Achieving the Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy
The conversation surrounding how solar energy can benefit the environment has been a transformational one over the last 10 years. One of the focal points of that discussion centers on solar energy reliability and cost efficiency to promote widespread adoption. The methods poised for achieving this goal include conducting more up-front research and developing new and improved standards and testing methodologies for solar products.
Photovoltaic (PV) energy, the conversion of sunlight to electricity, has gained interest in the United States as a result of energy price volatility from other sources and the appeal of its minimal environmental impact. Global estimates for 2020 show a projected 400 to 600 additional gigawatts of PV capacity as the costs of PV energy are expected to drop by almost 10 percent per year, according to a study from McKinsey & Company. Increasing solar energy demand necessitates progressive reliability standards. Testing solar PV modules for PID (potential induced degradation) susceptibility helps to ensure solar is more reliable and less costly.
PV systems are often planned for a service life of more than two decades, so product reliability plays a critical role in the upfront cost and return on the initial investment. The PID of crystalline silicon PV modules can result in a power loss of nearly 100 percent in modules at the end of a system string (the number of PV panels aligned in series) in just one month.
With limitations of some PV products on the market today, it is important for the PV industry to have a proven PID testing method to identify the susceptibility of PV modules to potential degradation of material that may be introduced through its continuous use. Conducting PID testing with appropriate standards helps ensure more objective and reproducible results from subsequent PV module testing.
The latest PID testing methodology is the most state-of-the-art, simple, and cost-effective process available today. It begins by identifying any initial degradation from the test samples. Simple materials such as aluminum foil and water are used to create the test environment. Unlike older methods, no climate chamber is needed for temperature conditioning, which reduces costs. Through such testing, manufacturers will better understand the performance of their modules. For the consumer or business owner, fewer repairs mean lower cost and a higher return on investment, making the idea of solar more attractive to potential users. Simply, more solar energy users mean less environmental impact.
In the United States, there is greater demand for innovative energy generation, distribution, management and usage. The use of solar energy can create a more efficient and productive world, but this cannot occur without putting safety, performance and reliability in the spotlight. Instilling a highly scientific, multi-faceted engineering discipline into research, development, design and manufacturing of products encourages safer and higher performance PV systems. With a reliable testing method for PID, solar energy will continue to push forward as a clean, renewable source of energy utilized widely by consumers and businesses.