Veteran Solar Panels Give Rare Insight into Durability

Professor Tonio Buonassisi and his team at the MIT Photovoltaics Research Laboratory are testing two veteran solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, which give the researchers a rare insight into the durability of panels that are 30 or more years old. The MIT researchers are partnering with Fraunhofer CSE to gather data about power output, material, and solar cell condition of the panels.

MIT Research Specialists Mariela Lizet Castillo and Jim Serdy, visiting researcher Liu Zhe, Fraunhofer CSE Lab Engineer Alliston Watts, and Dr. Cordula Schmid, lead of the PV group at CSE, look at the old specimen of the solar photovoltaic panel and it almost seems like it is from another era of manufacturing photovoltaics.

Veteran solar PV module gives MIT and Fraunhofer CSE researchers rare insight into durability of solar PV. Module shown by courtesy of MIT.

Veteran solar PV module gives MIT and Fraunhofer CSE researchers rare insight into durability of solar PV. Module shown by courtesy of MIT.

Yet, first results show that the panel works. “This is an exciting opportunity”, says Schmid, and points out that PV researchers rarely have the chance to compare fielded PV modules that are older than 30 years with the same module type, which has been in storage for the same amount of time. Schmid has been testing modern PV panels from different manufacturers as part of a Fraunhofer program, the PV Module Durability Initiative, to acquire much wanted data on the durability of panels. Because the PV industry is young, there is not much data on older modules.

In this case, the researchers are lucky. Through a collaboration with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), MIT has access to another panel of the same series, that was in storage and can thus compare the effect of outdoor/storage conditions on the power output. MIT and Fraunhofer are performing electroluminescence, I-V curve, FTIR, and sun simulator tests to gather data about the panels’ material and performance.

Read more about the MIT Photovoltaics Research Laboratory.

Read more about Fraunhofer’s PV Module Durability Initiative.

 

About author

Anne Williams is Fraunhofer CSE’s Marketing Coordinator. She works with the Center’s staff to foster CSE’s business relations and make its activities known to the public.

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