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Europe, the bright spark in converting sunlight into electricity: First ever calibration laboratory accreditation.


Solar Photovoltaic Systems converting sunlight into electricity are a key technology in reaching Europe’s objectives of safe, secure and sustainable energy supply. World-wide production of solar electricity has continued to increase by more than 30% per year, reaching 1000 megawatts (enough to meet the domestic needs of 660.000 European citizens) in 2004 and has become one of Europe’s foremost growth industries. Certified power measurements are crucial to guaranteeing the competitiveness of solar electricity, as any measurement uncertainty could translate directly into lost revenue. In Germany alone, where over 400 megawatts are installed, representing over 2 billion Euro, a measurement error of 2% would result in a 40 million Euro loss or gain. With the newly awarded status of Accredited Calibration Laboratory, the European Solar Test Installation (ESTI) at the Commission’s Joint Research Centre has been confirmed as the European Reference point for the verification of all Solar Photovoltaic Electricity Systems.

The European Commission has identified Solar Photovoltaics as a key source of the future energy supply of Europe in its White Paper on renewable energy sources (COM(97) 599 final Energy for the future - renewable sources of energy: White Paper). With this further development and support of Europe’s industrial base, the Joint Research Centre plays an important role in underpinning Europe’s industrial competitiveness while promoting sustainable environmental technologies in support of the Unions wider goals.

Calibration of Solar Cells - not only a scientific exercise

ESTI has been delivering power measurements to the European Photovoltaic Industry for over two decades and has developed and pioneered many of the international standards and procedures adopted world-wide for the measurement and calibration of Solar Electricity. With its new status as an accredited calibration laboratory, ESTI has become the first laboratory world-wide to independently demonstrate the calibration and traceability of the power measurements of solar electricity systems to the international System of Units (SI).

In today’s highly competitive photovoltaic market, products are sold based on their electrical performance as the single-most important criterion. The Euro per Watt as measured at ESTI can determine the profit or loss of Europe’s rapidly expanding solar electricity industry. By ensuring the highest standards and quality in the verification of the power of Solar Electricity, ESTI provides the technical base for Europe’s industry to continue playing a leading role in the world-wide energy market.

For Europe, certified measurements are beneficial to foster trade between Member States and to reduce market barriers.

Meeting the highest international standards

ESTI is pro-actively investing in the international harmonisation of test procedures, by participation in standards bodies (notably the International Electrotechnical Commission, IEC) and agreements on quality assurance for photovoltaic products. Accreditation under the ISO17025 standard requires a living quality system, validation and verification procedures, participation in international intercomparisons, and defined measurement certainties. ESTI is the first laboratory meeting these stringent requirements on accreditation for calibration by the French Accreditation Body COFRAC.

Berta Duane | alfa
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