Project Name: Non-Contact Simultaneous String-Modules I-V Tracer
Funding Opportunity: PVRD2
SETO Subprogram: Photovoltaics
Location: Tempe, AZ
SETO Award Amount: $709,999
Awardee Cost Share: $79,000
Principal Investigator: Govindasamy Tamizhmani

This project examines new field characterization methods that allow for the rapid and accurate characterization of photovoltaic (PV) modules under operating conditions. Existing methods for characterizing fielded module performance at high granularity are expensive and time consuming, and have been unable to reliably account for differences between lab and fielded conditions. Understanding these differences is vital when attempting to track the physical causes of various changes in performance observed in the field. A combination of measurement development, algorithms, and physical understanding are combined to produce methods to enable accurate degradation science and fielded performance monitoring to be conducted on large populations of modules in order to enable the continuous detection of variations in the physical behavior of modules under operation.


The research team is working to develop a 1500 volt I-V curve tracer that can simultaneously and safely measure the I-V curves of a string and the individual modules within the string without disconnecting and reconnecting the high voltage connectors of the modules. This includes testing the non-contact I-V tracer at the university’s outdoor arrays and at currently functioning power plants through the active participation of utility companies, operations and maintenance service providers, and independent engineers.


The new non-contact I-V tracer will result in the ability to quickly identify the underperforming modules within a string and locate the malfunctioning connectors. Additionally, the non-contact measurement ability will help improve the safety of the test personnel in the field as well as decrease the commissioning and operations and maintenance costs related to I-V measurements due to reduced labor hours.