Supporting solar power: global opportunities for Kiwa

Solar panels absorb sunlight to make electricity. A form of renewable energy, the panels can be used residentially, on the roofs of houses, industrially in solar farms and can even be used on space stations.

Solar panels consist of photovoltaic (PV) cells – which convert light to electricity – and an inverter, which switches the direct current produced by the PV cells to an alternating current we can use to run appliances. They are emission-free, and their clean energy has been hailed as a solution to the world’s climate change problems.

“We’re seeing a real boom in renewable energy now; the growth slowed a couple of years ago but it’s speeding up again now and that will continue,” said Kiwa’s Michel Wouters. “At Kiwa we work with a lot of renewable energy technology, like wind energy, heat pumps and solar – it’s a very important industry for us.”

The PV units must undergo testing to ensure their performance meets international standards. Kiwa tests units according to International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standards, including IEC 61215: Terrestrial photovoltaic (PV) modules – Design qualification and type approval. This standard sets out the requirements for PV modules to be used long term in open-air climates. The aim is to “determine the electrical and thermal characteristics of the module and to show, as far as possible within reasonable constraints of cost and time, that the module is capable of withstanding prolonged exposure in climates described in the scope.”

The challenges of solar energy

Kiwa’s new service, offering voluntary product certification (VPC) for Taiwan in addition to international certification, is the first step to supporting the solar energy industry worldwide.

“Taiwan is a small country but a big renewable energy market,” added Wouters. “By 2022, the government plans to move to 4 gigawatts of wind and 4 gigawatts of solar energy, covering a large proportion of the country’s energy needs.”

The island is very green and mountainous. Although there is a lot of potential for solar energy on the island, there are also plenty of challenges in making the switch, such as where to put the panels. Ensuring the panels being used there meet the required standards is important for getting the most out of the energy source under these conditions.

“Taiwan is quite a big market, especially for its size, like a little gold nugget,” said Wouters. “But we’re now working on India – with 1.3 billion people, there are even more challenges. Manufacturers want to take their products to new countries, and we want to help them meet the local requirements.”

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