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PVEL starts crowdsourced inverter testing that does not require manufacturer participation

Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 01st October

Independent testing lab PV Evolution Labs (PVEL) has started a crowdsourced version of its inverter testing program. PVEL will now partner directly with investors, developers and asset owners to test commercially procured inverters through its Crowd Power Product Qualification Program (PQP) that does not require manufacturer participation.

A PVEL lab technician notes power measurements of a solar inverter

“From financial losses to unsafe system operation, the consequences of defective inverters range from frustrating to dangerous — yet third-party data for inverters is notoriously difficult to obtain from manufacturers,” commented C.J. Colavito, VP of engineering at commercial-scale solar developer Standard Solar. “PVEL’s Crowd Power PQP allows quality-driven companies like ours to pool resources for data-driven inverter diligence that will reduce the risk associated with adopting inverters with limited field deployment.”

The tests in the Inverter Crowd Power PQP match the tests in PVEL’s traditional Inverter PQP, which PVEL first introduced in 2014. Both programs include field-representative safety, reliability and performance testing under varying environmental and interconnection conditions to support datasheet validation for more accurate performance and revenue models, reliability evaluations for improved O&M cost and replacement rate forecast accuracy and safety assessments for reliable arc and ground fault detection in fielded systems.

“PVEL’s crowdsourced testing gives inverter buyers the opportunity to leverage empirical data over the claims of product marketing materials. Initial feedback from our downstream partners has been overwhelmingly positive,” commented Tara Doyle, Chief Commercial Officer of PVEL. “With or without manufacturer involvement, we will ensure PVEL’s technical insights for deployment of high-quality equipment are available to the solar market.”

The Inverter Crowd Power PQP complements and supplements PVEL’s traditional PQP testing, which remains available to manufacturers. Ginlong Solis and Chint Power Systems recently submitted next-generation 250-kWh inverters for testing at PVEL. However, the vast majority of inverter suppliers do not typically engage in independent testing that exceeds certification standards to support comprehensive product quality and bankability benchmarking.

In contrast, over 50 PV module manufacturers have tested their products at PVEL and 25 suppliers engage in frequent, periodic testing. Since PVEL’s PV Module PQP was introduced in 2012, PV module reliability has improved significantly overall despite ongoing challenges. For example, average degradation rates in PVEL’s thermal cycling test have improved by nearly 70% since 2012.

“The most effective tool for product quality improvement is validated data that objectively measures performance and reliability,” commented Jack Bennett, CEO of NovaSource Power Services. “Inverters are the essential interface between solar power systems, batteries, and the utility grid. If these products are not reliable, we cannot count on solar PV infrastructure to generate clean power for decades to come.”

News item from PVEL