The focus of the testing, evaluation, and reliability research and development (R&D) activities is to advance photovoltaic (PV) hardware, which includes PV systems, components, devices, and materials. This activity is grouped into two categories: testing and evaluation (T&E), and reliability. Based on the information collected through these activities, the Solar Program can validate the performance of solar technologies through the Solar Advisor Model (SAM).
The Solar Program funds research with the industry and national laboratories to encourage R&D in these areas, with support of the Systems Integration subprogram.
The T&E efforts focus on collaborations with U.S. solar companies to develop and evaluate new and improved PV products, materials, or processes; remove technical barriers to large-scale installations; and gather data on performance improvements and cost reductions within the industry.
The T&E activity evaluates hardware through Solar Program-funded solicitations, like the Technology Pathway Partnerships, Solar Energy Grid Integration Systems, and PV Incubators, and directly from U.S. manufacturers and researchers.
Through comprehensive testing and evaluation, the solar industry identifies performance parameters, data reports and analyses, test protocols, and analysis methodologies. This leads to improvements in product and test protocols and a better understanding of processes and the environmental impacts of materials used in the manufacturing process.
To meet these goals, U.S. solar companies have access to the unique capabilities and facilities at the national laboratories.
Reliability R&D focuses on testing PV modules and systems for long-term performance and helping investors, consumers, and companies predict the long-term performance.
Reliability projects focus on real-time reliability R&D, accelerated testing to evaluate how modules and systems will perform over time, and industry workshop and standards support.
PV reliability research is a priority for many in the solar industry, ranging from project planners to members of the financial community to manufacturers. As a result, the Solar Program funds projects at national laboratories and expects solar companies to demonstrate reliability as a key aspect of technology development.
Quantifying long-term performance and reliability helps to accelerate PV market penetration by improving customer confidence and enables manufacturers and project developers to better understand and predict product lifetimes, long-term performance, and operations and maintenance requirements.
These activities also leverage the Solar Program’s investments in PV test equipment, facilities, and research at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.