Creating an east-west PV layout

East, West, Layout, Custom, Pilling, Restriction, Exclusion, Zone, Generation

Jonas Zemaitaitis avatar
Written by Jonas Zemaitaitis
Updated over a week ago

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In this tutorial, we will discuss steps to be taken in order to create an east-west system layout in a selected area.

Before generating frames, the Frame & Park settings as well as the Layout generation settings must be fully defined.

Frame and park settings

To start off with an east-west fixed-tilt frame generation, we need to first set up your framing and placement of frames. This can be done by clicking on Frame & park settings and going through the three tabs in there.

Frame creation

Frame presets - enables the user to create, save or delete presets (presets apply to the current DWG and can be imported/exported to other DWGs)
Module parameters - define essential module parameters.
Frame parameters - define essential frame parameters.
Custom piling - define piling setup and pole distances for the frame. Here, it's possible to adjust the pole distribution based on custom or even configuration. With the "Custom" option, all the pole distances need to be manually defined. On the other hand, with even distribution, the software makes it so that the inter-pole gaps are of equal size. You may also choose if the margins should be independently editable, or for them to be equal. And just under the margin field, you can reference the calculated middle distribution value.

Another possibility is to define a middle pole on the vertical distribution, and later all the distances can be fully customizable. On the GIF below, both the horizontal and vertical customizations are illustrated:

Placement setup

Framing type - select either fixed-tilt or single-axis trackers or east-west.
Preset library - this is where all the created presets for this DWG can be selected for area generation. We can select multiple frame presets simultaneously.

🛈 Only frames that have the same row count, tilt angle, and vertical gap size are suitable to generate in a single area.

Park settings

Project settings - define the project's location and the shading limit:

  • Location - We may specify the coordinate location, the name of the general area, or put a pinpoint mark on the map of your project location.

  • This will enable PVcase to specify the sun position for the location and can use this to reference the shading limit angle at a given time of day.

Design settings - define your frame placement parameters:

  • Spacing & Pitch values - PVcase will take the input value for the Shading limit angle, and it will calculate the pitch distance and row spacing required for frames placed on a flat surface for that shading limit. The minimum and maximum can be defined manually. We may also input the reference row spacing or pitch distance, and PVcase will display the shading limit angle (when using the shade limit angle instead of time). The distance values can also be restricted by minimum and maximum inputs for inclining and declining slopes to maximize capacity;

  • Fixed distance - option to generate a layout with a fixed-pitch distance while on terrain. (note: will result in inter-row shading losses);

  • Row spacing - minimum distance between frames in the North-South direction;

  • Azimuth - changes frame azimuth, taking the South as the 0 reference angle;

  • Height settings - define frame placement on terrain, considering the height at the lowest and highest point.

Layout generation settings

  • Select restriction zone layer (boundaries on this layer will not be populated with frames);

  • Select units (millimeters/meters or inches/feet) to match the AutoCAD drawing units;

  • Slope units - We can choose degrees or percentages as our preferred unit of indicating frame inclination in our Civil analysis tools;

  • Optimized frames option hides unnecessary objects (3D modules, poles) to improve the performance of AutoCAD;

  • The topographic layout option allows the user to generate PV areas on suitable topographic data or on a flat surface. Please ensure that all data points are selected (this is done by clicking Terrain and selecting the topography data) prior to generating areas;

Defining boundaries and exclusion zones

Defining generation boundaries (PV areas)

Generation boundaries or PV areas are defined as a region drawn with a closed polyline. In order to create such a boundary - we can use AutoCAD's polyline function or any other drawing tool that will give you a closed boundary (e.g. rectangle)

Usually, this region or boundary is separate from the actual site boundary and is offset from it.

🛈 Be sure to always close the polyline by using the close command (enter C into the command line while still drawing the line) or attaching the polyline end vertex to the start point with the green object snap.

Boundary troubleshooting

This error message appears when there are problems with the PV area region. Try checking the vertices to see whether you might have any polyline crossing over each other that create smaller areas or perhaps vertices on top of each other.

Defining exclusion zones (offset areas)

Exclusion zones - by default, the PVcase offset layer is regarded as the exclusion zone layer. We can change which layer should be regarded as the exclusion zone in Layout generation settings.

This means, that any closed areas on this layer will force the software to avoid placing frames in that area - we can draw it using the same approach as one would for a PV area. (Closed polyline)


Generate single area - generate frames in a single area by selecting the target area's polyline and specifying the alignment side and generation start point by clicking on a location.

The alignment and starting point will be dictated by which corner of the area you select. For example: Clicking in the top left corner will start generating frames from the left side and align them towards the top part of the PV area.

Generate multiple areas - generates frames in multiple areas by selecting multiple areas. They will share a common alignment line.

This generation should be used when multiple areas are next to each other. Multiple area generation will align frames from two areas to avoid shading from one area to the other.

Shadow frames

After generation, if frames were manipulated (e.g. moved, copied) they will be colored in red and will not be counted inside Layout information.

🛈 To learn more about how to indicate and deal with shadow frames, please click below.

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