Solar PV quality issues and standardization in Pakistan

By Engr. Faiz Mohammad Bhutta,
Renewable Energy Expert and Trainer

Brief Introduction of Engr. Faiz Mohammad Bhutta
Faiz Muhammad Bhutta is a professional engineer having more 30 years of experience of serving at technical and managerial posts in national and multinational companies Apart from his professional career, He has served as visiting teacher on engineering and management subjects in Air University, COMSATS University and UMT. He is master trainer on Solar from GIZ. He is Senior Energy Consultant and currently engaged as National Capacity Development Expert in ADB funded Clean Pak project in Pakistan and is associated with Premier Energy and HNAC China as adviser and consultant.
He has also contributed as PEC Task force member for development of Building Energy Code 2011, Pakistan Electric and Telecommunication Safety code 2014 and Fire code of Pakistan 2016. He is founder chairman of Pakistan Solar Association and first Chapter chairman of REAP Punjab. He is member of International Solar Society Germany (ISES), Life member of PEC, Life Member of IEP, Life member of IEEEP, Member of HVACR Society, Member of PGBC, Member of MAP and member of ASHRAE USA. He is a writer & Trainer also and his articles are published in various magazines.

Solar PV Quality is a big concern in Pakistan and non-standard and low quality equipment are being dumped in Pakistan. There is a need to impose standards at import, design and installation of solar systems. Because of no standardization, the customers do not look satisfied from performance of solar system deployments.
There is a need to put standardization at three levels. First level is the import and local assembling of Solar PV components. Second level is the design of solar systems. In case of building and housing sector there are Architects duly licensed by PCATP and PEC for design of buildings in Pakistan and building is designed by approved and Licensed Engineers but in case of solar designing there is no such authority for license to designers for solar systems.
Third level is the installation, commissioning and Performance Monitoring. In this case also there is no authority providing certification to installers for certified installations of solar systems. There is no concept of certified installers in Pakistan.
IEC standards for solar equipment are well defined and ECC has approved the summary of quality standards at import of equipment and this ECC decision should be implemented as quickly as possible in order to being quality in solar sector.
IEC standards are available and are widely being practiced in Pakistan in electrical sector and there is a need to implement all IEC standards applicable for design, installation, commissioning and performance of solar systems in Pakistan. Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) should approve international/International Testing laboratories for conformance assessment as per IEC standards
Key Words: Solar, Standards, Quality, Solar PV, Solar Design.
Pakistan Solar Industry is new and is passing through a growing phase and there are more than 2000 companies working in Pakistan and there are no quality assurance and standardization in Pakistan on import, design, installation and performance monitoring levels. There is no concept of qualified solar designer, engineer, technical and installer and there is no institution or authority who can issue certification to designer, engineer, technician and installer in the field of solar in Pakistan. We see that which IEC standards which should be practiced in Pakistan so that quality should be ensured.
IEC standards for solar components;
Solar PV modules standards
IEC standards for Solar PV crystalline modules are IEC 61215 and IEC 61730. IEC standard IEC 61215 is Design and Qualification standard and IEC 61730 is safety standard. International Accredited Labs like TUV and UL certifies the solar PV modules as per IEC standards and import of solar panels should be banned which are not certified from International accredited Laboratories as per IEC standard 61215 and 61730. The latest version is IEC 61215-2:2016 and it is intended to apply to all terrestrial flat plate module materials such as crystalline silicon module types as well as thin-film modules. The objective of this test sequence is to determine the electrical and thermal characteristics of the module and to show, as far as possible within reasonable constraints of cost and time, that the module is capable of withstanding prolonged exposure in general open-air climates. The actual lifetime expectancy of modules so qualified will depend on their design, their environment and the conditions under which they are operated. There are about 18 to 20 tests and all are outdoor tests because solar panels have to stay in outdoor environments and they are tested in outdoor environments and if all tests are passed, then you can say that solar panels will give 25 years limited performance which means that in first 10 years 90% and next 15 years 80%.
Solar Inverters Standards
IEC standard IEC 62109 is safety of Power Converters for use in Photovoltaic Power Systems. Part-1 is General requirements and part-2 relates to Photovoltaic requirements. IEC 62109-1:2010 applies to the power conversion equipment (PCE) for use in photovoltaic systems where a uniform technical level with respect to safety is necessary. It defines the minimum requirements for the design and manufacture of PCE for protection against electric shock, energy, fire, mechanical and other hazards. Provides general requirements applicable to all types of PV PCE. IEC 62109-2:2011 covers the particular safety requirements relevant to DC. to AC inverter products as well as products that have or perform inverter functions in addition to other functions, where the inverter is intended for use in photovoltaic power systems. Inverters covered by this standard may be grid-interactive, stand-alone, or multiple mode inverters may be supplied by single or multiple photovoltaic modules grouped in various array configurations, and may be intended for use in conjunction with batteries or other forms of energy storage. This standard must be used jointly with IEC 62109-1.
UL 1741 is equivalent to IEC 92109 and it is the standard for Inverters, Converters, Controllers and Interconnection System Equipment for Use with Distributed Energy Resources. These requirements cover inverters, converters, charge controllers, and interconnection system equipment (ISE) intended for use in stand-alone or grid-connected power systems.
Solar Charge Controllers Standard
IEC 62509 is a standard for Battery charge controller for photovoltaic systems and it relates to Performance and monitoring of charge controllers. IEC 62509:2010 establishes minimum requirements for the functioning and performance of battery charge controllers (BCC) used with lead acid batteries in terrestrial photovoltaic systems. The main aims are to ensure BCC reliability and to maximize the life of the battery.
Solar Battery Standards
IEC 60896 is a standard for Valve Regulated Stationary lead acid batteries and part -21 relates to method of test of stationary lead acid batteries and Part-22 relates to Type Requirements. IEC 60896-21-2004 applies to all stationary lead-acid cells and monobloc batteries of the valve regulated type for float charge applications, (i.e. permanently connected to a load and to a DC power supply), in a static location (i.e. not generally intended to be moved from place to place) and incorporated into stationary equipment or installed in battery rooms for use in telecom, uninterruptible power supply (UPS), utility switching, emergency power or similar applications. The objective of this part of IEC 60896 is to specify the methods of test for all types and construction of valve regulated stationary lead acid cells and mono block batteries used in standby power applications. IEC 60896-22-2004 applies to all stationary lead-acid cells and monobloc batteries of the valve regulated type for float charge applications, (i.e. permanently connected to a load and to a D.C. power supply), in a static location (i.e. not generally intended to be moved from place to place) and incorporated into stationary equipment or installed in battery rooms for use in telecom, uninterruptible power supply (UPS), utility switching, emergency power or similar applications. The objective of this part of IEC 60896 is to assist the specify in the understanding of the purpose of each test contained within IEC 60896-21 and provide guidance on a suitable requirement that will result in the battery meeting the needs of a particular industry application and operational condition. This standard is used in conjunction with the common test methods described in IEC 60896-21 and is associated with all types and construction of valve regulated stationary lead-acid cells and monoblocs used in standby power applications.
IEC 61427:2015 is a standard for secondary cell and batteries for renewable energy storage General requirements and method of test and part-1 relates to photovoltaic off-grid applications and Part-2 relates to On-Grid Applications.
Solar Cable Standard
EN 50618:2014 is the standard for cables for photovoltaic applications. There is a new European Standard EN 50618 published in 2014 for Solar DC Cable, which specifies cables for use in Photovoltaic (PV) systems, and in particular those for installation at Direct Current (DC) side with a nominal DC voltage of up to 1.5kV between conductors as well as between conductor and earth. EN 50618 requires cables to be low smoke zero halogen and be flexible tin-coated copper conductors with a single core and cross-linked insulation and sheath. Cables are required to be tested at a voltage of 11kV AC 50Hz.
Solar PV Performance Standard
IEC 61724 is a standard for Photovoltaic Performance Monitoring. This standard recommends procedures for the monitoring of energy-related photovoltaic (PV) system characteristics, and for the exchange and analysis of monitored data. The purpose is the assessment of the overall performance of PV systems.
Recently Pakistan Engineering Council has passed resolution in its AGM for approval of Renewable Energy category in PEC license and it is a great contribution from PEC but Government has to regulate this sector and make active National Accreditation Council Pakistan and PSQCA for imposition of solar standards and certifications in Pakistan to bring quality in this sector.
By imposing the IEC standards on import, design, installation and performance monitoring, the solar sector quality can be improved.
References: Quality and standardization report by GIZ Pakistan and IEC standards website