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NREL - National Renewable Energy Laboratory
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Photovoltaic Module Field Failure Database

The PV Module Field Failure Database provides you with an opportunity to share information about failures you have observed. The information you provide will be reviewed, summarized, and then shared with the public to help spread an awareness of events being observed in the field. This will enable NREL (and the public) to gauge existing reliability of PV modules and to improve methods of testing reliability. Participation from the solar industry is vital to the accuracy and success of our analysis.

Owners of small PV systems, such as those installed on residences and small commercial sites, can make a major contribution to our study. We are especially interested in learning about the types of failures you've experienced in your modules and any degradation in performance over time. The degradation can include visually obvious failures as well as unexplained performance drops.

We encourage you to use the database to provide information on modules, installation locations, and failures. You will have the ability to upload photographs of the failure(s) or scans of documents when relevant. You will also have the option to allow our engineers to borrow your failed modules for analysis; these will help us understand the underlying mechanisms that lead to various types of failures and could possibly aid in your understanding of any performance loss.

Your participation will help NREL better understand real-world PV module reliability and ensure that NREL's research activities encompass failures that are historically common as well as newly emerging.

What Should Be Reported?

Any change in a PV module that results in either the module being removed from service or the performance being degraded is relevant for our studies. Below are examples of relevant failures:

  • Cracks in the glass or within the cells/films
  • Significant visual changes on either the active (sun) side or back side of a module such as cracking, color changes, or delaminations
  • Electrical short circuits or burn spots
  • Obvious corrosion of lead or cell interconnections
  • Significant distortions in the module shape (frame distortion, flatness)
  • Power lead failures (separation from junction box or connectors, cracking of insulation)
  • Junction box changes (separation from module, movement along the back sheet).

To provide context for the failures, you can provide details about how the modules were installed, where they were located geographically, and if any specific events led to the discovery of the failure(s).

An Atlas of Photovoltaic Module Field Failures is a resource of failures that can occur in PV modules and will help correctly categorize your submission. In addition, NREL has compiled a non-comprehensive summary of known reliability concerns for PV technologies.

How Will Results Be Reported?

After each submission is reviewed, participants will be provided with either specific information about the issue reported or, in the case of common failure types, directed to a document describing the failure.

In the case of rare or unseen failure types, we will include this information in future revisions of the Atlas linked above, giving you credit for the images. In most of these cases, we will also request to borrow your module for failure analysis at the laboratory.

After the data are analyzed, aggregated results may be published through peer-reviewed journals. Publications that result from participant contributions will be indicated on this site. However, raw data will not be displayed nor will any specific information be divulged on this site. If raw results were immediately available on this site without proper analysis, the effect of those results could be misleading. Relevant analysis requires significant contributions from system owners/operators and the time for a complete analysis.