Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering

Research

Knowing how a PV panel will perform underpins the uptake of this vital technology
Knowing how a PV panel will perform underpins the uptake of this vital technology

Predicting PV performance

  • Knowing how a PV panel will perform underpins the uptake of this vital technology

Photovoltaic (PV) generation of electricity is now a very common mechanism for producing green energy.

However, for long-term adaptation, the cost of generating electricity in this way needs to be fully and reliably understood. Little or no evidence existed of future generation characteristics of PV arrays once they had been installed for a period of time.

Exposure to sunlight is known to gradually degrade such components, but predicting how this will progress over the years had been very unreliable. Consequently, early adopters found errors in their expected performance which led to disappointing financial returns.

Loughborough research has developed techniques to contribute to a service-lifetime-energy-yield prediction increasing the forecast prediction. These techniques apply to the measurement of devices as well as predicting the longevity of these in the field.

This measurement accuracy is vital because calibration uncertainty affects the value of the overall market. Investment decisions in a multi-billion market are made based on how much electricity will be generated over the lifetime of the arrays. Errors in this information will seriously affect the investment returns generated on a PV installation. At 2013 prices, reducing the uncertainty by 2% has a value of around $1.5bn.

Financial predictions increased accuracy of future electricity generation can be made before a PV system is installed so that investment decisions can be accurately understood. This will enhance public confidence in sustainable energy and encourage individual investment in this important technology. The techniques devised by the research have been incorporated into international standards.

Impact

  • ECONOMIC CONFIDENCE 

    Evidence-based performance statistics have helped the sector to grow, expanding business and reach whilst supporting international targets for sustainable energy and tackling climate change.

  • INTERNATIONALLY ACCEPTED 

    The research has global applications – it has informed public policy and provided benchmarks for international standards.