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    • CommentAuthorMackers
    • CommentTimeOct 23rd 2013 edited
    I'm currently doing a project for university and wondered what the best software is for designing PV and solar thermal. I'd prefer a 3D software and free if possible. Ive heard about skiel for sketchup and PVGIS but when I try to download it, it seems to not be free. I might break out the hand calcs but id ideally like a software package. Any ideas?
    • CommentTimeOct 23rd 2013
    I use TurboCad for 3D modelling, as do most of the PV companies I know down here.
    For the electrical side most Inverter manufacturers have their own software you can usually get for free.
    Excel is useful for doing calculations, especially if you get to grips with the Macros and Solver, the two work well together.
    I also use LISA FEA software (getting to grips with it now).
    There is a large commercial PV/ST package that the industry uses, apparently it integrates most combinations of kit on the market, but is expensive. The one time I saw the results from it they matched mine done with a ruler and a calculator. Cant remember what it is called though.
    There is also Matlab, MathCad, R, Minitab, ARCGIS and probably a few others that most Universities use (which one you at) and you can get student licenses for.
    If it is pretty pictures your after then Photoshop.

    Most commercial packages have a free open source equivalent available. Try OPENFOAM, seems to do most things.

    As soon as your are into any kind of statistical/stochastic (you will be if you are modelling cloud, though I got a neat workaround in Excel) work then you need a decent PC. I recently did a study on a PV system, could take a day to run though the data in Excel. The Quad Core 64 bit with Linux on it was a little quicker, but not twice as fast (should have used a Matlab clone, but M files make me sweat).
    • CommentAuthorMackers
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Thanks for the comments, lots of information to look at. I`m at the University of Ulster Jordanstown.

    I have access to Matlab and have used Mathcad before. I am getting quite handy with excel now also having developed my own calculation sheets for various things in work as I don`t like to rely on software and enjoy the mathematical end of anything, especially complicated equations.

    I`ll have a look at some of the software and report back. Your handy workaround in excel would be great if your willing to share?

    The project isn`t due in for another six weeks so I`m sure I`ll be in and out looking help.

    I work part time in a M&E consultancy so have access to a good computer, I`m interested in renewable energy design and no one in the consultancy does it so I can see a niche I`d like to fill.
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Posted By: MackersYour handy workaround in excel would be great if your willing to share?
    Just an implantation of Fourier Transformations. The world spins, axis moves relative to the sun, and then clouds come along and spoil it for everyone, so a bit of statistics and bounded random number generation. Fits quite well.
    Solar is incredibly reliable at the weekly level, not so good at the daily level, and hopeless at the hourly level.
    Covariance explains all this nicely, the further away something is the less affect it has. So what happened at 11AM 24th October 2012 has little relevance to today. Treat time as a distance.

    I do most of my work in Excel. Though finding the free version of LISA interesting for visualisations. You can add in your own data and see how something changes with time.

    Do you have access to a solar meter and data logger. I made a simple, uncalibrated one with a Raspberry Pi, think the photoresister cost less than 2 quid, the capacitor less than that. Quite sensitive and useful for modelling.
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Posted By: Mackersskiel ... for PVGIS
    V interesting, but nothing thro google - tell us more.

    Posted By: SteamyTeaTurboCad for 3D modelling, as do most of the PV companies I know
    'most of' - really? I bought Tcad Pro for £150 I think, in just that 3D hope, but found it v clunky compared with Acad so never went for it. Did I waste my £3.5k + £1k pa on Bentley AECOsim then?
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Posted By: SteamyTeaSolar is incredibly reliable at the weekly level
    You mean, as predicted by PVGIS or equiv?
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Posted By: fostertomDid I waste my £3.5k + £1k pa on Bentley AECOsim then?
    Probably not, only the cost of half a dozen Fiat Uno :wink:

    If it just for layout drawings and making things fit, the TC is fine. If you want realistic 3D rendering then probably not.
    What you can do is save as a STEP file and import it into LISA, then look at all the thermal and mechanical properties there.
    TurboCad is only 40 quid for students I think, and IEEE members. There are plenty of free copies floating about on the internet though.
    T*Sol and PolySun are the two major software packages for modelling solar thermal.

    I think either or will give you a free time limited student licence.
    • CommentAuthorMackers
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013
    Sorry Fostertom, that should read Skelion for sketchup. It links to PVGIS and PVWatts automatically to give you your outputs. I havent used it yet but have it waiting for when I get a free minute to do some modelling, seems quite a good idea as it combines the 3D modelling of sketchup and the database of things like PVGIS.

    SteamyTea I`ll have to get some time to look deeper into the design aspect, looks interesting, I`d be interested in doing the hand calculations for it.

    Could you give me some details on the solar meter and data logger as I would love to set one up at home.
    • CommentTimeOct 24th 2013 edited
    • CommentAuthorMackers
    • CommentTimeOct 26th 2013
    Got a bit of free time yesterday in work and did a very simple model in using Skelion for sketchup. I think its very good, its only the basic one I have so I`m sure the pro version would be even better. Plenty more to play with on it yet but looks promising.

    Had a look at T*Sol, looks good I`ll try the free trial at some stage.
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