How Are Solar Farms Tested?

As soon as the construction phase of a solar PV power plant commissioning and build is complete, comprehensive solar farm testing may begin. Load testing for solar systems, a process which simulates real-world conditions, can ensure both grid-and microgrid-compatibility, as well as test the safety and efficiency of a solar PV power plant.

In addition to meeting the basic testing standards, new solar farms are rising to meet growing demand for microgrid connectivity. It is increasingly important that solar farms can connect to a microgrid system designed to prevent regional scale blackout events.

GTM researchers expect a nearly three-fold increase in the US microgrid market to take place between 2016 and 2020. Energy providers looking to capitalize on this expanding market are turning to state-of-the-art load bank testing protocols to provide confidence their new investment will avoid failure.

The best way to understand how solar farms and inverters are tested through solar commissioning is to look at some of the individual tests, themselves.

Here are two important ones you will encounter:

 

  • Inverter DC Performance Tests. The Inverter DC Performance Tests let a contractor assess dynamic performance of the inverter during voltage and power fluctuations at the DC source, which in our case are the PV panels. This test is run in three different ways. First, an Inverter “DC On” Time Delay Test is conducted to determine how long it takes for the inverter to begin transmitting AC power after receiving DC from the PV panel array. Second, an Inverter “DC Off” Delay Test is run to determine the amount of delay that occurs when shutting down the power conversion during disconnection. Finally, an Irradiance Profile Test records the inverter response to a rapid change (decrease) in solar intake by the solar farm. This test is usually conducted for maintenance purposes on individual strings of modules on a solar array.

 

  • Inverter AC Performance Tests. The Inverter AC Performance Tests, in contrast, are a series of 13 tests designed to determine inverter performance during changes in AC voltage and frequency. The tests allow contractors to measure precisely how their solar farm infrastructure reacts to fluctuations, similar to those found during the normal “Under-Voltage,” “Over-Voltage,” “Oscillation,” and “Harmonics” testing are some examples of how these tests target various characteristics of the AC, to determine an inverter’s strengths and limitations. Each category examined during Inverter AC Performance Tests helps to improve power plant efficiency and safety. This test is usually conducted post construction before the system is connected to the grid.

 

ComRent is a provider of turnkey load bank testing solutions. If you need assistance in guiding your solar farm project through the power plant commissioning and load testing process, contact us at 888.881.7118 or fill out our contact form and receive a complimentary project evaluation.

We have, in stock and ready to rent, every piece of load testing hardware and software you need, along with the insight to match, to get your project running ahead of schedule.

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