A new cloud-based software tool can help engineers and others plan for the installation of a photovoltaic (PV) system. As reported by engineering.com, HelioScope, a new program introduced by Folsom Labs, combines the planning functions of typical PV software with AutoCad, allowing designers to do a complete design with one package. Users enter a location address, select the roof area for the array, specify a PV module, and choose an inverter model. The system virtually eliminates the need for onsite assessments if Google Earth is used to find the location and import its 3D layout into SketchUp, a free drawing program. Using the 3D model, HelioScope performs a shading analysis. In addition to giving a recommended PV panel layout, HelioScope provides a detailed wiring diagram, including the exact placement of panels, inverters, and other equipment. It then produces a complete bill of materials.

HelioScope also uses weather files, shading analysis, physics of solar modules, wire resistance, and other factors to run its simulation. It offers multiple simulations for each location to compare results.

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