The influence of the solar radiation database and the photovoltaic simulator on the sizing and economics of photovoltaic-diesel generators.


This study evaluated the outcome differences when adopting five different solar irradiation databases on the sizing of hybrid solar photovoltaic-diesel generators designed to supply electricity to isolated minigrids. To do this, the two most widely adopted photovoltaic (PV) simulation packages in the market, namely PVsyst® and HOMER Energy® were used. The different origins, data timespan, space and time resolution, of the five most relevant solar irradiation databases available for the region were compared. A case study was presented to illustrate the influences of the solar irradiation database and the solar simulation tool on the resulting PV generator. Furthermore, the hourly behavior of the energy supply to an existing load in a minigrid in the Brazilian Amazon was evaluated, together with the savings in diesel obtained with the resulting PV generator. Evaluating the five options of solar radiation databases, for the same PV plant configuration, variations of up to 19.7% were found in the expectation of PV generation. When the simulation software package was varied, the combined effect (radiation database X PV system sizing tool) showed differences of up to 20.6%. This demonstrates that despite having different algorithms, computational tools have a small influence (less than 1%) on results. These combined differences, taking into account the load curve behavior and the total diesel generation capacity installed at the site, resulted in over 100% differences in the optimum PV generator size in the case study. The total savings in diesel fuel, over a 15-years period, ranged from $ 6.5 million to over $ 16 million (>2.5 times) for the smallest PV system. This demonstrates the importance of the correct choice of database. These evaluations can be extended to minigrids of any size elsewhere. The novelty and originality of this study is to demonstrate and quantify for the first time the influence of the solar radiation database and the PV simulator package on the sizing of PV-diesel generators. The consequences of this study are not only of scientific and academic importance, but of economic and commercial interest as well.