Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Electrical/Computer Engineering

Committee Director

Sylvain Marsillac

Committee Member

Isaac Flory

Committee Member

Shu Xiao

Committee Member

Christopher Bailey

Committee Member

Paul Moses


The number of solar photovoltaic (PV) installations is growing exponentially, and to improve the energy yield and the efficiency of PV systems, it is necessary to have correct methods for simulation, measurement, and emulation. PV systems can be simulated using PV models for different configurations and technologies of PV modules. Additionally, different environmental conditions of solar irradiance, temperature, and partial shading can be incorporated in the model to accurately simulate PV systems for any given condition.

The electrical measurement of PV systems both prior to and after making electrical connections is important for attaining high efficiency and reliability. Measuring PV modules using a current-voltage (I-V) curve tracer allows the installer to know whether the PV modules are 100% operational. The installed modules can be properly matched to maximize performance. Once installed, the whole system needs to be characterized similarly to detect mismatches, partial shading, or installation damage before energizing the system. This will prevent any reliability issues from the onset and ensure the system efficiency will remain high.

A capacitive load is implemented in making I-V curve measurements with the goal of minimizing the curve tracer volume and cost. Additionally, the increase of measurement resolution and accuracy is possible via the use of accurate voltage and current measurement methods and accurate PV models to translate the curves to standard testing conditions. A move from mechanical relays to solid-state MOSFETs improved system reliability while significantly reducing device volume and costs.

Finally, emulating PV modules is necessary for testing electrical components of a PV system. PV emulation simplifies and standardizes the tests allowing for different irradiance, temperature and partial shading levels to be easily tested. Proper emulation of PV modules requires an accurate and mathematically simple PV model that incorporates all known system variables so that any PV module can be emulated as the design requires.

A non-synchronous buck converter is proposed for the emulation of a single, high-power PV module using traditional silicon devices. With the proof-of-concept working and improvements in efficiency, power density and steady-state errors made, dynamic tests were performed using an inverter connected to the PV emulator. In order to improve the dynamic characteristics, a synchronous buck converter topology is proposed along with the use of advanced GaNFET devices which resulted in very high power efficiency and improved dynamic response characteristics when emulating PV modules.