3.3 Complete PV Laboratory for less than $50,000

The starter laboratory discussed above consisted of a 2,000 watt PV array that includes crystalline silicon modules, a mock roof and hardware for instruction on mounting the array, one inverter for direct grid-tied applications, electrical balance-of-system components, and sufficient instrumentation to measure component and system performance. A much more complete and versatile laboratory is described below.  However, it costs approximately $40,000 more, with the total cost being less than $50,000. What do those additional dollars buy, and what added capabilities and value do they provide?

Shading analysis and site assessment are critical skills when designing PV arrays.  Practice with shading analysis tools is important for giving students the necessary experience in performing these vital tasks. Programs should provide additional tools for this when possible.

For the inverter lab, four (rather than one) grid-tied inverters and associated electrical BOS are used, adding approximately $4,500 to the cost compared to the starter laboratory. The added equipment will allow small student teams of 4 or 5 members per station for the inverter lab demonstrations and experiments.

Because a fair percentage of grid-tied PV systems in hurricane-prone areas along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts use batteries for backup power, laboratory experiments and student practice with bimodal inverters and systems is appropriate. The added cost for a bimodal inverter, batteries, and ancillary equipment is approximately $3,600.

For the array mounting and I-V measurements lab, four arrays, four roof mockups, and four mounting systems are used (rather than one). The added cost compared to the starter lab is approximately $15,000.

Finally, approximately $9,000 in added costs is associated with multiple numbers of measuring instruments, meters, safety equipment, tools and installation materials.  In summary, the laboratory presented below can provide student learners with hands-on experience using the equipment and procedures associated with PV systems design, installation, operation and maintenance.

PV Training Equipment for a Complete Laboratory That Costs Less Than $50,000
Assumes a class of 20 students
# of ItemsItemVendorUnit CostTotal CostLaboratoryUse
2PathfinderSolar Pathfinder$270$540Shading and Site Survey Lab 
1Pathfinder Assistant ProgramSolar Pathfinder$160$160
2Solmetrics Sun Eye 110Solmetric$1,500$3,000
2Solmetrics Sun Eye 210Solmetric$2,000$4,000
4Inverter, PV Powered 2000SDAffordable Solar$1,500$6,000Inverter Lab       
4Meter, AC kWhHialeah Meter$50$200
4Meter, AC canHome Depot$30$120
4Disconnect, ACHome Depot$30$120
4Breakers (x2), AC, 15 amp, SPHome Depot$30$120
4Disconnect, DC, 30 amp, HU361Affordable Solar$175$700
4Box, DC, Combiner outbackOutback Power Sys$150$600
4Fuses (x2), DC,KLKD-15Outback Power Sys$25$100
4Fuse holder (x2), DC, 30 amp, DIN mountOutback Power Sys$40$160
4Load panel, 100 amp, 240 VVarious$100$400
1Inverter, Battery, 48 VVarious$1,800$1,800        Battery and Inverter Lab
1Charge Controller/ MPPTVarious$575$575
1Meter, AC kWhHialeah Meter$50$50
1Meter, AC canHome Depot$30$30
1Disconnect, ACHome Depot$30$30
1Breakers , AC, 60 amp, SPHome Depot$30$30
1Disconnect, DC, 30 amp, HU361Affordable Solar$175$175
1Box, DC, Combiner outbackOutback Power Sys$150$150
2Fuses, DC, KLKD-15Outback Power Sys$25$50
2Fuse holder, DC, 30 amp, DIN mountOutback Power Sys$50$100
4Batteries, 12VOutback Power Sys$150$600
1Load panel, 100 amp, 240 VVarious$100$100
Subtotal  $3,690
4Roof mockupFSEC constructed$600$2,400Inverter, I-V Curve and Array Mounting Lab  
4Mounting systems (racks, etc.) for PVAffordable Solar$750$3,000
42,000 Watt PV array ($1.30/watt)Affordable Solar2,675$10,700
1Solmetric PVA 600 IV Curve String AnalyzerSolmetric$3,200$3,200Inverter and I-V Curve Lab     
5Clamp, DC current, AEMC DCNewark Electronics$200$1,000
10VOM meter, Fluke (x2) 115Newark Electronics$300$3,000
5Meter, Solar, DaystarDaystar, Inc.$150$750
5IR Temp Gun, FlukeNewark Electronics$100$500
5Wire wound resistor 25 Ohm, 1000WVarious$150$750
Subtotal  $9,200
1Load testerAutometer$350$350 Battery Demonstration Lab   
1Starting battery, lead acidVarious$100$100
1Deep cycle batteryVarious$200$200
1Face shieldVarious$40$40
1Rubber glovesVarious$25$25
1Safety apronVarious$50$50
2Charge controllersVarious$110$220
Subtotal     $975
Safety material and equipment (harness, life line, leash, eye protection, roof mounting bracket, safety video)Various$100$400 
Subtotal     $400
 Work tools and materials (drill, screw drivers, torque wrench, bonding equipment, gloves, drill bits, socket sets, hammers, sealants)Various$2,000$2,000 
Subtotal  $2,000
GRAND TOTALS$20,325$48,595
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