Improving fault-finding in solar PV systems

Electric Innovation, an electrical design consultancy based in Nottingham, has secured funded technical support and expertise from our Innovate 4 Rail programme. This is enabling the company to carry out research on faults in solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, so that it can develop solutions to protect against these.

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The use of solar power in rail

All sectors, including rail, are being encouraged to switch to renewable energies such as solar power, as the UK aims to become carbon neutral by 2050. However, the use of solar PV systems in rail is still in its infancy. If it is to be more widely adopted, we need to improve our understanding and detection of faults in solar PV systems, to increase their reliability, efficiency, and safety. This is the basis of a research collaboration between the consultancy, Electric Innovation, and the University of Derby’s researchers in renewable and smart energy systems.

About the research

Thanks to funding provided by the Innovate 4 Rail project, our researchers are providing over 170 hours of support to the company, for phases 1 and 2 of this project. This includes access to technical expertise as well as specialist computers and software.

A researcher from the University, Dr Uchenna Diala, explains the aims of the project: “Solar PV systems produce direct current (DC) power which can be used in low voltage applications, such as charging batteries, automotive applications, and other low voltage, low current applications. The DC power can also be converted to alternating current (AC) power for use by home appliances or transmission to the National Grid. While AC power faults and their impacts on electrical loads are well established, faults that occur on the DC side are not, so this will be the focus of our investigation.”

During phase 1 of the project, the team developed analytical and simulation models of a solar PV system. During phase 2, they will be using these models to simulate common DC faults in solar PV systems. They will then examine how these faults affect the I-V characteristic curve (a measure of Current versus Voltage) and P-V characteristic curve (Power versus Voltage) — both of which provide important information about the performance of solar PV systems. 

The hope is that the findings will enable Electric Innovation to develop solutions to mitigate or protect against such faults. The results of this study are expected by the end of 2021.

Chris Rose, Director of Electric Innovation said:

“The drive for more efficient and renewable technologies is introducing new problems for electricity supply and distribution – this applies to rail as much as any other industry. As a forward-thinking company, we want to be at the forefront of addressing these emerging issues.

Our collaboration with the University of Derby through Innovate 4 Rail has been immensely valuable, giving us access to the expertise we need to fully understand electrical faults with solar energy systems and to develop new and innovative solutions for the next generation of circuit protection.” 

Innovate 4 Rail offers a range of funded support to Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire SMEs, with the intention of stimulating innovation and driving productivity in the rail sector. It's a collaborative project between the University of Derby, University of Birmingham and Rail Forum Midlands and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

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Get support for your rail innovations

Are you working on an innovation for the rail sector? You too could be eligible for funded support through the Innovate 4 Rail project.

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