PV Module Specifications Upgrade for Extreme Environmental Conditions

Middle East and Africa Renewable Energy Summit 2021

Renewable energy experts explore the impact of the region’s high temperatures and extreme environmental conditions on the rapidly expanding photovoltaic (PV) market. Gulf Renewable Labs (GRL) in partnership with UL shares an in-depth analysis of PV module specifications and their compatibility with the desert environment.

• Learn how to select proper module technology specifications and standards for high temperatures and desert conditions
• Gain insights into study phases
• Access recorded study data and its significance for the specification of PV modules

Colleen O’Brien, principal engineer at UL
Mohammed Alghamdi, renewable lab supervisor at Gulf Renewables Lab

In this presentation, Colleen O’Brien, principal engineer at UL, and Mohammed Alghamdi, renewable lab[VVZ1] supervisor at Gulf Renewables Lab (GRL), explored the impact of the Middle East and Africa’s high temperatures and extreme environmental conditions on the rapidly expanding photovoltaic (PV) market.

Colleen started the presentation by providing an overview of why risk management matters:

“PV systems are installed in locations that are close to people, and sometimes they come in contact with people. Most systems operate at current and voltage levels that can cause shock or fire risk, and mechanical injury is also an additional risk. Extreme environments can increase the risk of safety and performance issues, and industry standards can help address these increased risks.”

Colleen provided an overview of UL’s global engagement in the development of standards that address PV market needs and the testing services that are required for PV projects. UL’s holistic approach encompasses a range of testing services, including safety, quality, performance, durability and reliability.

In the presentation, Colleen explored the typical environments assumed in PV standards and how environments in the Middle East and Africa exceed these limits, with high temperatures, dust, wind load and hailstorms. She went on to provide an overview of standards considerations for extreme environments, including air temperature, module temperature, wind load, corrosivity, abrasion, hail and mounting.

Mohammed gave an overview of GRL and its testing capabilities, including information about its outdoor test field. He provided information about comprehensive studies GRL had conducted in extreme conditions and provided recommendations based on these studies on the upgrade of PV module specifications. Six different technologies and over 100 modules were tested in the study, being exposed to harsh environments and monitored for 12 months.

Giving recommendations, he said:

“To detect degradation of power performance in PV modules, we recommend carrying out annual inspections and testing of the modules, including I-V measurements, EL and IR test, especially for utility-scale PV systems with significant wind loads. Also, at module temperatures of approximately 70 degrees Celsius or less, the existing test and certification standards issued by the IEC are sufficient in their present form and testing requirements. However, central areas in large open-rack-style PV arrays may experience higher temperatures, and Level 1 80 degrees Celsius or less testing may be a reasonable consideration for these situations. These effects are minimized by providing thermal breaks of 2.5 centimeters between modules, and higher temperatures were observed when stacking three modules in landscape orientation or two in portrait orientation.”

Other recommendations provided insights on the effects of soiling, sand movement and contamination, and the expansion and contraction of the metal structure.

link to view the recording: https://www.ul.com/resources/middle-east-and-africa-renewable-energy-summit

View case study: PV Module Safety and Performance Standard Requirements in Extreme Environments