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Testing and Analysis to Advance R&D

NREL has capabilities and experts in measurements, characterization, reliability, engineering, scientific computing, and theory to support photovoltaic (PV) research and development (R&D) across a range of conversion technologies and scales. Conversion technologies include the primary areas of silicon, polycrystalline thin films (cadmium telluride [CdTe], copper indium gallium diselenide [CIGS]), III-V-based multijunctions, and organic PV. And scales of interest range from materials, to cells, modules, and systems.

Measurements and Characterization

Photo of a hand holding tweezers pinching a square wafer that is striped gold and black.

We provide a huge range of techniques for measuring and characterizing PV materials and cells within the following four primary areas. We can also develop new techniques and instrumentation, as needed.

Regional Test Centers

Close-up photo of a pv array

NREL hosts one of five Regional Test Centers (RTCs). The other RTCs are located in New Mexico, Florida, Nevada, and Vermont. The Regional Test Centers (RTCs) provide the data and the model validation for the performance and reliability of new PV technologies required to help U.S. PV industry expand; reduce overall costs; and reduce risks to the integrators, owners, and finance groups. The RTCs provide the framework to demonstrate large-scale manufacturing and bankability of new technology pathways.

Performance and Reliability

Photo of rows of photovoltaic arrays mounted to the ground and tilted to the sky.

We measure and analyze the operational performance of PV modules under a range of conditions. And we study the reliability of modules, either as a whole or by their components, such as encapsulants. Our testing can focus on a range of time scales.


Photo of blue, rectangular-shaped photovoltaic panels lined up in rows.

We also study PV at the system level. This support can incorporate module measurements and characterization, along with integrated system performance analysis. Our experts also develop testing procedures and performance standards, and validate various methods for rating PV energy output.