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    Servicing your Grid Connect Solar System

    According to the Australian Solar Standards (AS5033 - 2012) it is recommended that Grid Connect solar systems get checked annually for signs of failure.

    The Big question is why would they make such a recommendation, these systems are designed to operate for 15 years arent they?.. Well yes, but, there are some common photovoltaic failures we see over and over again, and yes the solar modules that are failing have a 20yr warranty.

     

    Industry studies by some of the world leaders in solar module manufacturing have estimated that 4% of all solar modules will fail well before their 20yr life expectancy.

     

    Would you know if a couple of your solar panels were starting to fail?

    Unless you are checking them with the right equipment, the answer to that question is no! if 2 or three of your solar panels started to produce 1% less energy you would never notice it at your meter point or in the readings of the solar inverter.

     

    What types of problems can occur?

     

    red-arrow.png Solar Array Hot Spots
       
     

    This is quite a common scenario. Hot spots can form anywhere in the system, connections to the Solar inverter, connections between the strings in the solar array, connections between panels, and within the panels themselves.

    A hot spot anywhere in the system is a sign of early failure, and needs to be dealt with immediately because the end result of a hot spot can be catastrophic.

    panel-fire.png The photo to the left is a result of a Hot spot that went undetected.There was a failure in one solar cell that started to get hot, the next step was fire and the final outcome is self evident.
     
    If the solar system had of been checked the hot spot would have been found well and truly before the catastrophic failure occured.

    thermal-hotspot.pngThe photo on the right shows an exampe of a localised hotspot which needs to be remedied.
     
    These hotspots are easily identified by a professional solar engineer with the right equipment.
       
    red-arrow.png EVA Discolouration
       
     

     EVA is a component of a solar panel that is never talked about (except in engineering circles). You cant even see it, yet it is one of the most important factors in a long solar panel life.

    EVA is the glue.. there is a thin layer of EVA between the front class and the solar modules, and a thin layer between the solar modules and the back. EVA is responsible for:

    • Keeping moisture away from the silicone cells and the electrical interconnects.
    • Holding everything together, keeping the glass attached, and keeping the back attached.
    When the EVA starts to fail the panels can fall apart, get hot, and have their power output significantly reduce.
    So what can go wrong?
    If the EVA layers start to fail due to manufacturing problems or poor solar panel quality then several things will start to occur.
    • Moisture will ingress into the solar module, which will cause the solar module to corrode and rapidly degrade.

    • Delaimination: The various layers of the solar module will start to peal away.

    • Browning. The color of the EVA goes from transparent to a brown/yellow colour; this causes loss in electrical production and localised hot spots.

    eva-browning.jpgThis photo shows a severe case of EVA browning. It should be said that all solar modules will be affected by EVA browning eventually, but the amount of browning and how long it takes to get there is a sign of panel quality. The panel in this photo should have been replaced a long time ago.
       
       

     

     So What Can you Do?

    The easiest answer to that question is get your system check at least every year by a professional solar engineering company.

    I dont know what other companies offer but we offer our customers (and you) an annual inspection program designed to catch any problems before they become major catastrophies. 

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