In the latest monthly column pv magazine, the International Renewable Energy Agency shares a set of recommendations gathered from industry experts to help India meet its ambitious solar goals. According to experts, Quality Infrastructure (QI) will be crucial for the country’s solar power market in the coming years. QI is an interdependent ecosystem where different elements (accreditation, certification, standards, testing, metrology, inspection and control) work together in harmony, and all related services should be developed in a unified and not fragmented manner. Sound and internationally harmonized quality control not only ensures that solar products and services perform according to the expectations of customers and national energy authorities, but also enables a more efficient and competitive market based on the global economy at scale.
Global trends in solar power are bright, and India may be at the forefront of installing additional capacity: IRENA data shows that global capital expenditure (or CAPEX) for solar power projects fell by 80 percent between 2010 and 2021. factors increased to 17.2% and the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE) decreased by 88%. On the latter point, since 2010, the LCOE cost of solar electricity in India has fallen by 90 percent. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the global cumulative capacity of solar electricity in 2021 was 843 GW. However, to achieve a net-zero scenario, this capacity must be increased to 5,221 GW and 14,036 GW by 2030 and 14,036 GW by 2050 – QI is key to achieving this goal.
The International Quality Forum for the Indian Solar Power Sector in Delhi highlighted many of these issues. IRENA, together with the organizers of the meeting, the German Institute of Metrology, the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) and the Indian Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, discussed with representatives of the Indian private sector and authorities how to invest in quality improvement. infrastructure can help unlock the enormous potential of the country’s solar power industry.
Looking first at the risk of under-investment in QI hindering capacity, the meeting noted hot spots due to poor module design, micro-cracks due to failure to follow transport protocol, corrosion due to low moisture resistance of modules, broken solder joints due to poor wiring techniques and broken cells which caused by people tampering with cells without knowledge/training on proper installation methods all contribute to quality degradation. Quality differences in India are usually the result of aggressive climatic conditions and strong price pressure in the market. These challenges are typical but not limited to India. The recommendations are therefore relevant beyond the Indian situation.
How can the Indian PV sector overcome these challenges by investing in QI? QI is an interdependent ecosystem where different elements (accreditation, certification, standards, testing, metrology, inspection and control) work harmoniously together, and all related services must be developed in a unified and not fragmented manner. All improvements in the QI system are necessary and interconnected. the workshop participants considered the following recommendations to be the most urgent:
- Advanced Testing: Manufacturing requires advanced testing (e.g. mechanical and dynamic test stressing of modules, determination of PV yield, etc.) as there are significant differences between samples and actual products coming to market.
- Metrology: From a metrology point of view, there was a clear identification to improve the calibration and testing capabilities of solar cells, modules and high power inverters.
- Lab infrastructure: Laboratory infrastructure should be synchronized with industry development. Indian test labs must be independent of manufacturers and regulators.
- Verification and Accreditation: There are several standards in India, but the installed plant was not verified. Verification must be done at the stage when the facility is put into use.
- Tenders and funding: QI elements are included, but there is no independent body to check compliance with the elements included in the tender, and no plant quality classification system.
- Internationally harmonized standardization: Development and standardization promote international trade. In India, the standards developed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) are primarily followed, but there is a need for increased market acceptance and synergy with the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards.
- Installation: Workers must be trained to ensure they have the skills to follow standard installation protocols and guidelines. Lenders must require a descriptive report for each solar power plant project.
As these recommendations clearly show, while India has made tremendous progress and is becoming a global leader in solar technology, the country still has work to do in terms of quality control improvements, as the rate of deterioration of solar panels, for example, shows that the industry needs to go down this path. Doing so will benefit the entire industry and its consumers. At the end of the day, QI services are more than their costs. On average, QI is only 5% of the total project cost. It’s a win for everyone.
This article was written by the International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA.