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Photovoltaic (PV) modules are renowned for their reliability. However, some modules degrade or even fail when operating outdoors for extended periods. To reduce the degradation, and the number of failures, extensive research is needed on the performance of PV modules. The aim of this study was to establish a photovoltaic degradation and failure assessment procedure. This procedure should assess all parameters of PV modules to completely analyze any observed degradation or failure. In this paper some degradation modes of PV modules are discussed and a procedure used to assess these degradation modes is then presented. Results obtained by subjecting Copper Indium Diselenide (CIS), single and triple junction amorphous silicon (a-Si and a-SiGe), Edge-defined Film-fed Growth (EFG) silicon and mono-crystalline silicon (mono-Si) modules to the assessment procedure are presented and discussed. Results obtained indicate that the thin-film modules degrade by up to 50% in performance after an initial outdoor exposure of 130 kWh/m2. Visual inspection revealed that both crystalline modules had cracked cells. The mismatch due to the cracked cell in the EFG-Si module, however, was limited by the interconnect busbars. This paper accentuates the importance of characterizing all module performance parameters in order to analyze observed degradation and failure modes.
Date of Publication: March 2004