“The development of renewable energy resources requires significant investments,” PhD candidate David Ato Quansah explains.
“It has been estimated that the need for global investments is about $29 trillion in order to achieve global decarbonisation targets by 2050.”
David’s doctorate has focused on increasing our understanding of performance evolution of solar photovoltaic (PV) modules based on field studies in different geo-climatic zones of Ghana.
“Ghana together with the entire African region is generally underrepresented in literature and research,” he says.
He has examined 65 solar PV modules from 29 locations across Ghana and registered their performance characteristics and defects.
“It is important to know the specific limitations to provide investors with sufficient data to make informed decisions.”
Data on module degradation and failure modes are also important for researchers that seek to improve longevity and performance of solar PV modules in the field.
David’s results showed an average long-term degradation rate of 1.4 - 1.8% per year for various climate categories.
“The Ghanaian degradation rates are higher than the average rates we see in Europe and North America,” he says.
In the energy sector, energy warranties of power production are very common, and can be the basis for juridical and economical penalties if a product fails to live up to expectations. Even though some individual solar PV modules had degradation rate of around 0.5% per year, the majority of the cases in David’s research do not support typical industry claims of 80% (minimum) of a module’s rated power within 20-25 years.
Failure is costly
“One factor that is of particular importance in relation to investment interests is reliability,” David says.
Knowledge of solar PV performance degradation rate is essential for project developers who must generate long-term forecasts and make projections on returns on investment.
Compared to for example, diesel generators and gas turbines, for which financial losses could be mitigated in case of technology failure (through avoided fuel costs), solar PVs offer little options for loss mitigation in the case of technology failure or underperformance, since most of the cost is borne upfront.
“Failure to deliver expected power can be extremely costly, and if the risk is too high, investors will back out. They need to make informed decisions.”
“The results of my study can aid in the development of the solar PV market in Ghana by empowering actors to make more confident long-term yield projections and generate more realistic revenue forecasts.”