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Closing the loop: using production testing and field failure analysis to build reliable solar panels

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By David DeGraaff, Reliability Team, SunPower Corp.

Savvy solar panel manufacturers understand that wringing excess costs from every stage of the value chain is simply the price of admission to today’s crowded market. They also know that reliability and quality are not only critical for delivering on a 25-year warranty promise, but also drive the true cost of energy over the lifetime of the system. This factor is becoming increasingly apparent, especially in industrial- and utility-scale solar projects, as they age and the power output of many lower quality systems begins to degrade to unexpected levels. Many of those systems used UL or IEC certifications as a proxy for good reliability. Unfortunately, UL certification is primarily concerned with user safety, and even the IEC requirements are not rigorous enough to ensure trouble-free operation throughout the system lifetime. High reliability and quality require testing and manufacturing methods that go far beyond the certification tests.

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The eleventh edition of Photovoltaics International was published in February 2011 and features a special focus on PV modules from Fraunhofer CSP, SunPower and Heriot-Watt University. In addition, China Sunergy studies dark lines on mc-Si cells in Cell Processing and TU Freiburg looks at the challenges of the wire saw wafering process in Materials.

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