Get our free book (in Spanish or English) on rainwater now - To Catch the Rain.

Solar photovoltaic software

From Appropedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search


QASlogo.png This page was developed by the Queen's University Applied Sustainability Research Group. QASlogo.png


The purpose of this document is to provide a brief overview of the available Photovoltaic systems engineering simulation software available. Some programs are specifically designed for photovoltaic applications while others include additional renewable energy simulation features. The information provided is collected from the respective product's website and thus can entail biased or missing information. Hopefully the compilation can grow and become more accurate as time goes by.

PV Systems Engineering Simulations

Compilation of PV Simulation Software
Name Cost/Open Source Basic Description Abilities Outputs
RETScreen[1] Free of Charge A decision support tool developed with the contribution of numerous experts from the Canadian government, industry, and academia. The software can be used worldwide to evaluate the energy production and savings, costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk for various types of Renewable-energy and Energy-efficient Technologies (RETs). The software can model a wide variety of projects ranging from large scale multi-array central power plants, to distributed power systems located on commercial buildings and houses, to industrial remote wind-PV-genset hybrid power supplies, to stand-alone battery storage systems for lighting. For agriculture and water supply applications the daily and annual electricity use for water pumping can be estimated using a convenient water pumping tool. The software (available in multiple languages) also includes product, project and climate databases, and a detailed user manual. Energy production and savings, costs, emission reductions, financial viability and risk for central-grid, isolated-grid and off-grid photovoltaic (solar electric) projects.
PV F-Chart[2] $400.00 for single user

$600.00 for educational site

PV F-CHART is a comprehensive photovoltaic system analysis and design program. The program provides monthly-average performance estimates for each hour of the day. The calculations are based upon methods developed at the University of Wisconsin which use solar radiation usability to account for statistical variation of radiation and the load. Can model utility interface systems, battery storage systems, and stand-alone systems. Includes fixed, 1-axis, and 2-axis tracking as well as concentrators tracking options. Comprises of weather data for over 300 locations, ability to include additional weather data, fast execution, hourly load profiles for each month, statistical load variation, buy/sell cost differences, time-of-day rates for buy/sell, life-cycle economics with cash flow, and monthly parameter variation. Graphical and numerical outputs come in both English and SI Units. System performance results, efficiency, load, economics summary, life cycle costs, equipment costs, initial investments, solar fraction, etc.
SolarDesignTool[3] There is a free version, and an expert version with a monthly fee SolarDesignTool is an online tool that solar professionals can use to design solar electric grid-tied systems online. It offers two different ways to create a PV system design. One method is for the user to supply a few basic design and site parameters. The tool then generates a list of all possible system configurations for those parameters. The user then selects a few of the generated configurations, compares them, and then saves one or more of them to a project. The other method to create a system is to use its System Builder. With this tool, the user specifies the details of each array configuration. For example, to create a system with multiple inverters, the user would first provide the temperature range, utility voltage, and then add an inverter and array, which involves selecting an inverter, module, and string configuration. The user would then repeat the process for each additional inverter. Users can also define any number of roof faces and require that the system's array fit within those defined areas. Generate System Designs, String Sizing, System comparison, Array Layout Design List of all possible system configurations for supplied design parameters. System comparison table, a summary report of the system. The report includes the following data: Record low temperature and average high temperature of installation site, STC DC output of array, PTC DC output of array, CEC output of array, number, model names, and specs for inverters and modules, area of array, maximum AC output current, dimensions of each roof face, and array layout, and distances of each row of modules. It also includes basic schematics of the roof, including length and width dimensions of the roof faces and layouts. The report is available in both HTML and PDF formats.
TRNSYS[4] $2100 for educational use TRNSYS is a transient systems simulation program with a modular structure. It recognizes a system description language in which the user specifies the components that constitute the system and the manner in which they are connected. The modular nature of TRNSYS gives the program tremendous flexibility, and facilitates the addition to the program of mathematical models not included in the standard TRNSYS library. TRNSYS is well suited to detailed analyses of any system whose behaviour is dependent on the passage of time. TRNSYS has become reference software for researchers and engineers around the world. Main applications include: solar systems (solar thermal and photovoltaic systems), low energy buildings and HVAC systems, renewable energy systems, cogeneration, fuel cells. Open-ended
NREL Solar Advisor Model (SAM)[5] Free of Charge/ Open Source SAM allows users to investigate the impact of variations in physical, cost, and financial parameters to better understand their impact on key figures of merit. Runs on TRNSYS engine. The Solar Advisor Model evaluates several types of financing (from residential to utility-scale) and a variety of technology-specific cost models for several and, eventually, all Solar Energy Technologies Program (SETP) technologies. The SETP technologies currently represented in SAM include concentrating solar power (CSP) parabolic trough and dish-Stirling systems and photovoltaic (PV) flat plate and concentrating technologies. SAM uses the total installed cost, which is the sum of direct and indirect costs, to calculate the levelized cost of energy. Because how costs are assigned to each category does not affect the total installed cost, you can either choose to distribute profit, overhead, shipping, and other costs among the component categories (module, inverter, BOS, Installation) or include them as a single value in the indirect category (miscellaneous). System energy output, peak and annual system efficiency, levelized cost of electricity, system capital and operating and maintenance costs, and hourly system production
ESP-r 11.5[6] Free of Charge/ Open Source ESP-r is an integrated modelling tool for the simulation of the thermal, visual and acoustic performance of buildings and the assessment of the energy use and gaseous emissions associated with the environmental control systems and constructional materials. In undertaking its assessments, the system is equipped to model heat, air, moisture and electrical power flows at user determined resolution. Building geometry can be defined via CAD tools, in-built CAD facilities or click-on-grid or image. ESP-r supports a building representation of arbitrary complexity (but most users work with models of 10-50 thermal zones. Models can be exported to other assessments tools such as EnergyPlus, Radiance (visual simulations) or VRML worlds.As required, component networks can be defined to represent, for example, HVAC systems, distributed fluid flow (for the building-side air or plant-side working fluids) and electrical distribution systems. Alternatively, users can use idealised environmental controls for early design-stage explorations. An interactive results analysis module is used to provide many different views of simulation results, undertake a variety of performance appraisals and explore the interactions between assessment domains. Tools are provided to enable the construction of an Integrated Performance View which summarises performance over a range of relevant criteria. The range of analyses are essentially unrestricted and data can be exported to other analysis and graphing tools (but many users find they rarely need to access spreadsheets).
INSEL[7] Free learning edition; 1500 Euro for full version; 500 Euro for minimum version; 75 Euro for full version for students INSEL is a modular simulation environment used to to understand, plan, monitor, and visualize energy systems. INSEL is a general-purpose graphical programming language, which can - in principle - solve any problem of computer simulation. The application fields of INSEL cover the topics solar irradiance simulation, photovoltaics and solar thermal applications. Whereas INSEL is the calculation engine to solve the mathematical model, a commercial visualisation tool named HP VEE was chosen to graphically construct the model in the first place. The core component of INSEL is the inselEngine which is a full compiler that can interprete and execute applications written in the INSEL language or graphical preprocessors like HP VEE, for example. The core component of INSEL is the inselEngine which is a full compiler that can interprete and execute applications written in the INSEL language or graphical preprocessors like HP VEE, for example.A user-programmable environment inselUB in which practically all fields of engineering applications can be built in a very structured way. All standard programming languages like Fortran, C++ are supported. Includes a variety of graphical and numerical outputs that is either built-in or can be user defined. These can entail different components of a PV system, including but not limited to optimum PV module parameters and recommended models, annual yield energy output, IV curves, cell temperature distribution and the corresponding effect on the performance of the cell, array, and plant, efficiency comparisons of fixed, 1-axis tracking, and 2-axis tracking, as well as efficiency gains or losses for tilted fixed angles.
PVSYST 4.33[8] ~500 Euro for one machine license;

~96 Euro for additional machines

PVSYST 4.33 is a PC software package for the study, sizing, simulation and data analysis of complete PV systems. It is suitable for grid-connected, stand-alone, pumping and DC-grid (public transport) systems, and offers an extensive meteorological and PV-components database. This software is oriented towards architects, engineers, and researchers, and holds very helpful tools for education. It includes an extensive contextual Help, which explains in detail the procedures and the models used. Tools include the meteo database management, with graphical displays or tables of data. PVsyst includes a database of around 330 sites in the world. Since PVsyst version 4.3 you can easily import meteo data from many popular meteorological sources (Meteonorm, Satellight, US TMY2, Helioclim-2, WRDC, NASA-SSE, PVGIS-ESRA, and the complete database of the Retscreen software). Custom meteo files can be easily imported in any ASCII format (as for instance from the NSRDB). The component database holds over 1750 PV modules, 650 inverters, nearly 100 solar pumps and dozens of batteries or regulator models. Custom updates of the database are very easy, on the basis of usual manufacturer data sheets. Extensive output of solar geometry (sun paths, incidence angles, etc.); Clear sky irradiation yields on tilted planes; Quick meteo calculations on tilted planes, with horizon, sheds or sun-shields shadings; Transposition factor plots, for plane orientation optimization; Generation of meteo hourly synthetic files from monthly values; Hourly meteo plots, and calculations of irradiation on tilted planes, also with on-graph comparison with clear day model; Various graphs of the component's behaviour (PV modules, batteries, pumps); Electrical PV-array behaviour under partial shadings, mismatch or double-orientation; Operating voltage optimisation tool.
SolarPro[9] Solar Pro is by Japanese company LaPlace systems that serves to calculate power production of solar arrays subject to different physical and shadow variations. Users can determine the influence of shade from buildings or objects, thus allowing for optimal settings and module design. The system calculates the I-V curve of solar cell modules accurately and quickly based on the electric characteristic for each product of each company. The software calculates the amount of electricity generated based on the altitude, longitude, and condition of the atmosphere at the location of the solar cell allowing users to get precise results. Solar Pro quickly finds out the necessary information on financial analysis of the PV system from power calculations and input data of system cost. I-V curve, power generation, life cycle analysis.
PV DesignPro-G[10] $249.00 for Solar Design Studio CD-ROM PV Design Pro-G is a suite of Windows 95, 98, NT, and Win2000 compatible software designed to simulate photovoltaic energy system operation on an hourly basis for one year, based on a user selected climate and system design. Three versions of the PV-DesignPro program are included on the Solar Design Studio CD-ROM: "PV-DesignPro-S" for standalone systems with battery storage, "PV-DesignPro-G" for grid-connected systems with no battery storage, and "PV-DesignPro-P" for water pumping systems. The purpose of the programs are to aid in photovoltaic system design by providing accurate and in-depth information on likely system power output and load consumption, necessary backup power during the operation of the system, and the financial impacts of installing the proposed system. PV-DesignPro is directed at individuals who consider themselves as professional PV system designers and researchers, but has been completed in such a way as to make it possible novice designers to evaluate system designs. Solar Fraction charts, by month of the year; Battery states of charge by month (maximum, average, minimum); Annual performance table (energy produced, necessary backup, and states-of-charge); An Annual Energy Cost Analysis that includes prospective cash-flows based on costs of purchased energy, and any sold PV energy; A Lifecycle Cost Analysis that is a comprehensive pro-forma analysis of the system design based on system cost, costs of backup energy, prices of sold energy, maintenance and replacement costs, and the estimated life of the system. A rate of return is calculated, as is an overall price per kWh of the system, and pay back years; Charts can be viewed that cover every hour of the year and include battery SOC, battery voltage, solar radiation on a horizontal surface, solar radiation on the array, load and backup watts, panels efficiency, panel cell temperature, angles of incidence, slope angle, and the azimuth angle.


  1. PV*express is the quick and easy design program for grid-connected photovoltaic systems.
  2. PV*SOL is a fully featured dynamic simulation programme for the design and calculation of photovoltaic system performance.
  3. PV*SOL Expert is the new 3D design tool for modelling photovoltaic system performance.