New research facilities to support solar technologies in the EU

(Nanowerk News) Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn affirmed: "Renewable energy technologies are key to growth, jobs and better quality of life in Europe. In the global race for clean and competitive energy, photovoltaics in particular have huge potential to increase efficiency and reduce costs. A strong and vibrant European research infrastructure is essential to this, with the support of reference laboratories such as the JRC's European Solar Test Installation (ESTI)".
A €3 million investment in new state-of-the art technologies will allow ESTI to keep pace with the rapidly evolving PV market and be able to address forthcoming standardisation issues. ESTI pioneered the tests on the reliability of early PV products in the 80s, when the European Commission financed the first pilot phase of terrestrial PV systems, and helped to provide the basis for international standards, supporting a market worth €20-€25 billion in Europe last year.
Solar test field
Solar test field at ESTI.
New capabilities include, for example, power calibration for thin film, concentrated PV or organic PV, which will in turn contribute to the promotion of innovation in PV technologies in the EU. In detail, this new instrumentation allows verification of both initial and long term performance of these new photovoltaic prototypes and products. One of the new facilities (the Apollo large-area steady-state simulator) opens the door to new measurements on advanced products as it provides full sunlight conditions over a 2mx2m test area for up to 8 hours, being the first of its kind installed in Europe. The determination of long-term (more than 20 years) performance is important, as it determines the cost of solar electricity after the financial payback time.
ESTI – The European Solar Test Installation
ESTI is a European reference laboratory for the verification of the power and energy generation of photovoltaic devices. It is composed of indoor and outdoor facilities that allow not only energy ratings but also studies on the lifetime and ageing of the solar cells in "real-life" conditions.
Its role is to build confidence in the comparability of measurements of PV devices by the production and dissemination of validated methods, reference measurements, interlaboratory comparisons and training. It provides free-of-charge calibration services of reference PV devices for national laboratories and also commercial calibration services for the PV industry. In this way their measurements and production quality control can be traced back to the SI (Syst?me International) unit for irradiance.
Upon request, it verifies technologies developed in the framework of EU programmes (such as projects under the Framework Programme, European Energy Research Alliance and the Strategic Energy Technologies - SET-plan).
Together with national institutions and industry, ESTI performs research with the aim of developing new and improved standards for the performance and reliability of innovative technologies. It has already played a major role in developing the existing body of international standards on the PV field, thus helping to promote the development of a fair and transparent EU market for PV.
This expertise on photovoltaics also feeds into the JRC's policy-support activities relating to the development of renewables and their integration in the market.
Last but not least, ESTI is one of the elite group of five laboratories worldwide that contributes to the listing of the most efficient ("champion") PV devices published every six months in the Journal "Progress in Photovoltaics".
Source: European Commission
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