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Energy Convers. Mgmt Vol. 36, No. 3, pp.

161-174, 1995
~ Pergamon 0196-8904(94)00065-4
Copyright © 1995 Elsevier Science Ltd
Printed in Great Britain. All rights reserved
0196-8904/95 $9.50 + 0.00

PHOTOVOLTAIC TECHNOLOGY: BASIC CONCEPTS,


SIZING OF A STAND ALONE PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM
FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS AND PRELIMINARY
ECONOMIC ANALYSIS

V I N O D K U M A R S H A R M A , t A N T O N I O C O L A N G E L O and
G I U S E P P E SPAGNA
ENEA Research Centre, Trisaia, Department of Non-Nuclear Energy, 75025 Policoro (Matera), Italy

(Receh:ed 10 June 1994; receh~ed.for publication 23 November 1994)

Abstract--Short descriptiveoutlines, both for the processes that occur in the photovoltaic effect and the
simplest form of a stand alone photovoltaic system, are described in the present paper. System sizing,
description of a few small to medium capacity PV installations, preliminary economic analysis, the
information needs for diffusing this technology into rural areas with particular reference to developing
countries etc. are other main subtopics discussed here.

Photovoltaic effect Solarcell Systemsizing Standalone PV system Economicanalysis

INTRODUCTION

Due to the dispersion in rural areas of the specific energy demand and its low specific intensity,
it seems difficult to provide conventional energy sources (oil, coal, electricity from national grid),
especially because of the high transportation costs. However, it seems quite certain that the present
and future energy demands of agriculture and the rural areas could be satisfied through the use of
both conventional and renewable energy sources. For example, there is a large scope for utilization
of solar energy in developing countries, and if sustained efforts are made, non-conventional energy
sources can meet a significant part of the energy needs. Therefore, an option in the development
of agricultural and rural areas is the use of the renewable energy sources locally available and
installing autonomous and consistent plants to solve the various user points.
A m o n g a wide variety of renewable energy projects in progress, photovoltaic systems are the
most promising as a future energy technology. The final objective of photovoltaic technology,
however, is to obtain electricity from the sun that is cost competitive and even advantageous with
respect to other energy sources. This is, no doubt, already a reality in some environments, but of
their diffusion in rural areas, there still exists many constraints, and the problem needs to be
examined from the economic, technical, operational and institutional viewpoints. It has been felt
that the adoption of this technology could be stimulated through dissemination of information,
training services, subsidies and credit facilities. Efforts should be made to install such units with
the help of locally available technical skill. Real participation and self initiatives by the users may
slow down the process on a short-term basis but will lead to successful implementation in the long
run. Also, due consideration should be given to the users having access to this technology to achieve
their full participation.
As a first step in this direction, it is essential that potential users be made aware of the technology
through increased understanding of the processes and the fundamental principles on which it is based.
Installation of a few small to medium capacity photovoltaic units is very essential. Given this
context, the authors have tried to answer some of the basic questions raised above. It is hoped that

tVisiting Scientist from Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India.


161
162 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

to dc loads
PV array

Fig. 1. Stand alone d.c. system without battery.

the present communication will be interesting for all those who, one way or the other, are involved
with this technology and especially those who want to learn more about it.

P H O T O V O L T A I C SYSTEMS
A photovoltaic system is an integrated assembly of modules and other components, designed to
convert solar energy into electricity to provide a particular service, either alone or in combination
with a back up supply. A module is the basic building block of a photovoltaic generator. It is
defined as the smallest complete, environmentally protected assembly of series connected solar cells.
The cells are encapsulated between a transparent window and a moisture proof backing to insulate
them electrically, as well as from the weather and accidental damage. Digital leads are provided
for connecting it to other modules or components or the load. The modules in a PV array are
connected in series strings to provide the required voltage, and if one string is not enough to provide
the required power, two or more strings are connected in parallel.
In its simplest form, a stand alone photovoltaic system consists of an array of one or more
photovoltaic modules supplying the load directly (Fig. 1). Such a system can be used for water
pumping, battery charging etc. The addition of an inverter makes the system suitable for domestic
supplies when the load consists of a.c. appliances (Fig. 2). Moreover, to carry the load during the
night or during periods of low irradiance, a storage battery with a charge regulator must be added
to the basic system (Figs 3, 4).
So, we have seen above that, in a complete photovoltaic system, the solar cell, inverter, regulator,
battery, rectifier etc. are the important components of the system that need to be understood
thoroughly. An attempt has been made to discuss all these components, one by one, in the following
sections.

THE SOLAR CELL


The topic of a solar cell is not a new one. There is a large volume of literature available on the
subject. It is just to give a very brief initial input to readers, both new and experienced, that we
want to summarize here the most relevant aspects involved in solar cell operation. Also, the main
idea is to facilitate the description of the main features that characterize high efficiency solar cells,
to be discussed later in the second part of the present communication.
Experiments show that electrons may be ejected from a metal surface, either by thermal
excitation or by photon excitation. Now, when an electron is created from a metal surface, in other
words, when an electron jumps from the valance band to the conduction band, it leaves behind
a "hole", or missing electron in a covalent bond. This hole can easily be filled by an electron from
an adjacent covalent bond, so the hole can move through the lattice. Thus, an intrinsic
semiconductor conducts electricity by means of negative charge carriers (e-) and positive charge
carriers (holes). The electrical conductivity of a semiconductor can be greatly increased by the
addition of certain impurities in a concentration of about 1 ppm.

to ac loads
PV array Inverter

Fig. 2. Stand alone a.c. systemwithout battery.


SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS 163

to DC load

Charge
regulator

PV
array

BoRo~

Fig. 3. Stand alone d.c. system with battery.

An n - p junction is a semiconductor crystal that is doped as an n-type semiconductor on one


side and as a p-type semiconductor on the other side. Near the junction, free electrons from the
n-type side fill the holes from the p-type side, forming a depletion layer that is deficient in majority
carriers. In this layer, the fixed impurities then create an excess positive charge on the n-type side
and an excess negative charge on the p-type side. This produces an electric potential barrier (Vb)
that counterbalances further movement of majority carriers across the junction. The height of the
potential barrier, Vb, is somewhat less than the energy gap E~, because the fixed impurities slightly
hinder the movement of the majority carriers. The potential difference across the junction produces
an electric field in the depletion layer, directed from the n-type side towards the p-type side.
Now, when solar radiation falls on an n - p silicon junction, photons with wavelength less than
1.13 #m generate electron-hole pairs. The electric field in the depletion layer separates the electron
and holes before they recombine, driving the electrons to the n-type side. If the two sides of the
junction are connected to an external circuit, these charges give rise to a current, and the energy
in the solar radiation is converted into electrical energy in the circuit.
So, in brief, it can be stated that an operating solar cell consists of an n - p junction in which
the front contact has been substituted by a metallic grid to allow the sunlight to penetrate into the
bulk semiconductor. The efficiency of photovoltaic conversion is limited by the relationship
between the photon energy and the energy gap in the semiconductor. Photons in the infrared, with
wavelength 0.7-1.1 #m, have energies only slightly greater than the energy gap, so most of their

to AC loads
Inverter

Charge
regulator

BaRe~

Fig. 4. Stand alone a.c. system with battery.

ECM 36/3--B
164 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

energy is converted into electricity. It can be seen that, if the external load resistance is very high,
we have an open circuit with zero current, whereas if the load resistance is negligible, we have a
short circuit in which the current is no doubt high but no power is delivered because the potential
drop across the load is negligible. So, at these two characteristic points, the power delivered to the
load vanishes and reaches its maximum value at some intermediate point called the maximum
power point (Pmax)" The power delivered at this maximum point is usually related to I~ and Vo~
by means of the fill factor, FF:

emax=lsc'Voc'FF
So, the efficiency of the cell is increased if these parameters are increased.

T H E P H O T O V O L T A I C M O D U L E AND ITS A S S E M B L Y

As stated earlier, a photovoltaic system is an integrated assembly of PV modules (solar cells


connected in series) and other components. Basically, a module is a basic building block of a
photovoltaic generator. It is defined as the smallest complete environmentally protected assembly
of interconnected solar cells. The cells are encapsulated between a transparent window and a
moisture proof backing to insulate them electrically and protect them from the weather and
accidental damage. Fixing holes or clamps are provided for mounting the module on a supporting
structure. Digital leads are provided for connecting it to other modules or components or the load.
As yet, there is no consensus on the optimum size of a photovoltaic module, although nowadays,
most are in the 30-50 W range. A modern module, available in the market, consists of 36 series
connected monocrystalline silicon cells and measures 982 x 436 x 38.5 mm. Its rated power is
50 Wp at 16.5 V, a voltage suitable for charging a 12 V battery. It is to be mentioned that there
does exist modern commercial crystalline silicon module with conversion efficiency of 10-17%.
The modules in a PV array are connected in series strings to provide the required voltage, and
if one string is not enough to provide the required power, two or more strings are connected in
parallel. Some PV generators may consist of more than one array, in which case the installation
is called an "array field". Array fields may be divided into subarrays.
In most flat-plate arrays, the modules are supported at a fixed tilt facing the equator. In an ideal
situation, with prevailing clear, sunny weather, fixed tilt modules will produce the highest annual
output at an inclination equal to the angle of latitude.
With small, manually adjustable arrays, useful gain can be obtained by changing the tilt angle
once every 3 months and moving the array in azimuth to face the sun twice a day (mid morning
and mid afternoon). The more useful approach is to arrange the arrays in easily accessible rows,
spaced so as to prevent too much shadowing of one row by its neighbour at the beginning and
end of the day.

THEINVERTER

An inverter (Fig. 5) is a device that converts d.c. to a.c. and is one of the key elements in a
photovoltaic system for a.c. loads. In the case of an inverter system, the amount of d.c. power
required per day to supply an a.c. load is determined by the efficiency of the inverter. Hence, if
the system is operating with a low efficiency inverter, the amount of d.c. Wh required will be quite
high as compared to a system using a high efficiency inverter. So, it is very essential that the inverter
should not only be reliable but also highly efficient.
As stated above, the inverter converts the d.c. from the array or battery to single or three phase
a.c. to suit the load requirements. Especially, in the grid interactive system, output must meet the
necessary requirements in terms of voltage, frequency and the harmonic purity of the waveform.
Voltage requirements are met by the use of an additional transformer, whereas the harmonic
synthesis or pulse width modulator are the techniques being employed in the modern solid state
inverter to construct a sinusoidal output. The process by which the forward current is interrupted
or transferred from one switching device to another is called "commutation". Self commutated and
line commutated inverters are usually used in the stand alone a.c. and grid interactive systems,
respectively.
SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAICSYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS 165

Transformer

[ ' load

÷ ±
m
Battery - -
storage m

Fig. 5. Simple scheme for the principle of an inverter.

The efficiency of a solid state inverter on full load is usually better than 95%. However, as in
a PV system, for most of the time, the inverter will be operating at less than full load and it is
important to choose one of an appropriate size with a good part-load efficiency.

THE BATTERIES

Due to the intermittent nature of solar energy, an appropriate storage system of storing the excess
energy during the active periods to carry the load during the inactive hours, or periods of low
irradiance, must be provided.
Although various methods of storing energy are, in principle, available, electrochemical batteries
appear to be ideal for both sustaining intermittent energy resources and load levelling operations.
A battery is based on an electrochemical c¢11which enables the direct conversion of chemical energy
into electricity.
The maximum amount of electricity which, at a specified discharge rate and electrolyte
temperature, a given battery is capable to deliver is referred to as the capacity and is measured
in Ampere-hours (Ah). A battery is very much affected by the depth of discharge, i.e. the percentage
of the total capacity withdrawn, that determines its effective cycle life. It is therefore very important
that the depth of discharge should, in no circumstances, exceed 80% and the battery should never
be left uncharged in this state for a long period. Overcharging also results in corrosion, plate growth
and loss of active material from the plates, leading to reduced life. On the other hand, repeated
failure to reach full charge can also have an adverse effect.
Another important factor in battery designing is the loss of electrolyte. To prevent this, some
batteries have catalytic devices over the cell vents, which causes the gases (oxygen and hydrogen)
to recombine into water.
The batteries in most PV systems are of the lead--acid type. The lead-acid battery is basically
formed by a lead negative electrode, a lead dioxide positive electrode and an aqueous sulphuric
acid electrolyte solution. They consist of one or more battery cells, each of which is rated at 2 V.
The most common configuration has six cells connected in series in order to obtain batteries with
a nominal voltage of 12 V. In PV systems, as the battery is expected to perform for a number of
days before recharge, the higher battery rating is used for sizing purposes.
It has recently been seen that nickel-cadmium pocket plate batteries are in many ways more
suited to operation in the PV system than the lead-acid types. The basic scheme of this battery
is presented as
Cd/KOH aq./NiO(OH).
More precisely, as shown above, the nickel-cadmium cells consist of a positive plate of nickel
packed with nickel hydroxide and a negative plate of cadmium immersed in a solution of potassium
hydroxide in water. The electrolyte plays no part in the electrochemical reaction but serves as a
charge carrier between the plates. Consequently, such batteries do not suffer from the problem of
electrolyte depletion and stratification which afflict lead-acid batteries. Also, the capacity of the
166 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAICSYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

battery is not influenced much by the rate of discharge and the temperature rise. The batteries can
be fully discharged and are not damaged by long periods in this condition.
No doubt, as seen above, nickel--cadmium batteries are more suited to operation in PV systems
as compared to the lead-acid types, but so far, these are not diffused in the market. Apart from
the high cost involved, the growing concern about cadmium toxicity raises some questions on the
opportunity of keeping the production at the actual levels. Under the circumstances, further
research efforts are still needed to make such batteries defect-free, as well as cost effective.

THE d.c./d.c. C O N V E R T E R S

In modern solid state converters, the transformation from one d.c. voltage to another is usually
achieved by high frequency chopping, using transistors. An efficiency of over 95% at full load can
be expected. Of course, a converter is not necessary if the desired voltage can be provided directly
from the array, by suitable arrangements of modules. A MPPT has built-in control logic, usually
operated by a microprocessor that senses the array voltage and current at frequent intervals,
computes the power output and compares it with the previous value.

T H E BATTERY C O N T R O L L E R S
A battery controller is a device which regulates the charge current and prevents over charging.
In photovoltaic systems, such devices can regulate the charge current either by interrupting
the array current (series type) or by short-circuiting sections of the array (shunt type). As
short-circuiting will aggravate any tendency to hot spot failure, the series type is not always
advisable.
A more sophisticated type embodies a microprocessor which maintains battery current, voltage
and temperature, computes the state of charge and regulates the input and output currents so as
to avoid overcharging and excessive discharge. Due to some technical, as well as physical, problems,
the performance of such controllers with lead-acid batteries is not yet satisfactory.

S I Z I N G OF A STAND A L O N E P H O T O V O L T A I C S Y S T E M
After getting acquainted with the various components needed to install a photovoltaic system,
the next important step is to determine the size of all such components for a given power load.
So, the system sizing is the process of determining the cheapest combination of array size and
storage capacity that will meet the load requirements with an acceptable level of security over the
expected lifetime of the installation.
Because solar radiation varies, and in many cases, the load demand cannot be predicted
accurately, sizing is necessarily an approximate calculation, based on probabilities. As a determi-
nation of a PV sizing calculation, let us take the hypothetical case of an off-grid farming house

Table 1. Load and irradiation data


Mean daily irradiation
Mean daily (kWh/m2)
load
Month (Ah/day) 30° latitude 60°
January 45.00 2.86 3.00 3.15
February 43.90 3.52 3.60 3.55
March 43.10 4.35 4.30 4.00
April 42.30 5.25 5.15 4.40
May 41.50 5.80 5.60 4.45
June 41.50 6.10 5.80 4.55
July 41.50 6.55 6.25 5.08
August 41.50 6.45 6.20 5.28
September 42.30 5.70 5.65 5.20
October 43.10 4.50 4.52 4.56
November 44.00 3.55 3.70 4.00
December 44.43 2.78 2.86 3.07
42.84 4.78 4.72 4.27
SHARMA et aL: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS 167

Table 2. Load calculation for December


Inverter efficiency: 80%
d.c. bus voltage: 110 V
Power Average daily Mean daily Mean daily
Voltage demand duty cycle energy demand load
Appliance (V a.c.) (W) (h/day) (Wh/day) (Ah/day)
Lights 220 6 x 20 5 600 6.82
Radio, TV VCR 220 60 8 480 5.45
Vacuum cleaner 220 600 0.5 300 3.41
Electric oven 220 600 0.5 300 3.41
Iron 220 1000 0.5 500 5.68
Washing machine 220 2000 0.5 1000 11.4
4380 36.17
Corrected mean daily load = 36.17/0.835 x 0.975 = 44.43 Ah/day

situated in the Basilicata Region of southern Italy. The householder requires a stand alone
PV/battery system to provide power at 220 V a.c. for lighting, TV, VCR, radio, a vacuum cleaner,
an electric oven, a washing machine, an iron etc. with a security of supply of 95%. The proposed
system is shown schematically in Fig. 4.

Load and irradiation data


Mean daily load and mean daily solar radiation values (corresponding to a tilt angle of 60 ° facing
south) for each month of the year are presented in Table 1. The solar radiation data has been taken
from the internal technical report published by the ENEA Research Centre, Trisaia, situated in
the Basilicata Region in southern Italy.
The photovoltaic system has been designed to generate a d.c. current at a nominal voltage of
110 V. This includes allowances for losses in the inverter (20%), battery (16.5%) and cabling
(2.5%). The battery loss is based on a charge efficiency of 70% and the assumption that, on average,
55% of the total load will be supplied through the battery. As an example, the load calculations
for December are presented in Table 2.
From the irradiation statistics for the region and taking into consideration the required 95 % level
of security, the maximum number of consecutive cloudy days over which the battery would be
required to meet the load demand with no contribution from the array is taken as four. The mean
daily output delivered by the proposed PV installation is presented in Table 3.

Operating temperature of photovoltaic modules


The operating temperature of a solar cell is an important parameter of the efficiency of a PV
system. Models exist for calculating the temperature of PV modules. Assuming that the operating
temperature of the photovoltaic module is equal to the temperature of its cells, it can simply be
estimated from the ambient temperature and insolation data.
The maximum ambient temperature in the region under consideration, based on a 95%
probability, is expected to be 32°C, and the temperature rise of the selected module, a commercial

Table 3. Mean daily output from the PV installation


Daily output delivered by the
PV installation at a tilt of 60°
Month (Ah/day)
January 46.20
February 52.07
March 58.67
April 64.54
May 65.27
June 66.74
July 74.51
August 77.45
September 76.27
October 66.88
November 58.67
December 45.0
168 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAICSYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

12 V, 50 Wp ( + 10%) crystalline silicon type, is expected to be 25°C assuming open rack mounting.
So, the estimated maximum operating cell temperature is (32 + 2 5 ) = 57°C.

T I L T ANGLE
The selection of tilt angle plays a significant role so far as the sizing of a photovoltaic system
is concerned. For example, in the summer season, a tilt in the range of 20-60 ° does not significantly
affect the utility of the PV system in question. However, this does not seem to be correct in the
winter season with the maximum daily load demand but minimum solar radiation available. The
solar radiation data presented in Table 1 very clearly demonstrates the fact mentioned above. For
example, in the month of December, with a tilt of 60 °, there is a net increase of 10% in the solar
radiation availability when compared to a tilt of 30 ° that, in turn, increases the output delivered
by the PV system. It is because of this reason that, in the present case, we have selected a tilt of
60 ° facing due south.

Module working voltage


From the I - V characteristics of the selected module, it has been seen that, at a working
temperature of 57°C and an irradiance of 1000 W/m 2, the maximum power is delivered at 16.0 V.
However, keeping in view the manufacturer's tolerance of _ 10% on the power output, a suitable
working voltage comes out to be 14 V.

Array size
For a d.c. bus voltage of 110 V,

110 + 1 (allowance for blocking d i o d e ) = 111 ___8.


No. of modules per string =
Working voltage (14 V) 14

Now, the next step is to determine the total cell area required to meet a mean daily load of
45 Ah/day during a day in the month of December with a mean solar radiation value of
3.07 kWh/day. As illustrated below, a very simple method has been used to design a system
that would be able to provide the load requested. It is to be noted that an average efficiency of
12% was assigned to the PV modules used in the present installation, while doing the above
calculation.

Mean daily solar radiation available = 3.07 kWh/m2-day


Efficiency of the module = 12%
Mean daily output available from = (3.07 x 1000 x 0.12)/110
a PV module surface area of 1 m 2
= 3.35 Ah/day
Array losses due to module mismatch,
blocking diodes, dirt, and degradation =2%
Gross mean daily output available = 3.35 x 0.98 Ah/day
from module area of 1 m 2
= 3.28 Ah/day
Mean daily load required = 45 Ah/day
Therefore, the area of PV module required = 45/3.28 = 13.72 m 2
Area of standard PV module available = 0.40 m 2
So, the No. of PV modules = 13.72/0.40 = 34.30
- - r o u n d e d up to 35
For a d.c. bus voltage of 110 V,
minimum number of module strings = 35/8 = 4.375
- - r o u n d e d up to 5.
SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS 169

Table 4. Monthly output/load balance for PV installation


Surplus ( + )
Load demand Array output or deficit ( - )
Month (Ah) (Ah) (Ah)
January 1395 1432 +37
February 1229 1458 +229
March 1336 1819 +483
April 1269 1936 +667
May 1286 2023 +737
June 1245 2002 +757
July 1286 2310 + 1024
August 1286 2401 +1115
September 1269 2288 + 1019
October 1336 2073 +737
November 1320 1760 +440
December 1377 1395 +18

Battery sizing
The sizing of a battery system, i.e. the capacity of a battery system required to meet the load
demand of 180 Ah during four consecutive days periods with no contribution from the PV
installation, can be calculated as follows:
Battery capacity required = 180/0.8 x 0.9 Ah = 250Ah.

Now, if we select a lead acid battery of 100 Ah and a nominal voltage of 12V, the number of
batteries that can provide the above load can be calculated as:
No. of batteries in a series string = 110/12 = 9.
From the above discussion, it can be concluded that, to provide a necessary load, a photo-
voltaic/battery system with the following characteristics is required, i.e.

Array: 5 strings of eight 50 Wp modules = 2000 Wp


Battery: 1 string of nine 12 V, 250 Ah batteries = 27 kWh.

PRELIMINARY LIFE CYCLE COST ANALYSIS

Economics is one of the primary constraints that need to be examined very closely for PV
technology to reach its full potential. Many criteria exist which can be chosen as an economic
criterion for optimization of a solar installation. In the present section on life cycle cost analysis
of the PV installation described above, the concept of minimum cost for the output delivered during
the lifetime of the system has been considered.
The net cost of useful energy delivered by the system depends upon the initial capital investment,
the lifetime of the system, maintenance cost, salvage value, interest rate etc. Using the guidelines
provided both by Sharma et al. and Treble, an attempt has been made to estimate the cost of 1 kWh
of useful energy delivered by the PV installation.

Table 5. Preliminary life cycle cost analysis


Present
Investment specification Cost worth factor Present cost
PV module 13,000,000 I 13,000,000
PV module installation 1,300,000 1 1,300,000
Battery bank 4,050,000 2.13 8,626,500
Inverter 3,000,000 1.61 4,830,000
Control system 1,000,000 1 1,000,000
Other components 1,000,000 1 1,000,000
System installation 1,000,000 1 1,000,000
Maintenance per year 400,000 12.46 4,984,000
Salvage value - 2,000,000 0.377 -754,000
Total 34,986,500
170 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAICSYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

The following assumptions have been considered while calculating the life cycle cost (presented
in Table 5) for the system under investigation.

Module price : Lit. 6500/Wp


Battery price : Lit. 150,000/kWh
Battery life : 8 yr
Inverter price : Lit. 3,000,000
Inverter life : 10 yr
Array installation cost : Lit. 1,300,000
Net discount rate : 5%
Salvage value : Lit. 2,000,000
1 U.S.$ : Lit. 1580

It is evident from the calculation presented in Table 4 that, over an average year, the system
would produce a good amount of surplus energy. So, rather than waste this surplus energy, the
householder could use it to run more appliances (e.g. for water heating purposes).
From the cost of 1 kWh of useful energy (Table 6) delivered by the system, it is very clear that
the system is handicapped by the economic consideration. It is, therefore, very important that, to
make the system more economical, further research work must be done to optimize the sizing of
the system with maximum possible utilization of the energy delivered by the system.

S M A L L TO M E D I U M CAPACITY P H O T O V O L T A I C S Y S T E M S I N S T A L L E D AT
ENEA R E S E A R C H C E N T R E , T R I S A I A
During the last few months, some prototype photovoltaic systems of small to medium capacity
have been installed at the unit for demonstration of solar energy devices, ENEA Research Centre,
Trisaia. The main objective of such installation is to get familiar, as well as to acquire practical
experience of working, with photovoltaic systems to be used later for the experimental set up of
a large capacity water desalination unit based on reverse osmosis technology. The electric input
for the distillation plant is planned to be provided by a photovoltaic unit of capacity 55 kW w To
achieve the objective, some photovoltaic systems have been installed, and the output is being used
for applications, such as water pumping, lighting purposes in the solar energy unit, running
centrifugal fans connected to the solar dryer etc. A brief description of the units mentioned above
will be given in the text to follow.

Solar photovoltaic system of 6kWp


A block diagram of a general PV electric system is shown in Fig. 6. It consists of PV panels
interconnected in series and parallel in such a way as to give the desired voltage and current; a
regulator which controls the charging process of the storage batteries; a bank of storage batteries;
and an inverter which supplies the various alternative current loads of the system with specific
electricity requirements. However, if the total load of the system is direct current, no inverter will
be installed.
The PV system in question, installed at ENEA Research Centre, Trisaia, is equipped with 148
modules of polycrystalline, as well as monocrystalline silicon solar cells. The modules are comprised
of 36 or 72 cells per module. An inverter, storage batteries, charging regulator, synoptic board,
a centralized supervising monitoring and data acquisition system, are other important components
of the 6 kWp photovoltaic system. The photovoltaic modules are mounted on a fixed metal
supporting structure having inclination equal to 45 ° and anchored in a concrete foundation.

Table 6. Cost of one kWh


Mean daily load (Ah/day) 42.84
d.c. working voltage (V) 110
Mean daily energy (kWh) 4.71
Useful energy consumed in 20 yr 34,401
Cost of kWh 1,017
SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAICSYSTEM FOR DOMESTICAPPLICATIONS 171

PHOTOVOLTAIC
FIELDOF 6 KWp
[ENEL
r
I
I
STORAGE J LO~~D
BATTERY
Fig. 6. General sketch of 6 KWp photovoltaicsystem.

The inverter and the batteries system have been systemized in a separate box with a photovoltaic
system installed on the roof that provides the necessary input energy for lighting, running a
refrigerator and a TV set etc. In order to supply the power generated from the 6 kWp system for
the lighting system in the office building, a connection was made between the inverter and the
general switching board of the office, making use of a bipolar electric cable. To guarantee the power
supply, a relay system has been realized in such a way that, in case of power failure from the
inverter, it automatically switches over to the ENEL electric network. On the other hand, as soon
as the power supply from the inverter is sufficient, the relay system once again switches over from
the E N E L network to the inverter. The power supply from the batteries is drawn only when the
cell voltage in a battery is more than 1.7 V.

Photovoltaic water pumping system (Fig. 7)


To realize a solar water pumping system, a photovoltaic unit, installed by using 10 photovoltaic
modules of polycrystalline silicon cell, with a designed capacity of 340 Wp has been used. The
system output is supplied to the inverter which is connected directly to a motor that runs the pump.
The pumped water is stored in a tank of capacity 1 m 3. The system starts pumping water at 7 a.m.
when the solar radiation intensity is under 300 W/m z and stops, depending on the prevailing
weather conditions at the site i.e. when the solar radiation intensity drops to 200 W/m 2.
The sizing of a pumping system is based on the dynamic water level of the well, the rate
at which water is replenished from its basin and the available solar energy in the installation
region.

Photovoltaic street lamp (Fig. 8)


A photovoltaic street lamp has been constructed using two photovoltaic modules fixed at the
top of an iron pole of height 4 m or so. Each module consists of 36 solar cells of monocrystalline
silicon connected in series and having a power of 40 Wp at an open circuit voltage of 18 V.

PHOTOVOLTAIC
FIELDOF 350 Wp
PLASTICPIPE
~ ELECTRICALALIMENTA'nON
PLASTICPIPE~ ! -
STORAGETANK

PUMP

Fig. 7. Sketch of photovoltaicstreet light.


ECM 3 6 1 3 ~
172 SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS

CREPUSCULAR
SWITCH

I
CHARGE I
CONTROL
i B.EC'I'I:IIG
I STORAGE
BA) b.HY
m
BULB

Fig. 8. Schematic diagram of photovoltaic water pumping system.

Solar assisted dryer operated using photovoltaie power (Fig. 9)


As a solar thermal device, a solar assisted dryer, designed and developed by a research group
working at the ENEA Research Centre, Trisaia, has been in operation for the last couple of years.
The said system has been thoroughly tested using different agricultural products, especially fruit
and vegetables grown locally. To give this system a new touch, the idea of using photovoltaic
modules to produce the electric power necessary to run the blower supplying air to the solar drying
system, was given by Ing. G. Spagna. The purpose was to make the system solar energy dependent,
as well as to have some experience with photovoltaic systems.
The solar dryer named SADAPP is comprised of two separate solar collectors in different
configurations and a multi-shelf drying box. Air is supplied to the collectors by two separate
electrically run blowers of capacity 1.5 and 0.5 CV in the a.c. mode, respectively. However, to make
use of the photoelectric power, two different blowers run by d.c. motors with bus voltage of 48 V
have been selected. The PV system is comprised of 44 solar modules installed on the roof and on
the wall facing south of the room that contains the drying box. All the 44 modules have been
connected electrically in four different strings.
Under good sunny conditions, the blowers are run by the power generated by the PV system.
However, in case of no power supply from the PV system, as explained earlier, by automatic change

r
\ -- - VE.TUTO. "..Y,.G
I... ce,,

l co" roR J
Fig. 9. General sketch and view of PV system to be used for solar assisted dryer.
SHARMA et al.: A PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEM FOR DOMESTIC APPLICATIONS 173

of connections from the PV system to the main E N E L electric network, the operation of the system
can be made continuous.

INFORMATION NEEDS FOR DIFFUSING PHOTOVOLTAIC TECHNOLOGY


ESPECIALLY INTO THE RURAL AREAS OF DEVELOPING COUNTRIES

The need for a transitory energy supply for a large number of non-electrified, isolated
rural communities has long been recognized. One solution may be the utilization of photovoltaic
cells or high temperature solar thermal energy conversion schemes. To appreciate fully the real
potential of photovoltaic technology as a means of rural advancement, it is necessary to consider
a number of parameters, including national policies, institutional factors and the schemes relating
to the supply of fuel and other commodities. Problems in the area of technology, economics and
management of PV systems need to be solved to bring about a successful and rapid implementation
of PV technology in developing countries. Keeping in view the facts mentioned above, some areas
of research that would contribute to the successful dissemination of this technology in developing
countries are suggested in the present section.
The major obstacle reducing the diffusion of PV technology is a financial one. A vast majority
of the rural households in developing countries cannot afford the technology in question because
of its cost. Apart from local financial problems, the reduction of research money in several
countries, as well as the continuously decreasing oil price since 1985, are other financial restrictions.
With the decreasing oil price, the pay back period for the PV power plant increases significantly,
thus making the system less competitive with conventional systems.
Keeping in view the facts mentioned above, research efforts that will contribute to lowering the
cost of industrial, family-sized or community-sized power plants should be continued. Development
and use of cheaper, durable and locally available materials for the construction of a power plant
should be an ongoing matter of investigation.
Apart from the above mentioned efforts at the research level, an additional effort in the area
of social and economic studies to understand the dynamics of the rural community would be quite
useful for successful utilization of renewable energy resources. Residents must be willing to accept
the new technologies, and their participation in the planning, construction, and maintenance of the
system must be ensured.

CONCLUSION

For remote rural areas, without access to electrical energy from a central power grid (may
be due to technical or economic reasons), stand alone photovoltaic systems represent the only
hope of meeting basic electric needs. No doubt, solar power is technically feasible, and for
providing relatively small quantities of electricity in remote sites, PV is competitive on the basis
of overall costs with alternatives, such as small diesel generators. It is not yet competitive with
grid power. It is interesting to note that the solar array, the required energy storage and the
inverter, are the most important factors in the cost of a stand alone PV system. It is hoped that,
through further research efforts targeted to improve the performance of the above mentioned
factors, the research will make stand alone photovoltaic systems more economical and energy
efficient.

Acknowledgement--One of the authors (V. K. Sharma) would like to express his sincere thanks to Professor G. Furlan,
Head, ICTP Programme of Training and Research in Italian Laboratoriesfor providing financial help and moral support
to complete this work.

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