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Solar power has become an attractive alternative of electricity energy. Solar cells that form the basis of a solar power system are mainly based on multicrystalline silicon. A set of solar cells are assembled and interconnected into a large solar module to offer a large amount of electricity power for commercial applications. Many defects in a solar module cannot be visually observed with the conventional CCD imaging system. This paper aims at defect inspection of solar modules in electroluminescence (EL) images. The solar module charged with electrical current will emit infrared light whose intensity will be darker for intrinsic crystal grain boundaries and extrinsic defects including micro-cracks, breaks and finger interruptions. The EL image can distinctly highlight the invisible defects but also create a random inhomogeneous background, which makes the inspection task extremely difficult. The proposed method is based on independent component analysis (ICA), and involves a learning and a detection stage. The large solar module image is first divided into small solar cell subimages. In the training stage, a set of defect-free solar cell subimages are used to find a set of independent basis images using ICA. In the inspection stage, each solar cell subimage under inspection is reconstructed as a linear combination of the learned basis images. The coefficients of the linear combination are used as the feature vector for classification. Also, the reconstruction error between the test image and its reconstructed image from the ICA basis images is also evaluated for detecting the presence of defects. Experimental results have shown that the image reconstruction with basis images distinctly outperforms the ICA feature extraction approach. It can achieve a mean recognition rate of 93.4% for a set of 80 test samples.