Photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturers have a conscientious goal to meet the lowest cost-per-Watt-peak ($/Wp) for their panels, often compromising on the areas of safety, quality, and product reliability. Poor materials, shortened processing timeframes, and premature use of new technologies are some of the most common challenges faced by manufacturers in a price-driven market today.
This skimping on quality has resulted in the installation of many underperforming solar energy power plants in India. In response to this market need, Sunkonnect Pte. Ltd. and the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) at the National University of Singapore (NUS) are collaborating to bring customised PV module quality testing to Indian PV players.
PV modules form a major cost component of capital expenditure for large PV projects and have a significant impact on future revenue streams. Selecting unverified and underperforming modules can pose a significant risk to the returns on the system owner’s investment.
“Over 20 GW of PV modules installed in India today are not performing the way they should, due to poor manufacturing quality control” said Dr. Avishek Kumar, CEO of Sunkonnect. “If we do not address this issue now, the deployment of hundreds of gigawatts of future PV projects will face a big risk in terms of funding, implementation and operation.”
To address this issue, Sunkonnect has developed a scientific approach to help module manufacturers and EPC companies deliver safe and high-quality PV modules and systems. Sunkonnect conducts customised audits through a detailed assessment of the PV manufacturing lines, materials, equipment, standard operating procedures (SOP) and designs in compliance with internationally established standards. In addition, Sunkonnect collaborates with SERIS, Singapore’s national solar energy research laboratory, to conduct early third-party testing to reduce risk and redundancies.
SERIS’ PV Module Testing Laboratory is a national laboratory in Singapore accredited under ISO/IEC 17025:2005 for the provision of high-precision PV module testing, including “Golden Module” measurements and all other tests offered by the laboratory.
A core activity at SERIS is certification testing in accordance with international standards for module qualification (IEC 61215) and for module safety (IEC 61730 and UL 1703). SERIS also provides industry-relevant test activities such as infant stage accelerated tests (e.g. Light and elevated Temperature Induced Degradation or LeTID) to empower system stakeholders’ knowledge on the likely performance of their assets when deployed in the field.
“At SERIS, one of our main goals is to tackle module reliability and module quality control globally, with a particular focus on tropical climate conditions”, says Dr Wang Yan, PV Module Cluster Director at SERIS. “Our collaboration with Sunkonnect will enable a greater understanding of PV module quality within India and will further support our standardization activities in liaison with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to continue improving the existing international standards for PV module qualification”.
The issue of poor module quality was addressed earlier this year by India’s Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), who enforced the Quality Control Order requiring all companies with an annual capacity of more than 50 MW module production capacity to achieve the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) certification to operate. However, many manufacturers within the industry are as yet unclear on the types of module testing and certifications required for their products. This issue is further aggravated by varying local climates and environmental conditions within India that are tough to represent using international standards qualifications alone.
Sunkonnect’s end-use tailored approach enables PV module manufacturers to optimise processes and reduce cell-to-module losses in their panels, while considering international standards and local environmental conditions. With SERIS’ testing and certification capabilities added to this approach, the collaboration offers Indian EPC and PV manufacturing players a holistic means to mitigate project risk and achieve manufacturing excellence.
Sunkonnect will be at the Renewable Energy India Expo 2018 at booth 14.11 to meet with PV industry players in India. SERIS will also be at the REI Conference, where the institute is conducting the SERIS Industry Day on “Solar Cell and Module Research”.
 EPC: Engineering, Procurement & Construction
 “Golden Module” is a term used for the reference module used in a module manufacturing plant. They are used to calibrate factory quality control equipment. Such modules are regularly tested by SERIS to detect drifting.