The many uses of PV case grouping

pvcase grouping, grouping

Alejandro Martinez / PVcase avatar
Written by Alejandro Martinez / PVcase
Updated over a week ago

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The many uses of PVcase grouping

Most PVcase tools are readily accessible in the Top Ribbon when the Ground Mount (GM) add-in is ON. Some others only become available as right-click options once a PVcase object is selected. There is a third and final group of functions that are invoked, by writing in the AutoCAD command bar. The PVcase grouping command belongs to this last group.

In order to get acquainted with how it works, we will start with an introduction to its use, before we move on to showcase different scenarios in which it can be helpful.

1 PVcase grouping instructions

2 Divide PVcase areas to work more efficiently

3 Create PVcase area for Convert to PVcase

4 Create a PVcase area when the original has been removed

5 Divide PVcase Areas for export to PVsyst and Yield

6 Divide PV areas by Electrical Blocks

7 Create perimeter lines for Import Terrain and Terrain Mesh

8 Create PV areas for Civil Analysis

9 Frame/String reduction and restriction areas

10 Create PV areas for Frame and Pile numbering

1.PVcasegrouping Instructions

As previously mentioned, this tool cannot be found in the PVcase Top Ribbon, and can be accessed by typing "pvcasegrouping" in the AutoCAD command bar and subsequently pressing Enter.

The software will at first prompt the user to “Group by capacity or string amount (per Central inverter)”. Once a selection is made, then the user will need to respond to the second query: ask “Should grouped items be placed in a new PV area?”.

If the user selects “Capacity” as a response to the first question, during the process of selecting frames, the software will show the accumulated Wp capacity as it is selected.

If the user selects “Strings” instead (only possible once stringing has been executed), the software will show the accumulated number of strings selected.

If the user responds “Yes” to the second question, the software will generate a new PVcase PVarea around the user selected frames.

[Note: If new PVcase PV areas are generated, only the selected frames will be associated to them respectively. Any unselected frames will remain linked to the original PV area. If no frames remain unselected, when executing PVcasegrouping, then the original PV area won’t have any frames tied to it and can be deleted if preferred.]

If “No” is selected (when responding to the second question), the software will just create a polyline around the selected objects and will be placed in the “PVcase Grouped Area” layer.

[Note: If misaligned frame rows are selected (E-W direction for trackers and N-S for fixed-tilt), the perimeter line generated might show as zigzagging. This might not be visually appealing, but will still operate correctly.]

2.Divide PVcase Areas to work more efficiently

Using smaller PVcase PV areas not only gives users more flexibility, but it also enables them to work more efficiently. In case one big PV area was generated, and it needs to be divided into several smaller PVcase PV areas instead of doing it manually, the PVCasegrouping function can be used.

Additionally, turning on/off PVcase PV areas to focus work on one PV area at a time boosts the processing speed of AutoCAD, allowing to design big power plants much faster. In order to do this, open the “Layout information” window and turn off the unused PV areas by clicking on their respective light bulb.

[Note: The PV area numbering in “Layout Information” is sequential to the order in which those areas are selected.]

3.Create PVcase Area for Convert to PVcase

Using the “Convert to PVcase” right-click function, it is possible to convert simple block objects or polylines that represent tables into PVcase tables. This is extremely useful when a frame layout was created without using PVcase and the user now wants to easily convert it (in order to use all the design options that GM offers), without having to redo the whole design. Conversion can be done following the instructions shown here.

Once the frames have been converted to a selected PVcase Frame preset, they will show as “PVcase Shadow Blocks”. In order to make them show as PVcase PV modules, they need to be assigned to PVcase PV areas by using “Adapt (to positions/Adapt to settings)” - if it's a topographic layout - or “Reassign Frames” - if it's a flat surface design.

Here is where using PVcasegrouping can come in handy, because the PV areas can be generated automatically by just selecting the “PVcase Shadow Blocks”, instead of having to manually draw the polylines around the complex areas.

Once the PV areas have been created, it is just a matter of quickly using “Reassign Frames” (or “Adapt” if topography is present) to assign each PV area to the frames inside of them.

4.Create a PVcase Area when the original has been removed

It is not unheard of that a designer receives a drawing where multiple objects have been deleted, including the PVcase PV area, and only the frames remain. In this case, instead of having to manually redraw a new polyline and reassign frames to it, the designer can use PVcasegrouping to quickly generate a new PV area.

5.Divide PVcase Areas for export to PVsyst and Yield

When selecting “Export to PVsyst”, all frames in the drawing will be exported. If the layout is big with many frames and shading objects, PVsyst can take a long time to load the imported file and even multiple hours to run a simulation. The user is even warned that the software could crash:

Under this scenario, the user might want to export smaller sections and run the simulations separately. If the user only wants to run the simulation for certain groups of frames, then PVcasegrouping can be used to divide one PVcase PV area into multiple smaller areas.

Then, by selecting “Export Areas to PVsyst”, the user can select only the PV areas corresponding to the specific blocks that need to be exported.

When exporting to Yield, multiple iterations of a big layout can be exported at once without taking a long time or crashing. But the user still has the option to select which PV areas to export when prompted to select them.

6.Divide PV areas by Electrical Blocks

PVcasegrouping allows the user to easily see the added capacity of frames or number of strings as they are being selected. This can be extremely useful to predefine the electrical blocks even before starting the Electrical Design.

The user can decide if based on the upcoming electrical design, new PV areas need to replace the original ones, or if only new perimeter lines delineating each electrical block need to be added but keeping the original PV area undisturbed.

Either way, having electrical blocks clearly predefined facilitates many steps in the electrical design. For example, selecting which spare capacity/strings are best to eliminate or easily placing the AutoCAD block that will become the PVcase transformer in the center of each electrical block:

[Note: The frames being selected while using the PVcasegrouping command, can also be “PVcase Shadow Frames”, which would allow the user to decide which of these shadow frames are worth fixing (keeping) and which are best to eliminate, depending on the necessary block capacity.]

Once the strings have been generated in the “Stringing” tab, the user is prompted to select the PV areas in “Electrical devices”. If only certain areas are selected, then only the strings for those areas can be used for electrical device generation. This can simplify a lot the selection of strings that go to each device because strings from unselected PV areas are ignored.

Another potential use during electrical design would be when different stringing presets want to be used for distinct areas, these can be predefined with Pvcasegrouping and then stringing can be done quicker by areas instead of by frames.

7.Create perimeter lines for Import Terrain and Terrain Mesh

Any closed polyline can be used to use the “Import terrain” tool (click here for more info on this tool) or generate a PVcase Terrain Mesh (click here for more info on this tool). PVcasegrouping can help us to quickly generate these polylines for specified areas with frames:

Now that the perimeter lines have been created, they can be changed to layer 0 (e.g.) and the online terrain can be easily imported by areas avoiding the limit of 6656 points per import:

Lastly, Terrain Mesh for each section can be generated quicker separately than for the whole plant and with specific slope distributions by area:

8.Create PV areas for Civil Analysis

The Civil tool targets selected PV areas. If there is only one PV area, the grading quantities will be provided for that area as a whole. But if the user wants a more focused analysis, PVcasegrouping helps to generate smaller focused areas:

This will allow understanding what the quantities are by sections, by checking the cut, fill and net for each area in “Layout Information”.

Mounting system manufacturers have different types of solutions depending on the use case. A designer can go for the basic system if the terrain is close to flat, or select a more robust system if the terrain is more complex. The designer can use the PVcasegrouping command to create independent PV areas where different mounting systems can be utilized:

  • Frames with higher/lower reference heights and/or more collision tolerance and/or more slope tolerance

  • Frames of smaller sizes that adapt better to the terrain

  • Terrain following mounting systems

The following example compares the use of different mounting systems types in different PV subareas:

The useful comparison of grading quantities is as follows:

9.Frame/String reduction and restriction areas

If after frame generation, excess capacity is achieved, PVcasegrouping can be used to easily quantify and select areas of frames that add to the capacity to be reduced:

Once the new PV area is generated, it can be emptied by selecting it, right-clicking, selecting PVcase and then “Clear Area”:

The remaining empty PV area can even be moved to the “PVcase Offsets” layer, to avoid frame placement, if subsequent iterative regeneration of frames is needed:

10.Create PV areas for Frame and Pile numbering

The “Show piling information” button allows the user to add pile numbers to each frame in the Model space.

These can be later exported to XLXS by going to the “Layout Information” window, “Bill of Materials” tab and clicking on “Export to XLXS”. The “Piling information” tab in Excel will have columns for “Table” and “Pole” numbers.

What is less known is that after selecting “Show piling information”, when the software prompts to choose the PV areas that the numbering is to be applied to, the user has the option to modify the “Numbering options” (Frame and Pole numbering order) and “Starting number” in the AutoCAD command bar.

Even though the “Numbering options” in the command bar, allows defining the vertical (Top to Bottom or vice versa) and horizontal (left to right or vice versa) order, the software will still prioritize vertical over horizontal. But the user can also modify this behavior by defining PV areas with the adequate shape. This means that by using PVcasegrouping to subdivide PV areas, these can be numbered in accordance with the designer's preference.

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