The Living City Campus hosts Canada’s Outdoor Photovoltaic Test Facility
By Paul Luukkonen
Through Ontario’s Green Energy Act and the Ontario Power Authority’s (OPA) Feed in Tariff (FIT) program, clean energy producers receive guaranteed rates per kWh of solar energy sold back to the grid, for the lifetime of a 20 year contract. Due to a domestic content requirement in the program, the photovoltaic modules for every installation must undergo some manufacturing process in the province of Ontario. This has brought an influx of PV module manufacturers that have invested and set up facilities in the province. A third party quality assurance program located in Vaughan puts Ontario made modules to the test in its outdoor performance verification program.
The Photovoltaic Performance Verification Program (PVPV), operated by Toronto and Region Conservation Authority is located at the Living City Campus, Canada’s hub for emerging developments in renewable energy. The Campus is Canada’s most established green building and sustainable technology research and education centre (www.thelivingcitycampus.com).
This outdoor quality assurance and energy yield test of Ontario made modules conforms to international test standards and provides unbiased, open source data that helps industry determine realistic expectations for photovoltaic performance.
The program and test facility are monitored by the Sustainable Technologies Evaluation Program (STEP) (www.sustainabletechnologies.ca) and provide valuable unbiased information to residential and commercial property owners. With the launch of the FIT program in October 2009, there was an onslaught of sales professionals looking to impress customers with impressive paybacks based on energy yields that were not historically substantiated. This program helps provide accurate information with which consumers can make informed decisions regarding photovoltaic yields and realistic Returns on Investment (ROI).
PVPV’s one-of-a kind research facility monitors the performance of Ontario’s PV modules from numerous manufacturers under real outdoor test conditions. The program informs consumers and industry professionals about the true value of PV products by monitoring and recording their annual energy yield. While panels are generally sold according to their power values determined in a lab or manufacturing facility under simulated or Standard Test Conditions (STC), it is the actual energy produced in the field that translates into revenue from the OPA for the renewable generation of the solar system.
Standard test conditions are based on a 25 °C module temperature and 1000 watts per meter² (W/m²) of irradiance. While this standard condition provides some means of module to module comparisons, the (STC) conditions do not represent the standard operating conditions of the modules. Modules operating during the summer, the peak production season, regularly operate 30 degrees C above ambient temperature. With this increase in temperature above STC, comes a decrease in performance. While calculations can be performed with the temperature coefficients provided by the manufacturer, there is always a preference for real world data over system models.
New microFIT rates will pay the generator 54.9 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). Potential annual generation is approximately 1161 kWh of energy per kilowatt (kW) of PV in Toronto. This reference is provided by a Natural Resource Canada study investigating photovoltaic potential in Canada (Pelland et al. 2006). While this model is useful as a general guideline, the PVPV data will provide energy yields for each of the Ontario manufacturers on test. This information is of great significance not just for solar industry professionals but also consumers and end users contemplating their own system.
Results to date have been positive with regards to the general quality of modules made in Ontario as noted in consistent performance across all the manufacturers taking part in the test. PVPV is evidence of a technologically sound, and mature photovoltaic industry in Ontario, producing megawatts of quality modules for the province’s Feed-In-Tariff program.
PVPV’s state of the art data acquisition system has also yielded valuable insights that have ramifications for module and system performance, and to local distribution companies, tasked with distributing the inherently intermittent generation to the grid. PVPV produces its monthly energy yield reports on-line at http://pvpv.ca.
Through its STEP program the TRCA publishes reports and guidelines for industry best practices, including contributions to the (CSA) F900 guideline: Solar PV Rooftop Installation Best practices, and numerous case study evaluations of PV sites through the Solar City Partnership (www.solarcitypartnership.ca).
To help ensure the adoption of safety and best practices, the Campus provides training for numerous colleges and universities; trades associations and professionals throughout the GTA. The Campus is home to Ontario’s leading Photovoltaic Training Program and various other renewable energy workshops for the public. Every year over 120 000 visitors pass through the campus to see the latest demonstrations in sustainable technologies and green buildings. The Campus hosts two research and demonstration homes (LEED platinum), (www.sustainablehouse.ca), the Restoration Services Building (LEED Platinum), and the Earth Rangers Centre (LEED gold), showcasing Green Building technologies and systems integration for the residential and commercial sectors.
For more information visit the following websites or visit the Campus in Vaughan.
Pelland, Sophie (2006) Yves Poissant, Robert Morris, Kevin Lawrence, Kathy Campbell. The Development of Photovoltaic Resource Maps for Canada. 31st Annual Conference of the Solar Energy Society of Canada (SESCI). August 20th – 24th, 2006; Montreal, Canada
Paul Luukkonen, HBSc, is a Sustainable Technologies Coordinator at Kortright Centre for Conservation in Vaughan, ON GB