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Large Scale Photovoltaic System Design: Learning Sustainability Through Engineering Clinics

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Solar Power, Wind Power, and Energy System Initiatives

Tagged Division

Energy Conversion and Conservation

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.837.1 - 13.837.13



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Paper Authors

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Peter Mark Jansson Rowan University


Ulrich Schwabe Rowan University

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Ulrich Schwabe is a graduate student at Rowan Univeristy

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Andrew Hak Rowan University

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Andrew Hak is a senior in electrical and computer engineering at Rowan University

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Large-Scale Photovoltaic System Design: Learning Sustainability through Engineering Clinics

I. Abstract

Working on cutting edge technology projects with industry is a key component of Rowan University’s engineering clinics. Industrial affiliates of the College of Engineering are sponsors of the curriculum and bring exciting real world engineering design challenges to our students. The result: industry sponsors education and students provide expertise to renewable energy companies who can benefit from their scientific and thorough electrical engineering approach. This paper highlights one project and an optimization analysis that was completed by engineering students participating in the Rowan Junior/Senior Engineering Clinic sponsored by SunTechnics, a world leader in photovoltaic (PV) system installation. During this project they learned many aspects of sustainability while also applying their electrical engineering knowledge and engineering economics skills to meet an important need. The large scale PV system involved is 3 MW in size and is ground mounted spread across 12 acres in eastern Pennsylvania. At Rowan University a multidisciplinary engineering clinic team has participated in a DC wiring optimization for the electrical circuits for the 390 sub-arrays comprising the design. The system involves the locating of six 500 kW inverters and three 1MVA 480-34.5kV transformers on the site so as to minimize the wire runs and DC losses. The students used their engineering skills to optimize location, wire size selection and junction/combiner locations to assess lifecycle cost over the project’s 20 year economic design life. The students were involved in many aspects of the project including the design of novel foundations for the array field, the medium voltage switchgear, and e-metering system specifications. This paper provides an overview of the student contribution to the DC optimization strategy, the use of computer aided design maps, economic analysis and NEC review for various AC wire sizes, load loss calculations for the AC systems with the final product being a well developed and detailed wiring scheme for the installers. The student project team was assisted and led by their electrical and computer engineering professor and a graduate student. The team provided this turnkey technical service to our industrial affiliate and the students learned the best methods for optimizing many components of a large scale PV system. The paper describes our approaches to this project and the impact on student learning.

II. The Clinic Project Begins - [Thursday 20 September 2007 – 2PM]

Without having known or understood what this project would entail, six undergraduate engineers from Rowan University found themselves on a field in Tulleytown, PA conversing with engineers from PECO (Philadelphia Electric Co. – the local utility) and SunTechnics. The topics of their discussion involved the interconnection, pole locations, module placement and everything related to the planned, but not yet designed, 3MW PV power plant to be located at that site. The 15 acre tract adjacent the landfill would soon be covered by more than 17,000 photovoltaic modules. Although the size and complexity of the project seemed overwhelming, this small handful of undergraduate students (and a few others) would play a significant role in the design of the largest PV system to be

Jansson, P. M., & Schwabe, U., & Hak, A. (2008, June), Large Scale Photovoltaic System Design: Learning Sustainability Through Engineering Clinics Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4240

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