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Solar panel testing program

31 January 2024
RET​

Contents

Our solar panel testing program works to ensure solar panels meet Australian standards and are eligible for small-scale technology certificates (STCs).

This will strengthen Small-scale Renewable Energy Scheme (SRES) integrity for solar system components across the supply chain to benefit consumers.

Our panel testing program is independent of:

  • any testing that may be conducted by the Clean Energy Council (CEC)
  • any future nominated solar panel and inverter product listing body (PLB)
  • state and territory regulators and incentive programs.

Testing approach

We engaged an independent laboratory in 2022 to determine our testing approach. This identified:

  • testing sample sizes (using International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) 2859 recommended sampling levels)
  • acceptance quality levels (AQL)
  • appropriate sampling methods
  • the manufacturers and models to be tested.

The tests were completed in accordance with International Electrical Commission (IEC) testing standards for solar panels (IEC 61215:2021), also known as module quality tests. IEC tests are designed to show defects that are not detectable by inspection alone. Panels are required to pass all tests to meet Australian standards.

Types of tests

The following tests form part of our testing program:

Visual inspection

What is measured?

Panels and electrical connections are visually checked for any indication of faults or damage.

A failed visual inspection test may mean a loss in power output in panels that could occur immediately or over time.

Common reasons for failure

Damaged panels or electrical connections can be caused by poor manufacturing standards, damage from incorrect packing, unsuitable transportation methods or incorrect handling techniques.

Performance at standard test condition

What is measured?

The power output of panels is measured in a stable environment of 25°C sea level air mass and irradiance of 1,000 watts per square metre.

Common reasons for failure

Poor quality materials or manufacturing standards can lead to a failed test. A tolerance analysis is built into testing to account for laboratory measurement uncertainty.

Electroluminescence

What is measured?

Panels are checked via infrared photography for critical and non-critical microcracks, finger interruptions, non-uniform cells and shunts at a cellular level.

Common reasons for failure

Incorrect packaging, unsuitable transportation methods and incorrect handling techniques can cause large cracks along cells and lead to failure.

Poor manufacturing standards can cause critical and non-critical microcracks along cell edges, finger interruptions and non-uniform-cells, which can lower panel power output over time.

Wet leakage

What is measured?

Panels are submerged in water to measure moisture resistance. Moisture penetration into a panel can be an electrical safety issue.

Common reasons for failure

Panel sealants, lamination of backsheets and pinholes in the backsheet can all cause a panel to fail wet leakage testing. This can be caused by poor manufacturing standards, damage from incorrect packing, unsuitable transportation methods and incorrect handling techniques.

Potential induced degradation

What is measured?

Panels are subjected to temperatures of 85°C with around 85% humidity at 1,000 volts (negative) for a period of 96 hours to measure performance over a long period of time in different conditions.

Common reasons for failure

Poor manufacturing quality can cause panels to fail this test. These panels may not perform to specification or may fail after several years of usage.

Panels that fail testing

We may investigate panels that fail testing as part of our compliance and enforcement approach.

We will work with individual manufacturers to resolve issues where panels are found to be below standard or could pose an electrical safety risk.

We may engage in additional testing and declare panels ineligible to participate in the SRES if they:

  • do not meet Australian standards
  • pose a risk to the integrity or creation of STCs
  • were approved based on false or misleading information.

STCs cannot be claimed against panels declared ineligible.

Testing results

We will publish the results of each testing round undertaken. Only aggregated testing data will be published, without manufacturer and model names.

Testing round – Quarter 3 2022

The independent laboratory tested 567 panels comprising of 18 models from 14 brands. This represented approximately 71% of eligible panels installed on Australian rooftops from January to March 2022. Panels were generally found to be of good quality, meeting Australian standards and having no significant safety risks identified.

Testing identified that improvements in packaging and transportation methods would improve electroluminescence results and consumer outcomes.

Testing for potential induced degradation was not conducted but will be in future testing rounds.

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Visual inspection

Q3 2022

Pass rate

99.5%

Panels tested: 567

Failure reason

Obvious breakages from transportation and handling.

Performance at standard test conditions

Q3 2022

Pass rate

100%

Panels tested: 564

Failure reason

All panels performed to standard (within acceptable testing variation due to laboratory equipment).

Electroluminescence

Q3 2022

Pass rate

89.9%

Panels tested: 564

Failure reason

8% of the panels likely failed due to poor manufacturing standards (microcracks on cell edges, finger interruptions and backsheet scratches).

Transportation and handling damage likely caused the remaining 2.1% of failures.

A small number of models from different brands were responsible for the failed results.

Wet leakage

Q3 2022

Pass rate

99.95%

Panels tested: 189

Failure reason

One panel failed due to a pinhole in the backsheet.

Pinholes are rare faults and may have occurred during the manufacture of the backsheet material or during handling and transport.

Downloadable data

For detailed testing data please use the downloadable files:

Information for consumers

Consumers can feel confident that eligible solar panels continue to meet Australian standards. The solar panel validation (SPV) initiative is another way consumers can ensure the quality of their solar panels. SPV provides an easy way to confirm that solar panels:

  • are backed by manufacturer warranties
  • meet Australian standards for quality and performance
  • are eligible for STCs.

More information on buying or installing solar panels is on our website.

If you have concerns about your solar panel system, please first contact the installer or retailer. If they are unable to resolve the issue, please contact the relevant body listed on our website.

For information about consumer protection and solar panel purchase agreements when purchasing a solar system, go to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) website.​

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