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Failure and degradation modes of PV modules in a hot dry climate: results after 4 and 12 years of field exposure

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This study evaluates two photovoltaic (PV) power plants based on electrical performance measurements, diode checks, visual inspections and infrared scanning. The purpose of this study is to measure degradation rates

This study evaluates two photovoltaic (PV) power plants based on electrical performance measurements, diode checks, visual inspections and infrared scanning. The purpose of this study is to measure degradation rates of performance parameters (Pmax, Isc, Voc, Vmax, Imax and FF) and to identify the failure modes in a "hot-dry desert" climatic condition along with quantitative determination of safety failure rates and reliability failure rates. The data obtained from this study can be used by module manufacturers in determining the warranty limits of their modules and also by banks, investors, project developers and users in determining appropriate financing or decommissioning models. In addition, the data obtained in this study will be helpful in selecting appropriate accelerated stress tests which would replicate the field failures for the new modules and would predict the lifetime for new PV modules. The study was conducted at two, single axis tracking monocrystalline silicon (c-Si) power plants, Site 3 and Site 4c of Salt River Project (SRP). The Site 3 power plant is located in Glendale, Arizona and the Site 4c power plant is located in Mesa, Arizona both considered a "hot-dry" field condition. The Site 3 power plant has 2,352 modules (named as Model-G) which was rated at 250 kW DC output. The mean and median degradation of these 12 years old modules are 0.95%/year and 0.96%/year, respectively. The major cause of degradation found in Site 3 is due to high series resistance (potentially due to solder-bond thermo-mechanical fatigue) and the failure mode is ribbon-ribbon solder bond failure/breakage. The Site 4c power plant has 1,280 modules (named as Model-H) which provide 243 kW DC output. The mean and median degradation of these 4 years old modules are 0.96%/year and 1%/year, respectively. At Site 4c, practically, none of the module failures are observed. The average soiling loss is 6.9% in Site 3 and 5.5% in Site 4c. The difference in soiling level is attributed to the rural and urban surroundings of these two power plants.

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  • 2013

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Failure and degradation modes of PV modules in a hot dry climate: results after 16 years of field exposure

Description

This study evaluates two 16 year old photovoltaic power (PV) plants to ascertain degradation rates and various failure modes which occur in a "hot-dry" climate. The data obtained from this

This study evaluates two 16 year old photovoltaic power (PV) plants to ascertain degradation rates and various failure modes which occur in a "hot-dry" climate. The data obtained from this study can be used by module manufacturers in determining the warranty limits of their modules and also by banks, investors, project developers and users in determining appropriate financing or decommissioning models. In addition, the data obtained in this study will be helpful in selecting appropriate accelerated stress tests which would replicate the field failures for the new modules and would predict the lifetime for new PV modules. The two power plants referred to as Site 4A and -4B with (1512 modules each) were initially installed on a single axis tracking system in Gilbert, Arizona for the first seven years and have been operating at their current location in Mesa, Arizona for the last nine years at fixed horizontal tilt Both sites experience hot-dry desert climate. Average degradation rate is 0.85%/year for the best modules and 1.1%/year for all the modules (excluding the safety failed modules). Primary safety failure mode is the backsheet delamination though it is small (less than 1.7%). Primary degradation mode and reliability failure mode may potentially be attributed to encapsulant browning leading to transmittance/current loss and thermo-mechanical solder bond fatigue (cell-ribbon and ribbon-ribbon) leading to series resistance increase. Average soiling loss of horizontal tilt based modules is 11.1%. About 0.5-1.7% of the modules qualify for the safety returns under the typical 20/20 warranty terms, 73-76% of the modules qualify for the warranty claims under the typical 20/20 power warranty terms and 24-26% of the modules are meeting the typical 20/20 power warranty terms.

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  • 2013