As the number of grid-connected solar photovoltaic (PV) systems increases in the coming years, it will be important to ensure their optimal performance and reliability.
A two-day conference on Cost Effective O&M Strategies in European PV Market held recently in The Netherlands, brought together industry experts to discuss O&M, efficiency, reliability, regulation and EU energy/climate challenges.
Presenting at the conference, Thomas Sauer, President and CEO of EXXERGY and IECRE Convenor of promotions and marketing, explained how the consistent implementation of international standards can reduce costs by streamlining processes and instil confidence in the industry.
Certification for solar PV limits risk and instils confidence
“Performance risks are everywhere. Prevalent causes for defects are related to production of components and installation. At the same time, not to be underestimated, operations & maintenance play a significant role when it comes to performance losses. Hence, issues involving performance and/or safety can occur anytime from inception through decommissioning. Under the IECRE system, the entire lifecycle of a PV power plant can be certified, from initial design aspects to annual inspections and ultimately asset transfer”, said Sauer.
Other factors affecting solar PV include climatic conditions, e. g. hot and harsh climates, dust and sand storms, which can corrode plastic component parts, such as cables, the junction box and back sheets, or cause abrasion to the glass panels, or simple soiling resulting in significant performance losses, partial or complete destruction, as well as safety hazards.
The need for a rating system
However, in order to effectively mitigate risk, certification will need to be complemented by a rating. A PV power plant rating system would allow differentiating performance and sustainability. IECRE is considering the development of such a system which will initially concentrate on 3 ratings across 3 scales – utility, commercial & industrial, residential.
“A rating system allows a finer differentiation and is expected to strongly reduce the rating pressure in marginal cases since the difference between e. g. an “AA” and an “A” will likely be perceived marginal, and therefore, acceptable. Possible errors in the conformity assessment procedure tend to result in reduced consequences compared to a pass-fail system, since the rating system will be less vulnerable to single inaccuracies in the assessment process”, continued Sauer. “Most importantly, the financial sector is used to thinking in rating systems and its terminology linking a risk assessment with the rating.”
The Conference covered topics including: solar operations and maintenance (O&M), asset management (AM) and issues for utility-scale projects, covering the overall industry learning curve, contractual challenges, and common gaps in planning. It also addressed included the factors that influence energy storage and improved remote monitoring, and the role of upcoming trends in digitalization and IT security for solar systems.
IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications, was created in recognition that the ever-increasing demand for electricity and the need to address the specific requirements of the RE sector.
The System aims to facilitate international trade in equipment and services for use in RE in the marine, solar PV and wind energy sectors, while maintaining the required level of safety. It will cover products, services and personnel, to provide testing, inspection and certification.
Fluor Centinela Solar Energy project; 170-megawatt solar PV, Imperial County, California. (Photo: Business Wire)