FACILITATOR: Dr. Lawrence Pratt
Visit the CSIR photovoltaic module quality and reliability testing facility
The photovoltaic (PV) module quality and reliability testing facility on the CSIR’s Pretoria campus supports the domestic solar PV industry with aspects of industrial development, research, quality and reliability assurance, knowledge generation and human capital development.
Join us for this tour, during which you will be able to see a testing laboratory that is the first of its kind in Africa. The facility includes world-class equipment for localising accelerated reliability stress testing on PV modules to ensure that only high-quality modules that are suitable to the uniquely South African climate are developed and installed.
Your host, CSIR Principal Researcher Dr Lawrence Pratt, and his team will introduce and explain the function of the lab’s specialised equipment, including environmental chambers to simulate real-world environmental conditions. These include:
- Thermal cycling of modules from -40 °C to 85 °C for 200, 400 and 600 cycles to simulate stress from thermal expansion and contraction;
- Humidity freeze testing: 85 °C / 85% RH for 20 hours and a -40 °C freeze for 10, 20 and 30 cycles to stress the lamination and adhesion strength of the PV module;
- Damp heat testing: 85 °C / 85% RH for 1 000 hours, 2 000 hours, with and without electrical bias, to stress the adhesion and insulation of the PV module; and
- Mechanical load testing: static and dynamic load for simulating transportation, installation and wind loads that may lead to broken cells and weakened interconnections.
A key instrument in simulating real-world environmental conditions is the sun simulator. This device outputs a dose of energy nearly equivalent to the sun’s energy and spectrum, but only for a fraction of a second. This is just enough time to accurately and precisely record the current, voltage and power output of the PV module across various temperatures (15 °C and 75 °C) and light intensities (200 W/m2 to 1100 W/m2). The sun simulator is also used to compare the output of the PV module as measured at the factory against an independent standard.
Make sure you get an opportunity to view this simulator and learn from the experts. The CSIR’s PV lab team will be delighted to answer all your questions.