Machine framing and building components have been used for a range of equipment at a test-house for IEC certification of solar panels.
Machine framing and building components from MiniTec have been used at IPSOL’s Centre of Excellence in Nottingham. As a strategic partner and a spin-out company from Loughborough University, IPSOL operates the UK’s only fully accredited test-house for IEC certification of commercial solar panels. The company also offers other complementary services including PV module performance measurement, environmental evaluation and PV cell characterisation.
The Centre of Excellence has taken full advantage of global needs for PV testing, offering realistic product development and certification timescales in comparison to test houses in Germany, the USA and the Far East, it claims.
The company’s state of the art test and measurement equipment is based around the MiniTec Profile System components, with recent installations including structural elements and machine frame hardware for three separate IEC certification tests. These had to be flexible enough to accommodate a wide variety of solar panel types and sizes as the Unit Under Test, and to provide a stable structure for various pieces of measurement or test-support equipment.
The projects covered an enclosed 30m3 Soak Room where PV panel
performance is measured over long periods under simulated light and environmental conditions; a UV-Degradation test-stand that measures a solar panel’s resistance to UV exposure; and a Hail Test where 25mm diameter ice balls are ‘fired’ at the panel to test its ability to withstand such impact.
IEC certification not only guarantees high-quality and reliability but is also
a requirement where PV modules are being used, for instance, for the UK’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and other nations Feed-in Tariff schemes (FITs).
Both companies worked closely during the development process, using MiniTec’s design service to develop 3D CAD concept drawings for each test-stand. The concept designs were then developed concurrently, with IPSOL supplying third party components such as UV lamps and lamp holders to MiniTec during pre-assembly.
A benefit of the Profile System is that rails, hardware and frame construction can be adapted to changes during the build process. Furthermore, the Powerlock fastening system enabled fast frame assembly.
According to the company, practically all of the frame construction parts of the three IPSOL systems are built from standard MiniTec components, including a hand operated hydraulic lift with four parallel cylinders that allows balanced vertical positioning of the large solar panels for the Hail Test. Manually operated slideways with locking mechanisms are used elsewhere to position panels or test equipment in horizontal and vertical planes, with Z axis positioning aided by a chain counterbalance arrangement that is integrated in the vertical column. The Soak Room’s Alumetal panels are finished in a matt black with tinted Perspex door panels; and a laser sensor measurement system has been fitted to the Hail and UV test stands to enable precise and repeatable manual positioning for the various tests.
Although IPSOL used MiniTec’s in-house design service for this particular application, the company does offer the iCAD Assembler software suite if OEMs and systems integrators would prefer.
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