What is Desert Knowledge Australia?
Desert Knowledge Australia (DKA) is a not-for-profit statutory corporation of the Northern Territory, established in 2003 to encourage learning, socioeconomic development, research, and environmental sustainability in Central Australia. DKA is committed to developing opportunities to build a stronger and more connected desert and remote Australia.
What is the DKA Solar Centre?
The Solar Centre is one of three active solar resources projects that is operated by Desert Knowledge Australia in the Northern Territory. The public-use and open-access knowledge that these projects provide enables live and histrionically insight into meteorological, performance, and irradiation data.
The DKA Solar Centre is of particular interest to WINAICO and our partners as it is a live demonstration of module performance in extreme climatic conditions. The site consists of (currently) 38 separate solar installations by different solar module manufacturers installed at various times over the last 12 years.
The reason for this introduction to this project is that WINAICO is one of these Installation Sites. Installation number 34 is a WINAICO solar emplacement established in 2012 a few weeks after our company began operation in Australia. The DKA Solar Centre was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the performance of our modules and help develop trust with the early solar market.
Installation Site 34. WINAICO 5.3 kW Install made with 22x 240W Polycrystalline Modules
The emerging solar industry in Australia was an optimal time for WINAICO to launch its brand. As a high-quality manufacturer with international support, the installation at the Desert Knowledge Solar Center was the final support needed to demonstrate WINAICO’s quality. Installation Site 34 consists of 22 modules to generate almost 5.3 kW of power. The 240 Watt Polycrystalline modules were market-leading products in power and durability during this period. Now WINAICO has 330 Watt Monocrystalline versions in the same technical format.
Monitoring Performance since 2012
Solar modules will degrade over their technical lifespans due to natural chemical reactions within the silicon cells. Limiting the amount of performance degradation over a module’s lifetime is a longevity consideration that sits on the minds of only high-quality solar manufacturers. The Alice Springs environment can generate high winds, excessive dust, extreme heat, and cold all within the same day. The 8 years of installation can help identify the performance of the WINAICO modules and track their degradation in this inhospitable Australian environment.
So the next question is how are they currently doing?
Comparison of Solar Installations and the Year they were installed.
Here is a graph generated of daily solar power generation from the DKA Solar Center site. The data series are different solar installations and the year they were installed. The vertical axis provides a standardised power-to-installation power metric that enables multiple sites to be compared regardless of the size of the solar system.
As expected the 2012 WINAICO Installation outperforms the older systems installed in previous years. As explained previously, degradation is a process experienced by all solar modules and is a natural consideration for long-term analysis. The higher performance of the WINAICO installation compared to more recently established systems is not an expected occurrence.
The graph demonstrates that systems installed in 2014, 2016 and 2017 have degraded faster than, and are performing worse than, an older WINAICO system. This is an unexpected case as these modules are using more modern silicon and manufacturing procedures compared to our 2012 model. The drop in performance of modern solar modules suggests that they are experiencing more advanced degrading, becoming less efficient at faster rates than the WINAICO installation.
This should not be a concern for those installations, as they remain within their power warranty claims. This comparison is to highlight the difference of WINAICO’s manufacturing quality several years after installation to several other market options.
Annual Degradation of Solar Modules
Manufacturers guarantee a certain level of performance through a mechanism known as a power warranty. It states that solar modules will be always capable of producing a minimum amount of power in certain environmental conditions known as Standard Testing Conditions. The minimum value decreases each year after installation to reflect the slow drop in power.