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 technologies.

T&E expertise at the lab encompasses a strong range of capabilities.  In its Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Lab and Distributed Energy Technologies Laboratory, Sandia tests components and systems to a high level of accuracy.

  • Modules tested indoors via Dark IV and/or InfraRed Imaging
  • Modules performance tested outdoors, on a 2-axis tracker with ~0.5 degree pointing accuracy
  • Performance testing such as Light IV (LIV) curves over full illumination and temperature range, thermal response at steady sky conditions, and Angle of Incidence (AOI)
  • Inverter testing, such as CEC protocol efficiency evaluations, performance evaluations, heat mitigation and reliability analysis
  • Systems testing: DC and AC level, LIV curves using Data Logger and Curve Tracer, point-in-time or performance tracking overtime
  • On-site weather and irradiance data collection
  • Micro-grid configurations, communications, controls and reliability
  • Cyber- and grid security

SNL is also working to develop new capabilities in response to changing markets and new technologies, such as thin films, advanced inverters, and CPV.  For example, the lab can customize its multi-sun tester to characterize CPV cells with an Isc less than 1 Amp, and can accommodate custom configurations to test junction-specific CPV device flaws through its multiple junction LBIC device characterization system.

The lab provides both raw data and detailed analysis to industry partners, and supplies data to modeling and analysis groups for model validation.  Sandia is dedicated to sharing the continued expansion and enhancement of its PV capabilities with the PV industry.  The lab transfers technology results and test methodologies to PV stakeholders and holds site visits to highlight the practical development and application of its research.