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