How can manufacturers mitigate reliability and performance risks associated with novel cell technologies?
BG: First and foremost, manufacturers need to get iterations of products out in the field. In the case of perovskites, banks are going to be most concerned about long-term in-field performance. The technology effectively has a strike against it because the meta-stability of the crystalline structure itself has been widely criticized. Field data are the only way to overcome this perception issue. In addition to getting products out in the field, manufacturers need to engage an independent third party, like VDE Americas, to help evaluate and validate product reliability and in-field performance. As an owner’s engineer, we understand the types of concerns that the investment community has regarding novel technologies. Because we know what questions manufacturers typically face, we can help facilitate product development, testing, and market entry.
How does beyond-qualification testing in a laboratory setting complement field testing?
BG: Until recently, design qualification standards for PV modules, such as IEC 61215, did not include much about outdoor testing. This is a problem because adopting new cell technologies may result in new degradation mechanisms. PERC modules, for example, turned out to experience LETID [light- and elevated temperature–induced degradation], a degradation mechanism that was not detected by conventional certification tests. Beyond-qualification testing addresses this gap with extended test sequences that recreate known degradation mechanisms and failure modes. A common misconception, especially with new manufacturers, is the belief that conventional certification testing is adequate to identify novel degradation mechanisms in new technologies. That simply is not true. While it may prove impossible to identify all unknown failure mechanisms, manufacturers should expect that new technologies will perform differently than existing ones. Manufacturers can start to foolproof their product designs by incorporating this thinking into the design qualification process as early as possible. To the extent that manufacturers can use beyond-qualification tests to identify novel degradation mechanisms, they can improve the field performance of new product designs, especially those based on novel cell technologies.
—Excerpts from this interview with Brian Grenko originally appeared in “Perovskite-Based PV Technologies,” an industry trends article featured in the 2023 PV Module Index Report.