Reliability Concerns Associated with PV Technologies

Nick Bosco National Renewable Energy Laboratory 1617 Cole Blvd. Golden, CO 80401 303.384.6337 nick.bosco@nrel.gov

This document is a non-comprehensive summary of known reliability concerns for PV technologies. It has 3 parts: 1. List of reliability concerns with corresponding references 2. Reference list 3. Prioritization of failures
If you have comments about changes needed to this document or about the value of this summary, please send these to sarah_kurtz@nrel.gov. If this type of information is found to be useful to the community, we will update it periodically.

1.0 Wafer Silicon 1.1 Cracked cells (bonding processes, strain, etc.) [1-4] 1.2 Solder joint or gridline interface failure (increased series resistance) [5] 1.3 Reduced adhesion leading to corrosion and/ or delamination [6, 7] 1.4 Slow degradation of ISC [8] 1.5 Fatigue of ribbon interconnect 1.6 Junction box failure (poor solder joints, arcing, etc.) [9] 1.7 Busbar adhesion degradation, electrical contact, etc. 1.8 Glass edge damage of frameless modules (though installation, handling, etc.) 1.9 Light-induced cell degradation 1.10 Effect of glass on encapsulant performance [10-13] 1.11 Front surface soiling [14] 1.12 Mechanical failure of glass-glass laminates [14] 1.13 General issues [section 7.0] 2.0 Thin Film Silicon 2.1 Electrochemical corrosion of SnO2:F [15-17] 2.2 Initial light degradation (a-Si) [18-22] 2.3 Annealing instabilities (a-Si) [23, 24] 2.4 General issues [section 7.0] CdTe 3.1 Cell layer integrity- back contact stability [25] 3.2 Cell layer integrity- interlayer adhesion and delamination; electrochemical corrosion of SnO2:F [15-17, 26] 1
Updated April 2010

3.0

5 Shunt hot spots at scribe lines before and after stress [25] 3.7 6.3.6 6. [28] 3. 34. and yellowing of silicone encapsulants under high flux and high temperature with thermal cycling for long periods of time [42] Soiling and delamination of anti reflective coatings on internal optical components Cell damage from thermal runaway (may be caused by solder voids?) Loss of efficiency of optics [42] Poor solder joints between string ribbons and wires inside junction boxes – arcing Potential issues with highly non-uniform illumination Defect migration. nonuniformities before and after stress 4. 35] Cell–to-cell interconnect (discrete cells) Notable sensitivity of TCO to moisture. hot spots.3 4.0] 5.6 Weak diodes.2 5.5 5.4 6.1 5. need to pass damp heat test (nonshingle specific)[34] 4. …(especially for lattice mismatched) Corrosion and diffusion of silver gridlines/contacts 2 Updated April 2010 .7 4.0 OPV 5.3 Fill-factor loss (increased series resistance and/ or recombination) [27] 3. electrical contact.7 General issues [section 7.8 Cell layer integrity – contact stability Cell layer integrity – interlayer adhesion Fill-factor loss (increased series resistance and/or recombination) [29-33] Busbar failure – mechanical (adhesion) and electrical Notable sensitivity of TCO to moisture [34] Moisture ingress failure of package [29. 37] Photolytic Instability [38] Moisture induced degradation [39] Moisture ingress failure of package [40.4 4.8 Delamination of layers [36.0] 4.9 Weak diodes.1 4.10 Edge shunting 4.3 5. bubble formation. etc. 37] Thermal instability of donors and acceptors General issues [section 7.5 6.7 6.4 5.6 4.1 6.4 Busbar adhesion degradation.11 General issues [section 7.8 Shunt hot spots at scribe lines before and after stress [30] 4.3 6.0] Depolymerization.0 CPV 6. hot spots.2 4.0 CIS 4.2 6.6 5.5 4. 41] O2 induced degradation [36. nonuniformities before and after stress 3.

cell attachment.13 6. adhesive failure [43] Operational integrity of the mechanical parts of the trackers (for high concentration systems) High Al content AlInP can be sensitive to oxidation [44] General issues [section 7.9 6.10 6.7 Inverter reliability 7. 50. 41] 3 Updated April 2010 .3 Improper insulation leading to loss of grounding [47-49] 7.14 Electromigration due to high current under high concentration (tunnel junction) Inverter reliability (ability to withstand rapid changes in current) Module thermal fatigue (including high frequency and amplitude).1 Corrosion leading to loss of grounding [45. 46] 7.0 General Issues Across all Technologies 7. interconnects. 25. 51] 7.6 Bypass diode failure [53] 7.4 Delamination [7.5 Glass fracture [52] 7.12 6.0] 7.2 Quick connector reliability 7. materials.6.8 Moisture ingress [40.11 6.

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g. Problems may return because of Ce being removed from the glass Glass-glass laminates are almost never used because of added weight. strain etc. Voltage biased damp heat 2 Light soaking Diagnostic Technique / Qual Test (e. Wafer Si Film Si See items listed in “General” section Electrochemical corrosion of SnO2:F Initial light degradation (a-Si) 9 Updated April 2010 . handling. but continues to be a quality assurance issue Mechanisms are not fully understood Not new. etc..Reliability Concerns Associated with Application of PV Technologies in Systems Known and Anticipated Failure Modes & Degradation Mechanisms Priority/Prob. 1 Cracking may become worse for thinner wafers This is not new. of Success / Role for Labs (High-MediumLow) H/H/H H/H/L H/H/L H/M/M M/H/L M/H/L M/H/M H/H/H H/M/H H/M/M M/M/M M/M/M H/H/L H/M/L M/M/M M/M/L M/M/L M/M/L M/M/L L/M/L L/H/L M/M/L L/L/L Light soaking.) Light-induced cell degradation Effect of glass on encapsulant durability Effect of glass on module performance Front surface soiling Stress breakage in glass-glass laminates General This is especially a problem for flexible packages For products using glass Electroluminescence can detect cracks.) Increased series resistance from solder joint or gridline interface failure Reduced adhesion strength that increases corrosion and/or delamination Slow degradation of Isc Fatigue of ribbon due to thermal cycling Junction box failure Busbar adhesion. HVTB) Comment Corrosion leading to loss of grounding Quick connector reliability Improper installation leading to loss of grounding Delamination Glass breakage Bypass diode failure Inverter reliability Poor solder joints between string ribbons and wires inside junction boxes – arcing Cracked cells (caused by bonding of conductors. Glass edge damage of frameless modules (installation. etc. chamber tests. electrical contact. but continues to be an issue Frameless construction is infrequently used today for Si.

damp heat Damp heat exposure Hot/humid vs. the front contact is only a problem when the module is assembled from discrete cells Cell + Module Light soaking. hot spots. Hot/humid vs. damp heat Screen at cell initially. damp heat IR Camera. damp heat IR Camera. damp heat Screen at cell initially. Electrochemical corrosion of SnO2:F Fill-factor loss (increased series resistance and/or recombination) Busbar failure . Currently. nonuniformities before and after stress Edge shunting Delamination of layers L/L/L H/H/H L/L/M H/M/H H/H/M H/M/M H/M/H H/H/H M/H/M H/M/H M/H/M H/M/H H/M/H H/M/H H/M/M H/M/M H/M/H M/H/M H/M/H H/M/H H/L/H H/L/H Light soaking Voltage biased damp heat2 Cell + Module Light soaking. Hot/humid vs. damp heat IR Camera. damp heat IR Camera.Annealing instabilities (a-Si) Cell layer integrity – backcontact stability Cell layer integrity – interlayer adhesion and delamination. Hot/humid vs. nonuniformities before and after stress Cell layer integrity – contact stability Cell layer integrity – interlayer adhesion Fill-factor loss (increased series resistance and/or recombination) Busbar failure – mechanical (adhesion) and electrical Notable sensitivity of TCO to moisture Moisture ingress failure of package Cell–to-cell interconnect (discrete cells) Notable sensitivity of TCO to moisture. samples are usually handled within a glove box because of sensitivity to air. Damp Heat IR Camera. 10 Updated April 2010 . Hot/humid vs. need to pass damp heat test (non-shingle specific) Shunt hot spots at scribe lines before and after stress Weak diodes. damp heat Damp heat exposure IR Camera. then module Flexible roofing products Flexible roofing products. hot spots. Hot/humid vs. Hot/humid vs. Hot/humid vs.mechanical (adhesion) and electrical Shunt hot spots at scribe lines before and after stress Weak diodes. Damp Heat IR Camera. then module Thermal stress 3 CdTe Mo backcontact (all). this is a problem when discrete devices are interconnected into modules CIS Discrete Cell – Flexible roofing products OPV Photolytic Instability Moisture induced degradation Moisture ingress failure of package We note that OPV technology is not yet well understood and this section may change substantially.

…(especially for lattice mismatched) Corrosion and diffusion of silver gridlines/contacts Electromigration due to high current under high concentration (tunnel junction) Inverter reliability (ability to withstand rapid changes in current) Module thermal fatigue (including high frequency and amplitude). CPV H/H/M M/M/M 1 “The Effect of Cell Thickness on Module Reliability”. or confirm that Pb-free solders have needed longevity in tracker controllers. but is still a problem Collaboration with CSP This issue has not yet been adequately assessed. Test is controversial Has been known for some time. Bubble formation has been observed in the field. Soiling and delamination of anti reflective coatings on internal optical components. 2 “A Laboratory Technique for the Evaluation of Electrochemical Transparent Conductive Oxide Delamination from Glass Substrates”. J. Poor solder joints between string ribbons and wires inside junction boxes – arcing Potential issues with highly non-uniform illumination. Kelly. M. CA 2008. interconnects. San Diego. and yellowing of silicone encapsulants under high flux and high temperature with thermal cycling for long periods of time. G. Nguyen. bubble formation. The issues with handling inverted cells off of their original substrates is not yet well understood Use Pb-containing solders. 33rd IEEE. N. J. 1999. 11 Updated April 2010 . Cell damage from thermal runaway (may be caused by solder voids?) Loss of efficiency of optics. adhesive failure Operational integrity of the mechanical parts of the trackers (for high concentration systems) High Al content AlInP can be sensitive to oxidation H/L/H H/L/H H/H/H UV exposure with T control? A new technique is needed. H. materials. 2003. McMahon and Jorgensen. Defect migration. V. W. Wohlgemuth. D.O2 induced degradation Thermal instability of donors and acceptors Depolymerization. Placer. Jansen and Delahoy. Cunnigham. A. Relevance of 1000 hours in damp heat has not been established in the field Severity of problem has not been assessed The special challenges of designing an inverter for CPV have not been assessed Adhesives need to be tested from multiple perspectives. cell attachment. M/H/M H/H/H H/H/H M/M/L H/H/M M/M/M M/H/M M/H/H M/M/M H/H/L Ultrasonic test after thermal cycling. 3 “Progress Toward a CdTe Cell Life Prediction”.

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