1. Knowledge base
  2. Starting with pvDesign

How to create new projects and designs

An accurate design in just a few minutes? Let's see how to create one with pvDesign to optimize your PV plant!


pvDesign helps improve the processes of design and development of utility-scale solar projects through different phases such as feasibility, conceptual and basic design, and request for proposal. The main advantages of pvDesign are optimization of design, speed, and the ease of generating up to 300 pages of documents and drawings needed for requesting the proposal with one click.

Before delving deeper into this topic, three main concepts from pvDesign must be defined:

  • Site: KML or KMZ file defined with Google Earth, defining the parcel where the PV plant is going to be built.
  • Project: folder or place in pvDesign where infinite sites can be uploaded within a radius of 5 km and infinite designs can be simulated in those sites.
  • Design: a set of inputs that define a PV plant. pvDesign recommends certain inputs, but the user can always adapt them to their own requirements. A design can be done from scratch or by taking inputs from another design and simply applying specific changes for a new design.
HubSpot Video

Defining a Site

Each project is defined by the first site that you upload. For more information on how to define a site, you can check the following article How to create a site. Remember that you can define as many sites and designs inside a project as you like.

Defining a project

In pvDesign, we understand a project as the place where we can upload infinite sites as long as their center is within a radius of 5 km. This radius of 5 km is defined by the first site uploaded to the project.

Project Radius

Let's see an example, where different parcels will be evaluated for the same project. We first upload a site that will define the project. 

The below image shows another parcel we have created within the 5 km radius limit. 

Infinite parcels can be uploaded to evaluate the same project. 

If you try to upload a site that is located at a distance greater than 5 km from your first uploaded site, you will get an error. This limit is flexible within reason. If the site you would like to upload a site to the project exceeding the 5km radius limit, please feel free to contact us at support@ratedpower.com and we will evaluate the case. If deemed necessary, that the site belongs to that given project the limit may be increased.

Creating a new design

pvDesign's "Start Design" screen consists of various tabs representing the natural process to define a PV plant. It is worth mentioning that at each step of the process, pvDesign will recommend optimal input values. This is done by taking into account the site details, the chosen inverter, the type of structure, and other parameters.

  1. Location: the first step is to define the site where the PV plant will be built. Once the site is uploaded, the topographical and meteorological data, the horizon profile, and the surface albedo are calculated by pvDesign (the latter two can be seen in the "Energy" tab"). Custom topography and meteorological data files can also be uploaded, by following the instructions found in the How to upload your topography and How to upload your meteorological data to pvDesign.
  2. Equipment: here, you can select your PV module, inverter (central or string inverters), and structures (trackers, fixed or east-west structures) from pvDesign's extensive public database. It is also possible to upload PV modules and inverters to a private database that can only be accessed by users from the same company, by following the How to upload your own equipment article. In case you need any additional structures, just write us an email at support@ratedpower.comIn this tab, you can also define the number of inverters per power station.
  3. Layout: in this tab, you can decide how much capacity to install in your PV plant, what distances and setbacks to apply, and some other civil aspects. These civil aspects include roads, power station dimensions, and structures' orientation. We recommend you to visit our How to define the civil parameters of your site article.
  4. Topography: here, you can select between a few different topography criteria to exclude certain structures or apply earthworks and get the cut and fill volumes calculated.
  5. Gridpoint: here, the type of connection facility (Switching and Breaking Station or Substation) and grid connection requirements (Power factor) are defined. For more information, you can check How to design your substation and How does the Power Factor Tool in pvDesign work?.
  6. Electrical: here, you can define your electrical configuration. Cables can be sized by IEC, NEC standard, Australian or Chinese standard. You can also change some cable characteristics and select which cable cross-sections you tend to use. For more information on the electrical part, you can check our How to define your electrical configuration article.
  7. Energy: in this tab, you can check the horizon and albedo data. A custom monthly albedo data profile can also be manually defined inside the software. PV module losses, inverter auxiliary losses and much more can be defined here. You can also edit some advanced parameters (U-factor and IAM loss model).
  8. BESS: this tab will only be enabled if you have previously defined a specific area for the storage system (BA) in your site. By defining the electrical parameters of the system, you will be able to add an AC-coupled BESS to the PV plant and obtain the basic engineering of the system, a design report and the SLD.
  9. Costs: this is the last step before creating the design. Here, you can create price templates that will be automatically used to calculate the CAPEX, LCOE, and the entries of the BOQ.

You can either start the design from scratch or create a new one by copying the inputs from a previously created design, by using the "Clone Design" feature.

Clone a design

Want to create an iteration of certain design while changing just a few parameters? Our "clone design" feature allows you to start a new design based on the inputs of an already created design. This can help you create as many iterations as you want and thus be able to compare different scenarios in a very quick and efficient way.


This article scratched the surface on the following points:

  • pvDesign accepts infinite sites and designs in the same project as long as their center is within a radius of 5 km.
  • A project in pvDesign is defined by the first site that is uploaded to that project.
  • The "Clone Design" functionality is an iterative tool that facilitates the modification of specific parameters to optimize a project

For any other questions or more information regarding this topic, you can contact us at: support@ratedpower.com