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On the Horizon for Solar Testing in 2023

By January 5, 2023No Comments

 A Review of Recent Trends and Developments from PVEL 

Photo: Dave Delong, PVEL 

As we enter a new year with fresh eyes towards the future, it’s worth looking a quick back at how far we’ve come as a company, and as an industry, over a tumultuous but ultimately exciting year.  

PVEL’s Expanded Testing Capabilities 

During 2022 PVEL was proud to significantly expand our testing capabilities on two continents. We finalized our laboratory relocation to Napa, California, which included moving to a more spacious facility and upgrading to larger testing chambers and other equipment, so we’re better able to accommodate the increasingly larger modules sizes we’ve seen in recent years. We have likewise upgraded and installed some exciting new projects at PVUSA, the historic 86-acre solar site where PVEL conducts our outdoor testing.  

We also began offering our flagship Product Qualification Program (PQP) testing in China for the first time, through our partnership with PI China, a sister Kiwa Group company. In December 2022, among many notable new hires, we announced that we have brought on Jean-Nicolas (JN) Jaubert as our first ever Director of China Operations. JN brings over 15 years of module and reliability testing to the role and is already busy working with our team to oversee testing of the latest module designs.  This effective doubling of capacity is leading to some of the quickest PQP testing in PVEL’s history! 

In May 2022, our long-time partner PI Berlin joined the Kiwa Group, making them an official “sister company” to PVEL (Kiwa acquired PVEL in 2021). Based in the Netherlands, Kiwa is a global leader in Testing, Inspection and Certification, while PI Berlin offers the upstream auditing, testing, inspection, and engineering services that complement PVEL’s work derisking module purchasing. Joining together as members of the Kiwa Group further allows both PI Berlin and PVEL to enhance our offerings in the U.S. and Europe. We’re already hard at work across both teams to further integrate our services and brands under the Kiwa Group! 

Reaching More Buyers Than Ever With Our Annual Scorecard 

Did you download or check out our PV Module Reliability Scorecard during 2022? If so, you’re in good company! Last year’s Scorecard had the highest reach of any report to date, with over 30,000 unique web visitors from 175 countries, and more than 5,000 PDF summary downloads. Our new interactive site included a searchable database of the 25 Top Performing manufacturers and 122 model types. If you’re a manufacturer hoping to be featured in future Scorecards, contact Tristan Erion-Lorico to get your modules submitted. 

Continuing Our Thought Leadership During Times of Uncertainty 

In the aftermath of March’s decision by the Department of Commerce to investigate the Anti-dumping/Circumvention Case brought by Auxin Solar, we were proud to be a thought leader in helping companies navigate this uncertain module procurement landscape. In addition to organizing and speaking on several webinars, we were thrilled to be a presenting host of the first ever PV ModuleTech Conference: U.S. Edition. At this crucial time, in partnership with PVTech, we helped to gather some of the top organizations in the U.S. solar industry to discuss the policy developments and pathways forward during a period of halted module supply. With ongoing issues still plaguing procurement managers in the U.S., we’re happy to announce that the conference is coming back to Napa in June of 2023! Get your ticket to join us for two days of discussion exclusively focused on the U.S. solar market, including more positive developments from the recent passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. 

Photo: Chris Reistroffer 

Finally, on the same day that the US Department of Commerce announced the preliminary determination of import duty circumvention, PV Magazine published an article co-authored by Tristan Erion-Lorico, PVEL’s VP of Sales and Marketing, and Ian Gregory from PI Berlin. The article discusses clear steps on how to manage the ever-present uncertainty in module procurement to ensure bankability requirements are achieved. 

What’s next in 2023? 

Expect an Increased Deployment of New Technology Types  

Over the past few months there has been a significant increase in the number of module manufacturers participating in PVEL’s PV Module Product Qualification Program. Over thirty module manufacturers have started a new PVEL PQP within the past six months, many of whom are new to the program. With manufacturers throughout the world using PVEL’s PQP as a key step in achieving market acceptance, we’re able to provide a glimpse into what’s in store for module supply in the coming year. 

At PVEL, we’re still seeing lots of PERC modules coming into the lab, while also receiving an increase in TOPCon and HJT modules. According to PV Magazine, the historical cost effectiveness of PERC modules is quickly being supplanted by the superior yields and performance offered by these n-type technologies, something we’ve explored in our quarterly Solar Technology and Cost Forecasts (STAC) reports.  

We agree with our STAC partner, Exawatt, who are quoted in the PV Magazine article as noting: “With the efficiency gains of mono PERC slowing, it has been exciting to see many manufacturers adopt n-type technologies and to see this reflected in the proportion of n-type modules available in the market.” 

While PQP reports remain free to PVEL downstream partners, we’ve recently launched a premium benchmarking service which allows for easy result comparison amongst PQP participants and customizable pass/fail implementation for Approved Vendor List (AVL) management. If you’re not currently a member of our Premium Partner Program, please contact Chris Stearns to learn more. 

Growing Concerns Over Extreme Weather  

While our industry continually develops new technologies to meet ever-growing solar demand, unfortunately, the threat of climate risk from hurricanes, hailstorms, fire, and floods is likewise on the rise.  Bloomberg estimates that nearly $1 trillion of climate damage could be coming our way by the end of 2023. To simultaneously meet rising solar demand and address climate concerns, millions of PV modules will need to be installed in the coming years – but not all those modules are created equally, nor will they perform uniformly in various conditions. Solar operations and maintenance will prove more challenging than what PV project stakeholders historically expected, with weather events reaching extremes that may not be modeled previously.  

Extreme weather events can damage a solar power plant and its various components in serious ways. The amount of damage caused by a storm can vary greatly – and it is typically far beyond what is observable by eye. For example, when less than 5% of modules in an array impacted by hail or strong winds have visibly broken glass, we’ve observed that up to 100% of modules have cell micro-cracking from mechanical damage as seen through PVEL’s onsite EL imaging.  

Asset owners and operators must be able to properly prepare for events in advance, and subsequently quantify the full extent of damage to a project in order to efficiently return sites to operation and receive the appropriate insurance compensation and/or module warranty confirmation.  

Fortunately, PVEL’s field services team can help. With nearly 3 GW of field experience on active solar sites, our team offers the necessary testing and inspection that can help diagnose problems before they occur, identify issues quickly after an event, and ensure overall long-term performance. PVEL field services include: 

  • Baseline electroluminescence (EL) imaging to help establish project health before operations by revealing and measuring underlying faults that are not directly observable by the naked eye. 
  • Module acceptance EL imaging and visual inspection, which use statistical sampling to determine whether modules have been damaged in transit and identifies issues before installation. 
  • Post-extreme weather EL imaging after an extreme weather event to quantify immediate impacts and long-term latent damage. Our experts can help quickly and accurately quantify visible and underlying damage, making it easier to return to operations faster. 

At PVEL, we’re proud to help #MakeDataMatter with the quality independent testing your company needs to succeed. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our PQP testing, Field Services, and custom Data and Consulting Services that will allow you to improve system performance and reduce long-term risks for your solar projects. We look forward to working with you in 2023 and beyond! 

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