With a number of recent high-profile failures and sub-par performances in photovoltaic field installations, achieving long-term reliable performance of photovoltaic modules has become an important challenge. In this talk, I will discuss some of the major sources of performance degradation for common glass-encapsulated PV modules, including crystalline silicon and thin films. The greatest reliability challenges have occurred in the latter, with recent studies showing that thin-film modules operating in damp heat at -600 V are vulnerable to large amounts of degradation, potentially exceeding half the original power output. While there are a broad range of failure mechanisms, here I focus on a few of the most crucial ones: interconnect breakage; corrosion and damage of individual cell components; delamination between material layers; and potential-induced degradation (PID). Developing a detailed understanding of these degradation mechanisms is essential to make useful performance predictions. In this talk, I also provide a couple examples of how this understanding can be achieved, as well as the simulation and characterization tools necessary to make detailed predictions, particularly in novel PV modules.
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Birck Nanotechnology Center, Rm 1099, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN