The damage that can occur in solar panel can be divided into two categories: visible and invisible damage. Both forms of damage will affect the energy yield negatively in the short or long term, potentially risking your investment and business case. Visible damage is usually reimbursed (without much discussion). Invisible damage is a different story, however. Damage can occur during different stages a solar panel goes through, and it may be the responsibility of different parties. Think, for instance, of production errors, transport damage, installation damage, or storm damage.
Micro-cracks can develop into bigger and bigger cracks due to annual thermal cycles. Eventually, they will block parts of the cell, and the energy generated is no longer able to go where it needs to go (well). This results in reduced output of the solar panel, which leads to reduced yields of the entire string.
A quality inspection just before installation can prevent such scenarios in most cases. With the help of the inspection report, you can easily prove what the quality was after shipping and before installation. It’s important that you include clear provisions in your purchasing contract about what will be done if your panels are found to be of insufficient quality. SolarTester can help you to make sure that you include the necessary clauses. For more information about this service, please click here.
Below we will briefly address the possible causes of damages.
During the production process damage can occur, e.g. the soldering machine is not properly adjusted and puts too much pressure on the cells, causing small cracks (so-called v-cracks). This type of damage is not included in the screening at the factory and can develop into larger cracks during transport or installation or simply by the thermal cycles during the seasons over the year. The micro cracks will eventually close off parts of the cells. The result is a loss of return.
Solar panels are generally produced in Asia, which means that there is a long transport cycle before they arrive at the final destination. A panel experiences vibrations during transport. These vibrations can cause damage to the solar cells. As mentioned before, the result is occlusion of parts of the cells by micro cracks.
Example v-crack damage occurring during production which develops during transport or installation.
The installation of the solar panels is a risky phase in terms of the risk of (significant) damage. Lack of knowledge and/or instructions to the installers on how to handle a solar panel creates an increased risk. The idea that one can stand, sit or support on a panel are common causes of severe damage to cells. The glass front is usually designed to withstand pressure loads. However, the solar cells are extremely thin and can be severely damaged by a pressure load at one point. The image on the right illustrates how compressive stress can shatter a cell. A quality control on location before installation (type of baseline measurement) will make you stronger in case there is a loss of efficiency after installation. With the SolarTester report you can demonstrate how the solar panels, including the solar cells, looked qualitatively before installation.
Solar panel with installation damage or action damage
Solar panel with storm damage
Storm damage can cause serious damage to the cells. A blow to the solar panel creates strong vibrations that cause the solar cells to burst. However, it is often the case that some of the panels are visibly damaged and will be replaced. A discussion arises about the not visibly damaged solar panels. There is a real chance that solar panels, in addition to visibly damaged panels, have also suffered damage. The solar cells of these panels are made visible with the help of electroluminescent images. A good estimate can then be made of whether or not these panels need to be replaced. Any damage is assessed for both short and long-term influence. Such a damage investigation can provide a solution for all parties involved. In practice, this often means that part of the solar panels does not need to be replaced, which can save (significant) costs.
So there are different types of damage that can occur at different times. All forms of damage will directly or in the longer term have a negative impact on the energy yield, which can cause problems for your investment and business case. Part of this damage can be discovered in good time with the help of a quality check. Should a loss of efficiency subsequently occur after installation, you can use the report to determine that damage has occurred during installation or due to storm.
It is important that you clearly state in your purchase contract what the agreements are if the quality of the panels is found to be insufficient in the quality test. SolarTester can support you with this so that you include the correct clauses. For more information about this service, click here.
For more information about damage and our support for your damage project, you can contact us at any time. We are happy to assist.