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.

Reliability testing at Sandia includes five primary tasks:

  • predictive model development,
  • real-time reliability studies,
  • accelerated and diagnostic testing,
  • industry outreach and standards support and
  • mitigation and failure analysis efforts.

The lab uses field operations and maintenance (O&M), degradation studies, failure data from integrator 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.

In conjunction with industry, the lab conducts real-time degradation studies such as Accelerated Life Testing (ALT) and Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA).  SNL 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 lab’s PV Reliability and Availability Predictive Model (PVRAM).

Additional experience in SNL’s reliability testing includes field testing, non-destructive diagnostics, accelerated testing, adhesion, polymers, films, inverters, packaging, metallurgy, finite element modeling, and plating.

For  more information about PV systems and reliability at Sandia National  Laboratories, contact Rob Sorensen, (505) 844-5558.