Post severe weather events such as hailstorms or significant windstorms, it is critical to conduct inspections on solar panels installed in the field. These inspections typically involve the use of sophisticated electrical equipment or the removal of panels for indoor laboratory testing. While these examinations often uncover minor damage, they necessitate system downtime and incur substantial expenses to ensure the panels’ operational integrity.
NREL photovoltaic reliability researchers, along with industry partners, have introduced an innovative system designed to simplify and streamline this process. This system harnesses the principle of photoluminescence, a fundamental element of semiconductor materials in solar cells. The PLatypus device employs light to illuminate the solar cells, which subsequently emit light back to the device’s cameras. Cells that have sustained damage will emit less intense light, providing a swift and clear indication of the panels’ condition.
This system enables a comprehensive check of the entire system in a significantly reduced amount of time and cost, without the need to disconnect the system’s electronics. The development of the PLatypus device is being carried out within the framework of the Durable Module Materials Consortium (DuraMAT), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office and is spearheaded by NREL.