The main objective of this research is to develop an approach to PV module lifetime prediction. In doing so, the aim is to move from empirical generalizations to a formal predictive science based on data-driven case studies of the crystalline silicon PV systems. The evaluation of PV systems aged 5 to 30 years old that results in systematic predictive capability that is absent today. The warranty period provided by the manufacturers typically range from 20 to 25 years for crystalline silicon modules. The end of lifetime (for example, the time-to-degrade by 20% from rated power) of PV modules is usually calculated using a simple linear extrapolation based on the annual field degradation rate (say, 0.8% drop in power output per year). It has been 26 years since systematic studies on solar PV module lifetime prediction were undertaken as part of the 11-year flat-plate solar array (FSA) project of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) funded by DOE. Since then, PV modules have gone through significant changes in construction materials and design; making most of the field data obsolete, though the effect field stressors on the old designs/materials is valuable to be understood. Efforts have been made to adapt some of the techniques developed to the current technologies, but they are too often limited in scope and too reliant on empirical generalizations of previous results. Some systematic approaches have been proposed based on accelerated testing, but no or little experimental studies have followed. Consequently, the industry does not exactly know today how to test modules for a 20 - 30 years lifetime.
This research study focuses on the behavior of crystalline silicon PV module technology in the dry and hot climatic condition of Tempe/Phoenix, Arizona. A three-phase approach was developed: (1) A quantitative failure modes, effects, and criticality analysis (FMECA) was developed for prioritizing failure modes or mechanisms in a given environment; (2) A time-series approach was used to model environmental stress variables involved and prioritize their effect on the power output drop; and (3) A procedure for developing a prediction model was proposed for the climatic specific condition based on accelerated degradation testing