Photovoltaic (PV) technology provides a direct method to convert solar energy into electricity. In recent years, the use of PV systems has increased greatly with many applications of PV devices in systems as small as battery chargers to large scale electricity generation systems and satellite power systems. An important factor that influences the reliability of photovoltaic modules is their ability to withstand high thermal stresses which develop in PV modules due to the different coefficients of thermal expansion of the different module materials. PV modules also experience thermal cycles which can lead to failure of the module. In the present work, three dimensional numerical thermal and structural models of a PV module were developed and sequentially coupled together to calculate the temperature distribution in the PV module and the thermal stresses developing in it. The model is also capable of simulating PV module cooling. Using the model, a study was conducted to evaluate the thermal and structural performance of the module with and without cooling and the variation in thermal stress magnitudes with changing environmental conditions (solar radiation and ambient temperature) and operating conditions (heat exchanger inlet temperature and velocity).

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