Power Engineering Software for Large-Scale Solar Applications: Page 4 of 5

Software Platforms

In theory, it is possible to perform any of these electrical calculations by hand or using self-created spreadsheet-based tools. The IEEE standards detail the required input data, essential calculations and report deliverable. In practice, the sheer volume of the calculations required at each node of the electrical system strongly favors commercial software platforms. Performing manual calculations or developing complex spreadsheets is both a tedious and error-prone process, whereas using commercially available power engineering software ensures more consistent results. Moreover, software developers offer products that not only provide the necessary electrical engineering reports but also come with equipment specifications preprogrammed or available via download.

Electrical engineers have dozens of software packages to choose from, as the underlying design equations are readily available. However, some software platforms have existed for 30 years or more, meaning their original development period dates back to the days of DOS operating systems. On the one hand, that longevity may speak to a company’s ability to adapt to changing market needs. On the other, that legacy may limit advanced functionality compared to software developed more recently in Microsoft Windows or cloud-based environments.

Power engineering software tools typically operate from intelligent single-line diagrams. The software graphically links electrical devices—such as fuses, relays, breakers, load centers, motor control centers, var compensators, transformers, PV modules, inverters, variable frequency drives and many others—with conductors to create buses. Users can either manually enter device ratings and specifications or load these data from prepopulated databases. The software links these data with each line-diagram component. Depending on the platform, users can enter vendor-supplied data, select from default options or let the software calculate values automatically. Most products in this class offer minimal or no support for iOS environments.

Qualifying vendors. An overview of four representative power engineering software platforms follows. These descriptions do not represent specific recommendations or endorsements for your particular needs. Whereas some power engineering software developers specialize in meeting the needs of utility transmission and distribution planners, other vendors focus on developing tools for industrial plant designers. Some platforms are better for plant or network design, while others support real-time power engineering analyses. To identify the best software option, you must evaluate the software vendor’s target market and applications as well as your needs and use cases.

CYME / 800.361.3627 / CYME.COM

Now part of Eaton, CYME International is based in Quebec, Canada, and has offered power engineering software solutions since 1986. Though the CYME power engineering software primarily supports transmission and distribution network modeling, users can adapt the platform for industrial plant design. In February 2017, the company launched an integration capacity analysis module to help utilities simplify distributed energy resource integration and growth planning. The platform also includes software modules for modeling dc or ac conductor ampacity, dc or ac short-circuit studies, protection coordination and harmonic analysis.

According to Eaton, power engineers can use CYME software to plan and design all types of electrical installations, from transmission down to the meshed secondary networks of distribution systems. In solar applications, users can load irradiance profiles and 8,760 hourly-load data to model the variable output of a particular PV power plant on the distribution and transmission networks. The software can also model the impacts of advanced grid-support features from inverters, such as volt-var compensation or other power factor adjustments, as well as real or total apparent power curtailment. Users can also model anti-islanding impacts based on IEEE 1547 trip settings or other values. This functionality is useful where a PV project is part of a larger microgrid application or where multiple inverters share a single point of interconnection.

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