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