Real-Time Anticipation and Prevention of Hot Spots by Monitoring the Dynamic Conductance of Photovoltaic Panels

William Lamb, Dallon E. Asnes, Jonathan G. Kupfer, Emma Grace Lickey, Jeremy Kenechukwu Bakken, Richard Campbell Haskell, Peter N. Saeta, and Qimin Yang

IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics 12 (2022) 1051-1057


Hot spotting in photovoltaic (PV) panels causes physical damage, power loss, reduced lifetime reliability, and increased manufacturing costs. The problem arises routinely in defect-free standard panels; any string of cells that receives uneven illumination can develop hot spots, and the temperature rise often exceeds 100°C in conventional monocrystalline-silicon panels despite on-panel bypass diodes, the standard mitigation technique. Bypass diodes limit the power dissipated in a cell subjected to reverse bias, but they do not prevent hot spots from forming. An alternative control method has been suggested by Kernahan that senses in real time the dynamic conductance \(|\mathrm{d}I/\mathrm{d}V|\) of a string of cells and adjusts its operating current so that a partially shaded cell is never forced into reverse bias. We start by exploring the behavior of individual illuminated PV cells when externally forced into reverse bias. We observe that cells can suffer significant heating and structural damage, with desoldering of cell-tabbing and discolorations on the front cell surface. Then we test PV panels and confirm Kernahan’s proposed panel-level solution that anticipates and prevents hot spots in real time. Simulations of cells and panels confirm our experimental observations and provide insights into both the operation of Kernahan’s method and panel performance.