Thermal cameras in Photovoltaic industry

As countries all around the globe strive to reach their respective carbon neutral remark, renewable energy resources are gradually phasing out fossil fuels. One of the most prominent renewable energy sources is solar energy. According to EIA’s estimate, solar energy is likely to become the world’s largest energy source by 2050[1].

Although photo-electric technology has significantly matured over the past decades, one of the major obstacles that prevent it from becoming main stream energy source remains energy production efficiency. There are many factors that could hinder a PV system’s energy output: crack、 delamination、shunt resistance problem、deterioration of current due to dust/dirt accumulation、bubble、circuit problem in solar panels, corroded connection, burned diode in junction box, inverter issues, battery degradation, etc[2]. Until the spread of solar thermography, it was a daunting task to assess the quality of PV systems. However, thermal imaging offers quick and reliable inspection of these issues in photovoltaic industry. When the PV system is operating, electrical and mechanical issues will manifest themselves as thermal anomaly under thermal imagers due to excessive energy being converted into heat. Having a thermal imager in the maintenance team’s arsenal can significantly boost the PV system’s overall performance.

In addition, although in theory, the average lifespan of a solar panel is around 20 years, it varies heavily depending on competence of the installer and the quality of manufacturing. Installation faults and defects in the solar panel will likely induce temperature anomaly. A temperature difference of 18°C may result in a 10% power loss for the panel and significantly shorten its expected lifespan[3].One of the best ways of ensuring the quality of the solar panels is a thorough thermal analysis of the solar panels right after the installation and before the warranty expiration.

Fotric 326M professional thermal camera, with its 384x288 thermal resolution and 8MP digital camera, can easily pick up hotspots as well as identify the observable faults such as delamination, cracking, bubbles and defects in anti-reflective coating. And for larger field inspections that demand even finer details, we recommend the 640x480 Fotric 348A thermal camera. All Fotric thermal cameras are equipped with SuperResolution feature that can quadruple thermal resolution of solar panel images in the reports, which helps inspectors to make their compelling arguments.

[1] IEA. Technology Roadmap: Solar Photovoltaic Energy; International Energy Agency: Paris, France, 2014

[2] Tchoketch Kebir, Selma, et al. "A comprehensive study of diagnosis faults techniques occurring in photovoltaic generators."

[3] Roumpakias, Elias, Fotis Bouroutzikas, and Anastassios Stamatelos. "On-site inspection of PV panels, aided by infrared thermography." Advances in Applied Sciences 1.3 (2016): 53-62.

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