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Harsh climates spur solar materials innovation: Lux

Rapidly emerging harsh-climate solar markets are driving the industry to explore innovations in module materials that would boost the long-term performance of PV projects, new research from Lux Research has found.

Growth of PV build out in extreme climate regions such as Mexico, Chile, Turkey, South Africa, India, and Malaysia, the US consultancy says, is leading to an all-of-the-above technology approach to develop modules that can avoid the “widespread decrease” in output caused by  environmental factors.

Metal wrap-through modules with polyolefin encapsulation for hot and humid climates, and glass/glass technology with polyolefin encapsulation for cold and snowy locations are two of the next-generation concepts seen as key to offsetting the “degradation [that is] growing in importance because of its impact on financial models, long-term reliability, and adoption in regions with extreme climates”.

“New evidence of climate-dependent degradation is creating new opportunities for non-standard material adoption in module packaging,” says Lux Research analyst Tyler Ogden, who was lead author of the report, Extending Lifetime and Performance: Breaking Down the Photovoltaic Module.

 “Recently unveiled module lines from Yingli and BYD use new materials, while other new module assembly designs are likely to be offered over the next five years,” he adds.

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Developers determine the financials of project based on the expectation that conventional PV systems will last 25 years – when a module output is forecast to be producing 80% of its original rated power – with the “key determinant” of a module’s degradation being how the cells are interconnected and what materials are used in their packaging.

“As PV deployment expands globally, questions have arisen around how degradation is environment-dependent and how prevalent modes of degradation can be prevented,” says Ogden. “This report looks at current trends in the research community and industry in addressing degradation and improving performance.”

Ogden points to Case Western Reserve University and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US, as well as Austria’s Carinthian Tech, as leading organisations in researching technologies that will address degradation of PV modules.

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