Two PIDs, but not from the same pod!

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Competition in the PV module bragging rights contest doesn’t stop at conversion efficiencies. Over the last few years there has been a race to provide better performance and improved manufacturer warranties. This has also led to a range of tougher and extended module testing that exceeds conventional testing and certification standards.

It would seem the quality and performance bragging rights have also migrated to cover the phenomenon known as potential-induced degradation (PID).

PID is regarded as a key problem for monocrystalline cells and modules as it reduces the high-level performance of the module.

Canadian Solar has just claimed that it was ‘among the first providers’ to have passed two high-voltage endurance tests. The Photovoltaic Institute (PI) Berlin has tested the CS6-poly-series module, while the PV Evolution Labs has tested the CS5-mono-series and the CS6-poly-series modules for PID characteristics. 

According to Canadian Solar, the standard set by the PI Berlin, TÜV Rhineland and the VDE (Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies) for PID testing meant that its modules were exposed to a negative socket voltage of 1,000 volts.

While in this state, the grounded module front was covered in either aluminium foil or a layer of water. The-before-and-after performance rate was measured with a flasher under standard test conditions (STC), providing the company the top rating, PID Class A, at PI Berlin.

To provide added assurance, Canadian Solar asked PI Berlin to double the standard stress time for what it said was ‘the ultimate quality assurance.’

The standard test actually runs for a week; therefore, PI Berlin undertook the test for two weeks.

Now enter Q-Cells, which has also run PID tests on its modules, though it didn’t state which ones were tested. Q-Cells used TÜV Rheinland testing institute but according to the company went through a ‘fourfold’ PID test. Therefore the test lasted four weeks instead of the usual one week.

Even under this test, Q-Cells said that none of the solar modules displayed a decline in performance by accuracy of measurement (5% degradation or less), which proved the modules were PID resistant.

However, part of the problem in ‘proving’ quality, especially in respect to PID testing is that there is not an industry-wide acknowledged testing standard. In the case of Canadian Solar PID tests, these were said to have been developed in collaboration with PV Evolution.

Q-Cells' series of module tests were conducted by TÜV Rheinland and Fraunhofer CSP to those organizations' methodologies.

Both press releases from the module manufacturers were obviously designed to provide customers with the assurances that their products performed excellently and provided confidence in their long-life capabilities.

However, once again we don’t have a situation where such tests provide an apple-to-apple comparison. They're certainly not two peas from the same pod. 

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