Project Name: DC Arc-Flash Safety for 1,500VDC: Methodology, Verification, and Codifying
Funding Opportunity: PVRD2
SETO Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Charlotte, NC
SETO Award Amount: $1,010,726
Awardee Cost Share: $112,303
Principal Investigator: Michael Bolen

The rapid release of thermal energy, pressure waves, and electromagnetic interference from an arc-flash all pose risks to people and equipment in a photovoltaic (PV) plant. However, there is a lack of understanding regarding how to calculate incident energy from direct current arc-flashes. This project is increasing the fundamental understanding of arc-flash mechanics in PV systems and providing the quantitative foundation and recommendations for adoption by the industry.


The research team is physically testing arc-flashes in a laboratory in order to calculate incident energy, as existing calculations contradict one another and are rooted in theory, not actual physical testing. These tests will allow for the development of a detailed physics-based model to confirm the underlying methodology and key input variables. Results will be developed into guidelines submitted to code bodies, journal and conference publications, and an easy-to-use incident energy calculator. 


This project will engage with relevant code-making bodies such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers on direct current arc-flashes in PV systems. It will also result in a tool for site owners and independent engineers to use for calculating incident energy, which will guide appropriate protective gear for field workers. Finally, publicly available modeling software will be made available to aid in equipment design.