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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 needed to predict module life expectancy based on accelerated lifetime

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.

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2012

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Potential induced degradation (PID) of pre-stressed photovoltaic modules: effect of glass surface conductivity disruption

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Potential induced degradation (PID) due to high system voltages is one of the major degradation mechanisms in photovoltaic (PV) modules, adversely affecting their performance due to the combined effects of the following factors: system voltage, superstrate/glass surface conductivity, encapsulant conductivity,

Potential induced degradation (PID) due to high system voltages is one of the major degradation mechanisms in photovoltaic (PV) modules, adversely affecting their performance due to the combined effects of the following factors: system voltage, superstrate/glass surface conductivity, encapsulant conductivity, silicon nitride anti-reflection coating property and interface property (glass/encapsulant; encapsulant/cell; encapsulant/backsheet). Previous studies carried out at ASU's Photovoltaic Reliability Laboratory (ASU-PRL) showed that only negative voltage bias (positive grounded systems) adversely affects the performance of commonly available crystalline silicon modules. In previous studies, the surface conductivity of the glass surface was obtained using either conductive carbon layer extending from the glass surface to the frame or humidity inside an environmental chamber. This thesis investigates the influence of glass surface conductivity disruption on PV modules. In this study, conductive carbon was applied only on the module's glass surface without extending to the frame and the surface conductivity was disrupted (no carbon layer) at 2cm distance from the periphery of frame inner edges. This study was carried out under dry heat at two different temperatures (60 °C and 85 °C) and three different negative bias voltages (-300V, -400V, and -600V). To replicate closeness to the field conditions, half of the selected modules were pre-stressed under damp heat for 1000 hours (DH 1000) and the remaining half under 200 hours of thermal cycling (TC 200). When the surface continuity was disrupted by maintaining a 2 cm gap from the frame to the edge of the conductive layer, as demonstrated in this study, the degradation was found to be absent or negligibly small even after 35 hours of negative bias at elevated temperatures. This preliminary study appears to indicate that the modules could become immune to PID losses if the continuity of the glass surface conductivity is disrupted at the inside boundary of the frame. The surface conductivity of the glass, due to water layer formation in a humid condition, close to the frame could be disrupted just by applying a water repelling (hydrophobic) but high transmittance surface coating (such as Teflon) or modifying the frame/glass edges with water repellent properties.

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2012

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Feasibility of energy harvesting using a piezoelectric tire

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While the piezoelectric effect has been around for some time, it has only recently caught interest as a potential sustainable energy harvesting device. Piezoelectric energy harvesting has been developed for shoes and panels, but has yet to be integrated into

While the piezoelectric effect has been around for some time, it has only recently caught interest as a potential sustainable energy harvesting device. Piezoelectric energy harvesting has been developed for shoes and panels, but has yet to be integrated into a marketable bicycle tire. For this thesis, the development and feasibility of a piezoelectric tire was done. This includes the development of a circuit that incorporates piezoceramic elements, energy harvesting circuitry, and an energy storage device. A single phase circuit was designed using an ac-dc diode rectifier. An electrolytic capacitor was used as the energy storage device. A financial feasibility was also done to determine targets for manufacturing cost and sales price. These models take into account market trends for high performance tires, economies of scale, and the possibility of government subsidies. This research will help understand the potential for the marketability of a piezoelectric energy harvesting tire that can create electricity for remote use. This study found that there are many obstacles that must be addressed before a piezoelectric tire can be marketed to the general public. The power output of this device is miniscule compared to an alkaline battery. In order for this device to approach the power output of an alkaline battery the weight of the device would also become an issue. Additionally this device is very costly compared to the average bicycle tire. Lastly, this device is extreme fragile and easily broken. In order for this device to become marketable the issues of power output, cost, weight, and durability must all be successfully overcome.

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2012

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Comparison of four methods to assess silver release from nano impregnated reverse osmosis membranes

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With the application of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes in the wastewater treatment and seawater desalination, the limitation of flux and fouling problems of RO have gained more attention from researchers. Because of the tunable structure and physicochemical properties of nanomaterials,

With the application of reverse osmosis (RO) membranes in the wastewater treatment and seawater desalination, the limitation of flux and fouling problems of RO have gained more attention from researchers. Because of the tunable structure and physicochemical properties of nanomaterials, it is a suitable material that can be used to incorporate with RO to change the membrane performances. Silver is biocidal, which has been used in a variety of consumer products. Recent studies showed that fabricating silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) on membrane surfaces can mitigate the biofouling problem on the membrane. Studies have shown that Ag released from the membrane in the form of either Ag ions or AgNP will accelerate the antimicrobial activity of the membrane. However, the silver release from the membrane will lower the silver loading on the membrane, which will eventually shorten the antimicrobial activity lifetime of the membrane. Therefore, the silver leaching amount is a crucial parameter that needs to be determined for every type of Ag composite membrane.

This study is attempting to compare four different silver leaching test methods, to study the silver leaching potential of the silver impregnated membranes, conducting the advantages and disadvantages of the leaching methods. An In-situ reduction Ag loaded RO membrane was examined in this study. A custom waterjet test was established to create a high-velocity water flow to test the silver leaching from the nanocomposite membrane in a relative extreme environment. The batch leaching test was examined as the most common leaching test method for the silver composite membrane. The cross-flow filtration and dead-end test were also examined to compare the silver leaching amounts.

The silver coated membrane used in this experiment has an initial silver loading of 2.0± 0.51 ug/cm2. The mass balance was conducted for all of the leaching tests. For the batch test, water jet test, and dead-end filtration, the mass balances are all within 100±25%, which is acceptable in this experiment because of the variance of the initial silver loading on the membranes. A bad silver mass balance was observed at cross-flow filtration. Both of AgNP and Ag ions leached in the solution was examined in this experiment. The concentration of total silver leaching into solutions from the four leaching tests are all below the Secondary Drinking Water Standard for silver which is 100 ppb. The cross-flow test is the most aggressive leaching method, which has more than 80% of silver leached from the membrane after 50 hours of the test. The water jet (54 ± 6.9% of silver remaining) can cause higher silver leaching than batch test (85 ± 1.2% of silver remaining) in one-hour, and it can also cause both AgNP and Ag ions leaching from the membrane, which is closer to the leaching condition in the cross-flow test.

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2017

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Accelerated UV Testing and Characterization of PV Modules with UV-cut and UV-pass EVA Encapsulants

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Encapsulant is a key packaging component of photovoltaic (PV) modules, which protects the solar cell from physical, environmental and electrical damages. Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is one of the major encapsulant materials used in the PV industry. This work focuses on

Encapsulant is a key packaging component of photovoltaic (PV) modules, which protects the solar cell from physical, environmental and electrical damages. Ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA) is one of the major encapsulant materials used in the PV industry. This work focuses on indoor accelerated ultraviolet (UV) stress testing and characterization to investigate the EVA discoloration and delamination in PV modules by using various non-destructive characterization techniques, including current-voltage (IV) measurements, UV fluorescence (UVf) and colorimetry measurements. Mini-modules with glass/EVA/cell/EVA/backsheet construction were fabricated in the laboratory with two types of EVA, UV-cut EVA (UVC) and UV-pass EVA (UVP).

The accelerated UV testing was performed in a UV chamber equipped with UV lights at an ambient temperature of 50°C, little or no humidity and total UV dosage of 400 kWh/m2. The mini-modules were maintained at three different temperatures through UV light heating by placing different thickness of thermal insulation sheets over the backsheet. Also, prior to thermal insulation sheet placement, the backsheet and laminate edges were fully covered with aluminum tape to prevent oxygen diffusion into the module and hence the photobleaching reaction.

The characterization results showed that mini-modules with UV-cut EVA suffered from discoloration while the modules with UV-pass EVA suffered from delamination. UVf imaging technique has the capability to identify the discoloration region in the UVC modules in the very early stage when the discoloration is not visible to the naked eyes, whereas Isc measurement is unable to measure the performance loss until the color becomes visibly darker. YI also provides the direct evidence of yellowing in the encapsulant. As expected, the extent of degradation due to discoloration increases with the increase in module temperature. The Isc loss is dictated by both the regions – discolored area at the center and non-discolored area at the cell edges, whereas the YI is only determined at the discolored region due to low probe area. This led to the limited correlation between Isc and YI in UVC modules.

In case of UVP modules, UV radiation has caused an adverse impact on the interfacial adhesion between the EVA and solar cell, which was detected from UVf images and severe Isc loss. No change in YI confirms that the reason for Isc loss is not due to yellowing but the delamination.

Further, the activation energy of encapsulant discoloration was estimated by using Arrhenius model on two types of data, %Isc drop and ΔYI. The Ea determined from the change in YI data for the EVA encapsulant discoloration reaction without the influence of oxygen and humidity is 0.61 eV. Based on the activation energy determined in this work and hourly weather data of any site, the degradation rate for the encaspulant browning mode can be estimated.

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Date Created
2018

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Defects and statistical degradation analysis of photovoltaic power plants

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As the photovoltaic (PV) power plants age in the field, the PV modules degrade and generate visible and invisible defects. A defect and statistical degradation rate analysis of photovoltaic (PV) power plants is presented in two-part thesis. The first part

As the photovoltaic (PV) power plants age in the field, the PV modules degrade and generate visible and invisible defects. A defect and statistical degradation rate analysis of photovoltaic (PV) power plants is presented in two-part thesis. The first part of the thesis deals with the defect analysis and the second part of the thesis deals with the statistical degradation rate analysis. In the first part, a detailed analysis on the performance or financial risk related to each defect found in multiple PV power plants across various climatic regions of the USA is presented by assigning a risk priority number (RPN). The RPN for all the defects in each PV plant is determined based on two databases: degradation rate database; defect rate database. In this analysis it is determined that the RPN for each plant is dictated by the technology type (crystalline silicon or thin-film), climate and age. The PV modules aging between 3 and 19 years in four different climates of hot-dry, hot-humid, cold-dry and temperate are investigated in this study.

In the second part, a statistical degradation analysis is performed to determine if the degradation rates are linear or not in the power plants exposed in a hot-dry climate for the crystalline silicon technologies. This linearity degradation analysis is performed using the data obtained through two methods: current-voltage method; metered kWh method. For the current-voltage method, the annual power degradation data of hundreds of individual modules in six crystalline silicon power plants of different ages is used. For the metered kWh method, a residual plot analysis using Winters’ statistical method is performed for two crystalline silicon plants of different ages. The metered kWh data typically consists of the signal and noise components. Smoothers remove the noise component from the data by taking the average of the current and the previous observations. Once this is done, a residual plot analysis of the error component is performed to determine the noise was successfully separated from the data by proving the noise is random.

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2016

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Dependence of toxicity test results on sample removal methods of PV modules

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The volume of end-of-life photovoltaic (PV) modules is increasing as the global PV market increases, and the global PV waste streams are expected to reach 250,000 metric tons by the end of 2020. If the recycling processes are not in

The volume of end-of-life photovoltaic (PV) modules is increasing as the global PV market increases, and the global PV waste streams are expected to reach 250,000 metric tons by the end of 2020. If the recycling processes are not in place, there would be 60 million tons of end-of-life PV modules lying in the landfills by 2050, that may not become a not-so-sustainable way of sourcing energy since all PV modules could contain certain amount of toxic substances. Currently in the United States, PV modules are categorized as general waste and can be disposed in landfills. However, potential leaching of toxic chemicals and materials, if any, from broken end-of-life modules may pose health or environmental risks. There is no standard procedure to remove samples from PV modules for chemical toxicity testing in the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) laboratories as per EPA 1311 standard. The main objective of this thesis is to develop an unbiased sampling approach for the TCLP testing of PV modules. The TCLP testing was concentrated only for the laminate part of the modules, as they are already existing recycling technologies for the frame and junction box components of PV modules. Four different sample removal methods have been applied to the laminates of five different module manufacturers: coring approach, cell-cut approach, strip-cut approach, and hybrid approach. These removed samples were sent to two different TCLP laboratories, and TCLP results were tested for repeatability within a lab and reproducibility between the labs. The pros and cons of each sample removal method have been explored and the influence of sample removal methods on the variability of TCLP results has been discussed. To reduce the variability of TCLP results to an acceptable level, additional improvements in the coring approach, the best of the four tested options, are still needed.

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Date Created
2018

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Series resistance increase in field degraded PV modules in different climatic conditions

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Global photovoltaic (PV) module installation in 2018 is estimated to exceed 100 GW, and crystalline Si (c-Si) solar cell-based modules have a share more than 90% of the global PV market. To reduce the social cost of PV electricity, further

Global photovoltaic (PV) module installation in 2018 is estimated to exceed 100 GW, and crystalline Si (c-Si) solar cell-based modules have a share more than 90% of the global PV market. To reduce the social cost of PV electricity, further developments in reliability of solar panels are expected. These will lead to realize longer module lifetime and reduced levelized cost of energy. As many as 86 failure modes are observed in PV modules [1] and series resistance increase is one of the major durability issues of all. Series resistance constitutes emitter sheet resistance, metal-semiconductor contact resistance, and resistance across the metal-solder ribbon. Solder bond degradation at the cell interconnect is one of the primary causes for increase in series resistance, which is also considered to be an invisible defect [1]. Combination of intermetallic compounds (IMC) formation during soldering and their growth due to solid state diffusion over its lifetime result in formation of weak interfaces between the solar cell and the interconnect. Thermal cycling under regular operating conditions induce thermo-mechanical fatigue over these weak interfaces resulting in contact reduction or loss. Contact reduction or loss leads to increase in series resistance which further manifests into power and fill factor loss. The degree of intermixing of metallic interfaces and contact loss depends on climatic conditions as temperature and humidity (moisture ingression into the PV module laminate) play a vital role in reaction kinetics of these layers. Modules from Arizona and Florida served as a good sample set to analyze the effects of hot and humid climatic conditions respectively. The results obtained in the current thesis quantifies the thickness of IMC formation from SEM-EDS profiles, where similar modules obtained from different climatic conditions were compared. The results indicate the thickness of the IMC and detachment degree to be growing with age and operating temperatures of the module. This can be seen in CuxSny IMC which is thicker in the case of Arizona module. The results obtained from FL

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aged modules also show that humidity accelerates the formation of IMC as they showed thicker AgxSny layer and weak interconnect-contact interfaces as compared to Arizona modules. It is also shown that climatic conditions have different effects on rate at which CuxSny and AgxSny intermetallic compounds are formed.

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2018

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Substring Current-Voltage Measurement of PV Strings Using a Non-Contact I-V Curve Tracer

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In the current photovoltaic (PV) industry, the O&M (operations and maintenance) personnel in the field primarily utilize three approaches to identify the underperforming or defective modules in a string: i) EL (electroluminescence) imaging of all the modules in the string;

In the current photovoltaic (PV) industry, the O&M (operations and maintenance) personnel in the field primarily utilize three approaches to identify the underperforming or defective modules in a string: i) EL (electroluminescence) imaging of all the modules in the string; ii) IR (infrared) thermal imaging of all the modules in the string; and, iii) current-voltage (I-V) curve tracing of all the modules in the string. In the first and second approaches, the EL images are used to detect the modules with broken cells, and the IR images are used to detect the modules with hotspot cells, respectively. These two methods may identify the modules with defective cells only semi-qualitatively, but not accurately and quantitatively. The third method, I-V curve tracing, is a quantitative method to identify the underperforming modules in a string, but it is an extremely time consuming, labor-intensive, and highly ambient conditions dependent method. Since the I-V curves of individual modules in a string are obtained by disconnecting them individually at different irradiance levels, module operating temperatures, angle of incidences (AOI) and air-masses/spectra, all these measured curves are required to be translated to a single reporting condition (SRC) of a single irradiance, single temperature, single AOI and single spectrum. These translations are not only time consuming but are also prone to inaccuracy due to inherent issues in the translation models. Therefore, the current challenges in using the traditional I-V tracers are related to: i) obtaining I-V curves simultaneously of all the modules and substrings in a string at a single irradiance, operating temperature, irradiance spectrum and angle of incidence due to changing weather parameters and sun positions during the measurements, ii) safety of field personnel when disconnecting and reconnecting of cables in high voltage systems (especially field aged connectors), and iii) enormous time and hardship for the test personnel in harsh outdoor climatic conditions. In this thesis work, a non-contact I-V (NCIV) curve tracing tool has been integrated and implemented to address the above mentioned three challenges of the traditional I-V tracers.

This work compares I-V curves obtained using a traditional I-V curve tracer with the I-V curves obtained using a NCIV curve tracer for the string, substring and individual modules of crystalline silicon (c-Si) and cadmium telluride (CdTe) technologies. The NCIV curve tracer equipment used in this study was integrated using three commercially available components: non-contact voltmeters (NCV) with voltage probes to measure the voltages of substrings/modules in a string, a hall sensor to measure the string current and a DAS (data acquisition system) for simultaneous collection of the voltage data obtained from the NCVs and the current data obtained from the hall sensor. This study demonstrates the concept and accuracy of the NCIV curve tracer by comparing the I-V curves obtained using a traditional capacitor-based tracer and the NCIV curve tracer in a three-module string of c-Si modules and of CdTe modules under natural sunlight with uniform light conditions on all the modules in the string and with partially shading one or more of the modules in the string to simulate and quantitatively detect the underperforming module(s) in a string.

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Date Created
2020