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PV module troubleshooting and measurement

Ding, Zihang (2012) PV module troubleshooting and measurement. Masters by Coursework thesis, Murdoch University.

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Over the past few years, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry has taken the lead in the market growth of the Australian renewable energy industry. Due to the steady manufacturing cost reduction and Australian government support, a great number of PV modules have been installed for domestic and commercial use.

It is well known that the performance of PV modules is greatly influenced by many factors, such as solar irradiance, ambient temperature and the angle of incidence. In addition, the output of PV systems gradually degrades over time under exposure to the sun and other environmental conditions, such as a high temperature and moisture. Normally, the limited warranty period of PV modules ranges from 20 to 25 years, which means the rate of degradation should be less than 1% per year. However, we found that some PV modules performed much worse than the normal ones and their outputs dropped much faster than the expected. Therefore, in any PV module troubleshooting, it is important to figure out the causes that result in dramatic power losses and measure the output of the proper PV modules under operating conditions over a long term.

A rated PV module refers to Standard Test Conditions (STC) of 1000 W/m2 solar irradiance, Air Mass AM1.5, and a cell or module temperature of 25 0C measured prior to outdoor exposure. However, module performance in real conditions is variable. Therefore, it is necessary to provide more information on a module in actual operating conditions over a long term.

This study is divided into two parts. The first part is a theoretical analysis of module degradation and troubleshooting techniques. The second part is mainly practical measurements for module degradation estimation. PV module performance measurements are used to obtain highly accurate output data from four different PV modules representing three different technologies: monocrystalline silicon (mc-Si), polycrystalline silicon (p-Si) and laser grooved buried contact crystalline silicon (LGBC, c-Si). Degradation rate estimation is based on comparisons of three groups of previous test results obtained in three different periods (2002, 2003 and 2007) by three PhD Murdoch University students. Finally, a verification process by a simulator is briefly introduced.

Publication Type: Thesis (Masters by Coursework)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Engineering and Energy
Supervisor: Djordjevic, Sinisa and Pryor, Trevor
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