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Reliability and Engineering

In the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) at NREL, we focus on photovoltaic (PV) reliability research and development to improve PV technologies.

We test modules and systems for long-term performance and stress them in the field and with accelerated testing equipment—with the goal of finding test methods to improve PV reliability and ensure PV usage by creating international standards.

Each year, the NCPV conducts an industry PV Reliability Workshop to encourage the exchange of information about PV reliability. Proceedings of past workshops are available.

In short, the NCPV is working with companies and standards organizations around the world to create a foundation for growth of a healthy PV industry. Scientific studies elucidate the performance, degradation, and failure of PV systems, guiding the development of tests and test standards that can aid in the maturation of the PV industry.

Real-Time PV and Solar Resource Testing

We study long-term performance, reliability, and failures of PV components and systems, both at NREL and through collaborations elsewhere. Our analysis quantifies long-term degradation, and we share results with the PV community. We also explore methods for using PV data as a ground-based network of solar resource sensors.

Accelerated Testing and Analysis

We subject PV components and materials to stressors such as thermal cycling, heat, moisture, and ultraviolet light to provide early indications of potential failure modes. We develop new accelerated test and diagnostic techniques to meet specific needs, especially those associated with understanding new devices and materials. The results of the testing are coupled with an understanding of environmental conditions to predict field performance and lifetime.

Systems Engineering

We quantify the effects of module-embedded power electronics and other details of PV system design in order to improve PV system performance.

Systems Integration

In partnership with utilities and industry, the NCPV is spearheading innovations that optimize our entire energy system.

Our PV reliability research and development helps reduce cost by providing companies with the information they need to improve PV product lifetime, availability, and performance and to decrease operation and maintenance costs of PV systems.

Independent efficiency measurement and certified testing of module performance can be obtained through the NCPV's Device Performance group.

Working with Us

DuraMAT logo

The DuraMAT—or Durable Module Materials—Consortium brings together national laboratories, universities, and PV supply-chain industries to discover, develop, de-risk, and enable the commercialization of new materials and designs for PV modules. This grand goal could enable a levelized cost of electricity of less than $0.03 per kilowatt-hour.

The NCPV's PV Reliability and Systems Engineering group sets priorities based on which efforts will best help the PV industry to grow. We welcome partnerships with industry toward achieving this goal. To have the highest impact, our intention is to publish in the open literature. Companies wishing to keep all results confidential will be asked to pay for the work. Generally, we find that it is in everyone's best interests to publish reliability studies (with proprietary details omitted) so that the wider PV community may learn from them.

We offer companies opportunities to leverage NCPV's research expertise and encourage interested parties to learn about working with the NCPV's PV Engineering and Reliability group and the NCPV.

This work is coordinated with parallel international efforts through the International PV Quality Assurance Task Force (PVQAT).


Teresa Barnes

Group Research Manager III—Materials Science | 303-384-6682