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Performance characterization efforts within the SunShot Systems Integration activities focus on collaborations with U.S. solar companies to:

  • Develop test protocols for determining the short-term and long-term performance, functionality, and safety of photovoltaic (PV) systems and their components
  • Identify new methods, instrumentation, and analysis techniques to evaluate new and improved PV products, materials, and processes
  • Quantify how different climate and site‐specific conditions affect system performance
  • Gather data on performance improvements and cost reductions within the industry
  • Provide industry support by implementing test protocols to monitor a select number of PV modules and/or systems at the DOE Regional Test Centers and other lab facilities.

Through comprehensive testing and evaluation, the solar industry identifies performance parameters, data, test protocols, and analysis methodologies. This leads to improvements in products and removes technical barriers to large-scale installations.

Performance characterization research and development (R&D) is being performed by DOE national laboratories.

National Laboratory R&D

National laboratory performance characterization R&D is being performed in the following areas:

Characterizing Emerging Technologies

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Sandia National Laboratories, with funding from DOE, are engaged in characterizing the performance of emerging PV technologies.

NREL is leveraging existing facilities, key infrastructure, and expertise to conduct laboratory-based R&D to:

  • Collect and analyze shared data sets for flat-plate PV module model validations
  • Characterize the performance of thin-film PV and concentrating PV (CPV) technologies
  • Characterize PV module-level power electronics
  • Provide baseline and performance characterization of PV modules deployed at the DOE Regional Test Centers.

Sandia is conducting fundamental R&D to address gaps in characterizing PV module, inverter, and balance of system (BOS) components. Specifically, Sandia is developing, validating, and publishing an integrated set of test and analysis procedures that will provide the basis for industry consensus on how to accurately characterize and model the performance of new and emerging PV technologies using available performance models. Sandia's proposed work in this area is divided into three task areas:

  • Module testing and characterization
  • Inverter testing and characterization
  • BOS and embedded power electronics testing and characterization.

New and emerging PV technologies offer the potential to increase the value of PV by lowering development and operations costs, increasing yield, and generally lowering levelized cost of energy (LCOE). Developing methods to accurately characterize these new and emerging PV technologies will directly contribute to the SunShot goals.

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Advanced Measurement and Modeling of PV Derate Factors

Sandia, with funding from DOE, is performing R&D activities to better quantify selected derates. Derates are the various factors that cause energy losses during the conversion of the available sunlight to electrical power delivered to the grid.

This project is contributing to the SunShot goals by improving the accuracy and reducing the uncertainty of PV performance model predictions through advanced measurement and analysis of PV derate factors. These goals are being achieved through a rigorous experimental program designed to formulate improved models and to elucidate more accurate model inputs. In particular, the experimental program is addressing derates associated with reduced incident irradiance and derates associated with system integration effects. The specific topic areas being addressed are:

  • Advanced laboratory soiling studies
  • Improved measurement and modeling of angle of incidence losses
  • Improved measurement and modeling of solar spectrum effects
  • Methods to quantify and predict the impact of mismatch losses on PV array performance.

Through this work, Sandia will advance measurement and modeling methods associated with the selected derates. In addition, this work will provide an analytical framework for evaluating technological approaches and innovations aimed at improving system performance.

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Quantifying Risk Through Bankability Reports and Standards: Providing a Technical Basis for Quantifying Degradation Rates and Derates

NREL, with funding from DOE, is investigating how to best quantify and communicate the long-term performance of new PV products.

This work enables and encourages the use of lower-cost PV products by:

  • Providing standards that streamline assessment of the bankability of new products, especially in the context of energy ratings and documentation of performance under all conditions
  • Applying draft test standards to select products
  • Quantifying and communicating PV derates and loss trees
  • Reducing the time needed to quantify degradation rates
  • Documenting and communicating degradation rates that are being observed as a basis for the community to assess risk as a function of climate, technology type, date of deployment, and other factors.

This effort will enable increased adoption of SunShot technologies and reduce PV costs by documenting long-term performance, developing tools that allow accurate predictions based on relatively short-term tests, and creating standards that enable the community to use these methods.

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