Outdoor Weathering Stations Being Set Up to Test Solar Modules

Solar modules must stand up to UV radiation, rain, snow and heat. To find out where their weak points lie, outdoor weathering stations are being set up at sites exposed to extreme climatic conditions: in the tropics, in the desert, and on top of Germany's highest mountain.

Manufacturers usually provide a warranty of 20 or 25 years on solar modules. But there is little reliable data on which to estimate the life of more recent designs. How resistant are they to snow, salt-laden sea winds, arid deserts or humid tropical climates? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE in Freiburg have set up outdoor weathering stations at a variety of sites where solar cells can be exposed to extreme climatic conditions: heat and a wide fluctuation between day and night temperatures in the Negev desert, Israel; snow, high winds and intense UV radiation at the top of the Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain; combined heat and humidity in Serpong, Indonesia; and corrosive sea air on the island of Gran Canaria, Spain.

"We are using these sites to test new materials for photovoltaic modules, such as alternative encapsulation techniques for the semiconductor layer or new reflective backing films," says Michael Kohl, who heads the ISE's photovoltaics test center. "Because solar modules have such a long warranty period, manufacturers are reluctant to try out new materials. Accelerated weathering tests might persuade them to be more open to innovation." Sophisticated measuring instruments record the levels of UV radiation, temperature and humidity to which the modules are exposed. "The secret is to choose easily measured parameters that exhibit significant changes after only two or three years. One such parameter is the UV transmittance of the encapsulation material: This changes well before any detectable drop in output," Kohl explains. The researchers employ a mathematical model to calculate the mean statistical load averaged over all measured variables for each set of climatic conditions.

The outdoor stations will also be used to validate results of tests in a unique environmental simulation chamber currently under construction in Freiburg. Tests on solar modules are due to start here in spring 2008. The chamber intensifies the climatic conditions, enabling weak points in the modules to be detected sooner. It works on the basis of fluorescent lamps, which simulate the sun's UV radiation without generating as much heat as conventional Xenon lamps. "This solves the main problem of UV testing: The lamps employed in a standard controlled-environment chamber raise the temperature of the modules, which in turn affects their lifetime - and distorts the results." The new chamber, by contrast, enables the temperature of the module to be regulated to a constant value while at the same time setting the humidity to a high level.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you have a review, update or anything you would like to add to this news story?

Leave your feedback
Your comment type
Submit
Azthena logo

AZoM.com powered by Azthena AI

Your AI Assistant finding answers from trusted AZoM content

Azthena logo with the word Azthena

Your AI Powered Scientific Assistant

Hi, I'm Azthena, you can trust me to find commercial scientific answers from AZoNetwork.com.

A few things you need to know before we start. Please read and accept to continue.

  • Use of “Azthena” is subject to the terms and conditions of use as set out by OpenAI.
  • Content provided on any AZoNetwork sites are subject to the site Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.
  • Large Language Models can make mistakes. Consider checking important information.

Great. Ask your question.

While we only use edited and approved content for Azthena answers, it may on occasions provide incorrect responses. Please confirm any data provided with the related suppliers or authors. We do not provide medical advice, if you search for medical information you must always consult a medical professional before acting on any information provided.

Your questions, but not your email details will be shared with OpenAI and retained for 30 days in accordance with their privacy principles.

Please do not ask questions that use sensitive or confidential information.

Read the full Terms & Conditions.