The popularity of solar photovoltaic (PV) energy is growing across the globe with more than 500 GW installed in 2018 with a capacity of 640 GW in 2019. Improved PV module reliability minimizes the levelized cost of energy. Studying and accelerating encapsulant browning and solder bond degradation—two of the most commonly observed degradation modes in the field—in a lab requires replicating the stress conditions that induce the same field degradation modes in a controlled accelerated environment to reduce testing time.
Accelerated testing is vital in learning about the reliability of solar PV modules. The unique streamlined approach taken saves time and resources with a statistically significant number of samples being tested in one chamber under multiple experimental stress conditions that closely mirror field conditions that induce encapsulant browning and solder bond degradation. With short circuit current (Isc) and series resistance (Rs) degradation data sets at multiple temperatures, the activation energies (Ea) for encapsulant browning and solder bond degradation was calculated.
Regular degradation was replaced by the wear-out stages of encapsulant browning and solder bond degradation by subjecting two types of field-aged modules to further accelerated testing. For browning, the Ea calculated through the Arrhenius model was 0.37 ± 0.17 eV and 0.71 ± 0.07 eV. For solder bond degradation, the Arrhenius model was used to calculate an Ea of 0.12 ± 0.05 eV for solder with 2wt% Ag and 0.35 ± 0.04 eV for Sn60Pb40 solder.
To study the effect of types of encapsulant, backsheet, and solder on encapsulant browning and solder bond degradation, 9-cut-cell samples maximizing available data points while minimizing resources underwent accelerated tests described for modules. A ring-like browning feature was observed in samples with UV pass EVA above and UV cut EVA below the cells. The backsheet permeability influences the extent of oxygen photo-bleaching. In samples with solder bond degradation, increased bright spots and cell darkening resulted in increased Rs. Combining image processing with fluorescence imaging and electroluminescence imaging would yield great insight into the two degradation modes.