UL Announces the Launch of its First Mobile Solar Module Testing Laboratory

Underperformance, microcracks, and inactive parts of up to 300 solar modules can be checked in one shift


Underwriters Laboratories, commonly known as UL, has announced the launch of its first ever mobile solar PV testing laboratory in New Delhi.

The lab’s function is to identify, evaluate, and replace underperforming modules directly at the solar project site which could help solar system owners and operators capitalize on the production and reduce the downtime at the project site. This is the first of a kind facility to be launched in India, according to the company.

Underperformance, microcracks, and inactive parts of the module can be checked through this testing facility. The testing process is high precision and highly reliable process. The mobile testing results are close to the laboratory testing output. UL is a safety science company which applies science to solve safety, security, and sustainability challenges.

“We are delighted to launch the mobile PV test laboratory, which is the first such facility by a third-party testing and certification organization in the country. We are hopeful the laboratory will go a long way in addressing the concerns of the solar power producers by mitigating risks and increasing efficiencies of solar power plants. UL is committed to catalyzing the target of 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022 set by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, and it will be our endeavor to roll out more such initiatives in the renewable energy space,” said Suresh Sugavanam, Vice President and Managing Director in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa for UL.

The dearth of testing facilities in the country has been a persistent problem in the domestic renewable energy sector along with the widespread use of sub-standard products in solar projects.

Mercom spoke to a module manufacturer who commented, “We don’t have good infrastructure for BIS, which is a serious challenge. To obtain BIS certification for a series of modules, we are paying ₹2.2 million (~$3,164) for the testing. On the other hand, the chamber where testing is conducted has 1,000-hour cycles, so whenever they send the modules for testing, the results are available only after three months. In India we have only 4-5 laboratories, each having two chambers to test, so at a time not more than ten companies can go for BIS certification process for three months, we must wait for three months to get our turn.”

Low performing modules are a cost burden for a solar project, and such on-site testing facilities are useful in reducing the expenses incurred due to these reasons. The solar module testing laboratory maintains international standards and can check up to 300 modules in one shift. Factors that are tested are insulation, module performance with low irradiance, and temperature coefficient.

To address quality concerns, the government had introduced the Quality Control Order. Earlier this year, the MNRE issued a set of guidelines to be followed by solar manufacturers for models of modules that will be utilized in government-owned projects and those set up for the sale of electricity to the government.

In January 2019, the MNRE had issued a notification stating that “After March 31, 2020, all government-owned solar projects and others set up for the sale of electricity to the government will be required to procure components from these enlisted vendors.”