Partial shading conditions (PSCs) can significantly reduce the output energy produced by photovoltaic (PV) systems. Moreover, when such conditions occur, conventional and advanced maximum power point tracking (MPPT) systems fail to operate the PV system at its peak because the bypassing diodes may cause the PV system to become trapped at a low power point when they are in conduction mode. The PV system can be operated at the global maximum power point (MPP) with the help of global peak searching tools. However, the frequent use of these tools will reduce the output of PV systems since they force the PV system to operate outside its power region while scanning the I‐V curve in order to determine the global MPP. Thus, the global peak searching tools should be deployed only when a PSC occurs. In this paper, a simple and accurate method is proposed for detecting PSCs by means of monitoring the sign of voltage changes (positive or negative). The method predicts a PSC if the sign of successive voltage changes is the same for a certain number of successive changes. The proposed method was tested on two types of PV array configurations (series and series–parallel) with several shading patterns emulated on‐site. The proposed method correctly and timely identified all emulated shading patterns. It can be used to trigger the global MPP searching techniques for improving the PV system’s output under PSCs; furthermore, it can be used to notify the PV system’s operator of the occurrence of PSCs.
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