What is Photovoltaic System Design and Energy Yield?

Research in photovoltaic (PV) system design and energy yield aims to understand how solar installations can be best configured and operated to maximize the amount of electricity the system will generate over the course of its service lifetime while minimizing costs. Energy yield is the amount of energy actually harvested from solar panels, taking into consideration external factors like heat, dirt, and shade, whereas efficiency refers to testing done in lab conditions.

Research in this area is focused on improving the value of PV systems by increasing their annual energy production, reducing system capital expenditures, lowering the operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, and ensuring this value is understood by everyone associated with the PV system life cycle. Learn more about how PV technology works.

Why is PV System Design and Energy Yield important?

As more utilities rely on clean energy to meet customer demands, PV system design and energy yield research is critical to develop systems that deliver the maximum possible solar energy. Optimizing the design and construction of PV systems to maximize annual energy yield can have a significant impact on the overall cost. More accurate energy yield models can also affect the cost of the system by reducing the financing costs, because these models determine how panels and other system components meet expectations for output. Consistently meeting those expectations reduces financing risk for solar projects.

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 its 2030 cost target of $0.02 per kilowatt hour (kWh) for utility-scale PV. Learn more about SETO’s PV goals.

SETO Research in PV System Design and Energy Yield

SETO’s research in this area includes developing system designs and hardware components that reduce the detrimental impact of soiling, module operating temperature, partial shading, and other sources of power loss during system operation. Research in this topic also covers the development of tools, techniques, and platforms for the measurement, analysis, characterization, and prediction of system performance and energy yield, including big data analysis to better understand performance or optimize O&M schedules. SETO also manages the PV Fleet Performance Data Initiative, which collects and analyzes nationwide PV plant operation data to provide plant owners and operators with confidential, detailed assessments of the performance of their fleet and sets benchmarks for the performance of the entire U.S. solar fleet. Several of SETO’s funding programs have projects that focus on PV system design and energy yield:

To view specific PV system design and energy yield 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.