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Asking the right questions when designing a Solar system

questions when designing a Solar system

Asking the right questions when designing a Solar system.


By Diggaj Regmi Trainer from Skillbuild Training.

What equipment should we use?  This is a question I always get when we are conducting the grid connect course. It is so important to ask the right questions when designing a Solar system. We must understand that 50% of the students in this course have had nothing to do with Solar. They are electricians who are wanting to diversify their company offering by adding renewables to the mix. I like working with these students because they have no preconception of what it is about. This way we can educate them to do the right thing.

In my opinion this question can only be answered by asking the right questions from the customer. A Solar system is all about choosing the right components for the application. When designing a system, you choose the right inverter and the right number of panels. So, the question of “What equipment should we use?” can only be answered by what the system needs. And that comes from the customer.

What does the customer need?

The first questions should not be about the equipment but about the energy system. Thus, you should always choose products according to the customer need. Some customers may have a budget constraint and opt for a cheaper system while others may need a more expensive system. But it will all depend on the need. What we teach our students is that the important thing to do is to build the relationship with the customer.

What are they looking for in a system?

By talking to the customer, you will find out who they are and what energy they use. This will help you understand the requirements. Then go to the actual site and see what factors will affect the system. Be honest with the customer so they know all the issues that are involved. Because many factors will affect the energy that can be produced.

Factors that may affect an energy system

Let’s say we have worked out the customer energy use and they need a 5kW system. We must understand that there will be other things that will affect the operation. Environmental factors that affect how a system will perform. For example, in certain climate conditions when the temperature is low the voltage will go up. This will often damage the cheaper inverter as it doesn’t have the flexibility to adapt to the higher voltage. It could also blow up the inverter. So, under these conditions it is not the best option to go for a cheaper system. We encourage our students to always work with quality equipment that has warranty backup from the supplier/importer.

It’s all in the design

The design of the system will help you determine what is needed. You need to know the efficiencies of the system. It doesn’t matter what size the system is it will have losses. Losses relating to the site can be orientation (true north) and roof tilt (angle of the roof). Wind Region requirements alter the engineering of racking systems and these need to be understood and followed. If there is a loss, then you might need to oversize the system to compensate. It is important to note that the cheaper inverters will have less flexibility. So, if you must put on more panels to compensate for loss you need to match the inverter with the panels. This now has an effect because the expensive inverters will have a larger voltage range then the cheaper inverters. Thus, having a cheaper inverter may not allow for extra panels.

We teach the students to understand energy

When designing a system, you will use the formulas given by the Clean Energy Council. These formulas can be found in their Design Guidelines but there is a lot more to them. In our training by using the formulas we show the students how to design around all the factors.

Ask the right questions to the right people

The customer is always going to be the right person to talk to about what products are used in a Solar system. As designers and installers, we need to be honest with the customer so that the right energy system is designed. Knowing that sometimes the cheaper option is not the best choice has to be conveyed to the customer. Quality gear and best practice in the Installation and Design is what we advocate. It is all about delivering the best system that does the best job.

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