Giga Solar lightweight PV modules pass Fraunhofer CSE tests

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California-based Giga Solar’s high-efficiency crystalline-silicon, lightweight PV modules have passed a series of environmental and mechanical stress tests with flying colors.

The CFV Solar Test Laboratory in Albuquerque, New Mexico, conducted the tests as part of the Boston-based Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems’ Plug-and-Play PV Project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative. The project aims to develop a suite of technologies that make the process of buying, installing and connecting rooftop solar energy systems faster, easier, safer and less expensive.

Giga Solar said its lightweight modules enable innovative, low-cost rooftop mounting methods because they are glass-free and frameless. The design allows them to be flush-mounted directly onto the roof, avoiding the need for racking hardware, eliminating roof penetrations and shortening the installation time. “These benefits all contribute to lowering the cost of solar electricity,” the company said.

"We were extremely pleased with the results, which show negligible power loss after these accelerated stress tests," said Giga Solar founder and CEO Tom Hood. "It demonstrates that our innovative PV modules can withstand the very tough conditions that modules experience on rooftops.”

Hood added that Giga Solar’s modules weigh 60% less than traditional crystalline silicon modules, pointing out that “in addition to the benefits of simpler and lower cost mounting, our reduced module weight decreases transportation costs and improves ease of handling.”

Testing was performed in two categories — environmental and mechanical. The environmental tests were a modified subset of the IEC-61215 protocol, a PV module performance standard used by the solar industry worldwide. Environmental testing included hail impact + 50 thermal cycles, 1,000 hours of damp heat exposure and 500 thermal cycles. The mechanical tests, including various bending and localized pressure tests, were custom designed by Fraunhofer CSE to simulate the forces a lightweight module would encounter during transportation and installation.

Giga Solar’s PV modules combine a unique, patent-pending composite with high-efficiency crystalline silicon solar cells to produce superior power-to-weight performance. The modules incorporate state-of-the-art materials that are designed for solar applications and are available in a wide range of power levels, sizes and weights, with numerous options regarding the junction box type and placement, according to the company. Unlike traditional modules that have a thin plastic film on the back, Giga Solar modules have a strong, rigid composite behind the cells.