1500 VDC – Setting Sail for the new PV Voltage Level
Looking back the last few years in the history of photovoltaic system applications, one can observe a very notable decline of system and operational costs. The main reasons for that are the considerab...
Looking back the last few years in the history of photovoltaic system applications, one can observe a very notable decline of system and operational costs. The main reasons for that are the considerable decrease of costs for materials, especially for solar panels, as well as economies of scale. But also the newly introduced increase of the system voltage from 1000 to 1500 VDC contributes massively to the overall decrease of prices per kWp.
By using a 50% higher direct current, more modules can be connected in series, substantially reducing the number of combiner boxes, connections, length of wires and hours of work. Additionally, power dissipation value gets lower, thereby increasing system efficiency. Fewer strings are operated, which also allows easier and more economical monitoring methods.
However, the downside for switching to 1500 VDC systems is that solar panels and other equipment such as inverters, cables and fuses all have to be re-designed to fit into the 1500 VDC environment, thus causing higher individual costs for the equipment. But after all, the lower amount of equipment needed will more than make up for that. According to a research done by GTM in 2015, installing a 1500 VDC system in place of a conventional 1000 VDC system may result in cost savings of up to $0.05 per Watt, thereby making especially large PV plants more cost-effective.
Now in 2017, just a few years after their initial introduction, 1500 VDC solutions are getting more and more popular. Due to pioneering companies investing in system solutions and field tests for 1500 VDC applications, suppliers are catching up with the trend and certifications for new products are being obtained. Manufacturers, suppliers and final costumers have been convincing themselves of the new voltage level and increasingly adapt their product ranges accordingly.
With the market further opening, not every customer requirement could be satisfied yet. For example, regarding fuse ratings, many manufacturers still stick to 1000 VDC equipment only. And those offering 1500 VDC fuses focus mainly on an impractical makeshift format, namely 10x85 mm. One of the exceptions is ADLER, also offering solutions based on customer feedback, such as the self-developed 1500 VDC 14x51 mm fuse links and holders.
So for being able to fulfill the customers’ desires, it is important for companies to detect and pursue trends and to not only stick to well-tried standards, which could be outdated one day. 1500 VDC is the maximum limit for low voltage according to IEC. Going further up in voltage would lead to more complicated certification processes and higher R&D efforts, which probably would not be worth it. Hence, 1500 VDC can be expected to become and stay the leading voltage for the next 5-10 years.
Copyright © ADLER Elektrotechnik 2017
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Field Application Engineer for ADLER Elektrotechnik Leipzig GmbH, manufacturer of DC fuses, protection devices and switches for photovoltaic and electric vehicle applications.