PV Testing Moves from Lab to Field Application with Solar Farm Lifetime Testing System

Posted on Thu, Oct 09, 2014 by Jack Stephenson

As part of Sheffield University's innovative Solar Project we have developed an extended Lifetime Testing System to move PV testing from the laboratory to in-field application.

The Lifetime Testing System joins an existing 58m2 silicon photovoltaic solar panel installation on the roof of the university's Hicks Building. For several months now the university has been testing a mixture of industrial and prototype solar panels in order to monitor their performance. Now, however, the Ossila Solar Farm Lifetime System enables testing of any PV substrates which have been fabricated in the lab.


The Solar Farm Project aims to bridge the gap between laboratory testing and field application, and our part in the project amplifies this aim. The Lifetime Testing System consists of three Environmental & Encapsulation Chambers which protect substrates and remote test boards from the damaging effects of the environment. Each test board is connected to a Multiplexing Lifetime Tester which calculates the PV operational parameters such as PCE, short circuit current, open circuit voltage and fill factor.


The Lifetime Testers and PXI systems are housed in a protective metal cabinet whilst the Encapsulation Chambers are rigged securely to the top of the cabinet in order that the photovoltaic devices are exposed to sunlight. Each chamber is hermetically sealed with a toughened glass lid and can be connected to a nitrogen line to maintain overpressure. These features help to maintain the substrate in an inert atmosphere in order to reduce oxygen and water ingress which can cause degradation of the pixels in normal atmospheric conditions. Since the chambers have been designed to fit in a standard glove box, they can loaded with substrates in a controlled environment before being sealed and moved up onto the roof for testing.

The Solar Farm Project forms one element of Project Sunshine, a larger scale campaign that aims to tackle the world population's increasing demand for food and energy whilst addressing the issues of climate and environmental change.

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