New solar tool to measure expected lifetime performance of PV systems

Published on April 12, 2018 by Kevin Randolph

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The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) said recently that it is developing, in coordination with industry partners SunPower and kWh Analytics, a new software package for measuring the expected lifetime performance of photovoltaic (PV) systems.

The new software package, RdTools, enables more reliable, consistent and accurate measurements, according to NREL. The toolkit can assist with calculating and analyzing PV system performance and degradation over time, identifying under-performing sub-arrays and quantifying system performance relative to neighboring systems.

“There’s a high level of interest in this software because it provides user-friendly, accurate, and objective assessments that can help owners make sense of their data,” Dirk Jordan, engineer and solar PV researcher at NREL, said. “We spent years building consensus in the industry around a common set of analytical rules. Now PV stakeholders can learn much more about the performance of their technology and improve decision-making on multiple fronts.”

The tool could provide useful information to solar manufacturers, engineers, investors, and owners.

“As more and more solar is deployed, there is an ever-increasing amount of PV performance data available to analyze,” Adam Shinn, a data scientist for co-developer kWh Analytics, said. “For solar investors who seek to understand the long-term financial risks of their energy-producing assets, analysis RdTools will help them quantify PV durability.”

The NREL research team for the RdTools project was led by Michael Deceglie, Chris Deline, Dirk Jordan and Ambarish Nag. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.

The software is being developed as a set of open-source Python scripts and usage examples on GitHub. It is publicly available to users who can access, download and customize the software.