’SOL and PV’SOL may also be developed by Valentin for individual user objectives. Valentin Energy Software may be purchased through distributors or online on the company website.
What one of these is the best solar simulation software package? Our suggestion is to download the free copy of RETscreen and try it out. If RETscreen does not meet the needs of your applications, then download the demo copy of Polysun and determine if this software is a better choice for your company. In our evaluation of the T*Sol product we found that it didn’t compete effectively with the Polysun for a number of reasons. Most notably was the lack of SRCC certified collectors and standard U.S. components. If RETscreen or Polysun does not provide the requirements that you need, perhaps your company should consider a customized version of Polysun, T’SOL or PV’SOL.
Although the main objective of each of these software packages is to facilitate in the design process, the professional looking reports generated by them will also assist solar energy companies in the marketing of their products to potential customers.
Solar Site Survery Tools
When evaluating a site for a solar heating or photovoltaic installation, there are many features of the site to take into account. The latitude and longitude establish the sun’s path. The orientation of the collector array, the tilt and azimuth, defines the field of view of the sun. Shading from obstructions, such as trees and buildings, decreases exposure to the sun’s radiation. Local and regional weather patterns also must be taken into consideration.
Solar site evaluation tools use these factors in determining the best location for optimum solar exposure. Three of the leading solar site evaluation tools used by the solar energy industry are Solar Pathfinder, Acme Solar Site Evaluation Tool and Solmetric SunEye.
Solar Pathfinder includes a transparent plastic dome, instrument platform, base section, tripod legs and paper sunpath diagrams and is easy to quickly assemble. Solar Pathfinder Assistant software is also available for use in conjunction with the Solar Pathfinder unit. The sunpath diagram for the specific latitude of the site is placed on the instrument platform and under the plastic dome. Looking down onto the dome, the site evaluator can see a panoramic view of the site reflected on the surface of the dome. Since this view is a reflection instead of actual shadows, the Solar Pathfinder can be used anytime of day in any type of weather. Any obstructions to the sun’s rays are visible in the reflection. Openings in the side of the plastic dome permit the evaluator to trace the outline of the obstructions on the sunpath diagram, thereby indicating what areas of the site will be shaded. A digital photograph may also be taken and uploaded into the Solar Pathfinder Assistant software program. The software identifies the shading patterns, merges them with solar radiation data and local weather records (from the National Renewal Energy Laboratory) and mathematically calculates the potential percentage of solar radiation of the site.
Acme Solar Site Evaluation Tool, also known as ASSET, consists of a precise positioning system, a digital camera, and accompanying software. After the site evaluator levels the positioning system, the digital camera will take a set of photographs from nine positions. The software will then generate a composite panoramic photograph and add an overlay of the path of the sun. Using the historical solar radiation and weather of the site (from the National Renewal Energy Laboratory), the software will perform a shading analysis of the photograph and determine the quantity of solar radiation that can be predicted.
Solmetric SunEye is an integrated hand held electronic device and includes a touch screen interface, a fish-eye lens, a digital camera and measurement software. The digital camera automatically photographs a panoramic view of the entire horizon, identifying the obstructions. The site location’s sunpaths are created. After taking past regional weather into account, the Solmetric SunEye will generate reports and bar charts showing shading percentages and expected solar exposure of the site.
Which one of these solar site evaluation tools is the best? The Solar Pathfinder is the only one requiring assembly, which may be inconvenient for the site evaluator. It also may not be as accurate since site evaluators may not always position their digital cameras in the precise location over the plastic dome. The Solar Pathfinder does, however, have the advantage of being able to be used during any time of day or weather. The Solmetric SunEye, being a hand held device, may lack the stability of a stationary device and possibly not be as accurate. In addition, the weather data used is regional, not local to the site, and is not acquired from the National Renewal Energy Laboratory. The Solar Site Evaluation Tool seems to be the most convenient of the three for the site evaluator, although the quality of the photos may be compromised by sun and weather conditions. However, it is perhaps the most accurate of the three evaluation tools.
The costs for these units varies tremendously. The Suneye is the most expensive coming in around $1,300. The asset at just over $500 and the Pathfinder at around $300. Each of the tools can do the job well but the only question is how easily they do the job. If you are looking for gee whiz then the Suneye has it. If you are just looking to get the job done professionally I would recommend the pathfinder with your own digital camera.
LEED Version 3 (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a worldwide accepted certification system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. Developed by USGBC (United States Green Building Council), LEED Version 3 supports and encourages whole-building design approaches.
LEED Version 3 certification uses a point scoring system where points are given for building projects that strive for energy savings, water efficiency, carbon emission reduction, enhanced indoor environmental quality, and management of resources. A total of 110 points are offered, including 10 bonus points. A minimum number of 40 points is needed for a building project to become certified. The four levels of LEED Version 3 certification and their required points are: Platinum, 80-110; Gold, 60-79; Silver, 50-59; Certified, 40-49.
LEED Version 3 points are available in the following categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy and Atmosphere, Materials and Resources, Indoor Environmental Quality, Innovation in Design and Regional Priority.
The Energy and Atmosphere category offers a total of 35 possible points. This category is further broken down into six specific credits. Credit 1 is named Optimize Energy Performance. A total of nineteen points may be given for Credit 1. Credit 2 is called On-Site Renewable Energy, which offers a total of seven points.
If your building project is incorporating a solar thermal system, you may be able to receive LEED Version 3 points from Credit 1, Optimize Energy Performance. (Since solar thermal does not actually generate power like solar electric does, the energy savings received from solar thermal does not qualify in Credit 2, On-Site Renewable Energy.)
LEED Version 3 points from Credit 1 for inclusion of a solar thermal system are calculated by first establishing a reference building as a baseline. Then data regarding the system is analyzed using a simulation software program, comparing it to the baseline. One point is awarded for every 3.5% of energy efficiency over the baseline, with a maximum of ten points available.
Since solar thermal is generally less expensive than many other renewable energy technologies, it is a much more economically feasible way of obtaining LEED Version 3 points for your building project.
Care to talk about Solar? Need Help with Solar Sales? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org :)
Jim Wood works @ SolarHot a North Carolina based solar water heating manufacturer. Jim has extensive sales experience in solar thermal and PV.
A new study out of Duke University, though, casts doubt on the idea that nuclear power is cheaper than solar power. Using information from North Carolina, the study shows that solar power may be more cost efficient than nuclear power. With costs dropping on the production of photovoltaic cells, and with solar cells becoming increasingly efficient, it appears that — in North Carolina at least — solar installations offer a viable alternative to nuclear power, which is the source for about 20% of the electricity in the U.S.
The Energy Collective reports that some of the issues not addressed in the Duke study. Issues that may further support the idea that solar power could become a viable, cheap form of power in the not so distant future:
Two factors not stressed in the study bolster the case for solar even more:
1) North Carolina is not a “sun-rich” state. The savings found in North Carolina are likely to be even greater for states with more sunshine -Arizona, southern California, Colorado, New Mexico, west Texas, Nevada and Utah.
2) The data include only PV-generated electricity, without factoring in what is likely the most encouraging development in solar technology: concentrating solar power (CSP). CSP promises utility scale production and solar thermal storage, making electrical generation practical for at least six hours after sunset.
Power costs are generally measured in cents per kilowatt hour – the cost of the electricity needed to illuminate a 1,000 watt light bulb (for example) for one hour. When the cost of a kilowatt hour (kWh) of solar power fell to 16 cents earlier this year, it “crossed over” the trend-line associated with nuclear power.
Of course, fossil fuels still represent about 70% of the electricity production in the U.S., and there is probably still some way to go before solar power (and other alternatives) reach a level of cost efficiency that would result in more widespread use. But perhaps this study offers encouragement — and justification — for using resources for further development of solar power technology.
Hyundai Heavy Industries said yesterday it had signed a $700 million deal with U.S.-based Matinee Energy on Monday to build the world’s largest solar energy power plant.
The plant, which will be located in Arizona, is seen as a breakthrough in Korea’s ambitions to become a leading global supplier of green energy technology. Hyundai Heavy Industries, the nation’s largest shipbuilder, claims it is the only company in Korea to produce a complete line of solar power equipment, including polycrystalline silicon, solar batteries, modules and solar power systems.
Hyundai will build two facilities: a 150-megawatt solar energy power plant in Dragoon, Arizona, and a smaller 25-megawatt unit in nearby Cochise, both of which are located in the southeastern part of the state. Hyundai will be responsible for the engineering, procurement and construction of the plants. The solar energy module, a core part of the plant, will be produced at Hyundai’s facility in Eumseong, North Chungcheong.
“The deal will establish Hyundai as an international supplier of large-scale solar energy power plants,” said Kim Kweon-tae. “We will do our best to win additional orders of large plants in the United States, as well as in Europe and Asia.”
The project represents the first phase of a 900-megawatt solar energy project that will be located at 15 sites in California and Arizona, for which Hyundai Heavy Industries had been in negotiations since March. Hyundai won the order against competitors in Germany and China, which are leaders in the global solar energy industry. Hyundai is expected to get follow-on orders from Matinee Energy for the project.
Meanwhile, Hyundai Heavy Industries also announced yesterday that it acquired management control of Hyundai Oilbank from the Abu Dhabi-based International Petroleum Investment Co. after a prolonged court battle. The dispute had centered on whether Hyundai had first rights to buy back a 70 percent stake in Oilbank that was being sold by IPIC. IPIC agreed to sell the shares to Hyundai after the International Chamber of Commerce recently ruled in favor of the Korean company.
Morrisville, North Carolina (August 2, 2010) – SOLARHOT, a leading manufacturer of solar energy products in Morrisville, North Carolina, is proud to announce their involvement in the creation of the U.S. military’s first zero energy home (ZEH) at Fort Campbell Military Base in Kentucky.
Actus Lend Lease, developer of the ZEH at Fort Campbell, in conjunction with Solar Energy Solutions, the system integrator, has selected SOLARHOT platinum solar collectors as an integrated element of the home’s solar hot water system.
“We are excited to work with Actus Land Lease, Solar Energy Solutions and the folks at Fort Campbell in the development of the military’s first ZEH,” said Dan Gretsch, vice president of engineering of SOLARHOT. “SOLARHOT platinum collectors were chosen as the best product that would represent the developer’s commitment to sustainable energy.”
SOLARHOT Made in America platinum collectors feature copper fins, 11 copper risers, blue sputtered absorber coating, polyurethane insulation and low-iron solar glass.
Actus Land Lease, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, is planning an elaborate 2-day ribbon-cutting ceremony to be held at the ZEH on October 13th and 14th. Numerous dignitaries, including Tennessee governor, Phil Bredesen, are expected to attend. SOLATHOT has been invited to join in the festivities.
SOLARHOT, established in 2005, is a leading manufacturer and distributor of solar energy products for hot water heating, space heating, pool heating and commercial uses. With over 30 years of manufacturing, sourcing, distribution and engineering experience, the company offers pre-assembled systems including engineering support from an on-staff registered professional engineer. SOLARHOT, based in the Triangle area of North Carolina, in Morrisville, looks forward to continuing to supply the needs of the renewable energy market.