MOU launches collaboration to study photovoltaic performance and reliability worldwide

May 2, 2019 3:15 pm Published by

An international community of research institutions, led by Sandia National Laboratories and committed to sharing high-fidelity data to advance photovoltaic (PV) research and expand solar markets, will celebrate the signing of its Memorandum of Understanding at a face-to-face meeting in Munich, Germany, on May 14th.

Called the Photo-Voltaic Collaborative to Advance Multiclimate Performance and Energy Research—or PV CAMPER—the organization provides a unique platform for studying photovoltaic performance and reliability in multiple, diverse environments and climates.  “What we’ve created is a network of research-grade field sites around the world that allows members to share data with confidence,” said Project Lead and Principal Investigator Laurie Burnham, “but PV CAMPER also works because of its collegiality—there’s a real trust and comradery to the work we’re doing, each learning and building off the other, challenging best practices, and collaborating with organizations that share the same values.”

Location of PV CAMPER member institutions is shown on this Köppen-Geiger climate classification map.

Burnham said the idea for PV CAMPER came out of a meeting in April 2017, when she was in South Korea to present on the Regional Test Center (RTC) program. The RTC program supports studies of emerging solar technologies at multiple field sites in the US and is managed by Sandia for the U.S. Department of Energy. While there, an impromptu gathering of what would become the group’s core participants led to a discussion about replicating the RTC concept globally. From that first meeting, the idea for the collaborative expanded, and the core group has now grown from five to 10, with more members likely.

PV CAMPER organizations have a common goal, Burnham said, to transition the world to a more solar-intensive future. The umbrella organization will offer:

  • a repository of high-fidelity meteorological and PV performance data from geographically and climatically diverse sites;
  • broad expertise in areas of PV research such as soiling-losses, the uncertainty drivers impacting solar- energy yields (cloud persistence, moisture, airborne particulates) and spectral responsiveness;
  • and data to support the design and optimization of PV systems for specific operating environments, helping to increase markets and expand the solar industry, she said.

Burnham said each organization has agreed to, as stated in the MOU to be signed in Munich, transmit data daily to a cloud database, where it can be accessed by members of the collaborative; adopt PV CAMPER baseline characterization and operation and management protocols; participate in collaborative research and development; and attend regular conference calls and at least one annual face-to-face meeting.

PV CAMPER currently has 10 signatory organizations, including Sandia National Laboratories in the United States of America; Universidad Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC) in Brazil;  Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, and Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics (CSP) in Germany; Institut de Recherche Energie Solaire et Energies Nouvelles(IRESEN) in Morocco; Qatar Environment & Energy Research Institute in Qatar; Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) in Singapore; and Yeungnam University, Korean Institute for Energy Research (KIER), and Korea Testing Laboratory (KTL) in South Korea. Other institutions are lining up to join.

The Department of Energy has funded Sandia’s leadership of PV CAMPER for one year, Burnham said, to help get the collaborative off the ground. The other 9 signatories self-fund their participation, she said, and may assume leadership roles in the future, depending on funding and what the collaborative deems best.

“What matters is that the consortium is seen as a high-value endeavor by a growing number of institutions, and serves as a catalyst for collaboration in the global transition to a low-carbon economy,” she said.