PVsyst Review

Pros:

Cons:

In some parts of the solar energy industry PVsyst is the gold standard in solar design and modeling software and with good reason. PVsyst has a long track record and has proven to be a software that can be relied upon for the accurate estimation of the electricity that the solar installation will provide. Certainly manual estimation of the numerous factors that influence the performance of solar photovoltaic installation are difficult to formulate and calculate accurately without the aid of such software.

Founders André Mermoud & Michel Villoz

Founders of PVsyst are André Mermoud; a particle physicist & Michel Villoz; an electrical engineer, whose individual experiences in the solar & renewable energy is a testament to the depth of knowledge and the robustness of the software. The need for the software was clear from the outset and they set out to design a software that has now become a valued and mandatory solar PV design software across the world from Canada to Japan. Although, Folsom Labs with their Heliscope product are nipping at their heels.

PV System Design

The usefulness of the PV System design does not end at the modeling or proposal stage. The design will need to be installed, commissioned and operated within the parameters and projections modeled at the initial stage. This makes design a critical part of solar development at any scale. The correct design tool increases the certainty that the project can be executed as designed, therefore the financial and material resources committed to the project can therefore be justified and the predicted returns on invested capital can be achieved. This is succinctly stated as bankability. Bankability is where PVsyst truly delivers and is therefore trusted as a tool for solar design in markets as different from each other as Germany and India.

Solar Energy Photovoltaic System

A solar photovoltaic system design requires the consideration of the following components of the solar power plant;

  • Solar PV Modules
  • Inverters
  • Mounting Structures
  • Electrical Cabling & Transformation Components

Which are influenced by variables such as;

  • Annual Solar Radiation at the location and orientation
  • Maximum Energy Output by the specified module
  • Interface point of the solar power plant to the electricity network
  • Clipping control of the inverter

The accuracy level of the performance metrics will need to be the same irrespective of the size of the solar power plant ranging from rooftop installations to utility scale projects.

PVsyst Features

PVsyst 7 the new version brings with it some advancements and improvements, the biggest of which is the ability to conduct financial analysis. The ability to assess the financial aspects is a new component to PVsyst which had until now eschewed the financial and economic implications of solar design, choosing to focus on the technical analysis.

The design begins by choosing a project and its location based on the geographic coordinates. If not a satellite map is provided that can be used to fine tune the specific location of the project.

1. Module

You could use a generic module as provided as a standard by PVsyst or you could bring your own PAN file from the module manufacturer that provides fully detailed specifications.

2. Inverter

Similar to the modules you could use a generic inverter from PVsyst or you could specify a particular model and provide the specifications in an OND file provided by the inverter manufacturer.

3. Location, Orientation & Azimuth

The module and arrays’ installation location, orientation and azimuth can be specified in general as an array. Without creating a 3D model it is difficult to make a simple visualization of your individual modules and arrays.

4. Simulation

The simulation of the energy generation for the given solar system is based on default meteo data that is available. If you require more accurate site specific TMY data you would need to bring your own or source it from providers such as SolarGIS who allow you to export site specific report in files compatible to PVsyst.

5. Financial Models

New in this version is the financial features which allows you to add financial and economical factors to the energy report of your photovoltaic system. This allows you to work on costing of components, project management, administrative and operation & maintenance for the full life cycle of the PV systems.

Helioscope by Folsom Labs

Folsom Labs has created a strong albeit slightly more expensive tool for assessment of solar renewable energy systems. The user interface of Helioscope is intuitive and diametrically opposite to the user experience in PVsyst. The projects’ results in energy output & performance simulation is close if not better than PVsyst.

Final Analysis

PVsyst is a tool the performance of which is only as good as the users’ ability to get the best out of it. For the seasoned PVsyst users the new version is an enhancement of a reliable tool that has provided exemplary performance and as such fits correctly into their operational model. Products like Helioscope are not to be ignored and will continue to challenge the predominance of PVsyst. Where PVsyst looses out is the dated user interface & user experience, its inability to be platform agnostic, lack of cloud storage abilities and visualization based on satellite imagery. The financial and economic analysis component of version 7 will be a much valued addition to their existing customer-base, many of whom are unlikely to switch to new products any time soon.