Solar module reliability and field testing

The introduction of new materials has an impact on the durability of solar PV modules. Therefore, new concepts need to be tested in climate chambers, which allow for a relatively fast screening. The ultimate test is the field test, in which durability and performance can be determined under genuine outdoor conditions. The SiCC infrastructure offers a variety of options for testing solar modules indoor and outdoor.

Field test on back contact modules

In the SiCC project, 400 innovative back contact modules will be compared with conventional PV modules. These modules will be installed at eight different locations in the Netherlands early 2017. The monitoring results are published every quarter.

Outdoor solar module testing

Utrecht University and ECN have facilities for outdoor monitoring of modules. Performance measurements (kWh/year) are usually done for a period of at least one year to get data at different irradiances and temperatures (to get data at all kinds of weather conditions). It will take longer than one year to obtain durability and reliability data/results on new concepts. Therefore screening through climate chamber testing is advised.

For a quick indication of the solar module performance it is possible to get a ‘performance finger print’ in one or two months, during the sunniest period of the year.

Climate chamber solar module testing

Two important module tests of the IEC 61215 standard are damp heat testing and thermal cycle testing. Damp heat testing is done at 85°C and 85% relative humidity (RH). In thermal cycle testing the temperature varies between -40°C and 85°C. These tests are performed on SiCC baseline modules and upgrades up to three times the regulative test duration. The modules are electrically characterised at regular intervals to monitor degradation effects.

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