Photovoltaic System: Performance Analysis with Parametric Variations

Project Overview

The 8kW photovoltaic (PV) roof system on the University of Reading Engineering building was installed 13 years ago for research purposes, and up until 2012 was the only fully renewable energy facility on the Whiteknights campus. The system has been refurbished and reconfigured to provide extensive research opportunities for data collection, and a Teaching and Learning (T&L) facility to enhance our programmes. A functional ten year legacy means it can contribute significantly to future research and teaching: even though PV modules have an estimated performance life of 25-30 years, there is no established data to support their performance over such a period. This project aims to obtain research data of the PV system’s potential during its predicted life to better inform researchers, organisations, manufacturers and potential owners.


The growing desire by institutions to understand the potential of PV systems prompted the University’s Research Endowment Trust Fund (RETF) to upgrade the School of Construction Management and Engineering’s (SCME) building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) system in accordance with current technological advancements. The existing design dated from 1998/1999, when 8 kWp BIPV system was installed as part of the refurbishment of the south facing façade roof. The design used 109 PV modules, which were manufactured as prototypes by BP Solar using steel blue multicrystalline cells and were rated at an average of 70 Wp each.

The upgrade ensured that all modules were re-wired, and individual module inverters were replaced with one 7.5kW array inverter. The refurbished system has been put in place to monitor the performance of the system over varying parameters including; temperature variations, cladding effects, wind loading effects and the significance of individual string configurations. Aside from the research potential, the refurbished PV system is capable of being used as a T&L facility which enhances the delivery and content of our programmes. Postgraduate (PG) and undergraduate (UG) students will be able to interact with the large PV array through a practical project based interrogation of the real-time performance data, making comparisons with numerical predictions from lectures and modelling .

Key Objectives

In the context of this project, the main objectives include:

  • Improving the technical know-how of the performance of existing PV installations.
  • Performance analysis of the PV output with parametric variations
  • Supporting staff to incorporate up-to-date research information into their teaching and pedagogic developments
  • Developing the opportunities for "real world" learning experiences.

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