Root cause of low performance in Photovoltaic plants

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Rafael Rene Gimenez Schwart 3 years ago.

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     Enrique Ramirez 

    Hi everyone, I was assisting this week some students in an entrepreneurship program. The challenge they are facing is the low performance of photovoltaic plants compared to the initial specification, and this can be up to a 28% in some cases. You can imagine the impact in the business case of such investment, so I wonder what are the root causes of this low performance. Is this about the quality of the solar panels? Is it about the cleaning? What about the orientation of the panels? Or is it another?

     Marcos Rupérez Cerqueda 

    I don´t think orientation is any problem as this is fixed I mean sun is always same place and panels also so is predictable. It may be weather and shadow from the clouds one of the problem but this is also kind of statistically predictable for a fixed place.

    In my opinion main problem is cleaning, as it decreases a lot the efficiency and it is very costly to clean the panels frequently.

    About the quality of the solar panels use to be warrant and the loss of efficiency predicted and inset on the financial calculus. So after 10 years maybe the efficiency of the panels is low because of silicon degradation but as this loss of eficiency is predicted on the financial plan when the investment is done is not a problem. the problem is more the dirt on the panels that maybe is not predicted on the financial model.


    Definitely orientation makes a difference, but there is a lot of factors to take into consideration here. I am a mechanical design engineer for a solar company so I really know about how the industry works. The trending design in solar at the moment, especially in utility projects are the “solar trackers”. Solar trackers, which can track the sun positioning at different times of the day can improve the power density of a solar field by more than 40%. Now, the efficiency in the solar plants can be affected by other issues such as shading and backtracking. As it was mentioned before if there is soil particles in the panels, this can also affect efficiency. However, real efficiency problems come with microcracking of the PV cells and Potential Induced Degradation or PID. Microcracking can happen if the installation process is not efficient, therefore is the responsibility of us the engineers to make the design simple and practical enough for installation. PID is caused usually for wrong installation on the PV cells in the solar panel or excess of humidity in the field, but it can also be triggered by high-powered systems connected in series. As you can see, there are many factors that can affect the power output of a solar field over time, so therefore capable companies have to take all these conditions into account in PV and racking design.

    Rafael Gimenez.

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