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New Study Proposes Improved Solar Testing Standards for PV Modules in Desert Regions

Desert dunes

Desert conditions can be tough on solar PV modules, and current standards don't fully address these challenges. But there’s good news! A recent study offers promising solutions to ensure solar panels thrive even in harsh environments.


This study, titled "Comprehensive review on performance, reliability, and roadmap of c-Si PV modules in desert climates: A proposal for improved testing standard," brought together experts from Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, the Polymer Competence Center Leoben, Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics, and Purdue University.


Desert climates are much harsher than moderate ones, boasting the highest worldwide horizontal irradiance of 2,100–2,700 kWh per square meter. This intense sunlight, paired with ultraviolet radiation, can accelerate light-induced deterioration in crystalline silicon (c-Si) PV modules. The extreme daytime heat and sharp nighttime temperature drops cause PV components to expand and contract, leading to potential issues like cracks and delamination.


Another big challenge is soiling, or the buildup of dirt and dust on solar panels. In places like the Sahara and the Middle East, soiling losses can reach up to 35%, significantly impacting performance. In the MENA region, efficiency can drop by 1% daily due to soiling.


Desert conditions also heighten defects in solar modules. For instance, glass warpage is common in glass–glass modules because of uneven temperature distribution, creating thermal stresses. This warping, along with other problems like cell cracks and hotspots, can reduce the modules' efficiency.


The existing solar testing standards cater to moderate climates and don't fully address desert-specific challenges. Here’s where the exciting part comes in, the study proposes the Hot Desert Test Cycle (HDTC). This new testing sequence targets issues like encapsulant discoloration, thermal fatigue, mechanical stability, and glass abrasion.


To better simulate desert conditions, the authors suggest modifying the IEC 61215:2021 standard by increasing the UV exposure in the preconditioning step from 15 kWh to 60 kWh per square meter. This change aims to ensure PV modules can operate safely and efficiently in some of the world's toughest climates.


Overall, this study brings a wave of optimism, showing that with the right adjustments, solar panels can shine bright even in the most challenging environments.


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