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Photovoltaics: New Research Project Evaluates Damage to Solar Modules

PVScan: Long-term study stretching over four years evaluates the effects of typical damage to photovoltaic modules / Assessment for a service life of 25 years / Analysis of material and production defects

(PresseBox) (Köln, ) Production defects, handling or installation faults, defective operating maintenance: The causes of damage to photovoltaic modules are as diverse as their manifestations. At the same time, testing and damage analysis technology is advancing further – making ever more precise evaluations possible. But what effects do micro-cracks or snail tracks, scratched front glass, weak points on laminations or faulty backsheets, for example, actually have on the service life and performance of the modules? Is every identifiable fault even serious? Can individual fault groups be classify and assessed in terms of their direct and long-term effects? Over the coming years, a consortium of renowned companies and scientific institutes will look into the long-term effects that typical damage to photovoltaic modules has on the function and performance of the modules.

The project funded by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment entitled “Evaluation Research on Quality Control and the Assessment of Photovoltaic Modules in Solar Parks” – PVScan in short – is being conducted with the involvement of Sunnyside upP, RWTH University Aachen, TÜV Rheinland, ISC Konstanz and Solar-Fabrik. The evaluations cover the occurrence and development of damage to both on-roof units and ground-mounted systems over a period of several years.

The aim of PVScan is to determine in step with actual practice which typical faults and damage to photovoltaic modules are actually relevant to the module’s performance or functionality and which are most likely tolerable. Specifically, the researchers are therefore using normal analysis procedures to evaluate the damage to solar modules directly following delivery from the manufacturer to the building site and also once installation is complete. These solar modules are then observed in the field for years to enable changes and effects relating to the discovered faults to be precisely determined. The results of the research project will ultimately serve to further develop existing testing and product standards as well as to encourage the development of new standards with regard to the requirements for the transportation and handling of modules during the construction phase of a photovoltaic project, for example.

By monitoring the damage in the field, the project partners conduct laboratory tests and simulations to facilitate a comprehensive assessment of the particular faults. Here, the experts can also benefit from TÜV Rheinland’s many years of experience gained from laboratory evaluations as part of the established design certification and safety qualification procedures for photovoltaic modules. ISC Konstanz is using simulation models to lead the task of simulating fault profiles. RWTH Aachen is developing models to evaluate the long-term monitoring process on the one hand and procedures to monitor the performance and quality of photovoltaic systems on the other. Sunnyside upP is playing a key role in the evaluation of the systems’ installation quality as part of the research project. Project coordination is also being handled by Sunnyside upP.

The “PVScan” research project will be ongoing until 2017 and is receiving funding from the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

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TÜV Rheinland is a global leader in independent inspection services, founded more than 140 years ago. The group maintains a presence in 65 countries with 17,200 employees; annual turnover is EUR 1.5 billion. The independent experts stand for quality, efficiency and safety for people, technology and the environment in nearly all aspects of life. TÜV Rheinland inspects technical equipment, products and services, oversees projects and helps to shape processes for companies. Its experts train people in a wide range of careers and industries. To this end, TÜV Rheinland employs a global network of approved labs, testing and education centres. Since 2006, TÜV Rheinland has been a member of the United Nations Global Compact to promote sustainability and combat corruption. Website: