Differential Degradation Patterns of Photovoltaic Backsheets at the Array Level

Andrew Fairbrother, Matthew Boyd, Yadong Lyu, Julien Avenet, Peter Illich, Yu Wang, Michael Kempe, Brian Dougherty, Laura Bruckman, Xiaohong Gu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus Citations


There are relatively few field studies on the degradation of non-fluoropolymer-based backsheets, and understanding their in-field behavior is critical for further development of such products. In this study, backsheet degradation of modules with one of these new types of backsheets (polyethylene naphthalate (PEN)-based) was documented at a four-year old utility-scale array located in Maryland (USA). Visual inspection, colorimetry, glossimetry, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR) revealed highly varied properties depending on module position within the array. Specifically, modules near the edge of the array and with higher mounting elevations underwent greater amounts of backsheet degradation, as indicated by yellowing and gloss-loss. The reason for these unique degradation patterns were differential backside exposure conditions, especially of ultraviolet light. This was strongly influenced by the array design, including array structural and environmental factors, such as module spacing and ground cover, respectively. Within the array, no clear link between backsheet degradation and module output or safety has been identified. However, such a relationship may be expected to become more pronounced with time, affecting system lifetime and ultimately the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). The observed phenomena have implications for both backsheet product development and array design, especially for modules that utilize newer classes of non-fluoropolymer-based backsheets which are typically more susceptible to environmental degradation.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)62-69
Number of pages8
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5J00-71051


  • Backsheet degradation
  • Exposure conditions
  • Field survey
  • Photovoltaic array
  • Polyethylene naphthalate
  • Reliability


Dive into the research topics of 'Differential Degradation Patterns of Photovoltaic Backsheets at the Array Level'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this