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John Wohlgemuth Brings PV Reliability, Standards Expertise to NREL

October 22, 2010

After 34 years of seminal work in photovoltaic (PV) testing, materials, and standards in the private sector, John Wohlgemuth has landed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  He brings with him a wealth of knowledge and experience gained at BP Solar (formerly Solarex) that will inform his new role as a principal scientist in NREL’s PV reliability group.

Sarah Kurtz, NREL’s manager of the PV performance and reliability group, says, “I’m delighted to have John here because of his years of experience with PV reliability from the industry perspective, and also because he is a talented individual who has the skills to make things happen and the commitment to help strengthen the PV industry.”

Wohlgemuth earned his Ph.D. in solid-state physics from Rensselear Polytechnic Institute.  In 1976, he began at Solarex, working on cell processing and modeling, silicon casting, module materials and reliability, and PV performance and standards. Eventually, he served BP Solar as a senior scientist responsible for module reliability and developing non-cell materials in the company's solar modules. He was also project manager for the company's activity in the U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored Technology Pathways Partnership (TPP) Program.

Wohlgemuth is also known in the industry as the convener of the International Electrotechnical Commission’s module working group, WG2, within Technical Committee 82. The group develops international standards for nonconcentrating, terrestrial PV modules. In a WG2 meeting in late September in Cologne, Germany, Wohlgemuth led the group in its continuing work on standards—focusing on issues such as encapsulants, crystalline silicon module qualification, module safety, and transport of PV equipment. WG2 also began work on standards for connectors, junction boxes, cables, and module energy rating.

During the past 15 years, Wohlgemuth has performed contract work for NREL related to the TPP and the Photovoltaic Manufacturing Technology (PVMaT) project. Wohlgemuth has also been a leader within the PV community in sharing information about observed failures and how to test for them.  He participated in past workshops, helping to influence NREL’s direction.  When BP Solar moved its focus away from internal manufacturing and research, and toward systems integration and development, Kurtz encouraged him to come to NREL.

Wohlgemuth will focus on developing standards, analyzing module failure, and developing accelerated stress tests for PV.  “Right now, I’m picking a few areas in which to start reliability studies,” he says. “Some studies have been done by commercial companies, but the data are proprietary.  I’d like to duplicate those studies and make the resulting data more accessible.”