DETRA SOLAR design commercial and utility scale solar projects for Fortune 5000 companies, utilities, developers and government agencies worldwide. The company’s clients include Sony, Google, Nissan, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Scania, Savills and Aston Martin.
One of the roles of DETRA SOLAR is to identify how to position solar panels in a specific space – e.g. a solar park – as efficiently as possible, so that they gather the most solar energy. Previously the DETRA SOLAR team had done this manually, but the decision was made to automate this process. Not only would an automated process more effectively identify optimum efficiency in positioning the panels, it would also save a lot of time.
PVcase software was developed by SneakyBox to help create construction-ready solar park designs which perfectly suit the topography of the location. The user can open a topographic map, select the area where the solar panels are to be sited and include additional parameters, for instance objects or features in the landscape which might obstruct panels or cause shadows. The software will then identify the optimal solar panel arrangement. The arrangement of panels can be seen from the top (map view), the side (cross section view) and in 3D.
Some unexpected challenges to the design of this software arose along the way, as different countries use different topographic map formats. This meant that features in the landscape – for instance, trees or contour lines – could be indicated in many different ways. The program needed to be able to recognise various features from just a few distinctive characteristics and identify and add the relevant parameters.
The main software’s functions are to:
- Detect and evaluate areas in the landscape where solar panels cannot be placed.
- Estimate the optimal distance between blocks depending on a given obstruction or shadow’s parameters.
- Arrange solar panel blocks in an area in an optimal way, using the topographical map provided.
- Show the arrangement of solar panel blocks in cross-section.
- Automatically arrange electrical circuits.
- Show the whole solar park in a 3D view.
- Export the arrangement to PVsyst system.
3D data can be imported directly from site in DWG or point data format, giving a true 3D representation of the terrain – enabling the solar panel layout to be designed to within 1mm accuracy. This facilitates a smooth installation, with no re-designs or on-site adjustments to the plan required. It also assures that energy yield estimates will be truer to the actual values than ever before.
TECHNOLOGIES AND TOOLS
Frameworks and libraries: .NET, WPF, Wpftoolkit, Newtonsoft.Json, Obfuscar, RestSharp, Autodesk FBX SDK
Languages: C#, XML
IDE: Visual Studio
Other tools: Git, Pvsyst, TeamCity, SikuliX, WiX Toolset