Interview: Hi Physix Lab, a new solar testing facility in India

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pv magazine: Can you discuss Hi Physix’s expansion into solar?

Pankaj Rai: Inspired by India’s clean energy mission to generate electricity from renewable energy sources, mainly via solar energy, Hi Physix Laboratory India Pvt Ltd was established to provide the best quality testing services for almost all solar products, using well-equipped infrastructure, and with the help of highly qualified technical personnel.

Our objective is to support the Indian industry by providing reliable testing services, and to ensure the delivery of quality products to consumers. Our laboratory will be useful for both manufacturers and the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), in ensuring the successful implementation of the Compulsory Registration Scheme (CRS) for PV Modules and Battery Storage for Solar Applications, introduced by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) and the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

The laboratory, which was inaugurated by the honorable late Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, the former President of India, has been accredited by the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and is also recognized by BIS. We have over a decade of experience in providing testing services to global customers in the fields of Electrical, Electronics and Lighting discipline.

What are the current quality issues in PV modules and batteries? How should they be resolved?

It will be too early for us to comment on the quality issues in modules and batteries, but major problems observed are as follows:

  1. Non-Conformance to nameplate ratings and tolerances for modules and battery;
  2. Visual defects in modules – micro-cracks, discoloration of contacts, snail trails, etc.;
  3. Quality of encapsulation material;
  4. A significant performance difference reduction after thermal cycling and damp heat test,
  5. And inaccurate deep cycle ratings specified by manufacturer in case of solar batteries.

In our opinion, better quality of raw material and quality control of the manufacturing process can take care of more than 80% of the issues faced by consumers.

What can Hi Physix offer the Indian PV industry that others can’t?

As of January 23, 2018, we are the only laboratory in India, which is recognized by BIS for the complete testing of all types of solar PV modules, and solar applications, as per the applicable IS/IEC standards; an executive order – Solar Photovoltaics/Systems/Devices/Components and Goods (Requirements for Compulsory Registration) – which was introduced by the MNRE on November 16, 2017.

Hi Physix, recognized by BIS, can undertake tests for the following solar products/standards:

  1. Crystalline Silicon Terrestrial Photovoltaic (PV) modules – Design Qualification and Type Approval as per IS 14286:2010
  2. Thin Film Terrestrial Photovoltaic (PV) Modules – Design Qualification and Type Approval as per IS 16077: 2013
  3. Photovoltaic (PV) Module Safety Qualification Part 1 Requirements for Construction as per IS/IEC 61730 (Part 1): 2004
  4. Photovoltaic (PV) Module Safety Qualification Part 2 Requirements for Testing as per IS/IEC 61730 (Part 2): 2004
  5. Secondary Cells and Batteries for Solar Photovoltaic Application General-Requirements and Methods of Test as per IS 16270: 2014

Our laboratory issues test reports after testing products/samples, which are accepted by the CRS for PV Modules and Battery Storage for Solar Applications. We can also test PV modules for performance, durability, safety and compliance with legal regulations; and can critically check PV/solar products against all essential standards, as per customer requirements.

What areas of quality standards require improvement in solar?

None of the standards guarantee 25 years’ life of solar PV modules. It only qualifies that the modules do not have a design flaw, are safe to use, and are likely to survive in the field. For guaranteeing the 25 years’ life, accelerated stress tests must be incorporated in the test flow, in line with the PV durability test initiative suggested by Fraunhofer, Germany.

India is a sub-tropical region, with mostly a hot climate throughout the year. So what are the technical points and issues related to modules, components, and batteries, that should be addressed and taken care by manufacturers?

In case of PV modules, Potential Induced Degradation (PID) failures are commonly observed in the solar plants because of high system voltage, hot climate, and humidity levels. Solar PV manufacturers may improve on the encapsulation quality, i.e., choice of material and thickness of encapsulation material for reducing the PID related field failures.

Regarding solar batteries, thermal management, and associated components become critical. Here also the choice of material, proper dimensional specification need to be controlled by the manufacturer.

Has Hi Physix been accredited by the MNRE? If not, are you planning to do this?

No, we have not yet been accredited by the MNRE. We have, however, already initiated the necessary process for accreditation. We firmly believe that we shall meet all the critical requirements of the MNRE’s National Lab Policy.

Are you obliged to adhere to the National Lab Policy, which the MNRE introduced on September 29, 2017? What are the requirements of the policy?

Yes, we are obliged to adhere to the National Lab Policy and meet all of the mandatory requirements laid out by the MNRE. The critical conditions of the policy are as followed:

  1. NABL accreditation as per ISO/IEC 17025:2005
  2. BIS recognition for relevant product/standards
  3. Traceability for all measurements and test procedures, as per prescribed standards
  4. Test labs shall store, transport and deploy equipment as per requirements of the accreditation
  5. Test labs will ensure calibration of their equipment at regular intervals to achieve the specified accuracy and repeatability of the measurements
  6. The laboratory should have the relevant and adequate workforce for testing and performance certification of products
  7. All facilities of the laboratories should be available for inspection and scrutiny by MNRE and authorized committee, as and when demanded
  8. Lab regularly participates in Inter-Laboratory Comparison and Proficiency Testing
  9. Laboratory information and quality management systems are adequately maintained

India is home to two of the worlds’ biggest testing lab centers, UL and TÜV Rheinland. Other MNRE accredited labs – NISE, ERTL and ETDC – are also active in India. How does Hi Physix differ from them?

(NISE – National Institute of Solar Energy; ERTL – Electronics Regional Test Laboratory; ETDC – Electronic Test and Development Centre)

To the best of our knowledge, the two private laboratories located in Bangalore – UL India Private Limited and TÜV Rhineland – may offer testing services, which meet MNRE’s guidelines. Other MNRE accredited laboratories – NISE, ERTL and ETDC – may also provide testing services for solar energy equipment. However, these laboratories are not sufficient to meet the market requirements for testing and certification of the vast Indian market.

Currently, Hi Physix is the only recognized laboratory, which can offer complete testing for solar PV modules and batteries for solar applications. Very soon, the company will also provide services for charge controller testing and grid-connected inverter testing.

Moreover, we are strategically located in Pune, and have an office and sample collection center in Delhi. It will have better reach and serving capabilities for the pan India market, compared to our competitors.