New CSIRO laboratory to increase confidence in solar


The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has completed its 32–month project which included the design and construction of a new facility to study the way solar PV panels respond to changes in the solar conditions, including the irradiance, temperature, spectrum and the sun angle.

Image credit: Photovoltaic Outdoor Research Facility - CSIRO, Newcastle
Image credit:
Photovoltaic Outdoor Research Facility – CSIRO, Newcastle

The Australian Renewable Energy Agency ARENA funded project envisioned the establishment of unique indoor and outdoor testing capabilities that provide a better understanding of the factors that affect PV output, maximising the cost-effectiveness of PV power plants for Australian conditions and improving the financial proposition for investors in Australian solar energy.

The new facility – now accessible to PV researchers and industry – will allow the CSIRO to increase confidence in large scale solar by more accurately predicting how different solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will perform on Australian shores.

“Accurately predicting the energy output of a solar PV power plant is critical throughout its lifecycle, from forecasting future revenue and determining commercial viability to day-to-day operation on the electricity grid. Effective forecasting is particularly important for investor confidence and risk mitigation as the cost of new plants is mostly up-front,” said ARENA CEO Ivor Frischknecht.

“A manufacturer’s solar panel power rating comes from a standardised laboratory measurement that doesn’t represent how well it will perform under Australian conditions. Knowing how the panels should perform allows solar PV system design to be assessed, and the quality, health and degradation of systems to be tracked over time.”

He said researchers and industry would be able to access CSIRO’s accredited indoor laboratory to “independently measure solar cell efficiency” against international standards.

“This capability was previously only available at selected PV laboratories in the Northern Hemisphere, making it an important new piece of research infrastructure for the Southern Hemisphere. To complement this, the outdoor section of the facility includes the most advanced solar ground measurement station of its type in Australia to measure the impact of different weather conditions and solar radiation levels,” Mr Frischknecht added.

“These notable achievements will further Australia’s enviable position in solar PV research and strengthen the case for utility scale solar PV plants and rooftop installations.”

The results and final report for the $3.2 million project are now available on the project page on ARENA’s website.