Decision-making for utility scale photovoltaic systems: probabilistic risk assessment models for corrosion of structural elements and a material selection approach for polymeric components
The solar energy sector has been growing rapidly over the past decade. Growth in renewable electricity generation using photovoltaic (PV) systems is accompanied by an increased awareness of the fault conditions developing during the operational lifetime of these systems. While the annual energy losses caused by faults in PV systems could reach up to 18.9% of their total capacity, emerging technologies and models are driving for greater efficiency to assure the reliability of a product under its actual application. The objectives of this dissertation consist of (1) reviewing the state of the art and practice of prognostics and health management for the Direct Current (DC) side of photovoltaic systems; (2) assessing the corrosion of the driven posts supporting PV structures in utility scale plants; and (3) assessing the probabilistic risk associated with the failure of polymeric materials that are used in tracker and fixed tilt systems.
As photovoltaic systems age under relatively harsh and changing environmental conditions, several potential fault conditions can develop during the operational lifetime including corrosion of supporting structures and failures of polymeric materials. The ability to accurately predict the remaining useful life of photovoltaic systems is critical for plants ‘continuous operation. This research contributes to the body of knowledge of PV systems reliability by: (1) developing a meta-model of the expected service life of mounting structures; (2) creating decision frameworks and tools to support practitioners in mitigating risks; (3) and supporting material selection for fielded and future photovoltaic systems. The newly developed frameworks were validated by a global solar company.