Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems opens PV module innovation lab

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During ribbon-cutting ceremonies held in Cambridge, MA, Fraunhofer USA’s Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) officially opened its first laboratory, a PV module innovation facility. The new lab facilitates R&D, testing, and evaluation of new materials and production processes for photovoltaic modules with the goal of boosting panel energy yield, reducing cost, and enhancing module durability.

An extensive suite of state-of the art fabrication equipment and characterization tools has been installed, which the center says will be used by CSE scientists in their mission to make PV technology affordable for widespread use.

Solar module testing and innovation forms the cornerstone of the center’s photovoltaics research, according to its Website. Using on-site equipment as well as the resources of Fraunhofer ISE (Institute for Solar Energy Systems), the CSE has the ability to simulate and accelerate the extreme conditions that would be encountered outdoors over the typical 25-year life span of a solar module, testing modules under various conditions of illumination, climate, and mechanical loading.

These activities will be supplemented by module fabrication services that focus on new designs and manufacturing methodologies for solar modules, as well as new materials such as encapsulants and antireflective coatings, according to the site.

The new center will be complemented by the CSE Building Energy Efficiency Group, which performs work related to energy-efficient buildings and components. Areas of focus include deep energy retrofits, residential energy management, and building-integrated PV. To support these activities, an additional laboratory is under development, incorporating indoor as well as field-testing capabilities.

Fraunhofer CSE is financially supported by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, National Grid, and anonymous private donors on the U.S. side and from the German Federal Government’s Ministry for Education and Research through the Fraunhofer Society in Germany as well as the Fraunhofer ISE in Freiburg.

“Fraunhofer CSE is fortunate to have very a talented team of scientists working in PV who bring a great depth of expertise in module materials, manufacturing, and modeling,” said Nolan Browne, the center’s managing director.

Roland Schindler, CSE’s executive director, who joined the group last year from the ISE, noted that the new facility offers “the capability of developing new module designs and optimizing manufacturing processes that incorporate new module materials in order to further lower the cost of PV electricity generation. Some of our testing equipment is unique in its flexibility to enable measurement of energy yield under a wide variety of environmental conditions.”

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