Solar Regional Test Center in Vermont Achieves Milestone Installation

Dr. Danielson and Sen. Sanders attend ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the newly installed PV arrays at the Williston, Vermont, RTC site.

Dr. Danielson and Sen. Sanders attend ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate the newly installed PV arrays at the Williston, Vermont, RTC site.

The solar industry is now more than 60% of the way toward achieving the DOE SunShot Initiative affordability goal of $0.06 per kilowatt-hour for solar electricity. Meeting the last 40% without compromising quality will be challenging.

To help US industry demonstrate and validate that new PV technologies can consistently perform over time, the DOE —in partnership with Sandia and NREL—estab­lished five Regional Test Centers (RTCs, video) across the nation to help accelerate the adoption of innovative solar technologies. Funded by SunShot, the RTCs provide industry and other key stake­holders with sites in distinct climates. These sites also have the grid connection, technical expertise, and high-fidelity data monitoring systems needed to

  • validate PV components and systems, including modules, inverters, and other smart-grid technologies;
  • verify PV performance-prediction models;
  • collect detailed operations and maintenance data;
  • assess PV module quality, degradation rates, and system reliability issues; and
  • investigate the role of environmental factors on PV technologies’ reliability, durability, and safety.

The RTC near Burlington, Vermont, which provides performance data in a harsh northern climate and supports research related to PV integration into Vermont’s state-wide smart grid, recently achieved a major milestone with the commissioning of two PV systems, representing a total of 66 kW. Another 100 kW or more of additional systems are in the pipeline.

Sandia researcher Laurie Burnham discusses the RTCs’ technical approach with the assembled guests.

Sandia researcher Laurie Burnham discusses the RTCs’ technical approach with the assembled guests.

The significance of this keystone installation at the Vermont RTC was acknowledged by a visit to the site on September 3rd by DOE Assistant Secretary David Danielson (leader of the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

rtcThe exacting validation standards of the RTCs support bankability of emerging products and help increase investor confidence in novel technical approaches. The RTCs can accommodate multiple solar technologies, including crystalline and thin-film modules, fixed-tilt and tracker systems, and advanced (UL and non-UL) electronics. They can also support PV systems ranging in size from 10 to 100 kW and can monitor performance at the system and component levels. US manufacturers accepted into the RTC program can have identical PV installations assessed at each of the five regional sites:

Location Climate Site Host Institution / Managed by
New Mexico hot-dry National Solar Thermal Test Facility & Photovoltaic Systems Evaluation Lab/Sandia
Colorado steppe Solar Technology Acceleration Center/NREL
Nevada hot-dry Las Vegas Valley Water District/University of Nevada Center for Energy Research & Sandia
Florida hot-humid Florida Solar Energy Center
Vermont cold-humid IBM/Sandia

To partner with the RTCs, please follow this link to the RTC Team page.

Read the EERE news release.