A new set of tools, RdTools, accurately calculates how the performance of solar panel degrade over time. The tools, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Department of Energy (DOE), SunPower and kWh Analytics, will allow companies and solar system owners to better calculate how a solar panel’s performance will degrade over time.
The tools will increase consumer and investor confidence in investing in solar power. That confidence could lead financiers to reduce the rates for investing in solar projects because it reduces their risk.
The tools have had an impact for SunPower. “The RdTools method was used to analyze energy generation from 264 PV systems at locations across the globe, revealing that degradation rates were slower than expected,” said Greg Kimball, a senior performance engineer at SunPower. “The result prompted improvements to and extension of our warranty coverage to customers.”
“There’s a high level of interest in this software because it provides user-friendly, accurate, and objective assessments that can help owners make sense of their data,” said Dirk Jordan, engineer and solar PV researcher at NREL. “We spent years building consensus in the industry around a common set of analytical rules. Now PV stakeholders can learn much more about the performance of their technology and improve decision-making on multiple fronts.”
One of the reasons the performance of solar panels are so difficult to accurately measure over time is that they face the elements on a daily basis. The performance and degradation of solar panels are impacted by the weather, seasonal conditions soiling but weather and other factors. Evaluating that has required years of production data, instrumentation, and the scientists to conduct evaluations.
“As more and more solar is deployed, there is an ever-increasing amount of PV performance data available to analyze,” said Adam Shinn, a data scientist for co-developer kWh Analytics. “For solar investors who seek to understand the long-term financial risks of their energy-producing assets, analysis RdTools will help them quantify PV durability.”
They use new methodologies to study solar field production data and increases the speed at which PV systems can be evaluated. The software is open source and publicly available. Users can access, download and customize the software to their needs.Tweet