The damage that can occur in solar panel can be divided into two categories: visible and invisible damage. Both forms of damage will affect the energy yield negatively in the short or long term, potentially risking your investment and business case. Visible damage is usually reimbursed (without much discussion). Invisible damage is a different story, however. Damage can occur during different stages a solar panel goes through, and it may be the responsibility of different parties. Think, for instance, of production errors, transport damage, installation damage, or storm damage.
Micro-cracks can develop into bigger and bigger cracks due to annual thermal cycles. Eventually, they will block parts of the cell, and the energy generated is no longer able to go where it needs to go (well). This results in reduced output of the solar panel, which leads to reduced yields of the entire string.
A quality inspection just before installation can prevent such scenarios in most cases. With the help of the inspection report, you can easily prove what the quality was after shipping and before installation. It’s important that you include clear provisions in your purchasing contract about what will be done if your panels are found to be of insufficient quality. SolarTester can help you to make sure that you include the necessary clauses. For more information about this service, please click here.
Below we will briefly address the possible causes.
During the production process, damage can be caused by, for example, the soldering machine being incorrectly adjusted and putting too much pressure on the cells, causing small cracks (so-called v-cracks). This damage is not included in the factory screening and can develop into larger cracks during transport or installation. The micro cracks will eventually close off parts of the cells. The result is a loss of yield.
Solar panels are usually produced in Asia, which means that a long transport cycle takes place before they arrive at the final destination. A panel experiences vibrations during transport. These vibrations can cause damage to the solar cells. As previously mentioned, the result is the sealing of parts of the cells by micro cracks.
Example of crack damage that occurs during production
The installation of the solar panels is a risky phase with regard to the risk of (significant) damage. Lack of knowledge and / or instructions to the installer on how to handle a solar panel increases the risk. The idea of standing, sitting or supporting on a panel are common causes of serious damage to the cells. The glass plate is usually intended for pressure loading. However, the solar cells are similarly sensitive as chips and can suffer considerable damage from pressure loading at one point. The adjacent picture illustrates how pressure loading can shatter a cell. A quality control on site before installation (baseline measurement) leaves you stronger in case of loss of yield after installation. With the SolarTester report you can demonstrate how the solar panels, including the solar cells, looked qualitatively before installation.
Solar panel with installation damage or handling damage
Storm damage can cause significant damage to the cells. A blow to the solar panel causes violent vibrations that cause the solar cells to burst. However, it is often the case that part of the panels is visibly damaged, so that they are replaced. Discussion arises about the not visibly damaged solar panels. There is a real chance that solar panels that, in addition to visibly damaged panels, have also been damaged. The solar cells of these panels are visualized using electroluminescence images. A good estimate can then be made of whether or not these panels need to be replaced. Any damage is assessed for both short and long-term influence. Such a damage investigation can offer a solution for all parties involved. In practice, this often means that part of the solar panels do not need to be replaced, which can save (significant) costs.
Solar module with hail damage
So there are different types of damage that can occur at different times. All forms of damage will have a direct or long-term negative impact on the energy yield, which can cause problems for your investment and business case. With the help of a quality control in advance, part of this damage can be discovered in time. If subsequent losses occur after installation, you can use the report to determine that damage has occurred during installation or due to a storm.
It is important that you include clearly in your purchase contract what the agreements are if the quality of the panels is found to be insufficient in the quality test. SolarTester can support you in this so that you include the correct clauses. For more information about this service, click here.
For more information about damage and our support for your damage project, please contact us at any time. We are happy to assist you.