# SPICE Simulation of Thin-Film Solar Cell Modules. User s Guide

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1 SPICE Simulation of Thin-Film Solar Cell Modules User s Guide Elliott Ivan Gurrola Sourabh Dongaonkar Acknowledgements: Prof. M. A. Alam Prof. M. Lundstrom Sponsors: Network for Computational Nanotechnology, NCN Network for Photovoltaic Technology, NPT Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, SURF 0

2 Table of Contents Introduction... 2 Simulator Inputs... 3 Section 1: Panel Configuration... 3 Section 2: Voltage Sweep... 4 Section 3: Subcell Circuit Parameters... 5 Section 3.1: Photocurrent Value... 6 Section 3.2: Diode Parameters... 7 Section 3.3: Sheet Resistance... 8 Section 3.4: Shunt Resistance... 9 Simulator Outputs I V Curve for the Solar Panel P V Curve for the Solar Panel D Node Voltage Drop D Power Generation Shunt resistances Panel Calculations Random cell parameters LOG FILE: SPICE Input File LOG FILE: SPICE Node Analysis:

3 Introduction Gap between cell and module efficiencies is a significant hurdle in commercial success of thin film PV technologies. A key factor responsible for the reduction of large panel efficiency in comparison to small lab scale cells is parasitic shunt leakage phenomenon. These localized shunt paths vary significantly in magnitude from one cell to the other, and this magnitude follows a lognormal distribution. The performance of the panels is also determined crucially by the sheet resistance of the transparent contact materials. In order to study the combined effect of series and shunt resistance a spice modeling framework is needed, which can include the cell characteristics and predict panel performance including series and shunt resistance effects. A typical thin film panel of size L panel XW panel has N series cells are connected in series (Figure 1.1a). For simulating the panel we subdivide each cell into N parallel subcells of width W panel /N parallel and length L panel /N series. Each of these subcells is represented by the equivalent circuit in Figure 1b, and these are connected in series and parallel using the sheet resistance values. (a) (b) Figure 1.1: (a) Schematic of a thin film PV panel, showing the series and parallel connections of subcells. (b) Equivalent circuit used for each subcell showing the photo and dark current components and parasitic shunt and series resistances. The full two dimensional network of cells is the simulated, using Berkeley spice3 circuit simulator, to obtain the panel characteristics. The tool allows the user to vary shunt distributions, and provide different sheet resistance values, along with external factors like irradiance and ambient temperature, to evaluate the panel performance under different conditions. The outputs are displayed using the rappture interface and provide insight into panel operation and efficiency loss mechanisms. Moreover, all outputs of the spice simulations, as well as the spice input deck are available for download after the simulations for further processing or simulations. 2

4 Simulator Inputs This simulator utilizes a user-friendly graphical user interface with several inputs that can be manipulated to analyzed different shunt current distributions and series resistance effects. This document will explain utilization of each of the given input parameters. Section 1: Panel Configuration Figure 2.1: First input section found in this simulation tool This section configures how will the given solar module will be subdivided and set the environmental conditions such as the temperature and the irradiance of the sun. Cell columns Cell rows Figure 2.2: Row and column division on a solar module 3

5 Number of cells connected in series: As its name says, this parameter specifies the number of cells to be placed in a series. This determines the the voltage supplied by the module. Refer to figure 2 for a visualization of cell rows. A rough estimate of the panel open circuit voltage can be obtained by the value of this parameter, because the panel V OC,panel ~ N series V OC,cell. Number of cells connected in parallel: This parameter specifies the number of parallel subcells used for simulating a single cell. This will determine the resolution with which each large area cell is simulated in the system. Panel Width: This parameter specifies the panel s width dimension. Typically in panels with a single row of cells, this will be equal to the width of each cell. The default units of this parameter are centimeters. However, Rappture can automatically convert other standard units of length into centimeters. Panel Length: This parameter specifies the panel s length. It is measured in the same direction as the number of rows. This dimension along with the number of series connected cells will determine the length of each individual cell. The units of this parameter should be in centimeters. Irradiance: Specifies the power per unit area that the solar module is receiving. This parameter is used to find the panel s efficiency, and might be changed according to local irradiance conditions, depending on time of day for example. The default value is set to 1000 W/m 2 for AM1.5G. Temperature: Ambient temperature, this will change the behavior of the diodes used to simulate the solar cells. Resistive elements are not temperature dependent. The default value of this parameter is 300 K which occurs at room temperature. The user can also provide other units like degrees Celsius. Section 2: Voltage Sweep Figure 2.3: Voltage sweep input parameters 4

6 This section allows the user to set the proper voltage sweep at which the solar module will be simulated. Starting Voltage: Minimum voltage for the I-V sweep. The input units are in volts. To ensure the proper calculation of all values select a value equal or smaller than 0 V. If this value is set higher than 0, then the short circuit current will not be calculated, and all values dependent on it will not be displayed such as the Fill factor. Ending Voltage: Maximum voltage for the I-V sweep. The input units are in volts. If this value is too low, the open circuit voltage will not be reached and several calculations will not be performed. Also, the calculated maximum power / efficiency may not be correct for the given panel. This value should be greater than N series V OC,cell, to ensure that the module parameters are calculated properly. Number of sweep steps: As its name implies, this number sets the number of points on the IV sweep. Internally, the program will calculate the step size based on the formula: StepSize EndingVoltage StartingVoltage ( NumberOfSteps 1) A value between 100 and 200 is recommended. Increasing the number of steps will provide slightly better module parameters, at the cost of higher simulation time. Section 3: Subcell Circuit Parameters This section contains the different parameters of the typical lumped circuit elements used to model individual solar cells. It is divided into four sub sections, one for each element see Fig. 5 for reference. The photocurrent (Iphoto) is determined by the by irradiance value, and the diode characteristics contain the material information. The parasitic components are shunt and series resistance which are varied for obtaining the module performance. Figure 2.4: Equivalent solar cell circuit 5

8 Figure 2.6: A 3 by 3 solar panel with two cells shaded in parallel and one cell shaded in series. Section 3.2: Diode Parameters Figure 2.7: Ideal diode parameters This section customized the diodes used in the lumped equivalent circuit. Saturation Current density: following Shockley s Diode equation: I AJ qv AJ ( e s nkt The current flowing through the diode is determined by its saturation current density J s, with units A/cm 2. The code will internally calculate the area of an individual cell (from the number of series and parallel cells, and panel length and width) to obtain the diode current of each cell. Ideality Factor: This is the n parameter found in the Shockley Diode equation above, and is determined by the nature of recombination inside the cell. For most cases the value should lie between 1 and 2. Breakdown Voltage: In case of partial shadowing of a panel, the shaded cells can go into reverse bias. In order to simulate the cells under reverse bias, the code needs a reverse breakdown voltage for the technology, which should be few tens of volts for most materials. Absorber Bandgap: The saturation current density Js depends on the absorber bandgap as. In order to simulate the temperature effect on the module, correct bandgap of the absorber must be specified in ev. The default is set to 1.1eV for Si (or CIGS) based cells. Note: the temperature parameter can be configured as shown in section 1. 1) 7

9 Section 3.3: Sheet Resistance Figure 2.8: Sheet resistance This simulator uses external contact sheet resistance to make the series and parallel connections in cells to form a panel. There are two internal sheet resistances, vertical and horizontal sheet resistance as shown in figure 9. Vertical sheet resistance Horizontal sheet resistance Figure 2.9: Vertical and horizontal sheet resistance The values of each resistor are calculated from the resistivity formula R L L L R A WH W where R is the sheet resistance in ohm/square, L is the length, and W the width of the connecting cell area. For vertical (for series connection) resistances: R v CellWidth R CellLength Since the length size of the contact is the calculated cell width, see section 1 for more details. For the horizontal (for parallel connection) resistances: R h CellLength R CellWidth Cell length and width are internally calculated using the panel dimensions specified earlier. 8

10 Section 3.4: Shunt Resistance Figure 2.10: Shunt resistance parameters This section contains the different parameters that can be adjusted for the parasitic shunt resistances. The shunt resistance can be kept constant or varied from cell to cell. Shunt Resistance: values applied to every shunt resistor in the module. The units are expected to be in kω. Use randomly distributed shunt values? This feature enables MATLAB s random number generator in order to replace all/some of the existing shunt resistor values by a random generated value. Shunts will be randomly placed throughout the whole module and their values will be generated using a lognormal distribution. Randomize All? This option automatically modifies all the shunt values in the module using the specifications in the next parameters. Number of Random Shunts: This feature is only available when the Randomize All feature is disabled. This allows the user to manually decide how many shunts should occur in the module. The shunts are placed randomly. If the value is bigger than the number of solar cells, has the same effect as using the Randomize All feature above. Mean and Standard Deviation: statistical variables for configuring the lognormal shunt distribution. These parameters will determine the variability of output performance in the module. A low mean and high variance will result in large output loss at the panel level. Combined with the sheet resistance parameter this determines the overall loss in efficiency in going from cell to panel level. The units are in kω. After specifying the correct input variables, hit the simulate button at the bottom to run the simulation. The interfacing script will create the spice input based on the specified parameters, run the spice simulation, and collect and process the output data to be displayed. The description of the output data and formats is given in the following sections. 9

11 Simulator Outputs The simulator will output several plots, graphs, tables and logs which will be explained in this document. Refer to section one to learn about the inputs. I V Curve for the Solar Panel I sc P max V oc Figure 3.1: I-V Curve The first output displayed is the characteristic I-V curve for the solar cell module. The output has been formatted so that the minimum current value is 0 A. If the negative values are of interest to the user, the axis settings can be modified by left clicking on the scale of the respective axis as shown in figure 3.2. Figure 3.2: Modify the plot s default axis. 10

12 This plot is internally used to extract the open circuit voltage and short circuit current of the module. The user does not need to calculate any of the common parameters since they are already provided in the Panel Calculations log file. P V Curve for the Solar Panel Figure 3. P-V Curve This plot is similar to the I-V curve. This curve is used to calculate the maximum power output. The V mp and the I mp can be obtained once the coordinates of the maximum power have been calculated. Note: The data in the IV and PV curves is available for download as a image as well as comma separated values for further analysis or plotting. 2D Node Voltage Drop Figure 3.4: 2D Node voltage drop. 11

13 This plot shows the voltage drop across the individual cells in the whole module. The voltage drop is calculated across the terminals of all cells as shown in figure 3.4. Voltage drop Figure 5. Voltage drop calculations Whenever the user does not specify any variation (photocurrent or shunts) all cells should have the same voltage drop (and thus produce a plot one color). This graph will display the effects of shading/shunting a cell and how much area is affected by it. This feature is only available for modules bigger than 2 by 2. 2D Power Generation Figure 3.6: 2D power generation This plot shows the amount of power generated by each individual cell (in mw). The power calculations are calculated as follows: P cell P photo P diode P shunt P series The sign convention used assumes the generated power as positive and power dissipation to be negative. A defective cell will show lower values and the shaded cells may even show negative values (showing power dissipation). As we can see from figure 3.6, this graph will display the effects of shading/shunting a cell and how much area is affected by them. 12

14 Shunt resistances Figure 3.7: Locations and magnitudes of random shunts on the panel. This plot shows the location of the randomly varying shunts and their values (in color), when randomization of shunt values is selected. This allows the user to correlate the small output power of the shunted cells and their shunt values. The scale at the bottom specifies the values in kω. Note: These two dimensional plots of voltage drop, output power, and shunt magnitude can only be downloaded as images from the rappture interface. Their values in downloadable text format is given separately in a log file. Panel Calculations 13

15 Figure 3.8: Example Panel Calculations Log File This log contains all the relevant calculations and user inputs used during the simulation. It also includes a module vs. cell comparison table in order to check the efficiency degradation due to the loss mechanisms found at module level. If a random shunt is introduced in the simulation, then this table will output a worst / best case calculation which represents the performance of the worst (lowest shunt resistance) and best (highest shunt resistance) solar cell present in the module. Random cell parameters Figure 3.9: Cell shunt and outputs values, downloadable as text. This file lets the user download the cell shunt values and corresponding output power and voltage drops for further analysis and plotting. LOG FILE: SPICE Input File This file shows the input deck that was generated to perform the SPICE simulations. This file is provided in case the user wants to rerun the simulation and analyze the results on his or her own. The input deck will only calculate the operating point at the optimal operating bias. If the user wants to perform an I-V analysis the fifth and seventh lines should be uncommented (remove asterisk). LOG FILE: SPICE Node Analysis: This log file is the actual operating point analysis performed by SPICE. It contains the voltage at every node and the power dissipated by every element in the circuit. 14

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