Quality of PicoPV Systems

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Overview

More than 100 firms are offering PicoPV products in developing countries today, but most products are of very low quality, with serious implications for consumer trust in the new technology.

Early lab tests have focused the awareness of governments and donors on the importance of quality control and customer information – however, field tests in sufficient countries with sufficient sample sizes are needed for a better understanding of PicoPV performance under real-life conditions, and to identify gaps in the emerging draft lab test procedures. In addition, private sector actors lack basic market information on this new technology (such as national market potentials, local consumer preferences and willingness to pay) which they would need to decide if and how to enter this new market segment.[1]


Quality Control

Experience in development cooperation generally shows that one thing must be avoided at the outset: that users of cheap and inadequate devices should become so disillusioned that the entire technology is discredited.

Therefore, quality control is one of the most urgent tasks. This could be achieved via a simple, two- pronged approach:

  • cooperation between test labs, institutes and universities to apply the simple testing procedures developed by Fraunhofer ISE with funding from Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and WBG,and
  • national awareness campaigns for PicoPV among private and public sector, as well as future users. [2]



Tests

Already accomplished Laboratory Tests in order to evaluate the PicoPV systems are as follows:

After a comprehensive screening of the global PicoPV products market in 2008, a pre-selection of promising lamp models were taken for a lab test(developed jointly by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) Freiburg, Germany, and GIZ in order to identify a set of lamp models that meet minimum quality standards.
The lamp models that passed the lab test were taken for field tests in different developing countries.

The Uganda data for example highlight the urgent need to introduce quality labeling mechanisms, based on proven test procedures, on international as well as local levels: Almost all lamp models, including top-end products with high quality claims by manufacturers, did not meet expectations in terms of durability and robustness – in spite of the fact that they had been picked as “best of class” in the previous lab test (which in turn was based on the lab test draft methodology currently in use by GIZ as well as World Bank’s Lighting Africa).

Therefore, in general, the field test has underpinned that in order to come to valid conclusions regarding aptness of technical lamp design and robustness, lab testing does need to be complemented through long-term testing under real-life conditions. The field test has shed light on certain technical strengths and weaknesses of some lamp models that were beyond the scope of what could be assessed by the lab test methodology developed by Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems for GIZ. [1]


Lighting Africa accomplished another lab test with the same methodology used in GIZ / Fraunhofer ISE test.


  • Recommended quality criteria

Out of these different laboratory tests and experiences of field tests GIZ developed a list of recommended critera of quality. This recommendation helps implementing firms, local companies, users to get a brief overview about important and critical quality criteria.




Technical Specification by the International Electrotechnical Commission

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) approved in April 2013 a new standard for stand-alone lighting kits for rural electrification. The new standard IEC/TS 62257-9-5:2013(E) applies to rechargeable electric lighting appliances or kits that can be installed by a typical user without employing a technician. The technical specification presents a quality assurance framework that includes product specifications, test methods, and standardized specifications sheets. Along with assisting manufacturers in their attempt to achieve high product quality, the standard is also expected to help public procurements to target products that meet the IEC standard and thus put better quality products in the hands of end consumers. The quality assurance framework which is part of the standard was originally developed by Lighting Africa and has been supported by GIZ.



Further Information



References

  1. 1.0 1.1 2010. GIZ; iidevelopment. GTZ Solar Lamps Field Test Uganda. FINAL REPORT. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "GIZ10" defined multiple times with different content
  2. GTZ. 2010. What difference can a PicoPV system make? Early findings on small Photovoltaic systems - an emerging low- cost energy technology for developing countries: GIZ PicoPV Booklet