About the International PV Quality Assurance Task Force
The International Photovoltaic Quality Assurance Task Force (PVQAT) leads global efforts to craft quality and reliability standards for solar energy technologies. These standards will allow stakeholders to quickly assess a solar photovoltaic (PV) module's performance and ability to withstand local weather stresses, thereby reducing risk and adding confidence for those developing products, designing incentive programs, and determining private investments.
As a result:
- Investors can gain confidence in solar investments
- PV customers can use standards to choose products that meet their needs
- Incentive programs can define a minimum durability for module designs
- Insurance companies can adjust rates according to demonstrated reliability
- PV module suppliers can optimize module design to minimize cost while still maintaining confidence in reliability for a specific use or application of the modules
- The entire PV community benefits by reducing installed PV cost.
PVQAT strives to provide these benefits by coordinating international development of comprehensive technical standards for verifying PV component and system quality and bankability. To that end, PVQAT has a three-pronged approach that seeks to establish:
- A rating system to ensure durable design of PV modules for the climate and application of interest
- A guideline for factory inspections and quality assurance (QA) during manufacturing
- A comprehensive system for certification of PV systems, verifying appropriate design, installation, and operation.
PVQAT has 12 individual task groups focused on accelerating progress toward implementing these three approaches.
The first International PV Module Quality Assurance Forum was held in July 2011 in San Francisco, California. The event fostered international participation to develop a rating system that meets the needs of all countries and customers, so PV manufacturers need to complete only a single test. At the forum, the community expressed strong support for development of international PV QA standards, leading to the formation of PVQAT.
International Photovoltaic Standards Development
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has set a minimum design criterion for PV qualification test standards. While beneficial to the PV community in many ways, IEC 61215, IEC 61730, and IEC 62108 do not attempt to give confidence for decades of solar energy system use and do not provide a mechanism to adjust requirements based on regional differences in PV module stresses.
Therefore, PVQAT seeks to develop a rating system that provides information about the durability of PV modules to a variety of stresses.
In general, QA covers safety and environmental issues as well as product performance. These issues may interact with one another in many cases. However, PVQAT focuses primarily on performance aspects and looks specifically at two key parts of QA:
- The original design to ensure the desired reliability
- The manufacturing process to ensure consistent quality.
Customer confidence in PV module QA will be improved by international standards that more consistently oversee the QA programs in place at each factory. This type of QA standard will be implemented by IEC and IECRE.
Meaningful service life prediction must be done as part of a quality management system to provide information about a product with a specific bill of materials, manufactured within a specified process window for a defined application. Such quantitative prediction is the end goal.
PVQAT encourages participation by all types of stakeholders, including PV customers, incentive programs, investors, insurance companies, PV manufacturers, PV test labs, and PV standards organizations. You are welcome to contact us or subscribe for email updates for further information.