Outdoor Accelerated Testing of PV Modules

Recipient Sandia National Laboratories (PI: Stein, Joshua)

Subs N/A

Status Awarded

Abstract In order to build PV modules that can last for 20-30 years or more it is necessary to select materials that can survive in the harsh outdoor environment of the PV array field. To have confidence in such materials and construction methods, PV modules are typically subjected to accelerated aging in a laboratory environment. Such tests aim to speed up the process of materials aging by amplifying and cycling stressors such as temperature, moisture, mechanical stress, and radiation (e.g., UV). Such tests are typically performed indoors in large environmental chambers which require a lot of laboratory space and infrastructure but only fit a small number of modules at a time.
Our project aims to prototype and test new, low-cost, and scalable methods for achieving similar accelerations in the outdoor array environment. At the end of the project we intend to present validated low-cost hardware solutions and field methods for generating module-scale thermal cycles and elevated humidity exposure in measured doses. These accelerated tests will be performed while the modules are under sun, grid connected and producing power. Thus, correlations between aging and power losses will be detectable. We believe that this work will be complementary to the existing CAST project in that both projects are looking at the possibilities gained by combining stresses. We hope to demonstrate that combined accelerated ageing can also be performed outdoors at a lower cost.