The evaluation of photovoltaic (PV) system's efficiency loss, due to the onset of faults that reduce the output power, is crucial. The challenge is to speed up the evaluation of electric efficiency by coupling the electric characterization of panels with information gathered from module diagnosis, amongst which the most commonly employed technique is thermographic inspection. The aim of this work is to correlate panels' thermal images with their efficiency: a "thermal signature" of panels can be of help in identifying the fault typology and, moreover, for assessing efficiency loss. This allows to identify electrical power output losses without interrupting the PV system operation thanks to an advanced PV thermography characterization. In this paper, 12 faulted working panels were investigated. Their electrical models were implemented in MATLAB environment and developed to retrieve the ideal I-V characteristic (from ratings), the actual (operative) I-V characteristics and electric efficiency. Given the curves shape and relative difference, based on three reference points (namely, open circuit, short circuit, and maximum power points), faults' typology has been evidenced. Information gathered from infrared thermography imaging, simultaneously carried out on panels during operation, were matched with those from electrical characterization. Panels' "thermal signature" has been coupled with the "electrical signature", to obtain an overall depiction of panels' health status.
Keywords: PV system; electric efficiency; electronic systems; faults diagnostic; infrared thermography.