SERC’s Off-grid Solar Testing Laboratory Gains International Recognition

ANAB-Test-Lab-2CSERC recently became accredited under ISO/IEC 17025, the single most important standard for testing laboratories around the world. This accreditation recognizes SERC’s technical competence to perform laboratory testing and produce precise and accurate test results. Specifically, SERC is accredited to carry out electrical and photometric testing of off-grid solar lighting products. This accreditation may be expanded in the future to include off-grid solar home systems and other technologies.

SERC leads the World Bank Group’s Lighting Global Quality Assurance program for off-grid solar lighting products, and tests dozens of these products each year. This new accreditation enables our test results for quality-assured, off-grid solar lighting products to be recognized by governments around the world, easing the importation of these products into countries that greatly need them. This in turn will increase access to these products for the many people in developing countries who currently rely on dangerous, unhealthy, expensive and dim kerosene lighting.

To become accredited under ISO/IEC 17025, we undertook a six-month process to formalize and update our laboratory quality management system. This included putting comprehensive policies and procedures and rigorous quality control practices in place, and training staff to follow these. All of our relevant equipment was also sent for calibration to ISO/IEC 17025 accredited laboratories to ensure that we produce the most precise and accurate results possible.

SERC was then assessed by ANAB, our ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation body. For two days in December, a visiting assessor audited our policies and procedures and witnessed testing conducted by SERC staff. After the visit, the assessor provided us with a list of non-conformities to the ISO/IEC 17025 standard, which we quickly addressed. As a result, our accreditation certificate was issued on January 8, adding SERC to the ranks of internationally recognized test laboratories.

Lighting Lab Update

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Director Arne Jacobson at the TERI grand opening in March. Photo credit Sanjay Kumar.

The Solar Lighting Laboratory of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi, India is open and ready for business.  Last year, SERC director Arne Jacobson and I traveled to New Delhi to complete a hands-on training for the Solar Lighting Laboratory and have since evaluated the laboratory’s work testing off-grid lighting products. Through SERC’s support and the Solar Lighting Laboratory’s hard work, TERI has established the first Asian laboratory within the Lighting Global Quality Assurance Program test laboratory network.

TERI’s Solar Lighting Laboratory will be evaluating off-grid lighting products using the International Electrotechnical Commission’s standard TS 62257-9-5. The test methods verify products by checking product ratings; measuring key product parameters such as daily hours of operation, lighting output, and solar power production; and evaluating parameters related to product durability such as LED life, shock resistance, and workmanship of electrical and mechanical parts.

In other news, in response to demand from the off-grid lighting market, the Lighting Global program has decided to extend the existing quality assurance framework to include larger solar home system kits. Compared to the lighting products we currently test, these plug-and-play direct current kits can provide more power for lighting as well as other uses, such as mobile phone charging, radios, fans and even TVs. Over the next two years, SERC will partner with the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems to adapt existing test methods and standards to reliably assess and report the quality of these larger systems.

While expanding our scope, we are also working with our wide range of stakeholders to refine our current test procedures and ensure a reliable and rigorous quality assurance framework that can be sustained for years into the future. As part of this process, Arne and other team members presented to stakeholders at the Global Off-Grid Lighting Association quality assurance symposium in Cologne, Germany in April.

We also remain committed to better promoting and communicating information about the products that have met our Quality Standards in the off-grid lighting market. As part of this ongoing effort, we have re-designed the Lighting Global website to enable interested parties to more easily view and compare 48 solar lighting products produced by over 20 different manufacturers that have met the Lighting Global Minimum Quality Standards.

Lighting Laboratory Conducts Testing for Global LEAP Competition

With 1.3 billion people globally still living without access to reliable electricity, there remains an acute and persistent need for affordable, efficient, and quality off-grid appliances. For over five years, engineers at SERC, along with other independent consultants, have worked to support the quality assurance of off-grid lighting products through the Lighting Africa, Lighting Asia, and Lighting Global projects, jointly funded by the IFC and World Bank Group.

Due to our background in quality assurance testing and research for off-grid lighting appliances, SERC was approached to become the lead testing laboratory for the Global Lighting and Energy Access Partnership (Global LEAP) Off-Grid LED Lighting Awards. The Awards Competition is a Clean Energy Ministerial energy access program that “recognizes the highest quality, most energy-efficient products, and then promotes those products to off-grid market stakeholders.” The Collaborative Labeling and Appliance Standards Program is the Awards Operating Agent and Administrator conducting the competition.

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Left to right: SERC Director Arne Jacboson and Research Engineers Kristen Radecsky and Robert Hosbach use an integrating sphere to measure the light output of a lighting product.

The Awards Competition consists of two judging rounds, the first of which was completed in November. Our team is preparing to thoroughly test the LED lighting products that passed the first judging round—a process that will take the next few months to complete. The results generated at SERC will be evaluated by an independent, expert judging panel to determine the best LED products in each nomination category. The Awards will culminate with the announcement of the winners at the fifth Clean Energy Ministerial (CEM5) gathering in Seoul, Republic of Korea in May 2014.