Generalized Spatio-Temporal Model of Backsheet Degradation From Field Surveys of Photovoltaic Modules

Michael Kempe, Yu Wang, Wei-Heng Huang, Andrew Fairbrother, Lucas Fridman, Alan Curran, Nicholas Wheeler, Sophie Napoli, Adam Hauser, Scott Julien, Xiaohong Gu, Gregory O'Brien, Kai-Tak Wan, Liang Ji, Kenneth Boyce, Roger French, Laura Bruckman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus Citations


Photovoltaic (PV) module backsheets degrade at different rates because of the specific polymeric materials and the local exposure environments of the installations. Studies of real-world backsheet degradation provide valuable information to understand backsheet degradation and failure. Field surveys of PV module backsheets were conducted on 1310 modules in four commercial PV power plant sites with different exposure times. The backsheet's local exposure environment is determined by its location along the rack length and depth, the modules' elevation above the ground, and the ground cover albedo. Backsheets that are installed at the ends of the module rack length exhibit larger degradation rates (with yellowness index difference of 1.14 ± 0.45 and 7.80 ± 1.3 for backsheets of poly (ethylene terephthalate) and poly (ethylene naphthalate) as the air-side layer, respectively) than backsheets in the center section of the rack. A generalized spatio-temporal model was developed to predict the large-scale backsheet degradation of different backsheet polymers across time/age and location in the PV power plant rack. The model utilizes a cubic-spline relationship between backsheet degradation and rack length, and a quadratic relationship between backsheet discoloration and rack depth. This generalized spatio-temporal model predicts the outdoor backsheet degradation with an adjusted-$R^2$ range between 0.31 to 0.89. The similarity between this model and the spatial variation of the rear-side irradiance, indicates that the irradiance plays a significant role in outdoor backsheet degradation. The generalized spatio-temporal model can be used to evaluate large scale PV backsheet performance, as well as a guidance for PV site designers and operations and maintenance crews.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number8786179
Pages (from-to)1374-1381
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Journal of Photovoltaics
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2011-2012 IEEE.

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5K00-74973


  • Backsheet degradation
  • field survey
  • photovoltaic (PV) module
  • spatio-temporal model


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