We report an uncertainty and sensitivity analysis for modeling DC energy from photovoltaic systems. We consider two systems, each comprised of a single module using either crystalline silicon or CdTe cells, and located either at Albuquerque, NM, or Golden, CO. Output from a PV system is predicted by a sequence of models. Uncertainty in the output of each model is quantified by empirical distributions of
each model’s residuals. We sample these distributions to propagate uncertainty through the sequence of models to obtain an empirical distribution for each PV system’s output. We considered models that: (1) translate measured global
horizontal, direct and global diffuse irradiance to plane-of-array irradiance; (2) estimate effective irradiance from plane-of-array irradiance; (3) predict cell temperature; and (4) estimate DC voltage, current and power.
We found that the uncertainty in PV system output to be relatively small, on the order of 1% for daily energy. Four alternative models were considered for the POA irradiance modeling step; we did not find the choice of one of these models to be of great significance. However, we observed that the POA irradiance model introduced a bias of upwards of 5% of daily energy which translates directly to a systematic difference in predicted energy. Sensitivity analyses relate uncertainty in the PV system output to uncertainty arising from each model. We found that the residuals arising from the POA irradiance and the effective irradiance models to be the dominant contributors to residuals for daily energy, for either technology or location considered. This analysis indicates that efforts to reduce the uncertainty in PV system output should focus on improvements to the POA and effective irradiance models.