Smart phones and tablets have become a tool of choice
for innumerable purposes. The simplest
Apps contain ready construction references and the most sophisticated apps make
use of onboard hardware: GPS, compass, camera, and accelerometer / inclinometer
for use in site surveys. There are apps
that calculate annual energy output based on local information with some even
doing it in real time as the device is moved around. A number of apps perform financial
calculations such as system payback time.
Usually not exceeding $30 in price, mobile apps
are far less expensive than some of their branded cousins. The Solmetric App
(IOS), for instance is about $900 less than the standard Solmetric hardware / software system.
Solmetric iPV, IOS ($39.99)
measures shade and evaluates potential energy output of a solar PV system; all
of the information you need for a site evaluation is stored on the phone
including world-wide hourly weather data and a wide range of PV panels and
inverters. It then produces an estimate of the monthly solar energy at a
location, taking into account an approximation of the local shading.
PV Master, IOS ($11.99) The application is divided into 5 sections:
and weather information), Guide (general information), Panel Calculator, Battery Calculator, and a Glossary.
Solar Tools, IOS ($8.99) is a
solar site-assessment tool gathering information in the form of text, photos
and calculations resulting in a PDF solar survey.
Solar Panel Installer, IOS ($5) by New Jersey Solar Consulting, has
a step-by-step interface to collect geometry and budget data. It calculates how
many panels are required to produce a certain amount of energy annually. A good-looking
UI, but a pretty low user rating of only 2.5 stars.
($4.99) Sun Viewer application uses the iPhone camera to provide an “augmented
reality” view of the sun paths at a specific location. This allows a quick
assessment of the timing and impact of shading obstructions.
PV Solar Calculator, IOS ($3)
takes system information in terms of one parameter—either DC or AC power
output, annual energy production, system cost, or surface area—and calculates
the other parameters.
Solar Checker, IOS (free) by SMA, estimates a system’s annual and
lifetime energy production and comes up with the rate of return on investment –
this is one of the best rated free apps.
Solar Friend, IOS (free), by
Bosch, calculates the total lifetime energy output for a PV system. Limited to
a few Bosch modules.
Solar Panel Advisor, IOS (free) provides instantaneous power
output at your location, given the time of day. It’s a handy way to see whether
a solar array is working as advertised.
Solar PV Payback, IOS (free) calculates how long an array will take to
pay itself off based on its size, installation cost, government rebates, and
Balance of System (BOS)?
The previous apps were all IOS (Iphone / IPad) and directly related to
PV design and site survey. Searching for those apps will also lead to Apps for
wire size, ampacity, conduit depth, and a multitude of electrical design apps.
Let’s shift to the Android OS in order to list a couple of great BOS apps:
Electrical Pro, Android ($2),
by Comoving Magnetics, a hugely useful app for estimating BOS costs. It
includes: Bury depth, Fault calcs, Fill Calcs, Wire ampacity and voltage drop –
all critical items in estimating system costs. The only drawback to this great
app is that it must have internet access.
Elec Ref, Android ($4)
by Trunnion, Inc., adds transformer sizing, wire colors, and a number of other
handy items to the above list, plus it works off-line.
Many more apps are available either free or at very low cost, so it might
be worthwhile to simply download a few and put them through their paces to
decide how useful they are. The few that
have a more substantial price tag might warrant more careful research of online
reviews and features before making an investment. But even the most expensive of these apps
still constitutes a small price to pay to have a variety of PV design tools in
Check out the itunes store or android market for more information about the solar PV design and calculation apps.