The OSOTF, based at St. Lawrence Colleges Kingston, Ontario, campus, is a fully grid-connected test system. The performance of its 95 photovoltaic modules is being correlated with a wide range of highly accurate meteorological measurements, to provide new levels of insight into array operations. The project is a partnership of the Sustainable Energy Applied Research Center at St. Lawrence College and the Applied Sustainability Group at Queens University, Kingston, Ontario.
The array utilizes eIQ Energys vBoost DC-to-DC converter modules rather than traditional series-string wiring. This approach provides researchers with the ability to isolate each individual module on the bus and identify its specific performance characteristics. Because each module operates independently of those around it, each can be measured on its individual merits.
The OSOTF team has relied on the vBoost units 99.6 percent efficient MPPT algorithm to control modules at their most efficient point of power production. This approach not only optimizes the power production of each module, but also provides OSOTF with the ability to collect independent data on each module while having them all connected into a single central inverter.
One early experiment at OSOTF will quantify power losses due to snowfall, and recommend best practices for array design in snowy climates. This type of situation, when panels are partially covered by snow, can be catastrophic for series-wired array performance, noted Michael Lamb, vice president of business development for eIQ Energy. Were looking forward to seeing the results of the study when they come out later this year; we think its a situation where Parallel Solar can really add value, said Lamb.
Future experiments will explore novel system layouts, low-level concentration, and the effects of spectral composition on solar cell performance. All data and analysis will be made freely available to the worldwide photovoltaic community and the general public.
eIQ Energy is one of a growing number of industry partners at OSOTF, including KACO New Energy Inc. and DuPont Canada. Funding has been provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.