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Calculation Example of Small Photovoltaic (PV) Residential


Stand-Alone System
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2kW Solar PV Array on Campus Crossings at Briarcliff (photo by Soenso Energy)

Example
- Array Size : 10, 12-volt, 51-watt modules; Isc= 3.25 amps, Voc= 20.7 volts
- Batteries: 800 amp-hours at 12 volts
- Loads: 5 amps DC and 500-watt inverterwith 90% efficiency.

Description
The PV modules are mounted on the roof. Single-conductor cables are used to connect the modules to a roofmounted junction box. Potential reverse fault currents indicate that a PV combiner be used with a series fuse for each
PV module.

UF two-conductor sheathed cable is used from the roof to the control center.
Physical protection (wood barriers or conduit) for the UF cable is used where required. The control center,
diagrammed in Figure 1, contains disconnect and overcurrent devices for the PV array, the batteries, the inverter,
and the charge-controller.

Figure 1 - Small Residential Stand-Alone System

Calculations
- The moduleshort-circuit current is 3.25 amps.
- CONTINUOUS CURRENT: 1.25 x 3.25 = 4.06 amps
- 80% OPERATION: 1.25 x 4.06 = 5.08 amps per module
The maximum estimated moduleoperating temperature is 68C.

From NECTable 310.17:


The derating factor for USE-2 cable is 0.58 at 61-70C.
Cable 14 AWG has an ampacity at 68C of 20.3 amps (0.58 x 35) ( max fuse is 15 amps).
Cable 12 AWG has an ampacity at 68C of 23.2 amps (0.58 x 40) ( max fuse is 20 amps).
Cable 10 AWG has an ampacity at 68C of 31.9 amps (0.58 x 55) ( max fuse is 30 amps).
Cable 8 AWG has an ampacityat 68C of 46.4 amps (0.58 x 80).
The array is divided into two five-module sub-arrays.
The modules in each sub-array are wired from module junction box to the PV combiner for that sub-array and then to
the array junction box. Cable size 10 AWG USE-2 is selected for this wiring, because it has an ampacityof 31.9 amps
under these conditions, and the requirement for each sub-array is 5 x 4.06 = 20.3 amps.
Evaluated with 75C insulation, a 10 AWG cable has an ampacity of 35 amps at 30C, which is greater than the actual
requirement of 20.3 amps (5 x 4.06).
In the array junction box on the roof, two 30-amp fuse sin pullout holders are used to provide overcurrent protection
for the 10 AWG conductors. These fuses meet the requirement of 25.4 amps (125% of 20.3) and have a rating less
than the derated cable ampacity.
In this junction box, the two sub-arrays are combined into an array output. The ampacity requirement is 40.6 amps
(10 x 4.06). A 4 AWG UF cable ( 4-2 w/gnd) is selected for the run to the control box. It operates in an ambient
temperature of 40C and has a temperature-corrected ampacity of 86 amps (95 x 0.91) . This is a 60C cable with
90C conductors and the final ampacity must be restricted to the 60C value of 70 amps, which is suitable in this
example.
Appropriately derated cables must be used when connecting to fusesthat are rated for use only with 75C
conductors. A 60-amp circuit breaker in the control box serves as the PV disconnect switch and overcurrent
protectionfor the UF cable.
The minimum rating would be 10 x 3.25 x 1.56 = 51 amps.
The NEC allows the next larger size; in this case, 60 amps, which will protect the 70 amp rated cable. Two singlepole, pullout fuse holders are used for the battery disconnect. The charge circuit fuse is a 60-amp RK-5 type.
The inverter has a continuous rating of 500 watts at the lowest operating voltage of 10.75 volts and an efficiency of
90% at this power level. The continuous current calculation for the input circuit is 64.6 amps ((500 / 10.75 / 0.90) x
1.25).
The cables from the battery to the control center must meet the inverter requirements of 64.6 amps plus the DC load
requirements of 6.25 amps (1.25 x 5).
A 4 AWG THHN has an ampacityof 85 amps when placed in conduit and evaluated with 75C insulation. This
exceeds the requirements of 71 amps (64.6 + 6.25). This cable can be used in the custom power center and be
run from the batteries to the inverter.
The discharge-circuit fuse must be rated at least 71 amps. An 80-amp fuse should be used, which is less than the
cable ampacity.
The DC load circuit is wired with 10 AWG NM cable ( ampacityof 30 amps) and protected with a 15-amp circuit
breaker.

The grounding electrode conductor is 4 AWG and is sized to match the largest conductor in the system, which is the
array-to-controlcenter wiring. This size would be appropriate for a concrete-encased grounding electrode. Equipmentgrounding conductors for the array and the charge circuit can be 10 AWG based on the 60-amp overcurrent devices.
The equipment ground for the inverter mustbe an 8 AWG conductor based on the 80-amp overcurrent device. All
components should have at least a DC voltage rating of 1.25 x 20.7 = 26 volts.
Reference: Photovoltaic Power Systems And the 2005 National Electrical Code John Wiles Southwest Technology
Development Institute New Mexico State University

About Author //
Edvard Csanyi
Edvard - Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for
design of LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, buildings and
industry fascilities. Designing of LV/MV switchgears. Professional in AutoCAD programming
and web-design. Present on

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6 Comments
1.
Lawrence Coomber
Sep 26, 2014
Thanks Advard. Question why are the batteries -ve grounded. They can remain ungrounded, I
believe it would be acceptable.
(reply)

Clifford Jones
Dec 22, 2014
The rules for grounding electrical systems have evolved over time. Boat builders,
installers, and electricians continue to recognize hazards and increase safety measures. Battery
chargers were originally treated like any other small appliance, first without having any safety ground as
was common through the 1950s, and then by adding a safety ground to reduce shock hazards during
faults.
It was found that faults in the DC wiring or the DC side of chargers could generate fires because high
current could flow back from the batteries, so a fuse was added between inverters or chargers and the
battery system. As the capacity of chargers increased, and with the introduction of inverters, these DC
fuses became quite large. It was then determined that a fire hazard exists when a DC fault in a charger
or inverter can pass DC current into the AC safety ground wire. The AC safety ground was not sized for
the high DC currents, so a high capacity DC grounding wire is now required by standards A-20 and A25.
(reply)

2.
Joy B. Dancalan
Jan 19, 2014
PV is very essential in these days.Please send me the procedures and materials in installation of
PV.
(reply)
3.
usama
Oct 18, 2013
thanks for you , but i want video for complete instalation
(reply)
4.
BillK-AZ
Aug 05, 2013
Some comments on the design:
1. Your PV module grounding is shown as connecting module-to-module and depending on modules in the
chain to provide a ground path for other modules. This is not good practice. Generally an outdoor rated lay-in
lug is used on each PV module and a single grounding conductor is run across all the modules in a panel.
Loss of connection to one modules does not then cause loss of grounding on the other modules.
2. Generally, 12-volt PV modules can be placed in parallel without individual series diodes because the
available voltage will not backfeed into a module. This is usually covered in the UL approved installation
instructions for the specific PV module.
(reply)
5.
k_lazarov
Jul 12, 2013
Hey Advard, just want to notice, on the system diagram there is no way to use the stored energy
in the batterys. Usually the charge controler also had an exit for a DC loads.
(reply)
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