What is Photovoltaic Reliability and Standards Development?

The reliability of photovoltaic (PV) systems refers to the ability of these technologies to dependably produce power over a long and predictable service lifetime. The ability to stand up to a variety of weather conditions also contributes to the reliability of these systems. Developing consistent, industry-wide standards to measure reliability in PV systems is also necessary for widespread adoption of these technologies.

Research in this topic aims to understand what causes degradation and power loss in PV modules and systems, how their reliability and durability can be improved, and how to ensure high-quality products capable of long lifetimes. Learn more about how PV technology works.

Why is PV Reliability and Standards Development Important?

Developing solar products that will last for decades reduces the cost of PV systems by 1) distributing the initial construction costs over a longer timeframe; 2) reducing financing risk by better predicting the evolution of a PV system’s output over its lifetime, and 3) reducing maintenance costs and unforeseen outages that lead to lost revenue. Improving reliability and developing consistent standards is useful for solar manufacturers and developers, financing parties, and engineering, procurement, and construction professionals, as it can help these parties align on lifetime, operations, and maintenance costs, as well as degradation models.

Research in this topic supports the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) goals of improving the affordability, performance, and value of solar technologies on the grid, and meeting cost targets of $0.03 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for utility-scale PV, $0.04 per kWh for commercial PV, and $0.05 per kWh for residential PV. Learn more about SETO’s goals.

SETO Research in PV Reliability and Standards Development

SETO’s research in this topic tackles problems from small to large scale to improve both component and system lifetimes. This includes using data from modules in the field to inform and improve on future system performance. Incorporating lessons learned from operating systems can also reduce uncertainty, which in turn can reduce financing costs. These initiatives support SETO’s overall goals by facilitating the industry to extend system lifetimes up to 50 years. Several of SETO’s funding programs have projects that focus on PV reliability and standards development:

  • Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2019 funding program – improving the performance, cost, and reliability of technologies currently on the market, working with new materials that can lower the cost of PV-generated electricity, and exploring ways to increase the lifetime energy output from PV arrays.
  • Solar Energy Technologies Office Lab Call FY19-21 funding program – increasing the efficiency of PV cells, lowering material and process costs for PV manufacturing, and improving the reliability and durability of PV modules.
  • Solar Energy Technologies Office Fiscal Year 2018 funding program – advancing early-stage research to increase performance, reduce materials and processing costs, and improve reliability of PV cells, modules, and systems.
  • Durable Module Materials (DuraMat) Laboratory Consortium – accelerating the development and deployment of durable, high-performance materials for PV modules to lower the cost of electricity generated by solar power while increasing field lifetime.

To view specific PV reliability and standards development projects, search the Solar Energy Research Database.

Additional Resources

Learn more about PV research, other solar energy research in SETO, and current and former funding programs.