Developing Cost-Effective, Reliable PV Energy Systems and Accelerating the Integration of PV Technology

Sandia provides the technical lead for systems integration and balance-of-systems manufacturing technologies as well as technical support to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in deployment and validation of PV systems for federal agencies, utilities, and other institutional users. Sandia assists industry and users by providing technical assistance, accurate performance measurements, component development and improvement, and system evaluation. A major thrust of the department is to evaluate and improve the performance, reliability, and cost effectiveness of systems and balance-of-systems components.

Sandia’s PV research staff work collaboratively with DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Program, the U.S. photovoltaic industry, other government agencies and national laboratories, and international organizations to increase the worldwide use of PV power systems by reducing cost, improving reliability, increasing performance, removing barriers, and growing markets.

PV Programs

Today’s energy world requires dynamic, innovative thinking and the flexibility to rapidly accommodate changing market demands. The solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has advanced significantly in recent years, yet the PV world of tomorrow has only been imagined. Sandia National Laboratories contributes to the advancement of PV technology through research in advanced PV technologies, such as III-V thin cells, and advanced small and thin c-Si. The lab also offers extensive experience and expertise in systems integration, micro-fabrication, MEMS and microsystem technologies, semiconductor device technology, and advanced PV systems analysis.

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The Grid Integration Program at Sandia National Laboratories addresses technical barriers to large-scale deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) generation in grid-tied power systems. Sandia’s Grid Integration research focuses on three primary tasks related to high-penetration PV:

  • Expanding and disseminating technical knowledge and understanding related to grid performance, reliability, forecasting, and costs of integration
  • Developing integrated solutions to optimize the balance between energy generation, storage, and consumption through new technologies and advanced controls, at local and regional levels
  • Performance standards and codes
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The Photovoltaic (PV) Modeling and Analysis team addresses technical challenges to simulating the performance of PV systems in the field exposed to different weather and environmental conditions. Sandia organizes its efforts in three primary thrusts:

  • Industry Outreach and Technical Leadership
  • Model Algorithm Development
  • Model Validation
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The solar photovoltaics (PV) Test & Evaluation (T&E) program at Sandia National Laboratories is a critical part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Program (SETP) technology pipeline. The lab supports SETP’s goals by defining and applying procedures for evaluating performance, supporting development of new and improvement of existing technologies, and providing skilled testing and evaluation of all PV components, including cells, modules, inverters, and Balance-of-Systems (BOS). Sandia also conducts full system testing, through which the interactions and reliability of total PV systems can be evaluated, and contributes to the development of critical national and international PV codes and standards. The goals of Sandia’s T&E program include improved PV system performance, reduced levelized cost of energy (LCOE), and an enhanced market for PV te
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Sandia recognizes that even the best components and materials need to work in concert with other elements to ensure the quality and reliability of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems. The PV Systems Reliability program at Sandia National Laboratories (SNL) evaluates the reliability of PV systems as a function of design, installation, components, and the application. The focus in the lab’s reliability testing is on how it improves the design and composition of total PV systems. Each component is evaluated with respect to how it performs and interacts within a given system, not just how it functions independently. In order to be classified as reliable, elements must meet intended performance metrics, under specific environmental conditions, at a given point in time.

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Sandia’s Market Transformation efforts exist at the intersection of technology, economics, and policy & regulations. We address market barriers and transactional costs of solar projects across the United States. This large market is actually a patchwork of solar markets on a state-by-state level. Despite excellent solar resources throughout much of the country, many states lack a cohesive framework that can support a strong solar market. Sandia’s Market Transformation activities address policy and regulatory barriers, utility business and operational challenges, and a range of business models and financing approaches.

The Market Transformation effort is active in regulatory/policy, codes, and standards; utility operations and programs; finance; permitting, inspection, and interconnection; installation; and siting.

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Today’s energy world requires dynamic, innovative thinking and the flexibility to rapidly accommodate changing market demands. The solar photovoltaics (PV) industry has advanced significantly in recent years, yet the PV world of tomorrow has only been imagined. Sandia National Laboratories contributes to the advancement of PV technology through research in advanced PV technologies, such as III-V thin cells, and advanced small and thin c-Si. The lab also offers extensive experience and expertise in systems integration, micro-fabrication, MEMS and microsystem technologies, semiconductor device technology, and advanced PV systems analysis.

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PV Facilities

PSEL fact sheet

The Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Laboratory (PSEL) provides expertise and test support within several facilities and outdoor sites for evaluating PV and other distributed energy hardware. It includes the following capabilities:

  • PV systems evaluations and optimization
  • field testing of arrays and systems in collaboration with system integrators
  • performance testing for modules, arrays, power inverters, charge controllers, and batteries
  • diagnosis of module reliability issues with manufacturing consultation
  • complete performance characterization of PV cells and photo sensors
  • calibration of PV reference cells, reference modules, and solar instruments
  • performance measurements on multiple, interacting distributed energy sources
  • on-site education and training on the attributes and limitations of photovoltaic and other distributed energy systems

DETL fact sheet

The Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory (DETL) is an extension of the power electronics testing capabilities of PSEL. DETL is configured as a 480V, 3-phase microgrid with interconnections to the utility grid and to various distributed energy resources including PV inverters, microturbines, fuel cells, reciprocating engine-generators, and electrical energy storage systems. DETL provides expertise and test support to perform the following functions:

  • Grid-connected performance evaluations (e.g., efficiency, distortion, power factor, response to abnormal grid conditions)
  • Off-grid (stand-alone) performance evaluations (e.g., transient response, compatibility with various load types, voltage and frequency regulations)
  • Specialized tests (e.g., radio-frequency emissions, “non-islanding inverter,” interactions of multiple sources on a common microgrid, surge tolerance)

MESA Fact Sheet
Sandia’s primary mission is ensuring the U.S. nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, reliable, and can fully support the Nation’s deterrence policy. Employing only the most advanced and failsafe technologies to fulfill our responsibilities as stewards of the nuclear stockpile, Sandia is responsible for the development, design and maintenance of approximately 90 percent of the several thousand parts found in any given weapon system, including radiation-hardened microelectronics. In support of this mission, Sandia National Laboratories has a significant role in advancing the “state-of-the-art” in microsystems research and development and in introducing microsystems into the nuclear stockpile. Microsystems incorporate radiation-hardened microelectronics as well as other advanced components such as micromachines, optoelectronics, and photonic systems. The MESA Complex is designed to integrate the numerous scientific disciplines necessary to produce functional, robust, integrated microsystems and represents the center of Sandia’s investment in microsystems research, development, and prototyping activities. This suite of facilities encompasses approximately 400,000 square feet and includes cleanroom facilities, laboratories and offices.

Contacts

Photovoltaic and Grid Integration Manager
Abraham Ellis, Ph: 505.844.7717

PV Testing and Evaluation
Bruce King, Ph: 505.284.6571

PV Systems Reliability, Manufacturing, and Diagnostics
Olga Lavrova, Ph: 505-845-3166

Modeling and Analysis
Joshua Stein, Ph: 505.845.0936

Arc-Fault Detection and Mitigation
Jay Johnson, Ph: 505.284.9586

Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory
Sigifredo Gonzalez, Ph: 505.845.8942

PV Systems Evaluation Laboratory
Bruce King, Ph: 505.284.6571

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Sandia Pilot Program to Assist Small Clean-Energy Companies

The DOE chose Sandia as one of five leads in a pilot that will give small, clean-energy companies access to national laboratory expertise and resources. Sandia will receive $2.75M of DOE’s $20M investment to launch […]

Navy/Marine Engineering Command Visits Sandia

Steven Chung, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Southwest (NAVFAC SW),1 Dwight Deakin, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR),2 Melanie Anderson (NAVAIR PAX River), and David Weir, Marine Corps Installations–West (MCIWEST-MCB Camp Pendleton)3 visited Sandia June 24–25 to […]

Australian Renewable-Energy Official Visits Sandia

At the end of June, Louise Vickery, General Manager, Renewable Futures at the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) visited Sandia.

ARENA manages the Australian government’s commitment to improve the competitiveness of renewable energy technologies and to […]

Sandia Researcher Recognized at SunSpec Alliance Annual Meeting

Sandia solar researcher Jay Johnson (in Sandia’s Photovoltaics and Distributed Systems Dept.) attended the SunSpec Alliance Annual Member’s Meeting in San Francisco last Spring and received the 2015 SunSpec McCulloch-Pitts Award in recognition of “innovation, […]