Photovoltaic Energy Modules Subject to New NREL Standards
Photovoltaic energy modules have been steadily dropping in price for several years.
To make sure that hardware quality doesn’t slip along with the cost of solar energy components, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has finalized a new international standard for solar panel manufacturing.
This standard marks the culmination of five years of research and work by the NREL, in collaboration with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the International PV Quality Assurance Task Force (PVQAT).
Consequently, photovoltaic manufacturers will soon be required to comply with the new regulations.
The Purpose of NREL Photovoltaic Standard
In preparing the new international photovoltaic energy standards, the NREL researched 50,000 photovoltaic systems, looking for quality issues.
They found that less than 1 percent of solar energy systems experienced hardware problems each year. In addition, only 0.1 percent of systems were affected by underperforming or damaged modules.
So, if photovoltaic modules are already this reliable, why create new manufacturing guidelines?
According to the NREL, roughly $100 billion is invested in solar energy every year. The standard was developed by the international solar industry to maintain the quality of that investment. As photovoltaic manufacturers follow the guidelines, then investors, utilities and consumers will gain confidence in solar energy and investment will continue.
What the Photovoltaic Standard Includes
The standard addresses three specific issues that can affect the quality and reliability of solar panels.
The new standards regulate durability testing for photovoltaic modules with various mounting configurations in different climates. Manufacturing consistency is also covered in the standard, with guidelines for factory inspections and quality assurance controls.
What Photovoltaic Energy Manufacturers Must Do
Once the international standard is formally adopted by the IEC, photovoltaic manufacturers will be required to follow the new rules.
Manufacturers will be required to identify any potential failure points for their solar panels, and then take any necessary steps to resolve those vulnerabilities. This may involve making changes at the design, production or application phases of manufacturing or in the delivery process.
Photovoltaic manufacturers also will be required to improve the traceability of their products throughout the entire supply chain, to better support recalls and warranty claims.
In addition, the standard mandates that photovoltaic energy manufacturers obtain IEC certification. As a part of this process, the PV manufacturers must implement an ongoing quality and reliability testing program to monitor solar panel performance. To ensure compliance with these regulations, regular factory audits will be completed.
Ultimately, the new NREL standards will result in an already-reliable technology becoming an even more consistent and worthwhile investment.
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