About the International PV Module Quality Assurance Task Force
The International PV Module Quality Assurance Forum was held in July, 2011, in San Francisco, California. The event fostered international participation to develop a rating system that meets the needs of all countries and customers so that PV manufacturers will need to complete only a single test. The rating system will be most valuable if PV customers can easily use local weather data and the PV module rating data to assess the expected performance. At the Forum, the community expressed strong support for development of international PV QA standards, and the International PV Module QA Task Force was formed.
The goal of the PV QA Task Force is to define a concept for creation of standards that allow stakeholders to quickly assess a module's ability to withstand regional stresses, thereby reducing risk and adding confidence for those developing products, designing incentive programs, and determining private investments.
A standard PV module rating system will provide benefits to:
- Incentive programs: define a minimum durability for module designs
- Investors: reduce interest rates for modules meeting a minimum criterion
- Insurance companies: reduce rates for modules meeting a minimum criterion
- Community: reduce installed PV cost by providing durability standards that lead to the desired durability without adding unnecessary cost
- PV module suppliers: optimize module design to minimize cost and secure desired reliability for specific market/customer
- PV module materials suppliers: reduce cost of materials by better communication with customers.
The IEC 61215, IEC 61646, and IEC 62108 qualification test standards set a minimum design criterion, but they do not attempt to give confidence for decades of use, and do not provide a mechanism to adjust requirements based on regional differences in stresses. A rating system that provides comparative information about the durability of PV modules to a variety of stresses will be a useful tool to PV customers and will provide a starting point for improving the accuracy of quantitative PV lifetime predictions.
In general, quality assurance (QA) covers safety and environmental issues as well as product performance. These issues may interact with each other in many cases. However, the PV QA Task Force will focus primarily on performance aspects and look specifically at two key parts of QA: (1) the original design to ensure the desired reliability, and (2) the manufacturing process to ensure consistent quality. Customer confidence in PV module QA will be improved by international standards that define the frequency of testing and oversee the QA programs in place at each factory. This type of QA standard may be implemented by IEC, IECEE, SEMI, or other standards organizations.
We encourage participation by all types of stakeholders including PV customers, incentive programs, investors, insurance companies, PV manufacturers, PV test labs, and PV standards organizations.