NREL-led consortium releases PV reliability forecasting tools


The Durable Module Materials (DuraMAT) consortium, established by the United States Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technology Office (SETO), has released its latest annual report with news about the availability of new PV forecasting tools and new research about certain module degradation trends.

DuraMAT reported the results of its focus on reliability forecasting in 2023, driven by the observation that the PV industry is “innovating so quickly that the performance of modules in the field is no longer always a reliable indicator of what will happen in the future.”

“We awarded six projects under our reliability forecasting call this year,” said Teresa Barnes, DuraMAT director and DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researcher in a press release.

The reliability forecasting projects addressed ultraviolet-induced degradation, glass fracture mechanics, and degradation mechanisms in encapsulants, as well as how to do faster analysis of failure data. As a result, DuraMAT now has a suite of software tools and data sets, some of which rely on quantitative modeling and rapid validation technologies. The tools cover topics such as mechanical models for materials, wind loading, fracture mechanics, moisture diffusion, and irradiance, and are available in the DuraMAT Data Hub.

“Drawing insights from all these areas should give us the capability to predict the long-term reliability of new module designs,” stated Barnes.

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Two degradation mechanisms that received special attention from DuraMAT in 2023 are cell cracking and ultraviolet (UV) degradation. “Cracked cells are a challenge for the solar industry because they can reduce output but often go unnoticed,” said the team. Studies were carried out on quantifying and addressing cell cracking.

“Researchers found that some newer modules with many busbars, half-cut cells, and glass–glass encapsulation are more tolerant of cracked cells and less likely to show power loss,” it said. An outcome of the research is WhatsCracking, a free cell fracture prediction application to assist in making modules that are less sensitive to cell breakage. For example, designing modules that rotate half-cells at 90-degree angles to reduce the chance of cracking under load, as reported in pv magazine. The WhatsCracking app is one of the tools in the DuraMAT Data Hub.

DuraMAT researchers also found that UV-induced degradation is a significant issue in certain high-efficiency products. “These results are important, as the increased degradation related to UV exposure in modern cell types may offset some of the gains predicted from bifacial and other high-efficiency cells,” said the team, adding that DuraMAT will be starting new work to quantify this type of degradation in 2024.

The DuraMAT consortium, which is led by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with participation by Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, includes a 22-member board of solar industry professionals.

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