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TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER OPPORTUNITY: Method for Mechanical Load Testing of Photovoltaic Modules with Concurrently Applied Stressors and Diagnostic Methods


a.      TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER OPPORTUNITY: Method for Mechanical Load Testing of Photovoltaic Modules with Concurrently Applied Stressors and Diagnostic Methods

This is a Technology Transfer Opportunity for a non-exclusive license to commercialize a newly developed and PV module testing platform that allows for simultaneous application of multiple stress factors of the natural environment.


Comprehensive design testing of PV modules is challenging. Typically, stresses at levels higher than those occurring in the natural environment are applied to achieve acceleration. These stress factors are usually applied in steady state, with fewer stress factors, or in combinations and sequences that do not reflect real world conditions. Also, stress tests are frequently designed around failure modes in existing designs that have already manifested in the field, limiting our ability to predict the potential occurrence of failures with new PV module materials and designs. Real-world load tests – required for modules in environments in which high wind or snow loading is commonplace – are difficult to replicate because currently used techniques cannot replicate the high frequency module vibration experienced in high winds while also thermally stressing the module, allowing for water ingress, and allowing exposure to light. Current methods for applying mechanical load to a module for mechanical testing obstruct significant amount of light from at least one side of the module whereas open rack systems, especially for bifacial modules, are designed for exposure to light from both faces of the module. While each of the stress factors are frequently applied in isolation, no current test for full size commercial PV modules can replicate the combination of stress factors as occurs in the natural environment in which they have been known unexpectedly fail, in part because of the limitation of commonly used stress tests.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed a PV module testing platform to simultaneously apply multiple stress factors of the natural environment (light, heat, moisture, system voltage, and mechanical stress) to achieve a comprehensive test of module durability. The simulation applies levels corresponding to the extremes of the conditions found in the natural environment using a four-cell mini module platform. We seek the scale up and commercialization of a system for full size modules with these five stress factors, including a system that applies an oscillating mechanical load to the edges of a PV module in such a way so as to avoid obstructing the active cell area. To achieve this, the module can be vibrated at its mounting points so that the interior of the module is rapidly displaced by its own momentum. Avoiding the obstruction of light this way, additional stressors including light, heat, moisture would be simultaneously applied the active area of the module such that they me be monitored by optical or electro-optical means to evaluate any module degradation in-situ. NREL is currently looking for partners to help with prototyping and commercialization of the combined- accelerated stress testing system for the evaluation of durability of full-size commercial PV modules.


National Renewable Energy Laboratory Information:

Licensing Information: National Renewable Energy Laboratory

Contact: Bill Hadley;; (303) 275 3015

License type: Non-Exclusive

Patent Status: Pending

NREL tracking number: 19-64


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