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Corning: photovoltaic glass tested with “Wall of Wind“

Corning“s thin-film photovoltaic (PV) glass recently proved its ability to withstand hurricane-force winds in a full-scale field test at Florida International University“s “Wall of Wind“. The test…

Corning“s thin-film photovoltaic (PV) glass recently proved its ability to withstand hurricane-force winds in a full-scale field test at Florida International University“s “Wall of Wind“. The testing proved that Corning“s PV glass can stand up to some of nature“s harshest conditions, thus making it well suited for large-scale solar installations that must last 25-30 years. A team of Corning researchers spent two days in late January at the university“s wind testing facility, mounting an array of modules built with Corning“s fusion-formed PV glass in a specially built aluminium frame tilted to a 40 angle – the pitch that simulates the most brutal force of an oncoming wind in a real-life solar field setting. Six 500-horsepower fans blasted the modules with sustained winds ranging from 70 to 90 miles per hour, while strain gauges, strategically located on the glass, measured the wind load from a variety of speeds and angles. The glass wall also hit by dust and small pieces of debris from the surrounding fields caught up in the wind. It would vibrate a little in the turbulent environment – you could see it shake – but the glass never broke, said Kevin Wasson, senior Corning project engineer on the team. It was very impressive. Jim Webb, who leads the Corning PV Reliability & Mechanics Team, said data collected in Florida builds on the research already done in Corning“s own PV reliability lab at Sullivan Park. We have many tools available to us internally to ensure the reliability of thin glass for PV applications, Jim said. We do hail testing. We have equipment to apply uniform pressure on the glass, like it would get from heavy snowfall. However, it“s very useful to conduct testing at a facility such as the Wall of Wind, which simulates real-life conditions. We now have an immense amount of data that validates our confidence in this product“s reliability, said Mark Krol, PV Commercial Technology director. This is a milestone in challenging the misconception of fragility when it comes to thin glass. Clients considering thin glass for photovoltaic modules must not only consider reliability, but also conversion efficiency – the rate at which the module converts sunlight into electricity. Corning has already demonstrated the increased conversion efficiency vs. soda-lime glass at selected customers, said Mark. The test brings us closer to market by demonstrating that thin glass is reliable and suitable for PV applications, said commercial director John Duke. Our customers certainly appreciate the depth of testing that we“re doing, added John. We“re not just looking at basic qualifications to meet PV industry standards – we went in there with an aggressive test plan. We now have confidence that our thin glass can withstand significant, sustained stress, and as we move ahead commercializing this glass, that“s exactly what our customers expect. Further plans include tests on even thinner and lighter PV glass.

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