Test facilities

Solar power has been growing to meet user needs: solar water heaters for domestic hot water, photovoltaic systems for powering electric cars, and innovative hybrid systems. The CSTB solar system testing laboratory has been analyzing the thermal performance, reliability and durability of these systems for more than 15 years. Based at Sophia Antipolis, it offers manufacturers and distributors the experimental means to assess their energy systems.

Solar system testing laboratory

Testing solar collectors and water heaters

One of the strengths of this CSTB laboratory is that it can test both thermal solar collectors and individual solar water heaters through services that are in part COFRAC No. 1-2122 accredited (scope available on www.cofrac.fr). The laboratory performs European standards compliance testing as part of technical assessments, certifications and CE marking. It also carries out on-site tests to assess existing solar facilities.

Since September 2015, to meet the requirements for “Energy” marking for solar domestic hot water tanks, the laboratory has been providing the new “standing loss” testing service.

It assesses the thermal performance of different solar systems:

  • Liquid-type collector with and without glazing (automatic dual-axis tracker that follows the trajectory of the sun, or quasi-dynamic test method);
  • Forced-flow solar water heaters (solar collectors outside on fixed supports, and storage tanks in a temperature-controlled room);
  • Thermosiphon solar water heaters, widely used in Réunion, and self-storage solar water heaters, very common in the Antilles (dedicated test beds).

To characterize the reliability and durability of solar systems, solar collectors and water heaters are subjected to stress tests: thermal shock, high temperature, etc. One specific feature of the laboratory is aging tests that subject collectors to prolonged exposure to local climatic constraints (maximum sunlight levels and proximity to the sea) for one year.

To determine the solar and light properties of solar collector components (glazing, emissive layer, etc.), the CSTB has a specialized laboratory in Grenoble.

Testing complex energy systems

In this laboratory, the CSTB studies hybrid systems that use one or more energy carriers (water, air, electricity, etc.), for example, thermal and photovoltaic solar panels. Testing is also offered for concentrated solar power systems.

In addition, the laboratory performs on-site measurements using monitoring devices to tailor and develop test methods for innovative energy systems.

With its laboratory specialized in solar systems, the CSTB guides manufacturers and distributors in performing technical assessments of their complex systems.

To meet the needs of stakeholders involved in R&D, it also uses the capabilities of the semi-virtual laboratory for assessment of multi-energy systems, located at Sophia Antipolis.

Testing photovoltaic systems

The CSTB can test photovoltaic systems (photovoltaic modules and assembly systems) as part of technical assessments. Ease of assembly and wind resistance are studied using test benches located at Sophia Antipolis and Marne-la-Vallée, respectively.

For certification applications for photovoltaic solar modules, the CSTB partners with the laboratory Certisolis, a subsidiary of the CSTB and the National Metrology and Test Laboratory (LNE), located near the Alps, in Savoie, to perform qualification tests and certify their performance.

Testing rooftop solar systems

Thermal, photovoltaic and hybrid solar panel systems installed on roofs: the CSTB laboratory tests their ease of assembly at full-scale using a special test bench.

As a member of standards committees and in affiliation with the Solar Keymark Network, the CSTB contributes to the development of standards and inter-laboratory comparison tests to validate test conditions.