In 2011, the International Photovoltaic (PV) Quality Assurance Task Force (PVQAT) was established to develop standards for PV products. Now, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DoE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is taking a co-leadership role, along with the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology in Japan, in a further push to ensure the reliability of solar panels.
The standards provide support in three main areas. First is qualification of the design for the geographic and climate conditions of the area. The second concerns quality management of the manufacturing process—all panels must be of the same quality no matter when they are produced. Finally, support is provided for system quality. System-level inspections will confirm proper installation and design, and that the system is operating smoothly.
The PVQAT is also developing a rating system, to be implemented by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), which will define tests that differentiate among three climate zones—moderate, tropical, and desert—and two mounting configurations—open-rack and close roof. The new rating system will follow alongside current international standards to ensure operability.
Last year, the IEC accepted the PVQAT’s proposal “Guidelines for Increased Confidence in Module Design Qualification and Type Approval,” which has already pushed forward certain standardized procedures for PV production.