National Lab Studies Solar Panel Corrosion

Sandia National Laboratories last week said that its researchers are studying corrosion on solar panels to help industry develop long-lasting PV panels and increase PV system reliability.

“It’s challenging to predict and even more challenging to design ways to reduce it because it’s highly dependent on material and environmental conditions,” Eric Schindelholz, a Sandia materials reliability researcher, said, according to a Feb. 2 SNL press statement. Schindelholz studies corrosion and how it affects PV system performance.

Sandia said that work by Olga Lavrova of Sandia’s Photovoltaic and Distributed Systems Integration department demonstrated, for the first time, a link between corrosion and the risk of arc faults in PV systems’ electrical connections. In addition, research by Erik Spoerke of Sandia’s Electronic, Optical and Nano Materials department focuses on developing new nanocomposite films that could dramatically increase reliability.

“One of our primary goals is to predict how fast corrosion will occur and what damage it does, given certain environments and materials,” Schindelholz said. “This, in turn, gives us information to select the right materials for design or to develop materials for corrosion-resistance for a particular environment. It also allows us to assess the health and operational risk of systems as they age. This is especially important for solar energy systems, which are susceptible to corrosion but are expected to last for decades.”

According to a 2002 study by the National Association of Corrosion Engineers, backed by the Federal Highway Administration, estimated corroding metals in various industries, infrastructure and manufacturing cost $276 billion annually.

Materials account for about 40 percent of total PV module costs.

Sandia said it belongs to a new consortium aimed at speeding up development of new materials for photovoltaic modules, increasing reliability and lowering the cost of solar power-generated electricity. The Durable Module Materials National Lab Consortium (DuraMat) wants to build bridges between the national laboratories and industry so research at the labs can benefit the PV community.

DuraMat, led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in partnership with Sandia, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, will receive about $30 million over five years from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative. The consortium is part of the Energy Materials Network, created by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

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