Low Irradiance Losses of Photovoltaic Modules

William Marion, F. Mavromatakis, F. Vignola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus Citations


The efficiency of a photovoltaic cell/module changes, as the intensity of incident irradiance decreases, in a non linear way and these changes are referred to as low irradiance losses. In this study data from field experiments, developed and organized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, are used to evaluate the low irradiance losses for a variety of module technologies. The results demonstrate that the ratio of the normalized power divided by the normalized short circuit current provide a good measure of the module's low light efficiency losses after both the maximum power and the short circuit current are adjusted for temperature effects. The normalized efficiencies determined through the field data, spanning for several months, are in good agreement with those determined under controlled conditions in a solar simulator. An analytical relation for the normalized efficiency is proposed based on existing formulation for the fill factor. Despite the approximate nature of the fill factor relation, this approach produces reliable results. It will be shown that a normalized efficiency curve can be used to extract information on the series and shunt resistances of the PV module and that the shunt resistance as a function of solar irradiance can be studied. Alternately, this formulation can be used to study the low irradiance losses of a module when the internal resistances are known.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)496-506
Number of pages11
JournalSolar Energy
StatePublished - 2017

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5J00-70188


  • efficiency
  • fill factor
  • low irradiance losses
  • photovoltaic modules
  • series resistance
  • shunt resistance


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