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Photovoltaic modules could soon be self-testing

​Recent developments at Liten, a CEA Tech institute, could lay the foundations for PV modules with advanced BIST (built-in self-test) capabilities. Faults will be detected and identified in record time, without bringing PV production to a halt.

Published on 28 January 2016

In the run-up to EU standards that will soon require individual circuit breakers for each PV module, Liten researchers have been busy working on new self-test solutions. They came up with a circuit board that can isolate each module and generate its I–V characteristic (the current–voltage curve, represented as a graph) in less than a thousandth of a second. The I–V characteristic is then analyzed by software developed to detect the electrical signatures characteristic of different types of faults.

The system not only detects faults, but it can also identify exactly what type of fault has occurred and where. In the event of an incident, the defective module can be shut off without affecting the rest of the system and without stopping energy production. The system also eliminates the need to send a technician on site to individually test each module with a portable I–V tester.

Finally, the electronics can be integrated into new PV module designs or retrofitted on existing modules by adding an external unit measuring just a few centimeters. The patented system has been tested at several PV plants. Several manufacturers have already shown interest.

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