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Differential degradation patterns of photovoltaic backsheets at the array level



Andrew W. Fairbrother, Matthew Boyd, Yadong Lyu, Julien Avenet, Peter Illich, Michael Kempe, Brian P. Dougherty, Laura Bruckman, Xiaohong Gu


Photovoltaic backsheet degradation is commonly related to end-of-life failure of a module, and as such is an important factor in system reliability and longevity. Some module manufacturers have recently begun utilizing non-fluoropolymer-based backsheets in a bid to reduce overall cost, however, these materials tend to be more susceptible to environmental degradation than costlier fluoropolymer-based backsheets. There are relatively few field studies of non-fluoropolymer-based backsheets, and understanding their in-field behavior is critical for further development of such products. In this study, backsheet degradation of modules with one of these new types of backsheets (polyethylene naphthalate (PEN)-based) was documented at a four-year old utility-scale array located in Maryland (USA). Visual inspection, colorimetry, glossimetry, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy revealed highly varied properties depending on module position within the array. Specifically, modules near the edge of the array and with higher mounting elevations underwent greater amounts of backsheet degradation, as indicated by yellowing and gloss-loss. The reason for these unique degradation patterns were differential backside exposure conditions, especially of ultraviolet light. This was strongly influenced by the array design, including structural and environmental factors, such as module spacing and ground cover, respectively. Within the array, no clear link between backsheet degradation and module output has been identified, however, such a relationship may be expected to become more pronounced with time. The observed phenomena have implications for both backsheet product development and array design, especially for modules that utilize newer classes of non-fluoropolymer-based backsheets which are typically more susceptible to environmental degradation.
Applied Energy


PV array, backsheet, degradation, PEN, exposure conditions


Fairbrother, A. , Boyd, M. , Lyu, Y. , Avenet, J. , Illich, P. , Kempe, M. , Dougherty, B. , Bruckman, L. and Gu, X. (2018), Differential degradation patterns of photovoltaic backsheets at the array level, Applied Energy (Accessed March 4, 2024)
Created February 4, 2018, Updated October 3, 2018