Material innovation is ramping up in solar as the industry aims to address the widespread decrease in performance over time that affects photovoltaic (PV) modules, according to a new report from Lux Research.
The report says solar modules degrade over the years due to environmental factors, causing performance drops and even failures. Such degradation is growing in importance because of its impact on financial models, long-term reliability and adoption in regions with extreme climates.
“New evidence of climate-dependent degradation is creating new opportunities for non-standard material adoption in module packaging,” says Tyler Ogden, Lux Research analyst and lead author of the report. “Recently unveiled module lines from Yingli and BYD use new materials, while other new module assembly designs are likely to be offered over the next five years.”
Lux Research says its analysts examined new initiatives to arrest degradation of PV modules and their potential benefits. Key findings include the following:
Growth markets lie in harsh climes. Better ways to prevent degradation are key because many promising emerging solar markets lie in extreme climate zones: Mexico, Chile, Turkey, South Africa, India and Malaysia.
No single technology will do the trick. A next-generation metal wrap through (MWT) module with polyolefin encapsulation offers performance benefits in moderate, and hot and humid climates, while Solaria and Yingli modules are optimal in hot and dry zones, the report says. Standard glass/glass technology with polyolefin encapsulation leads in cold and snowy places.
Case Western, Carinthian, and NREL focus on research. Case Western Reserve University, Austria’s Carinthian Tech, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory – among others – are leading initiatives to address degradation of PV modules. The report notes Case Western’s Solar Durability and Lifetime Extension Center is developing lab tests that can predict a material’s lifetime performance in a specific region.
The report, titled “Extending Lifetime and Performance: Breaking Down the Photovoltaic Module,” is part of the Lux Research Solar Intelligence service.