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p r ot e c t i o n n ot e 5

P h otovo lta i c B y R o b e r t Lyo n s , J r .

Syst e m s p e r P r o d u c t M a n ag e r

t h e N at i o n a l

El e c t r i c a l C o d e

Introduction points of

Properly sizing fuses for photovoltaic (PV) systems is critical for interest

the safe, reliable and long-term operation of this renewable power The requirement to

source. Unlike typical electrical power distribution and control protect photovoltaic

applications, fuses in photovoltaic systems are subject to unique systems from overcurrent

conditions. Prolonged exposure to elements of the environment conditions is defined in

can produce abnormal ambient temperatures, which in turn affects Article 690.9(A) of the

fuse performance, conductor selection and sizing. Also, unlike NEC. Fuses are required

traditional circuits which are normally sized based on continuous to protect cables and PV

loads, PV modules produce continuous currents, leading to additional modules from line-line,

considerations when sizing fuses. Taking these conditions into line-ground and mismatch

account, a unique method for sizing fuses in PV systems is necessary. faults

The following paper will first determine when fusing is required and

The following equation

secondly will outline a five step process for sizing fuse ampere ratings

can be used to properly

for photovoltaic applications according to the 2011 National Electrical

size string and array type

Code (NEC).

fuses for photovoltaic

source circuits and

W h e n to F u s e , W h e n N ot to F u s e photovoltaic output

circuits, where Irated

The requirement to protect photovoltaic systems from overcurrent

is the desired fuse

conditions is defined in Article 690.9(A) of the NEC. Fuses are

nameplate ampere rating,

required to protect cables and PV modules from line-line, line-ground

Isc is the PV module rated

and mismatch faults. The sole purpose is to prevent fire and safely

short-circuit current or

open a faulted circuit if an overcurrent event were to occur. However,

the sum of parallel PV

there are some situations where fusing is not required and is defined

module rated short-circuit

by the following:

currents, and Kf is the

Single Series String (fusing not required) Article 690.9(A),

exception a, states that for PV module or PV source circuit temperature de-rating

conductors where there are no external sources connected (such coefficient (if required):

as parallel connected source circuits, batteries or backfeed from

ISC x 1.56

inverters) fusing is not required. This case is true as long as the

Irated = Kf

connecting cables are rated at 1.56 x Isc or higher.

Two Strings in Parallel (fusing not required) Article 690.9(A),

exception b, states that fusing is not required if the short-circuit

currents from all sources do not exceed the ampacity of the

e p. m e r s e n . c o m

p h o t ovo lta i c p r o t e c t i o n n o t e 5 2

S i z i n g F u s e s f o r P h otovo lta i c S y s t e m s p e r t h e

N at i o n a l El e c t r i c a l C o d e

protective device size specified on the PV rating

module nameplate. In this scenario, each string

Step 5: Verify fuse will protect conductors

of modules can produce a maximum circuit

current of 1.25 x Isc. As long as the connecting

cables are rated at 1.56 x Isc or higher, the This paper will analyze each step in detail and

combined circuit fault current is not large provide a summary calculation in the summary

enough to cause damage to the cabling or section. To better understand the terms used in the

modules, thus fusing is not required. forthcoming calculations please reference Figure

1, which is a simplified schematic of a typical grid-

Three or More Strings in Parallel (fusing

connected PV system with three or more strings

required) In this scenario, a fault in one string

connected in parallel. I1+ through In+ represent PV

will be subjected to the maximum circuit

source circuits and Ipv+ represents a PV output

currents of all other connected strings, with

circuit. The definitions for PV source circuit and PV

each string delivering 1.25 x Isc under worst-case

output circuit will be presented in Step 1.

conditions. The combined fault currents will be

larger than the withstand rating of the installed

wiring sized at 1.56 x Isc as well as the series

Step 1: Determine Maximum Circuit Current

(Continuous Current)

fuse rating of the PV modules. Under this fault

condition, both the conductors and PV modules The short-circuit current (Isc) of a PV module can

would be subject to damage, therefore, fusing is fluctuate based on sunlight intensity, varying

required by code. from its nameplate rating. Nameplate ratings

of PV modules are calculated by the module

manufacturer under Standard Test Conditions

F i v e St e p s to S i z i n g F u s e s (STC), where irradiance equals 1000 W/m2 and

f o r P h o t ovo lta i c S y s t e m s module temperatures are 25C. For conditions

The following steps should be used for sizing where sunlight irradiance is higher than STC, Isc

string and array type fuses for photovoltaic source will be higher than nameplate. Vice versa, for

circuits and photovoltaic output circuits per the 2011 conditions where sunlight irradiance is lower than

National Electrical Code. STC, Isc will be lower than nameplate1. We will

Step 1: Determine maximum circuit current calculate the extreme-case (worst-case scenario)

maximum circuit current output, which is a value

Step 2: Determine the nominal fuse ampere

that accounts for normal and expected values of

rating

Step 3: De-rate fuse due to abnormal ambient 1

On a similar note, not discussed in this paper, PV

temperature (if required) module open-circuit voltage (Voc) will fluctuate based on

temperature

system under normal conditions PV Module Nameplate

e p. m e r s e n . c o m

p h o t ovo lta i c p r o t e c t i o n n o t e 5 3

S i z i n g F u s e s f o r P h otovo lta i c S y s t e m s p e r t h e

N at i o n a l El e c t r i c a l C o d e

sunlight irradiance that exceed the standard rating Step 2: Determine the Nominal Fuse Ampere

value of 1000 W/m2. Figure 2 illustrates an example Rating

PV module nameplate. Notice the reference to the NEC Article 690.8(B)(1)(a) states that overcurrent

Standard Test Conditions and the indicated value of protection devices (OCPD) shall carry not less than

Isc which will be used in the Step 1 calculation. 125 percent of the maximum circuit current (Imax),

or continuous current, as calculated in 690.8(A)(1),

For our calculations, per the NEC, PV system Step 1. In other words, the OCPD cannot be loaded

currents are considered to be continuous. The to more than 80% of its nameplate ampere rating

term continuous is defined as more than three continuously. This is a required factor of safety.

hours in duration, hence maximum circuit current By code, generally you do not load conductors

is sometimes referenced by industry experts as the to 100%; the same concept applies to fusing.

continuous current. PV source circuits are defined Therefore, by using the maximum circuit current

as conductors between modules and from modules (Imax) calculated in Step 1, the following equation for

to the common connection point in a DC system2. determining the nominal fuse ampere rating (In) is:

PV output circuits are defined as circuit conductors

between the PV source circuit and the inverter or

DC utilization equipment3. In = Imax x 1.25

Step 3: De-rate Fuse Due to Abnormal Ambient

states that the maximum circuit current (Imax), or Temperature (if required)

continuous current, is defined as 1.25 multiplied by

the PV module rated short-circuit current (Isc) or Fuse nameplate ampere ratings, like PV modules,

the sum of parallel PV module rated short-circuit are calculated by the fuse manufacturer under

currents. Standard Test Conditions, where ambient

temperatures are 25C. Section 690.8(B)(1)(c) of

For PV output circuits, NEC Section 690.8(A)(2) the NEC states that where operating temperatures

states that the maximum circuit current (Imax), or are greater than 40C (104F), the manufacturers

continuous current, shall be the sum of parallel temperature correction factors shall apply. Fuses

source maximum circuit currents as calculated in are thermal devices; prolonged exposure to ambient

690.8(A)(1). Therefore, for n strings, the equation temperatures higher than 40C will expedite

for determining the maximum circuit current (Imax) the fuse element melting time and may lead to

is: nuisance trips at current values lower than the fuse

nameplate rating. Vice versa, prolonged exposure

to ambient temperatures less than 0C will impede

Imax = (ISC1 + ISC2 + ISC3 + ... + ISCn) x 1.25 the fuse element melting time. Mersen provides the

following recommendations:

e p. m e r s e n . c o m

p h o t ovo lta i c p r o t e c t i o n n o t e 5 4

S i z i n g F u s e s f o r P h otovo lta i c S y s t e m s p e r t h e

N at i o n a l El e c t r i c a l C o d e

40C, attempt to install them in the shade, or In

covered from the sun. This will mitigate the Irated = Kf

exposure to heat and correction factors may not

need to be applied. Note: If de-rating is applied, the nameplate rating

of the selected fuse must not exceed the ampacity

2. If temperatures exceed 40C, and option 1 is

of the conductors it is protecting or for PV source

not available, verify the duration of the high-

circuits; the maximum series fuse rating from the

temperature exposure. If high-temperature

module nameplate.

exposure is 2 hours or less correction factors

may not need to be applied.

Step 4: Determine Fuse Nameplate Ampere

3. Worst-case scenario, if the fuses are operating Rating

in outdoor environments and there is exposure

If the de-rated ampere rating of the fuse (Irated) is

to direct sunlight and sustained temperatures

not a readily available fuse ampere rating, Section

exceed 40C then a correction factor may

690.8(B)(1)(d) allows you to select the next highest

be applied to prevent nuisance openings. In

available rating. For example, if the fuse ampere

this scenario, a recommended fuse de-rating

rating is calculated to be 13.5A, a 15A fuse should

chart is provided by the fuse manufacturer

be used as it is the next highest available ampere

and shown in Figure 3. First, determine the

rating. Readily available photovoltaic fuse ampere

proper temperature de-rating coefficient

ratings may include 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 12, 15, 20,

(Kf) by identifying the sustained ambient

25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100, 110, 125,

temperature that the fuse will be exposed to on

150, 175, 200, 225, 250, 300, 350, 400, 450, 500

the horizontal axis. From that point, follow the

and 600A.

graph vertically until you intersect the de-rating

curve. From this intersection point follow the

graph horizontally until you intersect the y-axis. Step 5: Verify Fuse will Protect Conductors

This value on the y-axis is the temperature de- The fuse nameplate rating, after any corrections for

rating coefficient (Kf). Divide the nominal fuse conditions of use (Steps 3 and 4), must be less than

ampere rating (In) calculated in Step 2 by the or equal to the ampacity of the conductor selected.

de-rating coefficient to determine the de-rated If not, then the conductor size must be increased in

ampere rating of the fuse (Irated). For ambient order to ensure safety.

temperatures equal to 25C, Kf = 1.

Temperatures

e p. m e r s e n . c o m

p h o t ovo lta i c p r o t e c t i o n n o t e 5 5

S i z i n g F u s e s f o r P h otovo lta i c S y s t e m s p e r t h e

N at i o n a l El e c t r i c a l C o d e

5.75A x 1.56

Summary Irated = 0.9 = 9.97A

To summarize steps 1 through 5, the following

equation can be used to properly size string and

array type fuses for photovoltaic source circuits In this example, 9.97A is not a readily available fuse

and photovoltaic output circuits, where Irated is ampere rating. The code allows us to use the next

the desired fuse nameplate ampere rating, Isc is the available fuse ampere rating, which is 10A.

PV module rated short-circuit current or the sum

of parallel PV module rated short-circuit currents References

and Kf is the temperature de-rating coefficient (if

Earley, Mark W., ed. National Electrical Code

required): I x 1.56 sc Handbook, Twelfth Edition. Quincy, MA: 2011.

Irated = Kf

Wiles, John. Series String OCPD Requirements

If the desired fuse nameplate value (Irated) is not a for Grid-Direct Inverter Applications. SolarPro

readily available nameplate rating, you are allowed Magazine, December/January 2009.

to select the next highest available rating. The final

calculated fuse nameplate rating must be less than Wiles, John. Conductor Sizing & Overcurrent Device

or equal to the ampacity of the conductor selected, Ratings. Home Power Magazine, February/March

if not then the conductor size must be increased. 2011.

Lets use the example PV module nameplate and The 2005/2008/2011 National Electrical Codes.

referenced in Figure 2. The rated short-circuit Seminar sponsored by The Solar Education Center

current (Isc) of our PV module is 5.75A with a in conjunction with the Southwest Technology

maximum system voltage of 600V. Lets also say Development Institute and the New Mexico State

that the ambient temperature of our example College of Engineering. San Francisco, CA, March

installation is 50C. By using the de-rating chart and 7-8, 2011.

50C as our ambient temperature on the x-axis, we

can calculate our de-rating coefficient (Kf) to be

0.90. When applying the summary equation we get

the following:

Photovoltaic Protection Note 1:

USA

Ground Fault Analysis and Protection

374 Merrimac Street, Newburyport, MA 01950

in PV Arrays

T 978 462 6662 | F 978 462 0181

info.nby@mersen.com Photovoltaic Protection Note 2:

Line-Line Fault Analysis and

CANADA Protection in PV Arrays

6200 Kestrel Road, Mississauga, ON L5T 1Z1

Photovoltaic Protection Note 4: UL

T 905 795 0077 | F 905 795 2508

2579 Fuses of Photovoltaic Systems

technicalservices.mis@mersen.com

These and other Tech Topics are available

TT-PVPN5-002 | PDF | 6.16 | 2016 Mersen on ep.mersen.com.

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