09 July 2012
The constant evolution of requirements in the solar industry showcases the importance of testing and certification to keep pace with the market. For a PV module to be sold in North America, the manufacturer must receive performance and safety certification from an OSHA-recognized Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL). For the same module to be sold internationally, there are a number of required performance tests needed to gain International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) certification. While these national and international standards are critical, the recent slowing of product development in the solar industry has caused manufacturers to turn their focus in a new direction: bankability.
What is bankability testing?
Third party bankability testing takes risk management to the next level with an emphasis on product performance, reliability and durability. In an effort to reduce risk and prevent product failure, bankability assessments perform an initial product evaluation and reevaluate quarterly to ensure consistent and quality products over the long term.
Some of the tests conducted, such as the salt mist and ammonia corrosive test, examine a product’s performance in various climates and environments including hot, dry, snowy, sea shore, farm field and industrial. Peel tests, gel tests and electroluminescent imaging performed on PV modules are other bankability tests that measure risk by going beyond the scope of required testing.
The rise in the popularity of bankability has enforced the need for a set of standards. While the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has not yet declared a standardized method for bankability testing, the International Photovoltaic Module Quality Assurance (QA) Task Force is currently working to do so, which will help manufacturers and other stakeholders better understand and benchmark results.
What is it worth?
Bankability testing helps companies evaluate the long-term performance and reliability of their PV modules, which is critical for them to attract investors and gain subsidies from banks or government entities and a core component of an overall bankability program. Such assessments help support manufacturers’ product claims about long life cycles, energy generation, weathering of modules and other product attributes, which increase investor confidence and provide greater assurance of return on investment.
With its emphasis on risk reduction, bankability can help reduce product failure or less than anticipated performance, and in turn prevent lost dollars and a tarnished reputation. By going beyond simply meeting mandatory standards and investing in bankability testing, manufacturers can substantiate product claims, demonstrate the bankability of their products and differentiate their market offerings, providing them with a clear competitive advantage in an industry that is constantly evolving.
Written by Sunny Rai, Regional Vice President for Renewable Energy, Intertek