PVEL bundles efficiency checks of solar inverters – Solar Builder

By Chris Crowell
September 30, 2021
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A PVEL lab technician records power measurements from a solar inverter

Independent PV and storage test laboratory PV Evolution Labs (PVEL) is now working directly with solar investors, developers and system owners to test inverters as part of its new Crowd Power Product Qualification Program (PQP). The tests are carried out on commercially procured inverters as part of a crowdsourcing business model that does not require the manufacturer to be involved.

"From financial losses to insecure system operation, the consequences of a defective inverter range from frustrating to dangerous – yet third-party inverter data is notoriously difficult to obtain from manufacturers," commented C.J. Colavito, VP of Engineering at Standard Solar. "PVEL's Crowd Power PQP enables quality-oriented companies like ours to pool resources for data-driven inverter diligence that reduces the risk associated with the introduction of inverters with limited field use."

The tests in the Inverter Crowd Power PQP are consistent with the tests in the traditional Inverter PQP from PVEL, which PVEL first introduced in 2014. Both programs include on-site representative safety, reliability, and performance tests under a variety of environmental and connectivity conditions to support:

  • Datasheet validation for more accurate performance and revenue models.
  • Reliability ratings for improved predictive accuracy of operating and maintenance costs and replacement rates.
  • Safety assessments for reliable arc and earth fault detection in field systems.

“PVEL's crowdsourcing testing enables inverter buyers to use empirical data against claims made by product marketing materials. Initial feedback from our downstream partners has been overwhelmingly positive, ”commented Tara Doyle, PVEL's Chief Commercial Officer. "With or without manufacturer participation, we will ensure that PVEL's technical knowledge for the use of high-quality devices is available to the solar market."

The Inverter Crowd Power PQP complements and complements the traditional PQP tests from PVEL, which are still available to manufacturers. Ginlong Solis and Chint Power Systems recently submitted next generation inverters with 250+ kilowatt hours to PVEL for testing. However, the vast majority of inverter suppliers typically do not conduct independent tests that exceed certification standards to support comprehensive benchmarking of product quality and bankability.

In contrast, over fifty PV module manufacturers have tested their products at PVEL, and twenty-five suppliers conduct frequent, regular tests. Since the introduction of the PV Module PQP by PVEL in 2012, the reliability of the PV modules has improved significantly overall, despite ongoing challenges. For example, the average degradation rates in the thermal cycling test of PVEL have improved by almost 70% since 2012.

"The most effective tool for improving product quality is validated data that objectively measures performance and reliability," commented Jack Bennett, CEO of NovaSource Power Services. “Inverters are the essential interface between solar power systems, batteries and the public power grid. If these products are not reliable, we cannot rely on the PV infrastructure to generate clean electricity for decades to come. "

Tags: PVEL

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