Precision Engineering of Solar Farms

Renewable energy sources has come a long way to becoming viable solutions for our clean energy needs. Solar energy has had decades of exponential growth. Global capacity is expected to reach over 1,000 gigawatts by 2023.

Historically leaders in solar adoption were USA, Japan, and Germany. China has been the leader in the solar industry for the last few years with massive solar panel manufacturing.

South American and other Asian countries like Jordan, Chile, and India have all announced aggressive plans to add a lot more solar power.

But this growth is also creating more competition in the space. Solar ventures now have to find niche and define their advantage. David Trainavicius, CEO of solar ventures PVcase and DETRA Solar, gave his insights on solar’s growth and what unique propositions his ventures offer to further boost solar technology’s profile in the global energy space.

What will drive demand for solar? What should we expect in the next 5-10 years

With the increasing demand of EV cars, electric scooters, charging stations and electricity consumption in general there is no better way to produce enough power globally than going with renewable energy. That is especially prevalent in Europe where local governments are closing nuclear power plants and subsidizing renewable energy schemes.

With more positive messages coming from the government officials to consumers, there is a big shift to energy independence from residential to commercial and industrial users. That trend is now well established and I am confident that the renewable energy market will only continue to grow rapidly over the next 5 to 10 years.

There are also other emerging green energy sources like wind and wave. So, why focus on solar?

Solar has always been the “underdog” in this race, as wind was cheaper green energy source for many years – but not anymore! With the record low-cost projects hitting the market every month, solar is now cheaper than wind in some cases, so I see a big potential especially in utility scale solar projects.

There seems to be a lot of buzz around PV technology which focuses on cell design and manufacturing. Tell us about PVcase and what technologic capabilities it brings to the table.

New technologies and manufacturing techniques are driving solar components to be cheapest ever. Also more solar players are coming to the market and increasing the competition, so investors, developers and installation companies are looking back at optimizing design and construction aspects of the solar projects to increase margins. That’s where our advanced solar engineering software PVcase comes into play.

What benefits does PVcase bring to solar engineers specifically? How can it make them more competitive especially now that more players are entering the market?

PVcase was born as an engineering software add-on for PV designers – an easy to use AutoCAD plug-in, but has now matured into an indispensable tool for optimizing solar project design and performance. PVcase provides the engineers with unprecedented accuracy when analyzing topography and modeling systems in 3D space, but also enables engineers to work up to 30 times faster as compared with many of the current techniques utilized by industry design professionals.

Significant reductions in the amount of time spent can be achieved in the detailed cable design, stringing, numbering as well as the compilation and calculation of the detailed bill-of-materials that is needed for project assessment and analysis, and also for construction phase.

Apart from being CEO at PVcase, you’re also the Founder and CEO of DETRA Solar, a solar design agency. How did your experience in DETRA Solar come into play when launching PVcase?

I’ve spent the last 10 years in solar engineering field, working on the most complex and largest solar projects in Europe. Together with DETRA Solar team we’ve designed over 10GW of solar projects worldwide. I and the team have worked with all of the top companies in solar in both Europe and the rest of the world on these projects, and each of these companies and projects have their own unique requirements and challenges.

As we worked to see many of these projects come to reality, I decided that our team could really benefit from design tool that would not just save time and increase accuracy, but also be a collection of all the unique experience that we have working with as many clients as we have on so many projects located all over the world and so PVcase was born!

With increasing number of companies adapting PVcase engineering software to their workflow we have decided to create more tools for the solar market. We are now working on the Yield assessment tool as well as a collaboration tool to cover the members of the solar energy value chain.

One of the criticisms against solar is that most consumers think it’s still impractical to shift to solar. How do you think you can help usher in more mainstream adoption of solar especially for commercial uses?

I think if you really look at the market you will see that the average consumer looking at a residential system for their home may still be skeptical of the investment necessary to adopt solar for their own personal consumption, but that is changing and will continue to as the costs come down. But if you look at the commercial and public utility portion of the market, there really is no such reluctance to adopt.

2 thoughts on “Precision Engineering of Solar Farms”

  1. Nice position piece for PVCase. Faster engineering, greater automation of spec’ing aggregate cable length, topological “fit” for PV panel installation, performing the (usual, unheralded) engineering/design/cost/implementation/time-frame optimizations.  

    Solar PV engineering is anything BUT difficult.  

    For utility scale solar, having a large location is key, hopefully “more or less” inclined and pointing the right direction to maximally harvest solar energy over most of the year. This includes having clement weather, freedom (or at least distance) from being shadowed by large mountains, and in particular free from high levels of accumulating dusts.  

    After that, a couple of absolutely first-year trigonometry formulæ optimize the spacing of long rows of PV panels; having the diurnal (daily) rotating frames is very often not warranted, considering how reliability-enhancing and “trivial” it is just to have non-rotating panels scaled up to fit the gaps. Panels are WAY cheaper than fancy sun-trackers. Way.

    The Germans might be über-foolish in setting up large municipal and utility-scale solar farms all over the place, but one thing we can count on with them: they’re outstanding mathematically, outstanding design-wise, outstanding engineering, and always plan for long-and-short term idiosyncratic performance. Optimizing the geometry is their forte.  

    And guess what … first year trig models 95% of their installs.  

    Just saying,
    GoatGuy ✓

  2. “That is especially prevalent in Europe where local governments are closing nuclear power plants and subsidizing renewable energy schemes.”

    & what happens when European governments come to their senses & realize that while solar makes sense as part of the energy supply in the broad band either side of the equator where the seasonal variation in sunlight is modest, but not in European latitudes?

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