IEEE’s 42nd Photovoltaic Specialists Conference (PVSC) was held in New Orleans this year and I had the pleasure of attending. The conference was a great experience, presenting the most recent advances in the area of solar photovoltaic (PV) technology. As an undergraduate student at my first conference I was astounded by the amount of academics and companies making important advances in photovoltaics. Anyone cynical of solar technology needs to attend PVSC to discover the speed of progress of photovoltaic development and the intellect driving photovoltaic research.

Attending this conference I intended to explore a few different areas of research which included concentrated photovoltaics (CPV), solar resource measurement and modeling, as well as field reliability experience and soiling. Also, attending the plenary presentations I gained an introduction to topics I was less familiar with such as thin film technologies, perovskite solar cells, and space technologies among others. I was also very interested in the talks related to commercial deployment of solar technologies as well as the solar energy market outlook. PVSC is big conference, encompassing so many sectors of the photovoltaics market, so it was difficult to decide which talks to attend.

On the Monday of the conference I attended the talk of the research I co-authored. The talk entitled “Refractive Concentrator Optics Architectures, Tracker Precision, and Cumulative Energy Harvest”, presented research on the relationship between angular response and the performance of a sun tracker with a certain tracking error. This research is important in practical applications of CPV technology where tracker accuracy should match angular acceptance to be able to optimize power output to cost. It was great to see months of work on this project be presented.

I attended very interesting talks on solar resource measurement. The first was a talk by Dr Richard Perez, a developer of the SUNY model, presenting version 4 of this satellite model of solar resource. He presented the different factors affecting performance of version 3, which were taken into account and incorporated into the new version, such as an improved source of aerosol optical depth (AOD) and improved treatment by the model of very clear and highly overcast conditions. They highlighted improvements in global horizontal irradiance and direct normal irradiance estimates with improved versions of their model.

As well, I attended many talks on field reliability, having spent the year analysing the University of Ottawa’s outdoor CPV test site database and maintaining the irradiance equipment, I was interested in understanding the different environmental factors affecting accurate data collection and performance of PV modules. There was an interesting talk on the evaluation of PV module performance in the field. Outlined were several failure modes consistently seen which including discoloration of the module and hot spots associated to failed contacts. This, and others, work in field reliability is important in the development of industry standards, allowing for more successful PV deployment in the energy market.

Overall, the conference was a great educational experience, I would like to thank PVIN for their support, granting me the opportunity to attend this conference and benefit from exposure to so many topics in photovoltaics, learn about organizations and companies working on solar research and deployment, and understand important research which I can apply to my academic work in the future. I would highly recommend it as an important experience for any student interested in or working in research. Conferences are beneficial to students, allowing the opportunity to explore leading edge research, discovering areas of interest, while also making connections in the scientific community.  I found many aspects beneficial such as attending the poster session, where you become familiar with the most important recent discoveries circulating in the field, social events where you can meet professors and students from universities around the world, and attending the numerous talks allowing you to identify potential projects, laboratories, and institutions that you would like to work with in the future. Overall PVSC was a great experience!

Lianne de la Salle
Electrical Engineering Undergraduate
University of Ottawa, Sunlab