Testing photovoltaic reliability for a brighter future

Centennial College

Centennial College has been working on a solar module reliability project in tandem with electronics manufacturing giant Celestica, giving students a chance to get a more robust understanding of photovoltaic (PV) panel reliability. The initiative, funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), involves collecting real-time data to build models that better predict electrical performance.

A photovoltaic system uses solar panels comprised of solar cells, which generate electricity when exposed to the sun. PV systems allow for the direct conversion of photons (contained in sunlight) into electricity without any moving parts, a no-pollution energy solution that’s in high demand. The working partnership between Celestica and Centennial allows students to gain access to real PV models and data, expanding upon information that’s been gleaned from the classroom.

To remain competitive in the solar space, PV modules need to be built to withstand adverse outdoor conditions, especially in Canada, as efficiency typically degrades by a few percentage points every year, depending on the manufacturer. To test Celestica’s PV modules, Centennial researchers are installing an array of measuring devices at the college’s Progress Campus.

Student researcher Gaurang Alaiya, who earned an Advance Diploma in Energy System Engineering Technology at Centennial, cites his Centennial Primary Investigators’ “passion about the project” as inspiration, saying his experience working on it has been terrific.

Gaurang, who is part of a one-year co-op work term, tells us the team has developed a system to record different weather variables such as pressure, irradiance, temperature and humidity. These data points are collected throughout the day, on four different locations on the modules.

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