BP Solar Module Earns Dual Certification

BP Solar is the first photovoltaic (PV) module manufacturer to earn certification with Underwriters Laboratories (UL) to both North American and international standards at the same time, said the company. In North America, requirements relate to mechanical, electrical and fire safety. Internationally, PV products are evaluated to reliability and durability requirements developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

Northbrook, Illinois, July 23, 2003 [ SolarAccess.com] “Multi-certification for PV modules is a winning combination for the manufacturer and the end-user,” said George Kelly, BP Solar Senior Product Development Manager. “It decreases time to market while ensuring safety, performance and energy production. Testing to North American requirements ensures that users can expect safe operation over that product’s lifetime while a module meeting IEC requirements has a high likelihood of providing power for well over twenty years.” Steve Jochums, UL Senior Engineer said that it makes sense to offer multi-certification, because it is an estimated US$1.8 billion dollar industry worldwide. The IEC standard subjects PV modules to abnormal conditions, simulates accelerated lifetimes and measures the power production and electrical performance. Other tests expose the module to abnormal conditions to simulate how the module will perform in real world weather conditions. Some tests include placing the module in a 185°F environment at 85-percent humidity for 1,000 hours, or striking the module at 10 critical locations with a one-inch ice ball traveling at 52 mph. Throughout the testing, a module is only allowed to pass if its output power decreases by no more than five percent over a particular test and no more than 8 percent over the entire sequence. “Seventy percent of the PV modules manufactured in North America are shipped for sale overseas, which has tested PV modules to U.S. and Canadian requirements since 1984 and have recently begun testing to IEC requirements,” Jochums said. “We wanted to give manufacturers a simple solution to both domestic and international certification needs.” According to Jochums, testing PV modules to North American and international requirements simultaneously can drastically reduce total test time a manufacturer would normally face by earning certification separately from different organizations. For example, he cited that both standards include requirements for electrical performance measurement, static load testing and testing that requires the product to cycle 200 times from -40°F to more than 180°F. Jochums also said that offering multi-certification is UL’s first step in achieving a minimum project turn-around time of 45 days within the next couple of years.

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