Guide to PVWatts Derate Factors for Enphase Systems
PV systems equipped with the Enphase Microinverter Systems exhibit improved performance over traditional string inverter systems, yielding higher energy harvest over the lifetime of the system. In this paper, we identify and quantify the source of the increased energy harvest by evaluating the various types of loss (or derate) present in most PV systems. Enphase delivers superior financial returns to all stakeholders by combining greater annual production with a standard 25-year warranty and lower operating expenses. PVWatts is a tool commonly used by installers to model the annual production of a PV system. When PVWatts or a PVWatts-based system design tool is used to model the expected increase in annual production that comes from using a microinverter instead of a centralized or string inverter, there is a challenge: The PVWatts default “Overall DC-to-AC Derate Factors” are based on a system with a centralized inverter. However, correctly capturing the increased energy harvest is a critical element in modeling the expected financial performance of the system for system owners. This paper provides guidelines to installers for how to adjust derate factors in PVWatts to model Enphase’s energy i harvest gains . PVWatts applies derate factors to determine the amount of AC power that will flow into the grid from the solar array, accounting for many of the environmental characteristics of the site as well as system design and components. Derate factors for Enphase are different than the default values for the PVWatts overall DC to AC derate i factor. The following table shows the default values for the PVWatts overall DC to AC derate factor and Enphase’s recommended adjustment to the derate factors in PVWatts with changed component derate values in bold. Further explanation of these changes follow the table.

Enphase Adjustments To PVWatts Default Derate Factors
Derate Category PV Module Nameplate DC Rating Inverter and Transformer Mismatch Diodes and Connections DC Wiring AC Wiring Soiling (See Appendix) System Availability Shading (See Appendix) Sun-tracking Age Total Derate Factor (Project Efficiency)** Default (String) 0.950 0.920 0.980 0.995 0.980 0.990 0.950 0.980 1.000 1.000 1.000 0.769 Enphase M215 Microinverter 0.950 0.960 0.995 0.995 0.990 0.990 0.970 0.995 1.000 1.000 1.000 0.865 Enphase M250 Microinverter 0.950 0.965 0.995 0.995 0.990 0.990 0.970 0.995 1.000 1.000 1.000 0.870 Difference between String Inverter and Microinverter No change + .040 to .045 + .015 No change + .010 No change + .020 + .015 No change No change No change + .089 to.093

Note: **These values do not include an additional 1.3% increase for Enphase Microinverters due to limits on the PVWatts input values as described in the following sections.


! 2013 Enphase Energy Inc. All rights reserved.

October 2013

leaving at least 0. while binning modules with only positive tolerances (e. string inverter systems naturally miss the potential increased energy harvest from positive outliers.995. Since most residential installations do not include a transformer.00. DC wiring losses for an Enphase System should be no lower than 0. they do not operate at their respective peak efficiencies. Consequently. For northern locations in winter. 100% to 105% of STC rating) avoids underperformance due to mismatch from negative tolerances. These differences may become greater over time as modules age and individual modules within an array degrade at varying rates. but it is production value that should be considered. Snow remains the longest when sub-freezing temperatures prevail. with the severity of the reduction a function of the amount of snow received and how long it remains on the PV modules. There are no long DC homeruns. high-pollution areas with infrequent rain.g. the appropriate value for an M215 System is 0.965. Capturing this dynamic in derate is challenging. with greater soiling losses (up to 25% for some California locations) for high-traffic. Mismatch still exists among plus-tolerance The default value of 0.995. Soiling Derate Factor PVWatts Definition: The derate factor for soiling accounts for dirt. October 2013 . Enphase Guidance: DC wiring for Enphase Systems is limited to each module’s direct connection to its corresponding microinverter. snow will reduce the amount of energy produced. the PV array is closely integrated into 2 ! 2013 Enphase Energy Inc. snow.0%. However. A list of inverter efficiencies by manufacturer is at http://www. Further. DC Wiring Derate Factor PVWatts Definition: The derate factor for DC wiring accounts for resistive losses in the wiring between modules and the wiring connecting the PV array to the inverter.005 of additional value unrecognized for an Enphase System. Mismatch Derate Factor PVWatts Definition: The derate factor for PV module mismatch accounts for manufacturing tolerances that yield PV modules with slightly different current-voltage characteristics. the correct value for an Enphase System is 1. The Enphase M250 Microinverter has a CEC efficiency rating of 96. the maximum value allowed by PVWatts for DC wiring is with string inverters limiting performance to the lowest-performance modules in the bin. However. nor are there DC taps at each stop along the way coming into a DC combiner box. All rights reserved. With mismatch effects eliminated.005 of additional value from Enphase Systems unrecognized.. Enphase Systems capture this additional energy harvest by maximizing the performance of each module individually. small PV array tilt angles prevent snow from sliding off. Dirt accumulation on the PV module surface is location and weather dependent.gosolarcalifornia. Enphase Guidance: Enphase’s M215 Microinverter has a CEC efficiency rating of 96. leaving 0. PVWatts limits the acceptable inputs for mismatch at 0.99.5%. so the appropriate value for an M250 System would be 0.960.Guide to PVWatts Derate Inverter and Transformer Derate Factor PVWatts Definition: The derate factor for the inverter and transformer is their combined efficiency in converting DC power to AC power. when connected together electrically. Enphase Guidance: Enphase eliminates the effects of module mismatch by maximizing the production on a per-module basis. or other foreign matter on the front surface of the PV module that reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the solar cells of the PV module. These inverter efficiencies include transformer related losses when a transformer is used or required by the manufacturer.98 represents a loss of 2% due to mismatch.

Enphase systems are based on distributed system architecture. System Availability Derate Factor PVWatts Definition: The derate factor for system availability accounts for times when the system is off due to maintenance and inverter and utility outages. The Enlighten monitoring software enables remote diagnosis—and. to capture the impact of Enphase on soiling. October 2013 .003.00. the Ground Cover Ratio (GCR). Enphase Guidance: Enphase systems deliver high annual system uptimes. eliminating on-site problem-solving delays. The recommended availability derate value for Enphase is 0. land area requirements are greatest for 2-axis tracking. as indicated by its relatively low GCR values when compared with those for fixed or 1-axis tracking. thereby eliminating the potential for delays due to the availability of specialized labor and equipment common with high-voltage DC systems.950 to 0.5% loss). Industry practice is to optimize the use of space by configuring the PV system for a GCR corresponding to a shading derate factor of 0. Such variance in soiling across a string or entire array creates module mismatch much like direct shading. eliminating the single point of failure associated with centralized systems. on average. the figure may be used to estimate the appropriate shading derate factor. the recommended adjustment is to raise the default PVWatts value for soiling from 0. snow was observed to reduce the energy production during the winter by 70%.995. For PVWatts users who define a different. the shading derate factor should be changed to account for losses occurring when one row shades an adjacent row.975 (2. PVWATTS assumes the PV modules are not shaded. The default value of 0. which understates expected availability by 0. soiling rates may vary dramatically based on the environmental factors of the site. Enphase Systems have no moving parts or filters and require little preventive maintenance. Enphase Guidance: While an Enphase system does not impact the degree of soiling on a module or string. Accordingly. As shown in the figure. a table with suggested Enphase derates for soiling relative to standard soiling derates is included in the Appendix. defined as the ratio of the PV array area to the total ground area. All rights reserved. For a roof-mounted PV system in Minnesota with a tilt angle of 23 . the recommended default derate value for Enphase in PVWatts is 0. 3 ! 2013 Enphase Energy Inc. If you know the GCR value for your PV array. dirt or debris from dragging down the performance of the rest of the string. For fixed PV arrays. Enphase assumes that. it does mitigate some of the loss by maximizing the performance of each individual module independently and preventing modules compromised by snow. soiling in a residential system is largely non-uniform. if the tilt angle is decreased the rows may be spaced closer together (larger GCR) to achieve the same shading derate factor.98 represents the system being off for 2% of the year. For the same value of shading derate factor. Enphase Microinverters are designed as a simple plug-and-play interface and are easily available through multiple distributors. however. Tools such as Solar Pathfinder may be used to determine a derate factor for shading by buildings and objects. the maximum allowable value for availability in PVWatts is 0. and the roof or other structure in the vicinity facilitates snow drifting onto the PV o modules. spacing the rows further apart (smaller GCR) corresponds to a larger derate factor (smaller shading loss). site-specific value for soiling.Guide to PVWatts Derate the roof.995. As indicated in the PVWatts definition. For PV arrays consisting of multiple rows of PV modules and array structure. objects. Use of this table requires some judgment by the system designer to account for the site-specific factors that may lead to higher or lower soiling variance. Shading Derate Factor PVWatts definition: The derate factor for shading accounts for situations when PV modules are shaded by nearby buildings. remote fixes—of issues in advance of maintenance visits. and the tilt angle for fixed PV arrays. The figure below shows the shading derate factor as a function of the type of PV array (fixed or tracking).970. a nearby roofo mounted PV system with a tilt angle of 40 !experienced a 40% reduction. For the default value of 1. or other PV modules and array structure. Therefore.998. often.

module access to cooling breezes.90 for a standard system to 0. Module Temperature Variance Mismatch Module temperatures can vary within an array based on their proximity to the array edge. Taking a relatively conservative stance. Other Loss Factors to Consider Mismatch. Again. a system designer could add . height above roof.000. DC Wiring. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Technical Report. These temperature irregularities create production mismatch because module energy production efficiency is inversely affected by its operating temperature. representing the Enphase Microinverter efficiency plus efficiencies not realized for Mismatch. To account for this difference in the overall DC to AC derate factor. The combined effect is likely an understatement of the Component Derate Value for Enphase Systems of . we recommend adjusting a shading derate of 0.96 to get to . DC Wiring and System Availability.005 to 0.013 to the Inverter and Transformer value of . This factor accounts for the production loss caused by modules operating at varying efficiencies. DC Wiring and System Availability Derate Values As noted above. While the impact of this factor will vary based on the characteristics of a given site. as distinguished from module inefficiency due to a uniformly higher temperature across the array. PVWatts does not account for either source of loss. etc.005+. as predicted by the shading loss site survey.005+.973. 4 ! 2013 Enphase Energy Inc.003). a private study commissioned by Enphase calculated that an Enphase microinverter system would recapture over 40% of the performance loss due to shade. roof coating type. medium. overcoming the production mismatch that occurs from partial shading.013 (. Enphase’s performance increase will likely add 0. shading derates vary dramatically based on the particular circumstances of an individual site. The study determined that in comparing the results of modeled analysis and actual performance.940 recommended value for an Enphase System. and System Availability that are below the appropriate Component Derate Values for an Enphase System. Photovoltaic Shading Testbed for Module-Level Power Electronics. For example. assuming no shading is present from peripheral or direct obstructions or from other modules.Guide to PVWatts Derate Enphase Guidance: The default shading value for PVWatts is 1. October 2013 . Enphase recommends that shading derate values be adjusted to account for an approximate recapture of 40% of the energy expected to be lost with a string inverter system. All rights reserved. Like soiling. PVWatts has maximum acceptable values for derate factors from Mismatch. compared the performance of an Enphase System and a similar system using a string inverter under light. Enphase Microinverters maximize the performance of each module.010 to the overall DC to AC derate factor. and heavy shade conditions.” Similarly. A table showing recommended derate values for Enphase based on various shading derate inputs for standard systems is included in the Appendix. the Enphase system “indicates a recovery of around half of the overall performance loss due to shade.

October 2013 .4% 89.0% 96.6% 85.0% 95.0% 92.0% 79.6% 85.0% 90.0% 91.0% 93.4% 95.6% 88.2% 94.0% 95.0% 92.0% 87.0% 98.0% 83.8% 95.0% 96.2% 94.0% 87.0% 77.0% 76.2% 91.4% 95.6% 97.0% 87.0% 85.2% 88.0% 96.0% 84.6% 88.8% 98.0% 5 ! 2013 Enphase Energy Inc.4% 92.0% 94.6% 91.0% Enphase Adjusted Soiling Derate for PVWatts 100.8% 95.0% 75.0% Enphase Adjusted Shading Derate for PVWatts 100.8% 86.0% 98.2% 88.4% 89.4% 98.0% 97.0% 82.6% 94.0% 81.4% 86.2% 91.0% 85.0% 99.0% 80.0% 80.0% 90.8% 98.0% 99.Guide to PVWatts Derate Appendix: Suggested Soiling and Shading Derates Soiling Derate Factors Soiling Derate Factor w/ String Inverter 100.8% 86.6% 97.0% 78.0% 76.0% 89.0% 99.0% 78.0% 75.0% 77. All rights reserved.0% 99.0% 88.0% 90.0% 93.0% 87.0% 93.0% 93.8% 89.0% 84.0% 83.2% 97.2% 97.8% 89.0% 96.0% ! Shading Derate Factors Shading Derate Factor w/ String Inverter 100.0% 94.0% 82.0% 79.4% 92.0% 89.0% 90.2% 85.0% 97.8% 92.0% 81.0% 88.0% 91.0% 86.4% 86.6% 91.0% 86.8% 92.2% 85.4% 98.6% 94.

pdf i PVWatts web: http://rredc.. C. http://ieeexplore. 2012. Deline.. J. 2012. Deline. Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC).gov/solar/calculators/pvwatts/version1/derate.jsp?arnumber=5411283&refinements%3D4280949731 %26sortType%3Dasc_p_Sequence%26filter%3DAND%28p_IS_Number%3A5411118%29 4. J. M. 2009 34th IEEE. Agamy. M. A. L. R. Dunn. IECON 2010 . David.. M. M. Sabate..pdf Harfman-Todorovic. www. “Shade Impact: How Solar Systems Handle Sub-optimal Conditions”. “Performance Analysis of Photovoltaic Installations in a Solar America City”.jsp?tp=&arnumber=5675108&url=http%3A%2F%2Fieeexplore. October 2013 . Marion. “A Performance and Economic Analysis of Distributed Power Electronics in Photovoltaic Systems”. http://ieeexplore. 2010. and Gonzalez. R.” NREL. 2009..nrel.. B.pdf 2. Briggs.. Granata.nrel. Steigerwald. All rights reserved. ieee. “A Comparative Study of Central and Distributed MPPT Architectures for Megawatt Utility and Large Scale Commercial Photovoltaic Plants”. Gostein.. http://www.cgi 6 ! 2013 Enphase Energy Fisher. Forrest. Stueve. C. “Photovoltaic Shading Testbed for Modulelevel Power Electronics. http://enphase. Meydbray.. R.Guide to PVWatts Derate Additional References! 1. 2011. Hershey. Donovan. Enphase Energy.. B. J.36th Annual Conference on IEEE Industrial Electronics Society.jsp%3Farnumber%3D5675108 5.

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