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Operational sustainability in the field versus the laboratory: PV modules and insulation resistance

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By Jim Zhu, Wuxi Suntech Power Co., Ltd., Wuxi, China; Jeff Wang, Wuxi Suntech Power Co., Ltd., Wuxi, China

Poor insulation resistance in modules is one of the primary contributors to module failure. Regimes currently in place to test the insulation resistance of crystalline silicon modules have proved problematic, as the conditions found in a laboratory are not on a par with environmental conditions at installation sites. This paper explores the shortcomings of current testing standards and recommends further tests that should be introduced to prevent module failures in the field.

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In the past few issues of Photovoltaics International we have tracked in detail plans being implemented by the leading module manufacturers to expand production capacity. That process began tentatively last year as end-market demand began to catch up with the chronic overcapacity that had built up in the preceding years, prompting industry-wide upheaval. Our latest capacity expansion report (p.11), a unique resource in the industry, reveals that while that activity was maintained throughout much of 2014, spiking in a strong final quarter of 2014, announcements of new capacity slowed slightly in the opening quarter of this year. Nevertheless, all the signs point to the pace picking up again later this year as manufacturers look to take advantage of the surge in activity expected in the US at the back end of this year and into 2016, in anticipation of the cutting back of the solar investment tax credit at the end of that year.

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