SOLAR

An important year for PV winds to a close

Flash is required!
Interview with Evelyn M. Butler
at SPI 2011 in Dallas

2011 has not been the sunniest of years for the solar industry. Slow growth, falling tariffs and aggressive competition are putting manufacturers under pressure to downsize, specialize or rationalize. Since UL regularly works with manufacturers of all different types of PV modules and systems, we are well aware of the challenges the industry is facing. But there is still reason to be optimistic.

Whether the current downturn is cyclical or due to the general economic climate, there are areas of promise that are keeping the industry afloat and are likely to be instrumental in shaping its future, as well.

One area of promise is technology based niches, such as thin film, concentrated PV or HazLoc applications. While solar cells may now be bought and sold like a commodity, specialized niches will continue to provide new opportunities, some foreseeable others based on yet unknown needs or new technologies.

Another area is focused markets. Depending on the country and legislation, particular growth may be observed in otherwise dormant or non-existent market segments, such as industrial or grid connected markets. Here again, specialized solutions provide an opportunity for growth.

Another area of promise worth mentioning is the adaptation of business strategies to mature markets. As solar power reaches a saturation point, buyers weigh cost and benefit shrewdly. For instance, a new investment would need to justified by long-term cost savings, e.g. in the form of greater energy efficiency. When competition is high, a certain consolidation of the market may also be inevitable, yet creative approaches to conventional solutions can still reap rich rewards.

All in all, UL is confident the need for renewable energy will remain strong and continue to provide attractive business opportunities to PV manufacturers and other industry stakeholders. It is not far-fetched to predict that the sun will rise again tomorrow. So let’s count on it!

Evelyn M. Butler, Director Business Strategy, UL Energy

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SOLAR

UL backs International Harmonization Committee decision

UL has been working toward publication of an IEC-harmonized standard for photovoltaic equipment for several years. Upon reviewing an initial draft, the UL Standards Technical Panel (STP) came to the conclusion that many of the proposed U.S. National Differences had technical merit, but were not issues unique to the United States and should be considered by the IEC Technical Committee for inclusion in the international standard. Based on this, UL worked closely with the U.S. Technical Advisory Groups and the IEC Technical Committee to move many proposals forward for IEC 61730. Some of these requirements have been integrated into IEC 61730, and many more are in the later stages of being finalized for inclusion in the next (Second) edition of IEC 61730.

Based on progress in the IEC forum, at the December 2010 STP 1703 meeting, UL shared a new draft of UL 1703 harmonized with IEC 61730 First Edition. The new draft additionally integrated some critical transitional content based on the requirements being finalized for IEC 61730 Second Edition. At this time, UL also formed an International Harmonization Committee (IHC) to lead the ongoing harmonization endeavors. The IHC is comprised of STP members representing the industry and other stakeholders and is chaired by a member from the technical community.

After studying the issue, the IHC has concluded that the target for UL harmonization should be IEC 61730 Second Edition. The committee concluded that, in light of the effort needed to publish the standard, this path would provide the most benefits for the industry. IEC 61730 Second Edition is presently targeted for publication in the 2013 time frame. The IHC provided an update of their work to the full STP 1703 at the October 2011 meeting.

While UL has indicated willingness, if needed, to develop the 2010 draft standard based on IEC 61730 First Edition, UL respects the position developed by the IHC. UL remains fully committed to harmonization and to working as part of the IHC to develop a harmonized standard. The IHC will track the work being done in the IEC Technical Committee, and proactively prepare for publication of the UL-harmonized standard once IEC 61730 Second Edition has been finalized.

Ken Boyce, PDE Manager, UL Energy

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SOLAR

New shingles make PV more attractive to consumers

The Dow Chemical Company’s POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle promises to reinvent rooftop solar energy and supercharge residential PV adoption. Named one of the “50 Best Inventions of 2009” by TIME magazine, the POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle combines a roofing shingle with a solar cell. Simple to install, the new product protects the home like a standard shingle, while providing energy that saves the homeowner money.

Recognizing that consumers also need solar to be an easy choice, Dow Solar Vice President Jane Palmieri says that providing a solution that solves the “aesthetics issue” will be a critical factor in successfully bringing photovoltaics to new customers. “There is a lot of amazing technology in the POWERHOUSE™ product,” Palmieri said. “But what we learned from the consumer is that they value the look of their homes because it is an expression of who they are. Homeowners want, expect and deserve a solar product that they can be proud to display.”

Just as the advent of indoor plumbing in the early 20th century fundamentally changed the expectations people had of their homes, Dow believes its new solar roofing technology unlocks the same potential to revolutionize the way people think.

Dow Solar and UL worked cooperatively to identify and perform a series of tests to assess the safety of the POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingles in accordance with building code standards, including wind and fire resistance, and electrical code requirements, such as proper wiring and photovoltaic (PV) connections.

Dow’s POWERHOUSE™ Solar Shingle passed numerous UL certifications including UL 1703 Third Edition which tests for the National Electrical Code and Model Building Codes, UL 790 Eighth Edition which tests for fire resistance performance, and UL 1897 Fifth Edition certification which tests for wind uplift of roofing systems. Additionally, all necessary California Energy Commission (CEC) and IEC testing was successfully completed at UL’s San Jose PV Lab in California.

Thomas Walker, Business Development Manager, UL Energy

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PLASTICS

Keeping current – assessing the effects of DC on polymers

Plastics have long been commonplace in electrical equipment and household appliances, which, although plugged into an alternating current (AC) outlet, operate mostly with direct current (DC) components inside. Now, as the number, size and voltage of DC environments is increasing dramatically, new opportunities and safety issues are arising.

Interest in the behavior of polymers in DC applications has been on the rise since the late 1990s, when the automotive industry began to look for higher voltage DC batteries. Today, the most important driver of DC is the success of the photovoltaic (PV) industry. While PV systems generate DC electricity, typically a DC/AC power inverter is required to feed the electricity to residential or industrial wiring systems, or back to the electrical grid. At the same time, demand is growing for portable solar cells and building-integrated PV, so the concept of deploying DC in micro grids, without the need of an inverter, is gaining momentum, especially in areas where stand-alone remote powering is needed.

With the increasing size and voltage of DC environments, the need for appropriate safety testing is also growing. Since most test methods were designed using equipment plugged into an AC outlet, the question is whether those same tests adequately assess the potential safety issues of a purely DC application environment. For instance, while there is no expected difference between AC and DC with regards to resistance or Joule heating, there is an anticipated difference in arc heating: AC allows the arc voltage to pass through zero and cool twice on each electrical cycle, while unidirectional DC arcing is difficult to interrupt and delivers more energy per unit time to a potential arcing fault.

UL 1703 currently lists PV systems with operating voltages up to 1000 V DC, while UL 746 A and UL 746 C include DC electrical resistance test methods for plastics in general. In the next phase, UL will propose to include a DC dielectric strength and breakdown test for polymers (UL 746A), while continuing to conduct research on DC arcing and tracking.

Noe P. Navarro, Principal Engineer, UL Chemicals

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SOLAR

Case study: Kyocera leads industry in HazLoc PV modules

Class I hazardous locations are characterized by fire or explosion hazards that may exist due to the presence of flammable gases or vapors, even if an ignitable concentration of the material is present only under abnormal operating conditions. If flat-plate photovoltaic modules are to be installed in such potentially hazardous locations, certification to UL 1703 (Category Code Number FCJU) is advised, in compliance with AAIZ (Equipment for Use in and Relating to Class I, II and III, Division 1 and 2 Hazardous Locations).

Kyocera Corporation has successfully certified a large number of its PV modules to hazardous location requirements for Class I, Div. 2, Groups A/B/C/D, which include atmospheres containing acetylene, ethyl ether, ammonia, gasoline, methane, methanol, and propane, amongst many other hazardous gases and vapors.

Kyocera supplies HazLoc approved PV modules to companies for installation in chemical factories or near oil pipelines where the risk of explosion requires all equipment in the vicinity to fulfill respective fire safety standards. Kyocera received their first UL certification for a HazLoc PV module many years ago and are still the only PV manufacturer in this CCN.

As demand for PV modules in industrial environments continues to grow, UL offers to advise manufacturers on the requirements needed for certification to UL 1703 for FCJU.

Satoshi Nakazato, Regional Sales Account Manager, UL Energy

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SMART GRID

UL Energy sessions at 2012 International CES

UL is bringing the implications of smart grid power and energy efficiency to center stage at the upcoming International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

Alternative energy sources and smart grid energy efficiency are becoming increasingly attractive to a variety of stakeholders. What are the benefits? Where are the challenges? Join UL and its Thought Leadership partners as we explore these and related topics at the heart of the future of consumer electronics.

In a series of three sessions on energy and smart homes, a panel of UL experts will explain how changes in energy will influence the home, as well as consumer electronics for the home. In “Energy Generation”, UL will take a closer look at the world of alternative power sources (solar, wind, etc.) and discuss what providers need to know in order to benefit from opportunities and stay ahead of developments. In “Energy Efficiency”, UL will discuss how manufacturers and retailers can support, lead – and even benefit from – the ongoing transition, as well as and the product design and safety implications of energy efficiency. In “LED Technology”, UL goes beyond the bulb to detail how LED is transforming product development, supply chains and consumer choices, as well as how companies can prosper in the energy-efficient LED space.

With well over 100,000 electronics industry movers and shakers in attendance, the annual CES is an important venue for news, previews and product announcements. The 2012 International CES will be held January 10-13.

Register here for the UL Energy sessions

Evelyn M. Butler, Director Business Strategy, UL Energy

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EVENTS

Visit UL at the following events

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UL UNIVERSITY TRAININGS

UL’s Knowledge Solutions

UL University offers customized private and public training and seminars. We provide participants with valuable information already useful in the design phase of the product life cycle and imperative for fast and easy worldwide market access.

For more information, including dates, locations and pricing, or to register, please visit www.uluniversity.com.

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UL Verification

Underwriters Laboratories Inc. is not only a global leader in product safety testing and certification but UL‘s involvement in commercial testing, inspection, and audit work is recognized and respected around the world as well.

Today, it is a constant challenge to find cost effective ways to test and inspect products without compromising quality. UL‘s Research & Development (R&D) Testing, Verification Testing, Inspection & Audit Services and our Retailer Services support manufacturing business operations from initial design through prototyping and into final production, while also enhancing retail supply chain quality management operations.

Read More at: UL Verification services

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UL Environment

UL Environment is a new source for independent green claims validation, product certification, advisory services and standards development. We‘re here to help manufacturers, their business customers and consumers alike get clarity on what may or may not be a sustainable product.

Read More at: www.ulenvironment.com

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