PTB (Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt) has published a comprehensive study on how to assure safety, quality and sustainability in the photovoltaic sector in emerging and developing economies. The study was elaborated by Ferdinand Consultants with inputs from the PTB project teams and international contributors.
In many countries, the reputation of photovoltaic (PV) technology has suffered from negative experiences that occurred when safety, quality and sustainability aspects were not sufficiently addressed. Although PV is often perceived as easily deployable, special expertise is necessary throughout all phases of a PV project to ensure the correct functioning of the system and the long-term success of the project. The required know-how and experience can only be accumulated over time. In countries where PV development is comparatively recent, the sector finds itself at an early stage of the learning curve, and safety, quality and sustainability issues are more common. This is the case for many developing and emerging economies. Nevertheless, many of the challenges are also relevant in industrialized countries and need to be addressed to further develop the PV sector, such as:
- Installation faults, which are common worldwide due to unqualified personnel and lack of training. Such faults can cause serious defects in photovoltaic plants, impacting safety, performance, and financial returns.
- Quality gaps and low-quality imports in emerging and developing economies.
- Lack of reliable solar irradiation data required for successful plant planning.
- Water stress in arid zones due to the use of water to clean PV modules.
- High resource use and waste generation, especially as more systems reach their end-of-life stage.
Quality infrastructure is the system comprising the organizations (public and private) together with the policies, relevant legal and regulatory framework and practices needed to support and enhance the safety, quality and environmental soundness of goods, services and processes. The development of this system helps to overcome existing challenges and facilitate the wider use of PV energy.
Based on the unique experience gained in projects implemented by PTB in emerging and developing economies in Africa, Latin America and Asia, the study describes case studies and recommendations pertaining to the development of the quality infrastructure. It includes general recommendations, describes requirements for specific quality infrastructure services, and highlights aspects to be considered within specific national contexts.
The study shows that it is crucial – especially in developing and emerging economies – to support the national quality infrastructure alongside the development of the PV sector. By following the recommendations for action in this area, sector organisations, policymakers and quality infrastructure institutions can lay the foundations for the sustainable growth of this sector.