2020 Solar Design Software Options
Technology is rapidly evolving. This has led to both positive and negative side effects for the solar industry. It has allowed panel efficiency and power to be at incredibly high levels, but it has also made the creation of PV systems more complex than ever before. Luckily, there is a solution. PV design software has been evolving too and allows contractors to work more efficiently than ever before. Contractors can design and model an entire system from their own office. In this article, we will be revisiting a past PV Design Software Review article from our support archives to look at eight of the top software applications available in 2020 and the individual features that each software offers.
Started in 2012 by 2 college classmates, Aurora Solar has been trying to remove many of the inefficiencies of solar installation. The software provides users the ability to design 3D visual solar systems, create commercial designs, financial analysis of the designed project, and generate shade reporting of the created system. The software is available for basic, premium, and enterprise users and includes monthly or annual billing availability. More info here.
BlueSol Design supports the design and optimization of every type of photovoltaic system, whether they are grid-tied systems or stand-alone. The software simulates the behavior of the PV system in all its components and a module layout overview. BlueSol Design also has a pre-dimension wizard which allows for quick creation of a complete project, based on the guidelines you input. The software is downloadable via an activation code that you receive. This does lead to a significant increase in up-front costs as you receive the entire bundle for all your employees at once. More info here.
Created by Folsom Labs HelioScope claims that it can help solar installers increase their design speed by 5 or 10 times. Capable of designing an entire PV system in 3D you can see how each design change you make impacts system performance. This includes shade reporting so that an ideal layout can be created to avoid the inefficiencies of shading. HeliScope also provides energy production estimates that can provide accurate energy yield results. The software can be purchased at a monthly or yearly rate. More info here.
HomerPro, Homer Energy’s solar design software, is particularly focused on microgrid design. One of the really interesting features of HomerPro is its simulation model. The software will try to create a system for the combinations of the equipment that you wish to consider. The system simulates how the microgrid that they’ve created will perform for an entire year! The software also includes a sensitivity analysis and energy optimization for any of the simulated systems it creates for you. The software can be purchased monthly or annually and includes three additional packages for additional capabilities. More info here.
PVComplete uses it’s PVSketech and PVCAD features to provide solar installers a complete design suite. PVSketech allows you to design the layouts for your projects and provides energy production models. The tool was designed to be easy and intuitive for solar designers to use. PVCAD then allows you to transfer your PVSketch designs into their system which can provide shadow modeling, wind zone calculations, and more. PVComplete comes in a free, basic, pro, and unlimited monthly package. More info here.
Designed by German-based Valentin Software, PV*SOL provides a litany of resources to create efficient and profitable PV systems. The software provides 3D shading where you can visualize the shading impact for roof-top installed and ground-mounted systems based on the surrounding area. Calculate battery storage capabilities based on your project need and the products that you are planning to use for that specific project. If your client has a solar car the software can calculate how much solar energy would be needed to fully charge their car. PV*SOL is available in standard and premium options. More info here.
Developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), System Advisor Model (SAM) software is a free design tool that can fill a host of solar installer needs. The software can model both small residential and utility-scale PV systems, battery storage effect usage, and more. It can also create financial models when residential and commercial projects are tied to a utility meter, if the project has a lease agreement or if it is a PPA project. It can be downloaded on Windows, Linux, or Mac operating systems. The SAM site provides detailed installation instructions to make sure your download is as easy as possible. More info here.
This update to our original article from 2012 shows us just how far the solar industry has come. A software like HelioScope was just beginning and at the early stage, now the software provides a fully developed offering. In 2020 more resources are available to installers and the capabilities of these softwares continue to improve.