TÜV Rheinland partners with TRaC Global on new desert climate tests

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German quality and safety testing company TÜV Rheinland has teamed up with leading U.K. environmental testing laboratory TRaC Global to conduct sand abrasion testing on full size photovoltaic modules.

Experts from TÜV Rheinland have researched different desert conditions, including factors such as sand grain size and wind speeds, to identify a set of parameters that can be used as a benchmark for PV modules and other system components.

An initial test sequence was proposed at last year’s IEEE Photovoltaic Specialists Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida, TÜV experts. The underlying U.S. technical military standards that form the basis for the sand abrasion testing are now considered not to be sufficient enough for solar applications in view of the fact that increased UV radiation and high ambient temperature are not considered.

Florian Reil, TÜV Rheinland’s business field manager for solar innovations, said: “There is a definite need for sand abrasion testing, but we wanted to differentiate ourselves by developing it as part of a complete reliability testing approach for such environments.”

TÜV Rheinland then identified TRaC Global as the ideal partner for European testing. TRaC is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and boasts an expertise in sand and dust testing standards, including those of the U.K. Ministry of Defence, U.S. Military and the U.S. non-profit organization Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA), i.e. DEF STAN 00-35, DEF STAN 07-55, MIL STD 810 and RTCA DO 160.

Business analysts anticipate significant growth in the use of PV over the coming decades, especially in the sunbelt, TÜV Rheinland said, underscoring plans to construct solar power plants with more than a 50 GW peak capacity in the Gulf region by 2030 – around 41 GW of which will be generated in Saudi Arabia alone.

As a partner in the Giga-PV research project led by SMA, along with Hanwha Q CELLSs, TÜV Rheinland is currently developing a comprehensive statement on component reliability in sandstorms.

The test sequence will involve elevated temperatures, strong UV dose and sand abrasion. The research project aims to adapt the individual components so they are ideally suited to extreme environmental conditions and to reduce costs for large-scale solar power plants.

TÜV Rheinland currently offers comparative sand abrasion testing on modules, system components and mounting structures.