3.4 Superior Laboratory for Advanced Training

A superior PV laboratory facility should include a wider variety of PV equipment, tools, and instrumentation. Such a lab will provide much greater exposure to different types of products, accommodate a larger number and broader range of laboratory experiments, and provide the flexibility for more individualized hands-on practice.

The complete laboratory discussed above is an excellent starting point in developing a superior laboratory. Some of the attributes of a superior lab include:

  1. A greater variety of modules in terms of: a) cell materials, b) size and shape, c) electrical characteristics, d) framing, and e) market trends. (Certainly, various thin-film and building-integrated PV products should be on the list for consideration.)
  2. A greater number of mockup roofs and other support structures – including pole and rack mounting equipment (horizontal, dual axis trackers, and adjustable tilt racks).
  3. A variety of roofing materials – including composite shingles, standing seam metal, barrel and flat tiles, and flat membrane and gravel. (Various types of roof attachment hardware should be supplied based on roof type and material – including both anchored attachments and self-ballasted supports.)
  4. A greater variety of inverters and power conditioning units. (Multiple micro inverters and data communication systems are essential. A commercial-grade inverter that connects to a three-phase service allows for advanced training in an area that is experiencing high growth.)
  5. Expanded training for stand-alone system applications. (This would require a variety of types and technologies for charge controllers and power processing equipment.  It would also be desirable to include both flooded and valve-regulated lead-acid batteries.)
  6. Hybrid systems, including PV and fossil-fueled engine generators. (PV-fossil hybrids are most attractive in areas that experience wide swings in solar insolation throughout the year. In some areas, PV-wind hybrid systems might be included in the laboratory design.)
  7. Advanced diagnostic instrumentation for measuring insulation resistance, earth grounding, three-phase power quality, and thermal imaging.
  8. Current-voltage (I-V) curve tracers for advanced array testing and diagnostics.
  9. Meteorological and solar power measurement stations for long-term data monitoring.
  10. Computer lab or notebook computers that can be used with various software applications during training sessions.
  11. Individual or small group work stations for residential and commercial wiring practice.
  12. Individual or small-group tool and instrumentation kits for installing and troubleshooting systems.
  13. Single or dual-axis sun-tracking equipment, including passive trackers and a variety of active tracking algorithms.

Faculty and lab developers who are interested in creating a superior PV laboratory are encouraged to review all of the PV system components, tools, equipment, and training facilities that are listed in Section 1 of this document. Purchasing decisions should be based on available funding, program objectives, desired outcomes, and an acceptable ratio of students to work stations and equipment. The cost of most superior, advanced training laboratories exceeds $100,000.

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