Investigating Thermal Defects and Degradation in UK Solar PV Installations through Drone-Based Thermography Surveys

Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk


Over the past years, the UK has experienced exponential growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) deployment; for example, in January 2010, the UK had only 5735 PV installations, whereas according to the latest figures published by the UK government, end of January 2023, there is a total of 1,276,382 PV installations [1]. This is an increase of 4.8% (657 MW) since January2022. The majority of the newly installed PV systems last year were 4 kW, and 56% (7739 MW) of all PV installations in the UK have been ground-mounted or standalone. While solar capacity has increased, operation and maintenance of PV infrastructure have become more challenging. The level of power degradation in PV systems is not well understood, so this will be a unique investigation into the defects that prevail in these systems.
This work presents the analysis of 3.3 million PV modules in the UK, using advanced imaging techniques such as thermography and electroluminescence [1] to detect early-stage defects, faults, and malfunctions (Figure 1(a)).
Our results revealed that 36.5% of all PV modules had thermal defects, with 900,000 displaying single or multiple hotspots and approximately 250,000 exhibiting heated substrings.
Furthermore, we observed an average temperature increase of 21.7°C in thermally defective PV modules. For example, Figure 1(b) shows our largest inspected solar asset, comprising 300,552 solar modules with 8,563 thermal defects.
These findings underscore the importance of implementing cost-effective inspection procedures and data analytics platforms to extend the lifetime and improve the performance of PV systems. By using advanced imaging techniques to detect and analyze defects, we can identify potential issues early on and take necessary steps to maintain the reliability and efficiency of PV systems.
Period26 Jun 202328 Jun 2023
Event titleThe 17th Photovoltaics Science, Applications and Technology (PVSAT-17 & SuperSolar) Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational