26+ year old photovoltaic power plant: degradation and reliability evaluation of crystalline silicon modules - south array

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ABSTRACT As the use of photovoltaic (PV) modules in large power plants continues to increase globally, more studies on degradation, reliability, failure modes, and mechanisms of field aged modules are

ABSTRACT As the use of photovoltaic (PV) modules in large power plants continues to increase globally, more studies on degradation, reliability, failure modes, and mechanisms of field aged modules are needed to predict module life expectancy based on accelerated lifetime testing of PV modules. In this work, a 26+ year old PV power plant in Phoenix, Arizona has been evaluated for performance, reliability, and durability. The PV power plant, called Solar One, is owned and operated by John F. Long's homeowners association. It is a 200 kWdc, standard test conditions (STC) rated power plant comprised of 4000 PV modules or frameless laminates, in 100 panel groups (rated at 175 kWac). The power plant is made of two center-tapped bipolar arrays, the north array and the south array. Due to a limited time frame to execute this large project, this work was performed by two masters students (Jonathan Belmont and Kolapo Olakonu) and the test results are presented in two masters theses. This thesis presents the results obtained on the south array and the other thesis presents the results obtained on the north array. Each of these two arrays is made of four sub arrays, the east sub arrays (positive and negative polarities) and the west sub arrays (positive and negative polarities), making up eight sub arrays. The evaluation and analyses of the power plant included in this thesis consists of: visual inspection, electrical performance measurements, and infrared thermography. A possible presence of potential induced degradation (PID) due to potential difference between ground and strings was also investigated. Some installation practices were also studied and found to contribute to the power loss observed in this investigation. The power output measured in 2011 for all eight sub arrays at STC is approximately 76 kWdc and represents a power loss of 62% (from 200 kW to 76 kW) over 26+ years. The 2011 measured power output for the four south sub arrays at STC is 39 kWdc and represents a power loss of 61% (from 100 kW to 39 kW) over 26+ years. Encapsulation browning and non-cell interconnect ribbon breakages were determined to be the primary causes for the power loss.