PV Performance and Reliability

Improving the design and composition of PV systems by ensuring consistent performance to meet intended metrics

Sandia’s research in PV performance and reliability focuses on improving the ability of PV systems to consistently meet intended performance metrics under specific environmental conditions. Reliability testing at Sandia includes five primary tasks:

  • Predictive model development
  • Real-time reliability studies
  • Accelerated and diagnostic testing
  • Industry outreach and standards support
  • Mitigation and failure analysis efforts

The lab uses field operations and maintenance (O&M), degradation studies, failure data from integrators and utility partners, and detailed statistical models to develop systems-level models. These models can be applied by researchers and industry to help determine ways to overcome reliability issues and accelerate high penetration of PV technologies. Sandia also conducts real-time degradation studies such as Accelerated Life Testing and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. Sandia has also partnered with a utility to create a data-driven Reliability Block Diagram and gather O&M data to generate failure statistics. This input contributes to the Labs’ PV Reliability and Availability Predictive Model (PVRAM). Some key activities include the following:

Sandia leads the PV Performance and Modeling Collaborative, or PVPMC, a group of PV professionals interested in improving the accuracy and technical rigor of PV performance models and analyses. Sandia provides the PVLIB and PVGrid Toolboxes, open source libraries of PV, and grid modeling functions in Matlab. PVLIB for Python is also available. The Sandia hosts PVPMC workshops in the United States and internationally.

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Sandia’s well-known PV Array Performance Model (SAPM) is considered by many to be the most accurate model capable of representing a wide range of PV technologies. The semi-empirical model is calibrated from outdoor testing of PV modules and is included as part of several public/commercial PV performance models, such as PVsyst, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s System Assessment Model (SAM), PVSIM from SunPower, and many others.

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The DOE SunShot Initiative established five RTCs across the United States to validate the performance and reliability of PV technologies. These test centers, located in a wide range of climates, provide high quality data monitoring and operations and maintenance for outdoor performance evaluations of new PV technologies. Over 15 industry partners are working with the RTCs.
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Sandia’s researchers conduct a range of modeling and analysis activities aimed at developing a detailed understanding of PV system performance and reliability beyond the PV module. A systems approach is especially beneficial because PV system designs and applications are changing rapidly. Sandia systems research explores new frontiers in designs and operating strategies for PV components and systems.