The DOE established Regional Test Centers (RTCs) at five different locations to independently validate the performance and reliability of solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, particularly for emerging U.S. manufacturers, and to develop standardized processes for such validation procedures. These locations (Albuquerque, NM; Denver, CO; Orlando, FL; Las Vegas, NV); and Houghton, MI (under development) were picked in part due to their different climate conditions, which have larger effects on system performance, degradation, and durability. The RTCs will provide the land and electrical infrastructure required to install up to 500 kW system blocks for validation. More importantly, the RTCs will provide the expertise of DOE’s national laboratories to assess and validate the performance and initial reliability in such detail that manufacturers, integrators, and the financial community will develop greater confidence in the bankability of these systems. PV systems could perform differently at different sites for many reasons (solar resource, environmental conditions, etc.). One of the objectives of the validation work is to measure and document these differences—to improve industry’s ability to predict the output of new technologies regardless of where they are deployed. Detailed performance monitoring is essential to ensure that the performance and reliability modeling tools used by industry and by independent engineers to assess bankability are able to predict power and energy output from such systems for any location over time. Detailed monitoring also enables early detection of module degradation, infant mortality failures, and early indicators of potential failure modes. The RTCs team’s many years of experience installing and validating renewable energy systems with industry partners provides the ability to lead the analysis of data gathered and to assess initial system durability and reliability. The details of the validation plan will be negotiated with each RTC Partner based on the technology, size of the installations, and specific needs. In addition, the validation plan will be updated based on lessons learned throughout the implementation process over the course of testing.
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