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Multi-field and multi-scale Computational Approach to design and durability of PhotoVoltaic Modules

Final Report Summary - CA2PVM (Multi-field and multi-scale Computational Approach to design and durability of PhotoVoltaic Modules)

Photovoltaics (PV) is one the most growing technology in the World for renewable, sustainable, non-polluting, widely available clean energy sources. To make it further sustainable and durable, the present project developed unconventional simulation tools and experimental methods to effectively characterize and optimize the performance and the durability of Silicon-based PV systems subject to mechanical and environmental loadings. Research results led to the development of a novel multi-physics simulation method of PV modules integrating: (i) advanced structural mechanics models to compute the stress and deformation fields in PV laminates; (ii) geometrical multi-scale numerical schemes to solve thermal and moisture diffusion problems; (iii) nonlinear fracture mechanics formulations to simulate crack propagation in solar cells or delamination in the laminate; (iv) electric models to quantify the electric output of the device, also in the presence of moisture degradation and cracks in Silicon.
Target applications concerned not only traditional ground-mounted PV modules, but also novel building-integrated PV solutions. Both traditional technologies based on mono- and poly-crystalline Silicon semiconductors and innovative semi-flexible PV modules and ultra-thin solar cells have been investigated.
Knowledge and technology transfer regarded the development of simulation tools for industrial quality control to avoid over-conservative rejection of partially cracked PV modules, combined electroluminescence and infrared imaging techniques to monitor operating PV-plants to quantify the energy losses according to the causes, methods to improve PV production technologies, as well as new solutions to facilitate recycling of PV modules at the end of their lifetime. Recommendations on how to revise the existing standard PV qualification tests by the International Electrotechnical Commission have also been proposed in relation to simulated hail impact tests and to accelerated ageing tests for being applied to climatic zones other than the European one.