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A DP based scheme for real-time reconguration of


solar cell arrays exposed to dynamic changing
inhomogeneous illuminations.
Liping Shi

Robert Brehm

Mads Clausen Institute


University of Southern Denmark
Sonderborg, Denmark
Email:slp art@hotmail.com

Mads Clausen Institute


University of Southern Denmark
Sonderborg, Denmark
Email: brehm@mci.sdu.dk

AbstractThe overall energy conversion efciency of solar cell


arrays is highly effected by partial shading effects. Especially for
solar panel arrays installed in environments which are exposed
to inhomogeneous dynamic changing illuminations such as on
roof tops of electrical vehicles the overall system efciency is
drastically reduced. Dynamic real-time reconguration of the
solar panel array can reduce effects on the output efciency due
to partial shading. This results in a maximized power output of
the panel array when exposed to dynamic changing illuminations.
The optimal array conguration with respect to shading patterns
can be stated as a combinatorial optimization problem and this
paper proposes a dynamic programming (DP) based algorithm
which nds the optimal feasible solution to recongure the solar
panel array for maximum efciency in real-time with linear time
complexity. It is shown that the effective increase of efciency is
up to 50%. An experimental platform to evaluate and validate
the DP algorithm performance under real conditions to proof the
concept of the proposed reconguration scheme is introduced.

I.

I NTRODUCTION

Solar cells have become more and more attractive to extend


the battery lifetime and operational time of unmanned areal
and surface vehicles (UAV/USV) [1] [2] as well as support
powering of vehicles for e.g. transportation [3] such as buses
with solar panels on the roof. Also, there is active research of
how to integrate solar cells into textiles [4] to harvest energy
and to recharge e.g. portable electronic equipment. In these
applications the solar panels are exposed to high dynamic
illumination changes and partial shading when e.g. passing
clouds or when mounted on roof-tops of electrical vehicles
where trees or other objects partially shade the solar cells.
In addition to the shading dynamics, often these applications
are constrained by a limited area for solar cell installation,
therefore getting the most power efciency out of the solar
cell area is an important requirement.
Solar panels are usually congured as arrays of photo-voltaic
cells in which the solar cell acts as a current source where
current, and therefore power output/efciency is proportional
to the light intensity the cells are exposed to. If several
photo-voltaic cells or complete solar panels are connected
in series, the efciency of the complete cell string will be
degraded in case that a part of the string is suffering from
partial shading or non-uniform illumination. That cell with the
weakest illumination will determine the total current [5] of
the solar cell string. Besides that, the non-uniform illumination

causes a hot spot where a shaded solar cell will become reverse
biased and dissipates the power through heat [6]. In the worst
case, when the dissipated power exceeds the maximum power
the shaded solar cell can sustain, it will get damaged and an
open-circuit results breaking the whole solar cell string.
Several approaches have been proposed to reduce the effects
of partial shading on a solar cell system. A common method
is to use bypass diodes [7] which are integrated into the solar
panel module to prevent hot spot formation by providing a
current path around them. The drawback of this method is
that it limits the power loss according to the conguration of
bypass diodes. It has been shown that for a module of series
connected solar cells with integrated bypass diodes across
each cell, the nth lowest cell determines the efciency of the
complete solar panel module [8]. Common Maximum Power
Point Tracking (MPPT) techniques only take complete solar
panel strings consisting of multiple solar panel modules into
account [9]. In MPPT technology the current of the solar panel
array is controlled to follow the global optimum operating
point. However, in this solution non-shaded solar panels still
perform below their individual MPP resulting in power loss
of the complete string caused only by the shaded panels. On
the other hand, a multi-modal P-V curve caused by two or
more MPPs appears since multiple solar modules suffer from
partial shading. It is difcult to readily and immediately track
the global MPP and sometimes the system operating point
only converges to a local maximum [10]. As an alternative,
reconguration of the solar panel array allows pairing shaded
and non-shaded cells to have them operating independently
and at their individual specic MPP. Many of the proposed
reconguration solutions are derived from the compensation
principle [11][12] which has the drawback that a large amount
of extra solar cells is needed to compensate the losses of the
shaded cells. These approaches do not t applications where
only a limited area for installation is available. In a reconguration approach, the exibility for reconguration of the cells
determines the tolerance of partial shading effects and thus
inuences the performance of the overall solar cell system. The
remaining of this paper addresses the above mentioned issues
with respect to exibility and scalability by introducing a
high performance reconguration scheme and related dynamic
programing (DP) based algorithm to reduce effects of partial
shading without the need of extra solar cells. A sensor matrix

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is used to determine the illumination pattern the cells are
exposed to which is used to feed the reconguration algorithm.
It is described how the complex reconguration problem is
divided into subproblems and sequential decisions. A solution
for the curse of dimensionality (Bellman,1957 [13]) is given
and we present benchmark testing where the DP algorithm
shows excellent performance and scalability with quadratic
time complexity or even linear time complexity when using
decomposed serial or parallel implementation of the algorithm.
At last an experimental platform of a recongurable solar cell
array is presented which is used to validate and verify the
performance of the proposed recongurations scheme.
II.

S YSTEM M ODELS

A. Reconguration Topology
An imbalanced solar cells reconguration topology [14]
is introduced. The proposed topology has presented excellent
performance in practical usage when e.g. used in partial solar
powered vehicles [2]. As shown in Figure 1 does the proposed
topology consist of a number of series connected solar panel
groups in which solar panels are connected in parallel. In the
remaining nk is used to denote the total number of groups.
The number of solar panels in the i-th group is denoted by
gi , with i {1, 2, ..., nk} and N to denotes the number of all
solar panels in the given topology. The complete topology can
then be described by:
T (nk, g1 , g2 , ..., gnk )
which satises:
N=

nk


(1)

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panel is working at MPP condition whereas the current highly


inuences the MPP. The maximum output power of the solar
panel Pmax is given by Equation 3 which states that Pmax is
reached only when all solar panels are simultaneously working
at their MPP. In Equation 3 UiM P P is the MPP voltage of panel
i and IiM P P the MPP current of panel i.
Pmax =

N


PiM P P =

i=1

gi

UiM P P IiM P P

(3)

i=1

At the bases of Equation 3 it can be seen that the given


reconguration problem can be described as a mathematical
optimization problem and in particular as a combinatorial
optimization problem with the objective to have all solar panels
operate simultaneously at an optimal MPP when they are
suffering from partial shading effects. Given the relationship
MP P
has
between U M P P and the MPP, a constant voltage Vavg
to be dened for all solar panels to approximate their U M P P .
This reduces the optimization problem to nd a conguration
(grouping) to maximize the overall current.
Generally the current is at maximum for a conguration that
maximizes the minimum current of the solar panel groups.
This is because the overall current of the complete system
is restricted by the group with the minimum current. The
objective function of the optimization problem is therefore
given as:
(4)
Pmax = max(min(Pg ))
with:
MP P
Pg = Vavg

IiM P P

(5)

Sk <i<Sk

(2)

i=1

N


Where Pg is the output power of the individual cell group and


Sk < i < Sk denotes the index of each solar cell in the k th
MP P
group. Vavg
is an estimation of the MPP voltage over each
group. IiM P P represents the current when the solar panel is
MP P
working at voltage Vavg
.
In the given scheme it is required to connect a converter to
the cell array in order to stabilize the voltage over the array
since voltage correlates with the solar irradiation. Given the
model presented in [15], the solar panel group number nk can
be dened by satisfying:
MP P
= Vin Vout
nk Vavg

(6)

Where, Vin is the input voltage of the converter, Vout denotes


the output voltage of the converter.
Fig. 1.

One topology of recongurable solar panel array

Figure 1 B shows the balanced topology (T (4, 4, 4, 4, 4))


which has been used on the experimental platform in
contrast to an imbalanced topology (Figure 1 A), with
T (4, 5, 3, 6, 2). The proposed reconguration scheme exhibits
its high exibility by the ability that gi can change from 1 to
N nk + 1 for each group.
B. Problem Introduction
By looking at the electrical equivalent model [5] of a solar
cell which represents the I-V and P-V characteristics, it is
obvious that the voltage level is very stable when the solar

With the above given background it can now be seen that


the given problem represents a classical constrained classication problem given by:
class = arg maxclass (min(Pg ))
III.

(7)

DP BASED R ECONFIGURATION A LGORITHM

This section introduces a dynamic programming (DP)


based algorithm to solve the given reconguration problem.
The underlying principle of the proposed DP algorithm is to
divide the complex reconguration problem into hierarchical
sub-problems and then use the backward induction method to
continuously solve the Bellman equation [16].

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A. Decision Sequence For Reconguration


The given reconguration problem can be stated as
dynamic decision problem as shown in Equation 8:
power
=
Wnk

nk


u(xt , ct )

(8)

xt

(9)

t=0

subject to
N=

nk

t=1

where xt denotes the state that the amount of solar panels in


group t + 1 is in and ct represents the action that arrange xt
solar panels into group i. If for example 10 solar panels shall
be divided into 3 groups, the classication can be divided into
a sequence of three decisions: Step 1: put 3 solar cells in group
1; Step 2: put 5 solar cells in group 2; Step 3: put 2 solar cells
in group 3.
B. Subproblems In Reconguration
Given Bellmans principle of optimality the described
reconguration problem (N, nk) can be separated into
subproblems as shown in Figure 2. The corresponding
Bellman equation is given in Equation 10:

Fig. 3.

Vnk (x0 ) = max u(x0 , c0 ) + Vnk1 (x1 )

(10)

C. Algorithm

= {g0 , g1 , ..., gnk


}

(11)

This section introduces the DP based reconguration algorithm based on the Backward Induction method to continuously
solve the bellman equation beginning from the back. The
detailed steps are listed as follows:

c0

Where Vnk (x0 ) denotes the current value if the optimal policy
is selected and go represents an optimal action c0 taken
at state x0 , and specically, as in the here introduced case,
an optimal separation where xt solar cells belong to the rst
group is taken.
The complete reconguration problem (N, nk) can be
solved by nding the optimal action c0 and solve the partial
reconguration problem (N x0 , nk 1) as shown in Figure
2. The partial reconguration problem (N x0 , nk1) can be
solved by nding the optimal action c1 and solving its partial
reconguration problem (N x0 x1 , nk 1 1), and so
on so forth. It can easily be seen that the subproblem chain
nk1

reduces to (N
xi , 1) which is by far easier to solve in
i=0

contrast to the original problem (N, nk). Generally speaking,


in the above given example for a 3 group classication of 10
panels, the given 3-class classication problem can be solved
by solving a 2-class classication and the 2-class classication
problem can be solved by solving a 1-class classication
problem.

1)
2)

3)
4)

5)
Max u(x0 ,C0 )

(N,nk)

(N-x0,nk-1)

Max u(x1 ,C1 )

(N-x0-x1,nk-2)

Max u(xnk-1 ,Cnk-1 )

...

nk1

(N-

Subproblem chain for solar reconguration

6)

Read illumination level for each solar panel as N -by1 matrix (original pv(N, 1)), where N denotes the
total number of solar panels.
Declare a N -by-nk matrix optimal min and
a N -by-nk matrix group index, where nk denotes the group number of solar panels and
optimal min(a, b) ( with i = 1, 2, ..., m, 1 a
N, 1 b nk) denotes the optimal performance if
there are a solar panels in total to be classied into
b groups. group index(a, b) shows the index of the
individual solar panel within the group.
Initialize optimal min(i, 1) and group
1):
 index(i,
MP P
=
optimal min(i, 1)
1iN Ii
group index(i, 1) = 0
Execute a pre-calculation and save the results into a
N by N matrix new pv
 table(a, b):
new pv table(a, b) = aib IiM P P
with 1 a N, 1 b N .
Execute main algorithm to get optimal min and
group index as shown in Figure 3.
With the given matrix group index, trace back to
nd the optimal policy .

 x i, 1)
0

Fig. 2.

Main calculation of DP algorithm

IV.

P ERFORMANCE T EST

The main advantage of the introduced DP algorithm is


its capability to nd not only a feasible but also an optimal
classication for a solar panel array. Thus, as long as the
processing time complies to the given real-time constraints

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(e.g. the shading dynamics), the given algorithm will ensure


that the system is congured to deliver the highest efciency
under all shading conditions.A series of benchmarking tests
for the introduced DP algorithm have been implemented using
MATLAB on an Intel CORE i5 platform. Figure 4 shows the
overall performance of a solar cell array under 30 different
shading conditions where the improved efciency using the
introduced reconguration algorithm (dark blue) versus a xed
conguration (light blue) can clearly be seen, the DP algorithm
improves the efciency of up to 50% in average over 30
random selected shading conditions.
Fig. 6. DP algorithm time cost with group increase, (xed solar cells number)

runtime complexity can be achieved for a varying numbers


of solar cells based on Decompose-Serial/Parallel Computing.

Performance of recongurable solar using DP algorithm

Figure 5 shows the time complexity of the introduced


algorithm. The algorithm was benchmarked by dividing an
increasing number of solar cells into 10 groups while measuring the execution time of the algorithm to nd an optimal
conguration versus an increasing number of solar cells.
The result shows that the algorithm preforms at a satisfying
processing speed with a runtime of less than 100ms for a
classication of 1000 solar cells into 10 groups. In addition,
the time complexity versus the number of groups was tested
as shown in Figure 6. The number of solar cells was xed
to 1000 while the number of groups was increased. To nd
an optimal classication for 1000 solar cells to be classied
into 100 groups the algorithm runtime was less than 800ms.It
can be seen in Figure 5 that the runtime complexity of the
algorithm exhibits quadratic growth with respect to the number
of solar cells, given a xed group number, resulting in a time
complexity of O(n2 ), with n being the number of solar cells.
As shown in Figure 6, the runtime is linear proportional to the
number of classications (groups) being made, thus the time
complexity is O(n), where n is the number of groups.

Fig. 5. DP algorithm time cost with solar cells increase, (xed group number)

In the following we introduce a concept of how linear

D ECOMPOSE -S ERIAL /PARALLE DP (DS/P DP)

V.

The main idea of the Decompose-Serial/Parallel DP algorithm is to equally divide the solar panel array into a number
of processing blocks and nd the optimal classication of
each block by using serial computing or parallel computing.
The decomposition strategy of how to dene the number of
solar panels per block is shown in Figure 7. In Figure 7, the
Decomposition Strategy

2.5

time consumption of DP Algorithm


Algorithm Time Consumption

Fig. 4.

1.5

time constraint
1

0.5

Fig. 7.

for serial
computing
0

10

15

20

25

30

for parallel
computing
35

Solar Panel Amount ( x100 )

40

45

50

DS/P DP strategies

red point represents the limitation for the number of solar


panels per processing block. This correlates with the time
constraint for the DP algorithm and the number of solar cells.
With a given time constraint of 1s the maximum number of
solar panels is 5000 as shown in Figure 7. The cross point
between the time consumption curve and the linear growth line
denotes the maximum amount of solar panels the DP algorithm
can handle within the given real-time runtime constraint. By
using this decomposition strategy the serial computing device
is able to compute the optimal solution block by block and
hence nd an approximate optimal reconguration for a very
large solar panel array. Suitable parallel processing hardware
can be a FPGA or multi-core CPU, in contrast to serial
processing hardware can these simultaneously execute multiple
DP algorithms on all dened blocks so that the number of solar
panels in each block is only constrained by the processing realtime constraint as shown in Figure 7.

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VI.

R ECONFIGURABLE S OLAR PANEL S YSTEM

A test platform was used for experimental evaluation. The


recongurable solar panel array is composed of a 4-by-4 solar
panel matrix with 48 switches used for reconguration. A
sensor module is used to measure the illumination data and
the control module (FPGA for a possible DP implementation)
contains the DP algorithm.

panels and xed group numbers. In oder to maintain linear


time complexity a Decompose-Serial/Parallel DP scheme was
introduced by separating the given problem into blocks which
size depends only on the number of solar cells and given realtime constraints.
R EFERENCES
[1]

A. Experiment Result
A series of experimental benchmarking tests under different shading conditions have been executed to compare
the efciency of a static array conguration with that of a
dynamic reconguration. The experimental results show good
correlation with the simulated system performance tests, as
shown in Figure 8. The recongurable solar panel array shows
a great increase in current compared to the xed solar panel
array conguration, thus achieving a much better efciency
under different shading conditions.

[2]

[3]

[4]
[5]

[6]

Fig. 8.
Efciency at xed versus dynamic conguration under different
shading effects with xed voltage at 800mV. The gray block represents the
shaded regions of solar panel array.

VII.

C ONCLUSION

Renewable energy resources and especially solar panel


systems in mobile application such as vehicles are getting more
and more attractive. This paper has introduced the theory and
methods for reconguration of solar panels to signicantly
increase the efciency of these systems. It was shown that
dynamic reconguration of solar cell arrays can increase the
output power efciency of up to 50% if dynamic reconguration is used. The problem of partial shading of solar panel
arrays for area constrained applications which are exposed to
dynamic shading conditions has been addressed and a solution,
based on dynamic reconguration of the solar array topology,
based on dynamic programming has been introduced. With focus on the practical feasibility and given practical constraints,
a topology (scheme) for reconguration of solar panel arrays
has been introduced with the purpose to maximize the output
power of area constrained solar panels in dynamic changing
illumination environments. The proposed system shows excellent expandability for large scale solar panel arrays. The given
problem was mathematically described and transformed into
a multi-class classication problem. A DP based algorithm
was introduced to nd the optimal conguration of the solar
array under any shading condition. A DP based reconguration
algorithm was used based on Bellmans principle of optimality
and the backward induction methods was used to solve the
Bellman equation. The algorithm was analyzed with respect
to scalability, performance and time complexity. It can be
seen from the results that the DP algorithm is able to nd
the exact optimal solution for solar panel array reconguration
with quadratic time complexity for a changing number of solar

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