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import 3D model fallacy - beware of its very limited usefulness

Joao Prates

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Some of Valentin's PVSOL Premium potential customers might have, as I did, decided to buy the software based on 3D modeling and shading simulation capabilities.

Several anecdotal evidences of this capability can be found on this forum, and on promotion materials spread across several media by  Valentin Software sales team.

Let me give some examples below...


Above - PVSOL Online Shop suggests drone usage for photogrammetry



Above - Youtube tutorial suggesting the use of photogrammetry software for 3D import (Pix4D)



Above: Feature advertised online since 2017, note the mention to "3D objects created with photos taken from a drone"


I guess these examples should be enough to prove the spin over 3D photogrammetry and real life 3D models import into PVSOL.

Most people most probably will do the same as we did, download the software and try it out with simple small examples, and it does work, how nice... we then decide to buy the software.


Unfortunately it's only when starting to use it for real, with real projects, real data, real photogrammetry, that the trouble starts...


errr... ok... let's go smaller then... decimate 3D model and retry...


oops... there is a limit of ONLY 500.000 vertices!

Anyone with the thinnest experience in photogrammetry knows 500k vertices is nothing, any model with such a low count of vertices is either a single building alone with very little detail and very decimated, or the scene is in terribly low quality with lots of 3D defects. This 500k vertices limit renders the 3D photogrammetry almost useless.

In order to work with photogrammetry 3D models one has to decimate the model to a number of vertices really below the 500k vertices limit, because as reported in this other thread (without answer for weeks now) the vertices count is wrong and includes some own PVSOL vertices as overhead, limiting even further the model quality.

We have no choice but to comply with the previously unmentioned limits, and we decimate the model further, making the 3D almost unrecognizable, and voila it finally loads and we can start designing the PV system believing all is well now, apart from the 3D miserable quality:



This illusion ends as soon as we press the "Start shading frequency" button with the option to show shading percentages on the modules.

With the example above, with only 320 modules, the application crashes with an "out-of-memory error":


Now this is very strange because this is a 16GB machine and memory usage by PVSOL process never went above 1.4GB on all of the tests we did, so there is a nasty bug here.


Valentin official answer is to just say we ran out of memory (despite proof we did not), and telling me "We would use the planning mode with map section.", yes really!

So we are working with a 3D model decimated already to just a few hundred vertices, and still PVSOL can't cope with it. Astonishing!

We did not give up, and went to the extent of DELETING part of the 3D model objects, parts that would not interfere with shading on the modules, and decimated even further.


The result was an .obj file with just 82.034 vertices, that’s 16% of what PVSOL claims to be able to handle, and guess what... it still crashes and can't simulate shading.


Conclusion: Don't be fooled by Valentin Software claims over the use of 3D import of photogrammetry models, it's nothing but a toy for micro systems, it's not for professional use.


Hope this narrative is useful to anyone considering buying PVSOL Premium based on 3D photogrammetry imports.


PS: I have found PVSOL capabilities in regards to computation to be flawless thus far, if you don't mind a miserable 3D component, it's worth it. The 3D module however is just lame.

PPS: The worst part on this is that Valentin Software refuses to admit it has a memory management bug, and provides no real assistance nor solution apart from dropping 3D import.

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Hi @timgreen13,


No, unfortunately no, and Valentin Software did not help either.

In fact I just got a notice from WeTransfer saying no-one has downloaded the zip I sent to help them diagnose the issue and the file will be deleted in 2 days time... it's just sad:



What I do know is that this is a memory allocation bug, PVSOL seems to always crash when slightly above 1GB memory usage.

You can live with this if you have either a very simple system and 3D model or very few modules in it to compute shadows.


In my case to prove PVSOL could simulate the shadowing with a few modules I deleted them all except 100 units, and indeed the sim ran fine with these 100 modules alone.

Of course no-one would buy a 1k+ eur software to design small systems with just a few modules, so this is not acceptable.

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For a bit of balance - we work mainly in the range 100kWp-2MWp and get on very well with PVSOL (over the last 5+ years). The 3D model import isn't great so I tend to use the inbuilt 3D modelling.

If I want to make attractive images for a proposal I use sketchup, for accurate yield projections I use PVSOL. I think viewed as a design and analysis tool PVSOL is great.

I understand your frustration that PVSOL can't do everything but if you don't push the 3D modelling too hard it is great for - shading analysis, roof layout, stringing.

I haven't used it much but the other well regarded PV software package is PVSyst, by the look of the videos the 3D modelling is much more basic than PVSOL.


I think the admins have offered you a refund on you subscription,  if you really don't get on with the software get your money back!

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Thanks for the feedback, I truly appreciate it.

Agree that as a design and general analysis tool PVSOL is probably one of the best out there, if not the best, no contest there.

I think we need to distinguish 2 situations here:

  1. One is about requests for new features which to me seem basic and should have been there since ever (example full cabling systems)
  2. and another quite different is bug fixing to let existing features work as designed/advertised by Valentin Software.

I’m resigned with waiting 1.5 years for a proper 3D module, and basic missing features missing like allowing AC junction boxes, cabling of mounting systems, etc.
But neither I nor anyone can accept VS refusing to fix horrific bugs in memory allocation that prevent advertised existing functionality to work.
If you have an application that crashes with out-of-memory error when it's only using 1.5GB out of 16GB with over 10 GB available, you need to accept there is a bug and fix it.


EDIT: Let's not get off-topic. The purpose of this thread is to warn others not to fall into the 3D photogrammetry import trap on PVSOL, it's not about my problems.

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  • 9 months later...

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