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  • Feature Story

‘Here Comes the Sun’ — Egypt Embraces Photovoltaic Systems

UL Egypt PV Panel, Egypt PV Panels

October 21, 2015

With power demand rising five to six percent each year and current generating capacity already falling short, the Arab Republic of Egypt experiences blackouts and power rationing, especially in the hot, summer months. This energy instability saps economic growth and presents very real challenges for the public.

To address this need, the Egyptian government has created incentives to develop its renewable energy resources, with a target to double its share of generating capacity by 2022. The incentives include land allocation for solar and wind farms, tariff reforms and new legal frameworks.

As Egypt and other nations embrace large-scale photovoltaic (PV) power generation, existing scientific knowledge can identify vulnerabilities, optimize performance and obtain maximum benefit for PV system investments. “If you have a small problem with a module and multiply that by a million modules, you will have a big problem,” noted Ken Boyce, a UL principal engineer manager.

Critical to the success in minimizing problems is to test PV equipment hazards, such as fire, electrical shock, mechanical stress and components, against global standards. Testing of materials, modules, balance of systems, inverters and the overall plant are essential to the safety and performance of PV infrastructure.

Special consideration is required for the performance of PV installations in specific geographies. Depending on the application and location, these may include potential induced degradation, sand impact and salt mist testing. In Egypt, the PV systems must withstand different conditions in Cairo, Alexandria and Port Said, in particular.

“Some performance issues would be unique to Egypt’s environment,” added Boyce. “The effects of dust and sand can degrade the solar panels. For example, scratches on the panels can reduce their performance. We use protocols to assess how those factors might impact the panels. However, those protocols must factor in the unique qualities of Sahara sand, which differ from Saudi sand or southwestern U.S. desert sand.”

In addition to specific environmental protocols, information on other advances such as rack mounting PV modules, rapid shutdown systems, arc fault protection and smart inverters were shared as they support further safety and reliability. In particular, they minimize the fire impact from PV systems and protect first responders working on rooftops.

It was in this spirit that the U.S Commercial Service and the U.S. Embassy sponsored the “Photovoltaic Safety and Performance Standards and Testing Workshop” for Egyptian officials from the New & Renewable Energy Authority and Egyptian Organization for Standardization and Quality.

At this workshop, private organizations, including UL, shared U.S. experience and expertise in PV safety and performance in order to support Egypt in developing their PV infrastructure.Ken Boyce, a principal engineer manager, shared insights on safety standards, conformity assessment, testing and emerging issues gained during contributions to the safe and secure development of renewable energy in markets around the world.

With nearly 90 million people and limited native fossil fuel resources, Egypt knows it needs to find new solutions to satisfy both current and future power demand with the lowest environmental impact possible. This workshop reinforced the benefits of collaboration between Egyptian interests (officials and industry) and U.S. experts.

A follow-up session to the workshop is planned to begin development of a roadmap for renewable energy expansion in Egypt.