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8/14/2016 SolarPanels(PV)andVoltages

SolarPanels(PV)andVoltages

Unlockthemysteriesbehindthejargonandacronymsofvoltage!

writtenbyJamesCormican
Forfolksthatarenewtophotovoltaics(PVorSolarPanels),unlockingthemysteriesbehindthejargonand
acronymsisoneofthemostdifficultearlytasks.RegardingVoltage,PVmoduleshavemanydifferentvoltage
figuresassociatedwiththem.Wellstartwiththeeasyonesandgoonfromthere.

Inthisarticle,you'lllearnabout:

VoltageatOpenCircuit(VOC)
VoltageatMaximumPower(VMPorVPM)
NominalVoltage
TemperatureCorrectedVOC
TemperatureCoefficientofVoltage
MeasuringVoltageandSolarPanelTesting

VoltageatOpenCircuit(VOC)

Thisisthevoltagethatisreadwithavoltmeterormultimeterwhenthemoduleisnotconnectedtoanyload.
YouwouldexpecttoseethisnumberlistedonaPVmodule'sspecificationsheetandsticker.

Thisvoltageisusedwhentestingmodulesfreshoutofthebox,andusedlaterwhendoingtemperature
correctedVOCcalculationsinsystemdesign.YoucanreferencethechartbelowtofindtypicalVOCvaluesfor
differenttypesofcrystallinePVmodules.

NominalVoltage VOCtypical VMPtypical #ofcellsinseries

12 21 17 36

18 30 24 48

18 33 26 54

20 36 29 60

24 42 35 72

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VoltageatMaximumPower(VMPorVPM)

Thisisthevoltagethatoccurswhenthemoduleisconnectedtoaloadandisoperatingatitspeak
performanceoutputunderstandardtestconditions(STC).Youwouldexpecttoseethisnumberlistedona
modulesspecificationsheetandsticker.VMPisattheplaceofthebendonanIVcurvewherethegreatest
poweroutputofthemoduleis.

Itisimportanttonotethatthisvoltageisnoteasilymeasured,andalsonotrelatedtosystemperformanceper
se.ItisnotuncommonforaloadorabatterybanktodrawdowntheVMPofamoduleorarraytoafewvolts
lowerthanVMPwhilethesystemisinoperation.

TheratedwattageofaPVmodulecanbeconfirmedincalculationsbymultiplyingtheVMPofthemodulebythe
currentatmaxpower(IMP).TheresultshouldgiveyouP@MPPorpoweratthemaximumpowerpoint,the
sameasthemodulesnameplatewattage.

TheVMPofamodulegenerallyworksouttobe0.5voltspercellconnectedinserieswithinthemodule.You
canreferencethecharttofindtypicalVMPvaluesfordifferenttypesofcrystallinemodules.

NominalVoltage

Thisisthevoltagethatisusedasaclassificationmethod,asacarryoverfromthedayswhenbatterysystems
weretheonlythingsgoing.YouwouldNOTexpecttoseethisnumberlistedonaPVmodule'sspecification
sheetandsticker.Thisnomenclatureworkedreallywellbecausemostsystemshad12vor24vbatterybanks.
Whenyouhada12vbatterytochargeyouwouldusea12vmodule,endofstory.Thesameheldtruewith24v
systems.

BecausechargingDeepCycleBatterieswastheonlygameintown,theneedsofthebatteriesdictatedhow
manycellsinsidethePVshouldbewiredinseriesandorparallel,sothatundermostweatherconditionsthe
solarmoduleswouldworktochargethebattery(s).

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Ifyoureferencethechart,youcanseethat12vmodulesgenerallyhad36cellswiredinseries,whichoverthe
yearswasfoundtobetheoptimumnumberforreliablechargingof12vbatteries.Itstandstoreasonthata24v
systemwouldseethenumbersdouble,anditholdstrueinthechart.Everythingworkedreallywellinthisoff
gridsolarsystemastheChargeControllersandInvertersevolvedalongthesamenomenclaturesothatwhen
youhada12vbatteryandyouwantedsolarpower,youknewyouhadtogeta"12v"moduleanda"12v"
controller.

Eventhoughthevoltagefromthesolarmodulecouldbeat17vdc,andthechargecontrollerwouldbecharging
at14v,whiletheinverterwasrunninghappilyat13vdcinput,thewholesystemwasmadeupof12v"nominal"
componentssothatitwouldallworktogether.Thisworkedwellforagoodwhileuntilmaximumpowerpoint
technology(MPPT)becameavailableandGridTieInvertersstartedpoppingup.

ThismeantthatnotallPVwasnecessarilychargingbatteries,andthatasMPPTtechnologyevolved,even
whenPVwasusedinchargingbatteries,youwerenolongerrequiredtousethesamenominalvoltageasyour
batterybank.

StringinvertersandMPPTSolarChargeControllerschangedthegameformodules,astheywerenolonger
forcedintheirdesigntobebeholdentothevoltageneedsofdeepcyclebatteries.Thisshiftallowed
manufacturerstomakemodulesbasedonphysicalsize,wattagecharacteristics,anduseothermaterialsthat
producedmodulevoltagescompletelyunrelatedtobatteries.

Thefirstandmostpopularchangeoccurredinwhatarenowgenerallycalled18v"nominal"modules.Thereare
no18vbatterybanksforREsystems.Themodulesacquiredthisnamebecausetheircellcountandfunctional
voltageratingsputthemrightinbetweenthetwoexistingcategoriesof12vand24v"nominal"PVmodules.
Manymodulesfollowedwith48to60cells,thatproducedvoltagesthatwerenotadirectmatchfor12or24volt
nominalsystemcomponents.

Toavoidbadsystemdesignandconfusion,the18vmonikerwasadoptedbymanyintheindustry,butultimately
mayhavecreatedmoreconfusionamongnovicesthatdidnotunderstandtherelationshipbetweencellsin
series,VOC,VMP,andnominalvoltage.Withthisunderstandingthingsgetaloteasier,andthechartshould
helptounlocksomeofthemystery.

TemperatureCorrectedVOC

ThisvalueisrequiredtoensurethatwhencoldtemperaturesraisetheVOCofanarray,thatotherconnected
equipmentlikeMPPTcontrollersorGridTieinvertersarenotdamaged.Thiscalculationisdoneinoneoftwo
ways.ThefirstwayinvolvesusingthechartinNEC690.7.Thesecondwayinvolvesdoingcalculationswiththe
TemperatureCoefficientofVoltageandthecoldestlocaltemperature.

TemperatureCoefficientofVoltage

Thisvaluerepresentsthechangeinvoltagebasedontemperature.GenerallyitisusedtocalculateCold
Temp/HigherVoltagesituationsforarrayandcomponentselectionincoolerclimates.Thisvaluemaybe
presentedasapercentagechangefromSTCvoltagesperdegreeorasavoltagevaluechangeperdegree

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tempchange.Thisinformationwasnoteasilyfoundinthepast,butisnowmorecommonlyseenonspecpages
andsometimesmodulestickers.

MeasuringVoltageandSolarPanelTesting

VoltagescanbereadonaPVmodulewiththeuseofavoltmeterormultimeter.

Whatyou'llseeovertotherightisanexampleofavoltmetermeasuringVOCwithajunctionbox.Thiswouldbe
theviewfromthebackofthePVmodule.

Tolearnfurtheraboutsolarpaneltesting,checkoutourVideoTip!

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