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Residential Solar PV Design 101 What is in this guide? In this guide you will

Residential Solar PV Design 101

What is in this guide?

In this guide you will learn

1. Solar Basics: Power, Energy, Current, Resistance, Circuits, Irradiance, Irradiation, Azimuth, Horizontal Tilt, Declination, Voc, Vmp, Imp, Isc, Temperature and Voltage Relationship, Irradiance and Current Relationship

2. How to Size an Array based customer constraints and site constraints and how to estimate power production.

3. How to Design and Size Grid-Connected Solar PV Inverters, Size Strings and Size Conductors

Who is the guide for?

This guide is for electrical contractors, roofing contractors, general contractors, engineers, managers, salespeople, career changers or anyone who is looking to enter the solar PV industry and needs a basic technical understanding of how the technology works.

Who is the High Performance Building Institute? The High Performance Building Institute, a flagship partner of HeatSpring, provides world-class, industry-certified training to building professionals interesting in geothermal heat pumps, solar photovoltaic, solar thermal and energy auditing. We have trained over 4,500 professionals since

2007.

What is the High Performance Building Institute Magazine? The High Performance Building Institute Magazine is a trade magazine that provides tips, information, and resources to all professionals interested in the marketing, sales, design and installation of geothermal heat pumps, solar PV, solar thermal and energy efficiency.

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About the Author

Chris Williams is the Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring.

He writes at Cleantechies, Alternative Energy Stocks and Renewable Energy World. He's a clean energy jack-of-all trades. He has installed over 300kW of solar PV systems, tens of residential and commercial solar hot water systems and 50 tons of geothermal equipment. Chris is an certified IGSPHA Geothermal Installer and is also NABCEP Entry Level certified.

Installer and is also NABCEP Entry Level certified. If you have any questions…. If you read

If you have any questions….

If you read this guide and have any questions or want to get more articles, white papers or information there are a few ways to keep in touch.

Ask a question on our Facebook page.papers or information there are a few ways to keep in touch. Ask me, Chris Williams,

Ask me, Chris Williams, @topherwilliams , a question on Twitter. Chris Williams, @topherwilliams, a question on Twitter.

Join our LinkedIn group to connect with alumni and other professionals.Chris Williams, @topherwilliams , a question on Twitter. Email. You can email directly: cwilliams@heatspring.com !

Email. You can email directly: cwilliams@heatspring.com!

Phone. If you have an in-depth question call me at 800-393-2044 x33

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Table of Contents

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Weʼ ve created tutorials on solar thermal design 101 and geothermal design, but we haven ʼ t paid the same attention to solar PV yet.

This is the first in a series of posts weʼ ll publish on the basics of designing and installing residential solar PV systems. The goal of the series will be to get the basics covered. If youʼ re an experienced installer, none of this information will be new to you. If youʼ re brand new to solar, it will be helpful. But keep in mind, weʼ ll be skimming the surface. Please leave any and all questions in the comments section and Iʼ ll address them.

Weʼ re going to begin with the basic terms. This is very important for design because you need to understand the concepts before you start applying real numbers to a design. It will also help with sales because it will help you explain some basic terms to curious customers.

Power Power is an AMOUNT of energy. Itʼ s the measurement of energy, measured in kilowatts (kW). Power is measured in an instant. Most of the sizing done in solar PV design; conductors, inverters, fuses, the size of the solar rates is based on how much power will be passing through a specific component of the system. Because power is measured in an instant, it can vary widely over time and from minute to minute. Power (watts) = current (Amps) X voltage (volts)

Energy Energy is the is the actual work done by power. It is measure in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Consumers pay for kWh. Itʼ s a measure of power over time. Power (kW) X Time (hours) = Energy (kWh)

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Current Electricity is the flow of negatively charged electrons. The current is the amount of negatively charged electrons in a specific part of a circuit.

Many people find it useful to use a water analogy when discussing electrical terms. In the water example, itʼ s useful to think of a dam with a pipe at the bottom that water can flow out of. The amount of water that can pass through a slice of the pipe, in other words the area of the cross section of the pipe, is analogous to electric current.

Voltage Voltage is a measure of the ʻ forceʼ or ʻ pressureʼ of the electric current in a circuit. Itʼ s measured in volts. Electrons of the same material WANT to be homogeneous, i.e. they want to be evenly spread out. Thus, if one area has less electrons then another, the electrons will move in an attempt to equalize. This flow is what created a voltage potential and causes electrons to move. To use the water example with a dam. If the size of the pipe at the bottom of a dam is a measure of current, the height of the dam is a measure of voltage. The higher the water is one on side of the dam versus the other, the more pressure there is.

Resistance Electrical Resistance is the resistance of the flow of electricity through a conductor. It does not reduce the current flow of electrons (how many electrons

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there are in the circuit) but it does reduce the voltage (how fast they ʼ re going, remember the dam example). It is measured in ohms. Voltage Drop (volts) = Current (amps) X Resistance (ohms)

Series Circuit A series circuit is when one negative and positive of each power source or appliance, are connected together.

Remember, CURRENT is constant and Voltage ADDS in series circuits.

CURRENT is constant and Voltage ADDS in series circuits. Parallel Circuit In a parallel circuit, all

Parallel Circuit

In a parallel circuit, all of the positives are connected together and the negative are connected together, each separate. In parallel circuits, CURRENT ADDS and voltage stays constant.

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! AC Current AC refers to alternating current. It refers to electrical systems where the voltage

AC Current

AC refers to alternating current. It refers to electrical systems where the voltage and current are constantly changing between positive and negative. A complete “cycle” is completed when when the current reaches returns to either the peak, or trough of the wave. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and is measured in number of cycles per second. The power in the US is operated at 60 Hz.

cycles per second. The power in the US is operated at 60 Hz. DC Current 7

DC Current

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DC means direct current. DC is the type of electricity where the voltage and current stay constant over time. Typical DC applications are batteries, solar modules, and wind turbines.

are batteries, solar modules, and wind turbines. Calculating and Correcting Solar Resource Irradiance

Calculating and Correcting Solar Resource

Irradiance Irradiance is the amount of solar radiation falling on a particular area at any given time. It is a RATE. It ʼ s a measure of POWER, in that itʼ s an instantaneous term that does not consider time. Remember the difference between power and energy. It is measured in watts per square meter.

Irradiation Irradiation is a measure of solar energy, the amount of irradiance that falls on a location over time.

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Irradiation is measured in kWh / square meter / day. Irradiation was formerly called insolation.

Solar Energy in the US

The below pictures shows that amount of solar irradiation that falls on the various surfaces across the US depending on average local weather circumstances.

the US depending on average local weather circumstances. 9 ! H igh Performance Building Institute Magazine:

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Horizontal Tilt The tilt angle from the sun is the angle from the horizon to the sun. Solar PV modules will produce the most energy when the sun is shining directly onto them, from a 90 degree angle. Thus, all else equal, for fixed PV modules the best tilt angle will be the same as the latitude of the site. For example, if the PV site is at 44 N, the best tilt will be 44 degrees. However, most roofs and and commercial racking are not at 44 degrees, so you must apply correction factors for projects that are not at perfect tilts. We will discuss this in a later article.

Azimuth The azimuth is the number of degrees from true south that the sun, or another object, is facing. Itʼ s used when designing a solar PV system because due south will provide the best production, all else equal, over the course of a year. Weʼ re not going to get into tracking systems in this series so all of our arrays will be fixed. However, if the object is not directly south, you will need to apply correction factors that we will get to in later articles.

Magnetic Declination Keep in mind that if youʼ re doing site visits with a magnetic compass you will need to correct your magnetic readings to find truth south. The process is simple. Determine your declination by look at diagram like the one below and determining your location.

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! If you ʼ re location has a eastern declination, you ʼ ll need to add

If youʼ re location has a eastern declination, youʼ ll need to add the numbers to reading. If from the west, subtract.

EAST Subtract. If youʼ re compass reading was 190 degrees and you lived in San Francisco, about 17 degrees east, you would need to subtract 17 degrees to find true south. Youʼ re TRUE SOUTH reading is 173 degrees.

WEST Ad. If you live in Belfast, Maine (about 19 degrees west) and your compass reading was 165 degrees, you would need to subtract 19 degrees to get TRUE SOUTH of 184 degrees. Solar Module Terms: The below terms are terms you will need to understand when sizing your system.

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Voc: Volts open circuit is the maximum voltage a solar module can ever make when it has no load on it. Voc is used when sizing solar arrays along with temperature coefficients to determine worst case voltage scenarios.

Vmp: Volts maximum power is the reading of the maximum volts a module can produce when under load under standing testing condition, STC, irradiance levels (1000 W / M2) . If you look at the below curve, the Vmp would be somewhere in curve on the right in the bend. It will be on the place in the curve the creates the most power (volts times amps). The number is actually rather to difficult to calculate exactly and can change rapidly from second to second as the current changes.

change rapidly from second to second as the current changes. Isc: Amps short circuits it the

Isc: Amps short circuits it the maximum amount of amps that a solar module could produce. You will find Isc on the x axis of the above graph where there is no voltage and thus no power being produced.

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Imp: Amps max power, like volts max power, is the current point on the power curve when the module is producing maximum power. Youʼ ll find the above material on the back of every individual solar PV module and it is standard information that manufacturers and distributors will tell about their product. Below is a product description for two Sharp modules from AEE Solar. All the data is public and available on AEEʼ s website.

All the data is public and ava ilable on AEE ʼ s website. Temperature and Voltage:

Temperature and Voltage: Itʼ s important to understand the relationship between temperature and voltage in solar modules for design purposes. While temperature does have a slight impact on current, itʼ s considered to be negligible. However, temperature has a large impact on voltage. When you are determining the maximum number of solar modules in a string, based on the inverters acceptable voltage window, you will need to take into account expected lowest temperature ranges that can increase voltage.

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! Irradiance and Current: Irradiance and current also have a direct relationship. The amount of irradiance

Irradiance and Current:

Irradiance and current also have a direct relationship. The amount of irradiance falling on a solar PV module will directly impact the current that module is producing. This is key for understand when performing designs, and troubleshooting systems.

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! This is it for basics. The next post will be on sizing the array based

This is it for basics. The next post will be on sizing the array based on the customers needs.

Please let me know if you have any questions or if I was unclear about any of these terms.

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)'(2#3# 4%5#2%# 6-/078#'#$%&'(#)*#9((':#$0;-#'8<#=/20>'2-#)%5-(# )(%<?120%8 #

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This is the 2nd article in a series about how to design solar PV projects. We started with solar 101, the basics. If youʼ re brand new or need to brush up on the basics, please read it first. It discusses electrical theory, key solar terms needed to design any system and the relationship between irradiance, temperature, amperage and voltage among other things.

This section is dedicated to sizing an array based on customer needs and site characteristics – it also discusses estimating power production. The main focus is residential applications, but Iʼ ll also highlight slight differences in commercial projects.

The goal of the article is to provide a basic process for you to understand how to size an array and provide you with further resources youʼ ll need to continue your learning. There will be some overlap in this discussion with more advanced topics, like string and conductor sizing that will be covered in future articles, and how the design will impact the financial returns of a system, which will be discussed in a future article on Solar PV financing. If you need to read on up renewable energy finance, you can start with Finance 101 for Renewable Energy Professionals.

First, let me outline what weʼ ll talk about, then I will go into each part with more detail and depth.

Below is the process for designing a solar PV array.

In the field, most of the power production estimating is done with software. However, Iʼ d argue that itʼ s still important to understand the theory behind power

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production estimates and the variables that impact power production so you can make sure to gather the correct information when performing a site visit.

1. Customer Constraints. What about a specific customer will impact the size of

an array? The most common restraints are:

! Energy Usage

! Client Budget

2. Site Constraints. What about the client site will limit array size? These are the most common details about a site you need to gather and weʼ ll discuss how these variables impact the size of an array:

! Local Shading

! Horizontal Shading

! Available Roof Space and Roof Characteristics (dimensions, tilt, azimuth)

! Module Size and Racking Considerations

3. Determining Irradiation. In order to compute power production, you need to

understand how much energy is hitting your specific area.

! Measured in kWh/M2/day or Sun hours per day

4. Estimating power production based on irradiation, customer constraints,

and site characteristics.

! Sun hours per day adjust for site characteristics

! Power production estimates based on solar resource and the amount of modules you can fit on the roof.

1. Customer Constraints. #

A. Energy Usage

A possible constraint on the size of a solar project is the clientʼ s energy usage. Because of how net-metering programs are set up, typically it does not make sense to produce more then 100% of a clientʼ s annual energy usage. However, because most property owners use so much power, and the power density of

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solar PV is so low, itʼ s rare to have an array that can produce 100% of the power with solar power. Itʼ s typical that the solar fraction of a project (total power used / power supplied by solar) is less then 30%.

Commercial Considerations

For a commercial client you will need to understand their demand charges and usage charges. In order to understand if the solar array will reduce their demand charges you need to understand the load profile of the building and when exactly their demand is the highest to see if solar will shave that demand. For example, do they have the highest amount of demand in the summer or winter? What time of day, early morning, afternoon, evening?

We will not go into depth on demand charges for this post. However, WE WILL discuss the impact of different electric rates, demand and usage charges in the solar PV financing article because itʼ s critical to understand the value of the power that a solar project produces. Right now, weʼ re just concerned with pure design.

If you need to learn more about what demand charges are, Iʼ ve found these are good resources:

! Understanding demand charges

! Demand Charges Explained What you need to collect about energy usage:

! Yearly average kWh used by the client

! Cost of power

! The value of a kWh of solar is directly related to the cost of the power it offsets. On a site visit make sure to get a few months of electric bills.

Example

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Letʼ s assume a customer uses lives in Houston, TX and uses 550 kWh of AC power on average per month and wants a solar system that will produce 100% of the power they use in a year. How large would you need to design the system? You need to reverse engineer the problem, hereʼ s how:

1. 550 kWh/month / 30 days per month = 18.33 kWh per day

2. Calculate and Adjust Irradiation based on site characteristics. According to PV Watts, Houston gets an average of 4.79 sun hours per day. For now, letʼ s assume the roof is directly south and at 30 degrees (the latitude of Houston) so it can harvest 100% of the 4.79 sun hours per day. See section 4 for how we adjust irradiation based on a roofs characteristics

3. 18.33 kWh per day / 4.79 adjusted sun hours per day in Houston = 3.83 kW AC needed in production. Now we need to convert to DC

4. 3.83 kW AC / 80% (to make up for the inefficiency of converting to DC to AC. 80% is a rule of thumb. You will read more about this in the next part of this series when we talk about string and conductor selection, inverter selection and derating) = 4.78kW DC If the customer wanted to produce 100% of their power from solar energy in Houston and they had a perfect roof, they would need a 4.78kW DC system. Weʼ ll discuss what happens if there roof is not perfect below.

B. Customer Budget

One of the most common client constraints is budget for the system, if they are purchasing with cash. If they are leasing the system, this will not be so much of an issue. Learn more about solar leases, prepaid leases and how to sell a solar lease here. If your installed cost is $5.00/watt, a 4.78 kW system will cost you $23,900. If the customers budgets is only $15,000, you could only install a 3 kW DC system. Things to remember:

! Know if itʼ s a cash or lease sale. Learn more about lease sales in our free course about solar lease.

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! If itʼ s a cash customer, make sure you understand what their budget is. Make sure you understand if they are purchasing cash, or with a home equity line of credit or wrapped into a mortgage for new construction.

2. Site Constraints #

Site constraints are the second most common attribute that limit the size of a solar array, behind a customers budget. Answering the question “how many panels can fit on the roof” is a major limiting factor of a project. However, remember that itʼ s not just how many panels can you physically fit on the roof, but how many can be on the roof and produce maximum power. **NOTE: Iʼ m not going over structural aspects in this part of the series and that will be discussed in a future post. Remember, simply becasue there is room on the roof doesn ʼ t mean you can install solar. The roof needs to be able to hold the additional load.

Roof Characteristics to Consider and Gather

! Total Roof Area: When performing a residential or commercial site visit itʼ s good practice to measure the whole plane on the roof where you plan to install the array, then begin to work backwards and eliminate space that is shaded or unsuitable for panels.

! Local Shading. Local shading is shading that occurs on the roof. Common examples include: chimneys, stink pipes, eaves, shading from another part of the roof.

! A good rule of thumb for local shading is don ʼ t place modules anywhere that is closer then 3x the height of the obstacle from the object. If a stink pipe is 12 inches, don ʼ t place any module north, east or west of it closer then 36 inches away. You can still place module south of the local shading areas.

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When doing a site visit make sure to mark the locations of all local shading elements. Also, note if there is an attic or cathedral ceilings. If an attic, sometimes pipes and other items can be moved easily.

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Horizontal Shading. Horizontal shading is most often caused trees, but can also

be from buildings. It is shading that occurs off the roof that impacts the amount of irradiance hitting the roof.

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Itʼ

s best to have no shading between the hours of 9am and 3pm for the whole

year. If this is the case, you will not need to adjust your irradiation numbers for shading.

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If

you have any shading between 9am and 3pm during any point in the year you

will need to adjust the irradiation numbers that we will discuss step 4.

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Here are two examples of a nearly perfect roof and a roof with some shading. The “solar access” percentage is what we care about, and this is the number that will adjust irradiation values. This percentage is a measure of the amount of sun

light youʼ ve lost due to shading. If itʼ s 95%, youʼ ve lose 5% production from the best case scenario due to shading.

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Key to remember: Trees Grow. If youʼ re building an area that has some shading, when you perform your power production estimates it will be good to assume your shading will increase by a small amount each year, letʼ s say .5%.

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Key to remember: Some states have rebate programs that say a roof must solar access of at least 80%.

A great roof: On average this roof only loses 4% product due to shading

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! An okay roof: This roof will lose 20% product due to shading. 22 ! H

An okay roof: This roof will lose 20% product due to shading.

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! Commercial Considerations Commercial projects seem more open then residential applications because you can orient the

Commercial Considerations

Commercial projects seem more open then residential applications because you can orient the modules how you wish, but there some considerations that are more critical to watch for on commercial projects:

! Local shading becomes much more important. Make sure to have a DETAILED roof plan that shows the dimensions of the roof, and everything else on the roof that will impact where you can place modules; drains, the footprint AND HEIGHT of the AC units, skylights, height of knee walls, and all other equipment.

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! Examples below of skylights, knee-walls, AC units, and existing conduit.

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! ! Edge of the roof. 6 feet from the edge is common ! Double check

! Edge of the roof. 6 feet from the edge is common

! Double check with your fire department about array layout. Fire AHJs are becoming more and more stringent with where modules can be placed because they will need access to the roof in the case of a fire.

Remember to collect from a site visit:

1. Raw roof dimensions

2. Location and height of all other obstacles

3. Shading analysis with a Sun Eye

4. Tilt of the roof if residential. If commercial, this will be based on the racking you use

5. Azimuth of the building. This means, where is the building facing. Itʼ s best for the roof to be facing directly south. On residential roofs, you tend to not have a choice. On commercial, you have more freedom to point the array where you wish.

Example: Houston, Texas House

The process for determining how many modules can fit onto a residential roof are the following.

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1. Measure the raw roof. This is an example house in Houston, TX.

the raw roof. This is an example house in Houston, TX. 27 ! H igh Performance

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! 2. Locate all other obstacles. The above roof is perfect, but let ʼ s assume

2. Locate all other obstacles. The above roof is perfect, but letʼ s assume that there is a chimney on the top left of the roof.

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! 3. Perform a shading analysis. Mark any areas that have less then 80% solar access.

3. Perform a shading analysis. Mark any areas that have less then 80% solar

access. The above roof does not have any shading, but if there was a tree on the left hand side you would need to get on the roof and use a sun eye to determine how far the shading goes onto the roof. Mark the section of the roof where the shading stops!

4. Determine the unusable space created by local obstacles and shading on the

roof. Remember to use 3x the height of the obstalces as the closest distance a module should be to said obstacle.

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! 5. Determine how many modules can fit in the adjusted usable space based on the

5. Determine how many modules can fit in the adjusted usable space based on the size of the module and racking.

Youʼ ll need 3 things

1. The amount of usable space on your roof

2. The dimensions of your module

3. Needed space for racking

A few other key tips to keep in mind.

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! Itʼ s good to make sure the modules do not overhang the ridge. Itʼ s good for the space between the ridge of the roof and the array and the bottom to be equal, if possible.

! It looks best if you can space the array on both sides equally as well, but sometimes this is not possible.

! Rectangles, including squares, always look the best.

! Remember Unirac racking will take 1 inches between all modules but not the top, bottom or either side. Prosolar is also very common. Other brands are coming along including ZEP Solar and other brand specific raking, like Westinghouse Solar. Just know your racking dimensions. Here is the module weʼ re going to use:

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! 6. Result: 20 Modules Will Fit on the Roof. Height: The height of the array

6. Result: 20 Modules Will Fit on the Roof.

Height: The height of the array is 119 inches (59 X 2 + 1 inches for the racking) Width of the top row: 279 inches (39 inches wide X 7 modules + 6 inches for each space)

Width of the bottom row: 519 inches (39 inches wide X 13 modules + 12 inches for spacing)

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This may not be the exact amount of modules for the final design depending on what our string sizing calculations comes out as OR if we choose to use micro- inverters or an AC module. But you get the idea of the process.

7. Gathering Roof Characteristics

The two other things you need to collect about the roof that will be needed for power production estimates are the tilt roof and itʼ s azmith. We will discuss power production estimates next.

The tilt of our sample roof is 30 degrees, or a 7 pitch.

The true azimuth of the building is 132 degrees. The magnetic reading of where the building was facing was 140 degrees. HOWEVER, we must adjust magnetic south to true south. Houston has a declination of 8 degrees EAST. EAST Subtracts, you remember that.

140 degrees magnetic – 8 degrees declination east = 132 degrees.

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3. Determining Location Irradiance

Now that we understand the basic process for determine how many modules can fit on the roof, collecting data about shading, and where the roof is facing.

Hereʼ s the general process.

1. Determine the amount of sun falling in your city

2. Determine how much of that sun is falling on your specific roof

3. Determine how much sun falling on the roof the modules can harvest, based on how many modules you have and their power rating.

1. City Irradiation.

This is not an official term but itʼ s how I think about it. First what weʼ re looking for is how much sun, on average, is falling in the city where my roof is located. What youʼ re looking for is called IRRADIATION, formerly called Insolation with an “o”. Here are some good resources to look up the irradiation in your city:

Whole Solar Sun Hours Map

PV Watts

REMEMBER, an easier way of thinking about the term “kWh / M2 / day” is “Sun Hours Per Day” Or how many hours of direct sunlight (at STC) are falling. The reason I like sun hours per day is it makes calculating power make more sense to me. If I have a 1 kW array that gets 5 sun hours, Iʼ ve produced 5kW (1kW X 5 hours) According to PV Watts, Houston gets an average of 4.79 Sun Hours per day.

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! 2. Adjust City Irradiation for Roof Irradiation and Estimating P ower Production. 37 ! H

2. Adjust City Irradiation for Roof Irradiation and Estimating Power Production.

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In order to calculate the irradiation that falls onto the roof we need to correct the local information for the conditions of the specific roof. If you remember from solar design 101, solar modules are most efficient (produce the most power) when they are perpendicular to the sun. Note, I won ʼ t be discussing tracking arrays in this article. Here are the best conditions for a fixed tilt array.

! Azimuth = Directly South at 180 degrees. Only in the northern hemisphere

! Tilt Angle = Latitude of the Site. Houstonʼs latitude is 28 degrees north, so 28 degrees is the best tilt of the roof.

If the array has a different tilt and azimuth then from the above, we need to adjust the city irradiation numbers to get an accurate power product estimation for the specific roof. Here is an example of a table used for locations that are 30 degree north.

of a table used for locations that are 30 degree north. Notice from the above graph

Notice from the above graph that at 180 degrees south and 30 degrees tilt angle, the correction factor is 1, or 100%. Itʼ s useful to analyze this graph to get an

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understanding of the implications of different site conditions. This is useful for marketing purposes to determine good sites from bad sites.

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If

the building was facing directly WEST, it would only lose 17%, but if it faces

directly EAST, it will lose 22%.

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Also note what happens when the module is at 0 degrees, flat, it only loses 13%. Mainly due to the fact that Houston is close to the equator so the summers are long.

Solmetic also has an amazing tool that will tell you the optimal tilt and azimuth for

a building in a specific location. Then you input the specific characteristics of your roof and it will tell you how much to adjust your irradiation numbers by. This is data for Houston

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! Here is a link to the Solmetric tool According to Solmetric, the optimal tilt for

Here is a link to the Solmetric tool

According to Solmetric, the optimal tilt for Houston is 28 degrees, the azmith is 178 degrees. You can find this at the top of the graph.

If you look at the bottom, you can find our roofʼ s characteristics, is says that a roof with a tilt of 30 degrees tilt at 148 degrees will get access to 97.8% of the sun.

Example with roof adjusted irradiation Multiply Houston Irradiation, 4.79, by the roof correction factor 97.8% to equal 4.68 sun hours per day.

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We would then use the roof adjusted irradiation numbers in our power production estimates. For the amount of module that fit can fit on the roof, 20 in hour case.

Note that 20 is not taking into account customer budget.

1. 20 modules X 205 watts per module (find this on the modules specs) = 4100 watts DC rated power

2. 4,100 watts X 4.68 average sun hours per day (roof adjust irradiation) = 19, 188 kWh DC produced per day on average.

3. 19.18 kWh DC X 80% (to convert from DC to AC) = 15,350 watts-hours AC average daily production

4. 15.35kWh per day X 30 days per month = 460 kWh AC production per month.

Conclusions on Power Production#

Thatʼ s a step-by-step guide for sizing a solar array and estimating power production. The process is slightly different and there is more to consider for light commercial applications. I will dedicate a specific post to commercial array sizing and power production in the future.

To wrap up what we discussed.

1. Client specific constraints: budget and energy usage

2. How a roofʼ s constraints impact a solar array ʼ s size: Local and horizontal shading, roof dimensions

3. How to determine and adjust irradiation numbers based on the roofʼ s characteristics; tilt and azimuth.

4. How to estimate power production based on the irradiation reaching a roof and the number of modules on it.

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In this article, we used a rule of thumb 80% derate factor to convert from DC to

AC. In the next article, we will dive deeper into inverter sizing, string sizing and conductor sizing, all of which will directly impact this 80% number.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment stream.

)'(2#@# A #4%5#2%#6-/078#'#$%&'(#)*#B8C-(2-(D#$0;-#$2(087/D#'8<#$0;-# E%8<?12%(/ #

This is the 3 part in a series on residential solar PV design. The goal is to provide

a solid foundation for new system designers and installers.

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The goal of the article is to convey the basic process for sizing an inverter, strings and the conductors. You may not be an expert at the end of the post, but youʼ ll have a better understanding of how to do these things.

As always, having specific numbers is the most useful for examples – so weʼll continue with the example from part 2 on sizing an array and estimate power production. The house was located in Houston, TX and the roof, given local shading conditions, has enough room on the roof for 20, 205 watt modules. (see part 2 to see how we got this number)

Here is the spec sheet on the Sanyo HIT 205 module weʼ ll use for the example. So, the largest possible size of the array we can fit on the roof at STC is 4,100 watts. We can go lower then this, but not higher.

1. Invert Sizing and Selecting

Given that we know how many modules can fit on the roof, how do we use this data to size the inverter? The size of the inverter is driven by answering 2 questions:

1 – What is the capacity of the existing electrical service? Per NEC 690.64B2 (2008) 705.12 D2 (2011), an existing electrical service is only allowed to backfed up to 120% of the rated capacity.

What does this mean with a typical home? 100 amp service X 20% = 20 amp backfed breaker allowed

20 amp X 80% (for continuous load, we ʼ ll talk about this below) = 16 amp continuous inverter output current

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16 amps X 240 volts (or 208 volts, depending on the homes location) = 3840 watts. This is the maximum allowed AC power output of the inverter.

There are a few ways of getting around this, by upgrading the service, performing

a line-side tap, and it can sometimes be accomplished with subpanels. However, for this example, letʼ s keep it simple.

If the existing service only had room for a 20amp breaker, we would not be able

to have an inverter that has a rated AC continuous output that would exceed the 16 amp (see example above) or 3840 watts AC.

Per NEC 690.8 A3 the maximum AC ouput current from an inverter is defined as the manufacturers continued rated output current.

Max Current (inverter AC circuits) = continuous current output.

For our example, weʼ ll assume that the existing electrical service can supply an additional 25 amp back-fed breaker, 20 amps continuous allowed. This limits our choice of inverter to either a PVI 3000 or PVI 4000 inverter based on the electrical service capacity, as the PVI 5000 has a continue output current at 208 VAC of 20.7 amps.

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! Figure 1 – A Sampling of Solectria Residential Inverter Specs 45 ! H igh Performance

Figure 1 – A Sampling of Solectria Residential Inverter Specs

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2 – How many modules can we fit on the roof?

From our example, we know that we can fit 20, 205 watt Sanyo modules on the roof. Here is the spec sheet for the module

modules on the roof. Here is the spec sheet for the module Figure 2 – Spec

Figure 2 – Spec sheet for Sanyo 205 Module

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First, we need to guess the size of the inverter. Itʼ s a good rule of thumb to size the inverter, based on the rated AC continuous output, to be 80% smaller then the rated STC output of the array. The reason for this is that there is a lot of inefficiency from the array to the inverter, so if we undersize the inverter, the array is more likely to hitting the upper limit of the input ranges of the inverter and will more likely be operating within the MPPT operating range of the inverter. For example, for our array size at 4,100 watts DC STC, weʼ ve guessed that the inverter would have a AC continuous output range of 80% of 4.1kW, or 3,280 watts AC.

Youʼ ll notice that the naming of Solectria inverters (PVI 3000, 4000, 5000) also seem to match this relationship between the DC rated power of an array (the name of the inverter) and the AC continuous output of the inverter (2700W, 3400W, 4300W, respectively)

We will choose the Solectria PVI 4000 for our example from our choices between the PVI 3000 and 4000

3. How do we size the strings?

Right now, we have concluded two things. First, the inverter weʼ d like to use the PVI 4000 based on the number of modules that can fit on the roof and how their capacity relates to the inverter. Second, we know the number of max modules we can fit on the roof. Now, we must begin string sizing.

String sizing is the number of modules that we will connect in series and parallel before connecting them to the inverter. The size of our strings will determine the voltage and amperage that is inputted into the inverter.

When string sizing, our goals are:

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1. Make sure we NEVER supply the inverter with too much voltage, which will kill it –> Maximum string length

2. Make sure that we can ALWAYS supply the inverter with enough voltage to turn

on, given the array is receiving full sun –> Minimum string length

What is the maximum voltage allowed for the system? How many modules

we can connect in series?

NEC 690.7 specifies that our worst-case voltage, the highest voltages that the

DC array can create, must fall within the limits of the inverter.

The exact definition states that: The Voc of each module times the number of modules in a string, correct for lowest expected ambient temperature in the array ʼ s location.

For the PVI 4000, maximum acceptable voltage is 600 VDC.

To calculate the maximum number of modules allowed, we need a few pieces of data

! Voc at STC for the module at 77F/25C = 50.3 volts

! The temperature coefficient for the module. Typically given in volts per degree C or % voltage per degree C. You will find all this data on any module spec sheet =

-.14V/C

! The lowest and highest temperatures seen in the specific jurisdiction. Below is

the data for Houston from weather.com = 9F or -13C

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Here are the calculations for the max system string size. The goal in determining the maximum system voltage is to make sure that power production from the array will never kill the inverter.

1. Temperature coefficient. -13C lowest temperature – 25C STC = -38C change from STC

2. -38C X -.14V/C = 5.32 voltage increase. (negative times a negative is a positive)

3. 50.3 volts + 5.32 = 55.62 is the highest voltage we will ever expect to see from each module, and this is the voltage we will use to determine the maximum number of modules in a string.

4. 600VDC (highest acceptable inverter voltage) / 55.62 = 10.78 modules.

5. We round down to 10 modules, because we cannot go over 600 volts.

6. Maximum system voltage (MSV) = 10 modules X 55.62 = 556 volts

How do we calculate the minimum number of modules in a string?

The goal of calculating the minimum number of modules in a string is to make sure that in the worst case scenario, when the array is extremely hot, the system will still produce enough voltage to turn the inverter ON. Thus, weʼ re looking to understand the lowest possible voltage the system will create.

Hereʼ s what we need:

1. Vmp of the module. Operating voltage of the module under load = 40.7 volts

2. Temperature coefficient correction factor for the module from STC = -.14V/C

3. The highest temperature recorded for the location youʼ re installing = 106 degrees

4. The bottom range of acceptable voltage for the MPPT range for the inverter = 200 V DC

5. Ambient air correction factors from the conduit that the electric wire will be in. This can be looked up at NEC Table 310.15 B2C. Based on how far the conduit is off the roof, it will give us the temperature that we need to ADD to the highest

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temperature to derate module performance. Why? wires heat up more when sitting in conduit rather then outside air.

Here are the calculations.

1. The conduit will be placed 2 inches above the roof. Thus, we must add 40F to the output temperature of 106 to find the temperature we will derate the modules by 40 + 106 = 146. 146F = 81C

2. 81C – 25C (STC) = 56C above STC. Remember, voltage is indirectly related to temperature. Higher temperature equals lower voltage. Thus, the hottest conditions the array will ever see is 56C higher then the STC voltage.

3. 56C X -.14V/C = 7.85 DECREASE in voltage per module

4. 40.7Vmp – 7.85v = 32.84 Vmp (at 149F) What this means is that is the array is under load (being used) and itʼ s the hottest that itʼ s ever been in Houston (109F) and the conduit is 2 inches above the roof, we can expect that each module will be producing 32.84 volts.

5. 200VDC (the minimum volts needed to turn on a PVI 4000) / 32.84Vmp = 6.09 modules. For this we need to ROUND UP (if we go down the inverter won ʼ t turn on) so our conclusion will be 7 modules.

Conclusion on Voltages

With a Sanyo 205 module, we can have between 7 and 10 modules given the voltage ranges of a PVI 4000 inverter.

However, now we need to make a table to figure out how many strings to have and the proper number of strings to produce enough POWER (watts) for the inverter.

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! We could select either 2 strings of 10 modules or 3 strings of 7 because

We could select either 2 strings of 10 modules or 3 strings of 7 because both will produce enough DC power to power our inverter.

We will select 2 strings of 10 modules for two reasons.

! Our roof only has enough space for 20 modules so 21 will not fit on it.

! All else equal, itʼ s better to have fewer strings and more modules per string because higher voltages = less voltage drop because less amperage will be flowing for the same amount of power. The conclusion from Solectria ʼ s string inverter tool match our findings done by hand

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! String Sizing Tools are Readily Available and Free All of these calculations are typically done

String Sizing Tools are Readily Available and Free All of these calculations are typically done with software or with an inverter manufacturer ʼ s string sizing tool. Here are three free options:

! Solectria String Sizer

! Advanced Energy String Sizer

! Fronius

However, itʼ s good to understand the theory behind their calculations.

4. How do we size conductors?

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After weʼ ve selected the size of the array and the inverter we need to size the conductors that will be used.

The purpose of conductor sizing is to make sure conductors can hold the amperage that they need to help. The ampacity rating of a conductor is the current it can safely conduct without overheating. The reason conductors cannot overheat is because the insulation on the outside will melt and the faults will be more likely to occur.

! Current causes heat in conductor due to resistance of the wire

! Bigger wires = lower resistance

! Lower resistance = less heat.

! Too much heat = insulation melting = faults, arcs, death and fire.

! Insulation rating determine ampacity

Most people, including myself, find this extremely confusing at first. So before we start talking about conductor sizing, letʼ s take a look at the problem from 30,000 feet to understand logically what is happening:

1. Understand how much the conductor NEEDS TO CARRY. The first thing we need to understand is how many amps need to flow through a section of wire. When looking at solar PV project they come into two main group, solar PV source circuits (those from after the modules and before the inverter) and non-solar PV source circuits (those coming after inverter)

2. Understand how much the conductor CAN CARRY based on itʼ s rated ampacity AND conditions of use. Weʼ ll talk about how to adjust a wire based on conditions of use and it ʼ s rated capacity.

3. Thus, for every conductor sizing example, we should always be asking ourselves, HOW MUCH does the conductor NEED TO CARRY and HOW MUCH can the conductor carry. In all cases, the conductor MUST be able to carry more then it must carry.

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With that in mind, there are four areas that we need to consider when sizing conductors.

1. Standard ampactiy tables based on a) continuous or b) maximum current.

2. Derating wire for conditions of use

3. Fuse or OCPD protector rating

4. Terminal Rating

1. Standard Ampacity Tables based on continuous or maximum current.

Determining ampacity requirements based on continuous or maximum current. Remember this is calculating HOW MUCH a conductor needs to carry.

! Isc = Rated short circuit current which is the maximum current flow when the positive and negative are connected together at STC. Our module has an Isc of

5.54A

! Maximum Current. NEC 690.8A Circuits that are supplied by solar PV modules (anything before the inverter) can deliver output current that is HIGHER than their rated short circuit currents. Rated short circuit is at 1000W/M2 irradiance. Real conditions can see 1250 W/M2. –> Thus Isc X 1.25 = Maximum solar pv source circuit current

! Continuous Current. NEC 690.8B1 and 210.19A1. Continuous loads can only be loaded to 80% of itʼ s capacity. Solar PV array output AND inverter output are always considered to be continuous since they last for more then 3 hours. Thus, 10amps (max Isc) x 1.25 = 12.5 amp conductor. To understand which needs to be applied to what circuits, itʼ s easiest to separate between solar PV circuits (before the inverter) and non-solar PV circuits (after the inverter)

! Solar Generated Circuits = Isc X 1.25 (high current) X 1.25 (continuous load) = Isc X 1.56 = the required conductor ampacity for a solar source circuit

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! In our example, the Isc is 5.54 amps and we have 2 strings. Thus, our conductors must be able to carry 5.54 X 1.56 X 2 = 17.28 amps.

! Inverter AC circuits = Rated current X 1.25 (for continuous use) = require conductor amapacity. Note: many inverter manufactures will specify simply the “continuous AC output current”, so you don ʼ t need to perform this calculation. For the PVI4000, thatʼ s 16.3 amps.

2. Derating Wire for Conditions of Use #

Now that we understand how to calculate HOW MUCH conductors need to carry, we need to select a conductor that can carry that current in the conditions where it will be used. All else equal, the hotter the surrounding air that conductors are placed in, the less amperage they can safely carry and still meet our ampactiy ratings for safety.

There are three main things to consider:

1. The rated capacity of the wire at testing conditions

2. The effects of temperature where it will be used

3. The effect of conduit fill

1. Standard Conductor Ampacity

The NEC has tables of ampacity for different conductors depending on size and the insulation used. The standard ambient temperature is assumed to be 30C.

! Table 310.16 is for conductors in conduit or earth

! Table 310.17 is for conductors in free air.

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Below is a sampling from 310.16

! Below is a sampling from 310.16 Example: From our example, what is the smallest size

Example: From our example, what is the smallest size wire that can be used from a combiner box that combines 2 strings of Sanyo 205 modules in parallel? Min Amapacity = Isc X Number of Strings X 1.56 = 5.54 X 2 X 1.56 X = 17.28 amps This can be satisfied with by a AWG 14 THWN-2 Conductor Why? We NEED to carry 17.28 amps. AWG14 CAN CARRY 25 amps. 25 > 17.28

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2. Adjusted for Conduit Fill

If there are more than 3 current carrying conductors in a raceway or cable, the conductor ampacity must be derated for conditions of use per NEC 100, this excludes grounding conductors per NEC 310.15B5

The impact of conduit fill is essentially the same as the increase in temperature, more conductor in a conduit, and where that conduit is, will impact how hot it gets in that conduit and thus how much the conductor can carry.

Table 310.15B2a gives factors for derating. Some value from 310.15 are below.

factors for derating. Some value from 310.15 are below. From our example, we only have 2

From our example, we only have 2 strings ( 4 home runs) from the array. Letʼ s assume that we have 40 modules (10 modules per string, 4 strings), that we are combining, so we have to combine 2 arrays. 8 source circuits into 4. What would be the minimum amapcity in that situation? Number of conductors = 4 Min ampacity needed for two conductors = 17.28 Adjusted ampacity for conduit fill = 17.28 / .80 = 21.6 14AWG still works because it has a maximum capacity of 25 amps.

3. Adjusting for Temperature Rating

The conductors are tested and their ampacity is rated for 30C. Thus, if the conductors will be used in any condition that may be higher then 30C, we need to

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reduce their ampacity ratings. NEC provides table to perform these calculations in table 310-16 and 310-17.

Below is a sample from 310-16.

table 310 - 16 and 310 - 17. Below is a sample from 310- 16. Example.

Example. Our system will be installed in Houston, TX, the highest temperature is 106F. Can we still use 14AWG to combine our source circuits?

14AWG Standard Amapacity = 25 amps. Adjusted Ampacity = 25 amps X .87 = 21.75 amps. This means that given it 106 outside, 14AWG is rated to carry 21.75 amps. We need to carry 17.28 amps. So 14AWG still works.

The temperature derating also needs to be adjusted based on the distance that the conduit is above the roof.

Per NEC 310.15B2C, the below determines the temperature that needs to be ADDED to the highest ambient temperature based on where the conduit is placed.

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! From our above example, if the conduit was being run 1 inch above the roof,

From our above example, if the conduit was being run 1 inch above the roof, we would need to ad 40F to the ambient temperature of 106F to equal 146F.

This means that a 14AWG with a rated capacity of 25 amps will have an ampacity of 25amps X .58 = 14.5 amps.

Letʼ s walk through a full example to make sure we have all these concepts in order.

What we need to make sure is that corrected amapacity of the conductors (the rated capacity derated for use) is GREATER then the maximum amount of current that will be flowing through the conductor. We have 2 strings of 10, 205 watt modules

! Minimum Ampacity = 2 parallel strings X Isc X 1.59

! 5.54 X 2 X 1.56 X = 17.28 amps

! 17.28 amps is REQUIRED

We have 2 conductor pairs, 4 home runs running to the DC disconnect and interview. Conduit filled is .80

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The highest ambient temperature is 109F/43C The homeruns will be in conduit that is 1/2 inches above the roof. This adds 33C to the 43C ambient temperature equaling. Our temperature derating is now 76C or .41

Thus, the equation is Conductor Ampacity X conduit fill derate X ambient temperature derate.

14AWG is rated for 25 amps.

25 amps X .80 X .41 = 8.2 amps.

Under these conditions 14AWG is only rated to carry 8.2 amps. WE MUST CARRY 17.28 amps.

We would increase our conductor size to #8 AWG

8AWG – 55 amps X .80 X .41 = 18.04 amps.

18.04 conductor ampacity > 17.28 minimum ampacity needed.

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Chris Williams is the Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring

He writes at Cleantechies, Alternative Energy Stocks and Renewable Energy World. He's a clean energy jack-of-all trades. He has installed over 300kW of solar PV systems, tens of residential and commercial solar hot water systems and 50 tons of geothermal equipment. Chris is an IGSPHA Certified Geothermal Installer and will be sitting for his NABCEP in September.

If you have any questions….

for his NABCEP in September. If you have any questions…. If you read this guide and

If you read this guide and have any questions or want to get more article, whitepapers or information there are a few ways to keep in touch.

Ask a question on our Facebook page.or information there are a few ways to keep in touch. Ask me, Chris Williams, @topherwilliams

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Join our LinkedIn group to connect with alumni and other professionals.Chris Williams, @topherwilliams , a question on Twitter. Email. You can email directly: cwilliams@heatspring.com !

Email. You can email directly: cwilliams@heatspring.com!

Phone. If you have an in-depth question call me at 617 702 2676

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