Cyclone-Testing Q.PEAK DUO-G5
Q CELLS’ Newest High-Performance Panel Undergoes Cyclone Testing at James Cook University’s Cyclone Testing Station in Queensland
In 260km/h wind speeds, cyclones have the ability to reduce a building to tatters and turn almost any object not secured to a structure into a dangerous projectile. When it comes to solar panels on rooftops, ensuring the durability of the panel so that it actually performs throughout the warranted period is the ultimate goal for any manufacturer.
Given Australia’s cyclone-prone climates, cyclone testing for building materials, including solar panels, is an absolute imperative in order to provide safety and peace of mind to the community and Q CELLS customers.
Testing The New Q.PEAK DUO
In August, Q CELLS’ brand new Q.PEAK DUO-G5 became the most recent solar module in the Q CELLS product family to be tested to the most extreme cyclone conditions. Cyclone testing is important in order to ensure they will perform as expected in the worst of Australian conditions.
Q CELLS tests the Australian product family at Australia’s renown James Cook University (JCU) Cyclone Testing Station in Townsville, QLD. JCU is Australia’s premier cyclone testing centre due to their thorough and comprehensive testing and over 40 years of experience.
Every model of Q CELLS’ 60-cell or 120-cell size family undergoes cyclone testing here. For the first time this year, Q CELLS will also be conducting cyclone testing for 72-cell and 144-cell panels.
Q.PEAK DUO exceeded the design pressure for the whole system. It is good to see a solar module undergo this thorough and rigorous testing
IEC Standards and Cyclones
IEC standards require solar panels to withstand 2400Pa and most reputable module manufacturers claim that their panels can withstand this amount. However, IEC fails to take the safety factor (a precautionary measurement to ensure that any unforeseen high risk/low probability events are still accounted for without affecting the safety of the installation) into account.
IEC standards also do not require manufacturers to show the actual strength of the module – unlike the testing done at James Cook University which thoroughly tests the reliability of a system as a whole.
Testing the System: Static & Cyclic Tests
Here at JCU, Q CELLS panels, including Q.PEAK DUO-G5, undergo two different tests designed for cyclone durability. These two tests are: a static test and a cyclic test. Senior Engineer, Simon Ingham, said Q.PEAK DUO-G5 exceeded the design pressure for the whole system in this latest round of testing. He also notes that it is good to see a solar module undergo this thorough and rigorous testing.
To simulate the effect of cyclonic winds on a solar system, the panels are placed face down. Then, pressure is administered from above. According to Ingham, “In a cyclone, it’s like the wind is trying to pick your house up by the roof. When you have solar panels on your roof, it’s then trying to pick your house up by the solar panels.” This imparts enormous uplift forces on the solar panel. When forces like this exist, the panels could fail and become a dangerous projectile.
The first test, known as the static test, uses a hydraulic rig to push down on Styrofoam blocks. The Styrofoam blocks then push down on the underside of the solar panels in a simulation of uplift. Three solar panels clamp and attached to racking in accordance to Q CELLS’ installation guidelines. This is to ensure the realest conditions to an installed-system. “Testing the whole system” is the mantra of JCU Cyclone Testing Station which has been in operation for over 40 years.
Over the course of about 45 minutes in the static test, pressures increase until the system fails. A fail point could be when glass shatters and dislodges, a connection releases, or the panel otherwise breaks. The final pressure is recorded and input to the final test report.
The main difference between the static and cyclic test is in the static test, the panels endure increasing pressure and each incremental pressure is held for one minute until the system fails. In a cyclic test, the module is subject to a low-high-low pressure profile. This means the pressure gradually increases to the peak over 10,361 pressure cycles. The high pressures, when combined with the cyclic stress on the system, simulates the cyclonic wind stresses upon the modules. This simulation mimics pressures being greatest near the eye wall, then waning as it passes.
Unlike in the static test, wherein the panel is supposed to eventually fail to determine its ultimate strength, the cyclic test is pass-or-fail. It is the hope of the manufacturer that the panels will be able to withstand the cyclic test without breaking. Q.PEAK DUO-G5 passed the cyclic test.
WATCH: Q.PEAK DUO reaches the inevitable fail-point in the static testing
Test Results for Q.PEAK DUO-G5
This test shows Q.PEAK DUO performs well in both the static and cyclic tests. The system resists enormous pressures over 8.5 kPa or 867kg/m2. That is the equivalent of 1 car hanging from each of the 3 panels in the system. With these results, Australians can be confident that Q.PEAK DUO-G5 are strong enough for any wind region in Australia.
The test results seen here give Q CELLS panels the probability of withstanding a 1-in-500 year cyclone.
These pressures are much higher than seen in even recent extreme cyclones, like TC Debbie in 2017, that caused A$3.5 billion in damage and had winds of up to 195km/h.
The panel withstood incredible pressures equivalent to 1 car hanging off each panel in the system
Education is the Key to Safety
The main purpose for cyclone test is to give homeowners peace of mind that Q CELLS solar panels will withstand the winds and pressure of most cyclones and not detach from the roof during and become a danger to their property – and their neighbours.
Consumers in the Northern Territory are keenly aware of the need for cyclone-rated solar panels However, in other cyclone areas, people are not always aware that solar panels, unlike cladding, or other commonplace building materials, can and should undergo cyclone testing. Moreover, due to the expensive nature of testing, many manufacturers either do not offer cyclone testing, and there is even a nation-wide problem with fraudulent test certifications for even basic standards.
JCU hopes by reaching out to industry and consumers alike, and educating the public about the importance of cyclone testing, people are empowered to ask the right questions and select materials that will be safe for their homes and communities.
Built for Australia
The Q.PEAK DUO-G5 is the most powerful Q.ANTUM panel ever, and now it is verified, in both static and cyclic tests, to withstand the most powerful cyclones. With correct installation and recommended components, consumers will be confident that this panel will stay on a roof and not become a dangerous missile in high winds.
Q CELLS started cyclone testing panels in 2012. We believe in offering safe products in the areas we sell. We want every single cell and every single panel to perform to the levels that we say they will and that customers expect from us.