The cost of solar PV energy has decreased a whopping 82% since 2010. No wonder then that solar PV installations in the C&I market around the world are booming.
The drop in cost is, however, shadowed by field studies that show a significant number of solar modules fail in the field before they reach the end of their specified lifetime. Sometimes even in the first ten years of use.
It turns out that IEC standard tests are not enough to predict the long-term durability and reliability of solar PV modules. The solution is at hand as various laboratories exist to perform a variety of tests to check just how reliable solar PV modules are.
Daniel Chang, Vice President of Business Development at RETC, an independent test lab for photovoltaic products and batteries: “PV modules are constantly changing and the bill of materials (BOMs) are being optimised every year. With these changes comes different challenges to how the modules will behave throughout their lifetime. Extended testing is the minimum that can be done to understand the PV modules’ reliability through this BOM evolution.”
Chang believes it is necessary for anyone looking to purchase solar PV modules to understand the importance of module testing and product vetting “especially at a point in time where multiple factories are being used to produce the same product SKUs. Cost reduction is real and the end user should always be wary of the consequences of making procurement decisions based purely on price,” said Chang.
Solar PV modules should last years, but how to pick the right one
As head of PV Module Business for PV Evolution Labs, Tristan Erion-Lorico collaborates with PV module buyers, investors, research institutions and manufacturers to develop innovative performance and reliability test programmes for product qualification. He agrees with Chang that the end-user of the solar PV module needs to look beyond just the bottom line.
“It is naïve for developers and investors to make module purchasing decisions without third-party reliability and performance data,” said Erion-Lorico who pointed out that various laboratories create reports and indexes as complementary resources for module purchasers. These can provide key aspects in due diligence for investments in assets that are expected to perform reliably for multiple decades.
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Making sense of these indexes, scorecards and tests though, therein lies the rub. Join Chang, Erion-Lorico and Kevin Robinson, Technical Sales Manager – MEA for Longi Solar spoke to ESI Africa Editor Nicolette Pombo van Zyl about the ins and outs of extended reliability testing for solar PV modules.
They addressed issues such as what kind of alternative testing exists and whether there is any benefit to extending the lifespan of a solar PV module beyond the originally predicted 25 to 30 years. ESI
You can watch the recording of Deciphering reliability testing on the Enlit Africa Connect Platform.