TÜV Rheinland Quality Monitor – Solar 2013: Cost Pressure Increases Risks to Quality of Solar Systems

TÜV Rheinland, the independent testing service provider, used Intersolar Europe as an opportunity to present the Solar 2013 quality monitor. For the first time, experts from the solar industry's leading testing company analyzed comprehensive data material from the past few years so that they could evaluate the current state of the art with regard to quality and industry trends.

The study showed that: "There is a pressing need to improve quality throughout projects to plan and implement photovoltaic systems," states Willi Vaaßen, Head of the Solar Energy division at TÜV Rheinland. In previous years, around 30% of all large-scale systems approved by TÜV Rheinland have shown serious defects relating either to severe safety-relevant faults that require direct action or to a substantial number of faults that significantly impair system functionality. In addition, according to Vaaßen: "Half of all faults identified are installation errors."

Analyses by TÜV Rheinland indicate that laboratory tests on photovoltaic modules must establish whether new module types have been well engineered to meet the requirements of the requisite IEC design certification. The number of faults detected in certification tests has decreased significantly: In 2002, 54% of all modules were still failing the IEC design certification at TÜV Rheinland in Germany. By 2012, the error rate had fallen rapidly to 10%. Although a very good sign, only limited conclusions can be drawn about the quality of modules in series production. Jörg Althaus, also Head of Solar Energy at TÜV Rheinland, comments: "Our more extensive tests on the workmanship quality and longevity of modules show that some manufacturers are not capable of ensuring consistently high quality in series production." In addition, experts believe that while the quest to save money in modules may well lead to innovations, the targeted material savings can have a negative impact on quality. Althaus: "At present, manufacturers are often overhasty in launching new products on the market, even if they are still having teething problems." A deterioration in the quality of testing and certification can also be seen around the world, as well as a reduced propensity among manufacturers to consistently abide by certification rules.

For this reason, TÜV Rheinland is calling for a solar quality road map to ensure acceptance in society of solar energy and safeguard its reliable contribution to the energy transition in the long run. According to the experts at TÜV Rheinland, a program of this type would center on improving quality assurance processes in production and installation. This must incorporate intensified monitoring of these measures during production and in the end product – including the use of market observation instruments – as well as random testing of photovoltaic modules in specific projects and monitoring of the quality of the installation and system construction and operation.

For the Solar 2013 quality monitor, the experts at TÜV Rheinland used its solar laboratory in Cologne to analyze the fault statistics in photovoltaic modules tested between 2002 and 2012 as well as errors in the initial acceptance of large-scale systems performed by the experts in previous years. The Solar quality monitor also incorporates the results of the PV+Test and energy yield test carried out by TÜV Rheinland for various photovoltaic modules, allowing the reliability of electricity generation and the energy yield to be compared. Finally, the study also uses the initial results of a research project examining fire protection in photovoltaic systems.

Long version with detailed information for download here (PDF, 44 KB) .

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