TÜV Rheinland unveiled a new module testing program this week, which the organization says will raise the bar in monitoring, testing, and recognition of PV module quality. The program, Quality Controlled PV certification, comprises testing that goes well beyond industry standards; and includes testing of samples selected directly from running production lines, as well as ongoing monitoring of suppliers and materials to ensure consistent standards.
Having worked closely with TÜV in developing the program at its research facility in Thalheim, Germany, Q Cells has become the first manufacturer to receive the certification and says it will now adopt this as its official certification standard.
“TÜV Rheinland has defined a catalog of tests that establish additional qualities that go beyond the standard level of approval and safety qualification,” said Lukas Jakisch, Business Field Manager for PV modules at TÜV Rheinland. “Surveillance of a manufacturer’s production process – where we perform tests on samples taken at random every month – seeks to identify a consistent level of oversight, with a special focus on reliability and material properties as well as supplier change control.”
The program comprises three stages. Initially, modules are put through their paces through the usual cycles of damp heat, mechanical stress, and thermal cycling, at durations up to three times those specified in the IEC standards. Additional testing also aims to weed out any susceptibility to backsheet weathering or UV sensitivity, and other well known but not fully understood failure modes, such as potential induced degradation and light elevated temperature-induced degradation.
The second two phases, once testing has established initial quality, focus on ensuring that standards are upheld both in manufacturing and procurement of materials. TÜV Rheinland representatives monitor materials used in production and audits of their suppliers, and conduct onsite monitoring of production, selecting samples direct off the line for further testing.
TÜV Rheinland also says it will continually update the new program as and when new standards are introduced. Here, Q Cells also says it has plenty more to offer. “We continue to conduct and develop a number of additional test programs in parallel – each designed to deliver and ensure improvements in solar module quality,” said Nicole Nelles, Head of global quality management at Q Cells. “The aim is to integrate them into the Quality Controlled PV program so that it is continuously evolving with the times.”
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“Q Cells is very pleased to have become the first solar module manufacturer to receive TÜV Rheinland’s Quality Controlled PV certification of quality,” Nelles continued. “The independent TÜV Rheinland representative’s continuous surveillance, as well as the regular material inspections, turn this program into something unique in the industry.”
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