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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Emerging Technologies Engineering Testing and Evaluation

NREL's Photovoltaic (PV) Engineering group supports the industry through field and laboratory testing and evaluation, as well as data collection for PV components, modules, and systems. The following key projects highlight the group's capabilities:

Shared Data Set for Flat-Plate PV Module Model Validations

This project is developing a comprehensive data set of measured I-V curves and associated meteorological data for PV modules representing all flat-plate PV technologies and for the weather conditions of three climatically different locations (Colorado, Florida, and Oregon). The data set will be publicly available, and for the first time, will allow researchers to develop and/or validate PV module performance models using commonly available and quality-assessed data.

CPV Characterization

This project is developing improved methods for accounting for the direct normal spectral irradiance distribution, estimating cell temperature, and translating performance to reference conditions. The goal is to reduce the seasonal variability in the outdoor performance rating measurements of concentrating photovoltaic (CPV) modules from the current value of 10% to 5% or less.

Thin-film PV Characterization

This work uses forward bias as a preconditioning technique to address the meta-stabilities of polycrystalline thin-film (CdTe and CIGS) PV modules when measuring their peak-power using a solar simulator. A round robin testing activity is planned at other test labs to further validate the method and move it into the standards arena. The goal is to reduce a test lab's variance from the group average from a maximum of 8% to 3%, comparable to that for crystalline silicon PV modules.

PV Module-Level Power Electronics Characterization

This work researches and develops appropriate methods and metrics for reporting the overall power conversion efficiency of module-level power electronics, such as micro-inverters and DC-DC converters. A major goal is to develop a new consensus standard to address these new technologies and the potential benefit of increasing system efficiency.