Photovoltaic Laboratory : Safety, Code-Compliance, and Commercial Off-the-Shelf Equipment book cover
1st Edition

Photovoltaic Laboratory
Safety, Code-Compliance, and Commercial Off-the-Shelf Equipment

ISBN 9781482244434
Published April 5, 2016 by CRC Press
390 Pages 165 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Photovoltaic Laboratory: Safety, Code-Compliance, and Commercial Off-the-Shelf Equipment is the only textbook that offers students the opportunity to design, build, test, and troubleshoot practical PV systems based on commercially available equipment. Complete with electrical schematics, layouts, and step-by-step installation instructions, this hands-on laboratory manual:

  • Promotes "safety first" by covering working in extreme weather conditions, personal protective equipment, working at heights, electrical safety, and power tool safety
  • Includes chapters on trade math, DC/AC electrical circuits, and assessing a property for a photovoltaic system (e.g., surveying the available space, shading, and solar harvest)
  • Discusses aspects of mechanical and electric integration specific to different roof types, and characterizing a PV module under different levels of irradiation and ambient temperature
  • Addresses the design, installation, and testing of off-grid PV systems with DC-only loads and with DC and AC loads, as well as 2.4 kw DC grid-tied PV systems with microinverters and string inverters
  • Trains students on exactly the sort of equipment that they will encounter in the field, so they gain valuable experience and skills that translate directly to real-world applications

Photovoltaic Laboratory: Safety, Code-Compliance, and Commercial Off-the-Shelf provides in-depth, project-driven instruction on everything from attaching brackets and flashing to modeling PV cells, modules, and arrays. This textbook is ideal preparation for those seeking a career in the PV industry—from system installers and designers to quality assurance and sales/marketing personnel.

Table of Contents




How to Use This Textbook

The Author



Student Learning Objectives

Working in Extreme Weather Conditions

The Hot, Dry Climate

The Cold Climate

Understanding Heat Stress

Heat Exhaustion—Symptoms and Appropriate Responses

Heat Stroke—Symptoms and Appropriate Responses

Dehydration—Symptoms and Appropriate Responses

Hypothermia—Symptoms and Appropriate Responses

Frostbite—Symptoms and Appropriate Responses

Preventing Heat or Cold Stress

General Safety Training

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Eye Protection and Gloves

Protective Helmets (a/k/a Hard Hats)



Working at Heights

Safety Barriers

Guardrail Systems

Safety Netting

Personal Fall Arrest: Body Harnesses

Rescue Plan

Ladders and Ladder Safety

Electrical Safety

Overhead Power Lines

Operating Electrical Equipment

Moving and Carrying Heavy Objects

Roofs and Attics


Safety Posters



Trade Math for PV—Measurements, Units, and Calculations


Student Learning Objectives

The Decimal System of Notation

Scientific Notation (Exponential Notation [Base 10])

Adding, Subtracting, Multiplying, and Dividing in SN

Multiplication and Division

Addition and Subtraction

Metric System and Prefixes

Nonstandard Units of Measure

Rational Fractions, Decimal Fractions, Ratios, and Percentages

A–B Comparison

Change of a Value (over Time)

Student Exercises

A–B Comparison

Significant Digits and Precision

Conversion from Metric Units to Imperial (English) Units and Back

Basic Algebra

Ohm’s Law

Watt’s Law

Order of Operations

Trigonometry of Right Triangles

The Right Triangle

The Pythagorean Theorem

Calculations Involving the Pythagorean Theorem

The Three Trigonometric Functions

Evaluating the Angle θ and Inverse Trigonometric Functions

Reciprocal Trigonometric Functions

Length, Area, and Volume

The Celestial Sphere

Analyzing Word Problems

Mastering the Use of a Calculator

Addition and Subtraction

Multiplication and Division


Measurements of DC and AC Electrical Circuits


DC Electrical Circuits

AC Electrical Circuits

Student Learning Objectives


The Calculator

Electrical Components

Measurement Instruments

Other Equipment

The DC Electrical Circuit—An Abstraction

Basic Electrical Concepts—Analogy with Water Flow



Current Continuity



Additional Circuit Concepts—Power, Energy, Time, Frequency



Time and Frequency

Summary of Circuit Concepts

Nominal Specifications

DMM Measurement Accuracy

Absolute Calibration of Measurement Instruments—Standards

Student Exercises

Measuring the Voltage Standard

Color Coding for Resistors

Measuring Resistance with the DMM

Measuring DC Voltage with the DMM

Single Batteries

Multiple Batteries—In Series and in Parallel

Bench Power Supply

Powering a 12 V LED

Powering a 10 Ω, 50 W Resistor

AC Circuit Theory

What Is a Sinusoidal Signal?

Electrical Utility Service

Measuring a 120/240 VAC 200 A Split-Phase Service Panel

120 VAC Branch Circuit (L1 or L2)

240 VAC Branch Circuit (L1 and L2)

Measuring Current in a 120 VAC Branch Circuit

Measuring the Voltage, Current, Power, and Energy of a 120 VAC Outlet


The Site Survey


Student Learning Objectives

Organization of This Lab

Prior Activities

Preliminary Technical Sales Proposal

Sample Module Rows

Determination of All Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs)

The Virtual Site Survey


Example of a Site Survey

County Assessor’s Map

Sketch of the Property Including House

Documentation of Roof Sections

Site Survey Document

Student Exercises

Student Site Survey

Rafter/Truss and Attic Details

Main Service Panel

Use of a Subpanel

Locations for Other Major Components

Grounding of Electrical Service


Shading Analysis

Performing a Manual Shading Analysis Using the SolarPathfiner

Performing an Advanced Shading Analysis Using the SolarPathfiner

Performing a Shading Analysis Using the Solmetric SunEye



Racking Systems—General Considerations


Student Learning Objectives


Portrait Versus Landscape Layouts

Positioning the Rails and Brackets

The 25% and 75% Rule

Maximum Bracket Spacing

Standard Residential Rafter/Truss Spacing

Constraints on Portrait Orientation

Constraints on Landscape Orientation

Case Study: The 60-Cell, 156 mm Square Cell PV Module

Design of Layout for a Single PV Module

Small Mock Roof Details

Locating the Rafters

Pull-Out Strength of Lag Bolts

Wind Forces on Roofs

The "Simple" Approach

Student Exercises

Model Structures

Calculations Based on Complicated Approach

Roof-Specific Installation of Brackets


Appendix: Racking Systems on Asphalt Composition Shingle Roofs


Student Learning Objectives

Components Comprising the Racking System for Composition Shingle Roofs


Tools Needed for This Lab

Student Exercises

Design Layout for a Single PV Module

Locating the Rafters

Begin Layout

Installing the Brackets

Choice of Post

Installing Flashing

Dimensioning and Attaching the Rail

Installing the PV Module

Appendix: Racking Systems on Flat Concrete Tile Roofs


Student Learning Objectives

Components Comprising the Racking System for a Flat Concrete Tile Roof


Tools Needed for This Lab

Student Exercises

Locating the Rafters

The PV Module

Characterization of a PV Module


Student Learning Objectives


The TiltAll Tripod

Choice of PV Module—The Renogy RNG-100D

Components and Instruments

The Gnomon

Digital Multimeter (DMM)

Bead Wire Thermocouple and Black Electrician’s Tape

Clamp-on Ammeter

Digital Infrared Thermometer

Irradiance Meter

Tilt Meter

Torpedo Level



Student Exercises

The Measurements

Other Minor Dependencies

Modeling the PV Cell, Module, and Array


The Standard Methodology

Universal Constants: Cell Voltage and Cell Current Density

Partial Shading of PV Modules and Bypass Diodes

Overcurrent Protection in Three or More Strings

High-Performance PV Modules

Unity in the Data?

How Many Cells in a Module?

Commercial PV Module Electrical Characteristics

Goals for This Laboratory


Student Learning Objectives

Simple Component Models in PSpice

The Resistor Revisited

The Voltage Source

The Current Source

The Diode

Plotting the Diode I-V Characteristic

Two-Element Model for the PV Cell

I-V Characteristic for the PV Cell

Separately Displaying the Source, Diode, and External Load Currents

The Concept of Load Resistance

Maximum Power Point (MPP)

Cell Efficiency

I-V and P-V Characteristics for Different Irradiance Values

Equivalent Circuit for PV Cell Including Parasitic Resistances

Temperature Dependence of PV Cell Characteristics—Voc

Temperature Dependence of PV Cell Characteristics—Isc

Student Exercises

The PSpice Simulation Program

The Spice Netlist

Creating the Netlist Using MS Notepad

Using MS Excel to Record and Plot Data

Using the Power of PSpice

Using the Voltage Source in Place of the Load Resistor

The New Netlist

Simulating a PV Module Composed of 36 Each of 6 in. Cells—The Renogy RNG-100D

Adding the Parasitic Resistances

Library Element "cell_1.lib"

The Effects of Shading at the Cell Level

Optional Exercises

Lead-Acid Absorbent Glass Mat Batteries


Student Learning Objectives

Overview of Lead-Acid Batteries

Markets for Pb-Acid Batteries

The Automotive Market

Conventional Traction Market

Energy Storage Market

Lead Alloys

Comparison with Other Battery Technologies

Characterizing the Pb-Acid Battery

Nominal Battery Voltages

Battery Capacity

State of Charge and Depth of Discharge

More on Battery Capacity

Expected Life Cycles

Three-Stage Charging

Student Exercises

Charging the PVX-840T

Discharging the PVX-840T


Off-Grid PV System with DC-Only Loads


Student Learning Objectives

Overall Design Philosophy

The Load Profile

Days of Autonomy and Battery Energy Capacity

Measuring the Depth of Discharge

PV System Rating

System Calculations—The Role of Energy Conversion Efficiency

Charge Controller Efficiency

Charging/Discharging Efficiency of AGM Battery

Depth of Discharge and Life Cycles

Student Exercises

Load Profile Calculation

Days of Autonomy

Total Energy Requirement

Charging/Discharging Efficiency of AGM Battery

Charging Efficiency of Charge Controller

Required Energy Storage in Battery

Required Energy Delivery by PV System

PV Subsystem Simulation

Document Final System Configuration

Balance of System Components and Conductor Sizing

Battery Current

PV Circuit Conductors

Electrical Schematic and System Layout


The Pick List

Hanging System Components

Documenting the Final System

System Certification


System Documentation

System Schematic

System Layout

System Certification Sheet

Photograph of Integrated System


Off-Grid PV System with DC and AC Loads


Student Learning Objectives

Overall Design Philosophy

AC Loads

DC Loads

DC-to-DC Converters

The Load Profile

PV System Sizing

Days of Autonomy

Number of Battery Cycles

System Calculations

Student Exercises

Load Profile Calculations

Days of Autonomy

Total Energy Requirement

Sizing the Battery Subsystem

Sizing the PV Module and Charge Controller

PV Subsystem Simulation

Document the Final System Configuration

Electrical Schematic and System Layout


Hanging System Components

Documenting the Final System

Electrical Schematic

Physical Layout

Certification Measurements


Owner’s Manual

2.4 kW DC Grid-Tied PV System with Microinverters


Student Learning Objectives


The Roof

Racking Equipment

Choice of PV Module

Choice of Microinverter

Simulation of PV Performance and Monitoring

Personal Protective Equipment

Materials and Tools

High-Level Design

Estimated Consumption Based on Electricity Bill History

Estimated Consumption Based on Square Footage of Living Space

Estimated Consumption Based on Load Profile

Site Assessment

Perform Shading Analysis

Final PV Module Layout

Roof Loading Calculations

Mechanical Loading—The Live and Dead Loads

Live Loads

Dead Loads—PV System and Roof

Dead Load of the Roof Material

The Total Dead Load

Calculation of Maximum Horizontal Span of a Roof Rafter

Wind Loading

Design Wind Pressure for the Site

The SolarMount Code-Compliant Installation Manual 227.3

Basic Equation for Design Wind Loading for Components and Cladding

Total Design Load (Downforce and Uplift)

Calculating Uplift Force on Each Standoff and Comparing to Pullout Strength of Fasteners

The Concept of Design (Safety) Margin

Fire Marshal Setbacks

Layout of PV System

Single-Line and Four-Line Diagrams

A Single-Line Diagram

A Four-Line Diagram

National Electrical Manufacturers Association

Underwriters Laboratory

The Difference between Four-Line and Single-Line Diagrams

Installing Mechanical Subsystems—Standoffs, Flashing, and Rails

Sketch of Layout in Notebook

Transfer Sketch to Roof

Attach Standoffs, Flashing, Rails, and AC Cable

Documenting the Mechanical Subsystem—Standoffs, Flashing, and Rails Inputs from Roof Details—Optional

Installing PV Modules, WEEB Grounding Clips, Microinverters, and AC Cabling

The First Row

The Installation Map Monitoring System

Installing Balance of System

Lightning and Surge Protection

Installing the Enphase Monitoring System

Connecting the Gateway to Enphase Internet Site

Energizing the System

Activating the System

Certification Testing


Post-Start-up LED Indications


2.4 kW DC Grid-Tied PV System with String Inverter


Student Learning Objectives

High-Level Design Requirement


String Sizing

Resources for Weather Data for the Installation Site

Checking for Maximum System Voltage


Four-Line and Single-Line Diagrams for the String Inverter System

Modifying the Mechanical Subsystem

Attic Penetration

Installing Balance of System

Lightning and Surge Protection

Installing the TED Monitoring System

Preparing the Main Service Panel

Installing the MTU and Current Transformers

Installing the Gateway

Remote Display

Footprints Software Setup

Certification Testing


Appendix I: Small Mock Roofs

Appendix II: Roll-Around Walls

Appendix III: 21 ft. by 18 ft. Roof

View More



Peter T. Parrish is an adjunct professor at Santa Monica College, California. He also teaches at Cerritos College, Norwalk, California, and Irvine Valley College, Irvine, California. In addition, he has taught at Pierce College, Woodland Hill, California; College of the Desert, Palm Springs, California; and College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita, California, where he developed the solar program and chaired the Alternative Energy and Transportation Technology Department. He has taught and conducted research at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; served as a consultant to MIT Lincoln Laboratories, Lexington, Massachusetts; and held adjunct faculty positions at Northeastern University, Boston, and Drexel University, Philadelphia. He received his BS from the University of Colorado and his Ph.D from the University of California, Berkeley, both in physics.


"This book helps fill a shortage in modern support material for technical education and training for the rapidly growing photovoltaics systems industry. It is particularly appropriate for the very active US market, since aspects such as regulation and roof structure are regionally specific and some units of measurement in the book are used only in the US and a few other locations, but there is much here to learn for trainee technical staff all over the world. The style is appropriately informal and anecdotal for the technical education levels at which it is directed. The pedagogical concern and experience of the author is evident, for example, in a focus on understanding the principles through simpler tools than the excellent SunEye, for shading analysis."
—Richard Corkish, School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

"The approach [of this book] is good. Making sure the students know enough math and electrical theory is essential if they are to understand the subsequent material. The emphasis on safety is very important and putting it up front makes that point. I like the fact that the book provides material for other important photovoltaic (PV) activity, since if a system is not sold, then it will not be installed."
—Roger Messenger, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, Florida, USA

"The material is written in easy-to-understand layman’s terms while focusing on multiple career areas. I believe this allows instructors the ability to draw from the material what they need in order to provide effective training for the specific career(s) that they may be instructing students for. The materials are written in a simplistic format that should allow students to easily follow the materials while working on the labs. I believe that having the sections on safety and related mathematics is integral to producing successful students. Many of the texts that I have reviewed/used do not have these components and present materials with the assumption that either instructors will automatically cover these materials or that students come to the class with this knowledge already in place. … [This is] a very well-written book that can be integrated into most solar PV training applications. It covers concepts in a well-thought-out manner that follows a logical progression that builds on basics and works upward from there. This logical progression should allow students to easily and successfully progress through the concepts being presented."
—Daniel M. Sherry, Alamo Colleges, St. Philip’s College, San Antonio, Texas, USA

"Overall, this is a good book on the laboratory component of photovoltaics. It contains safety, handling, and measurement procedures for photovoltaic (PV) experiments. ... The exercises and PV content are good and well described. Several simulation programs are included."
—Tapas Kumar Mallick, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, UK

"This book is interesting and useful, as it covers aspects of solar cells work that is not usually covered in other textbooks. The information provided is very practical and would be useful for a wide range of personnel involved in solar cells installation and design."
—Yeng Ming Lam, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

"This is a practical book on understanding and installing photovoltaic (PV) systems for residential applications. It clearly explains how to install rooftop PV systems, and provides a well-balanced blend of practice and theory with explanations on how a PV cell works, how the system operates, cell physics, and the details of mechanical and electrical integration…Anyone interested in learning about the practical aspects of PV arrays, and what is needed to install them, will be able to make use of this book to help guide them on proper installation and making good choices when designing a PV system. Others who may also find this book useful include system designers, marketing and sales people, and even those involved in issuing permits for PV systems."
John Shea, IEEE Electrical Insulation Magazine, May/June 2017 Issue