Sandia LabNews

Sandia partners with TUV Rheinland PTL, LLC to advance nation's photovoltaic industry

The test yard used by TUV-PTL in Arizona. (Photo courtesy of TUV-PTL)

Technology developed and perfected at Sandia National Laboratories is being used to accelerate the growth of the nation’s photovoltaic solar power industry through a partnership with TUV Rheinland PTL, LLC, a private testing and certification company in Arizona.

“The unique, multiplatform test capabilities developed at Sandia Labs are providing a tremendous value to our customers,” Govindasamy Tamizhmani of TUV-PTL says.

As a leader in PV research, the Photovoltaics and Grid Integration Department at Sandia Labs has been the source private companies have consistently turned to for testing and analysis needs. But as the nation’s PV industry continues its exponential growth, keeping up with those demands is no longer feasible.

“Transferring our technology to a commercial test house allows for a much faster response time for getting PV into the field,” Sandia researcher Jennifer Granata (6112) says. “This partnership enables us to continue to support requests while maintaining our primary focus on research and new technologies.”

In 2009, Sandia opened a competitive bid for a third party to certify systems using Sandia technology, which was awarded to TUV-PTL in May 2009. Fourteen months later, Sandia verified the test and analysis methods of TUV-PTL through two rounds of exacting tests and the contract was completed.

Traditional tests only characterize modules at one temperature, one irradiance, and one spectrum, but Sandia’s technology allows users to test PV modules with a high accuracy, dual-axis tracker and gather data on multiple weather conditions, temperatures, irradiances, air mass values, and angles of incidence. The data are then used to build models to predict how a module would behave in any location.

“As the industry and test standards slowly and steadily move away from single-condition to multicondition testing, the future for this new service looks great and allows us to provide a unique capability to our customers,” Tamizhmani says.

Since being awarded the contract, TUV-PTL has successfully used Sandia’s test methods for several clients to understand various real operating conditions in the field.

The technology transfer was conducted under the Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Program PV Test Technology Transfer effort.