International certification for solar, wind and marine energy

IEC launches IECRE, the new CA System for the renewable energy sector

By Claire Marchand

The ever increasing demand for electricity and the need to reduce the share of fossil fuels in power generation have led to rapid development and growth of the RE (renewable energy) sector. The IEC, which has been at the forefront of international standardization in the wind, solar and marine energy fields for many years, has now gone a step further and launched IECRE, the IEC System for Certification to Standards Relating to Equipment for Use in Renewable Energy Applications.

IECRE comprises three Sectors: solar PV...
IECRE comprises three Sectors: solar PV...

Fast-paced developments

The establishment of IECRE was formally approved by IEC CAB (Conformity Assessment Board) at its June 2013 meeting. The objective was to create an international CA (Conformity Assessment) System providing testing, inspection and certification for renewable energy sectors such as wind energy, marine energy and solar PV (photovoltaic) energy.

The CAB approval led to the setting up of the IECRE Forum, a working group bringing together stakeholders from the renewable energy sector as well as officers and leading experts from the IEC CA side. The Forum, in charge of drafting the new System’s Basic Rules, met in October and November 2013 and again in early April 2014 to discuss and finalize the draft document. IECRE Basic Rules were approved by CAB at its June 2014 meeting.

The fast pace set by CAB and the IECRE Forum was made possible by the work previously undertaken by two CAB working groups, WT CAC (Wind Turbine Certification Advisory Committee) and WG 15: Marine Energy. These two groups had done in-depth analyses of their respective sector’s CA needs and requirements, thus paving the way for rapid development of IECRE.

Sectors and Schemes

Practically speaking, the IECRE System will be organized in sectors and schemes. Three sectors have currently been defined:

Each of these sectors will be able to operate Schemes that cover:

  •  Products, e.g. components and systems
  •  Services, e.g. installations and other related offers of the sector
  •  Personnel, e.g. covering the competence of those working in the sector

A lot in common

Commonalities can be found in the technologies used for generating energy from the sun, the wind or the oceans: high capital investment and harsh environmental conditions in installation deployment, the need for a systems approach to cover stages from design concept to prototype, to production of equipment and components, transportation, installation and commissioning.

Marine energy

Oceans offer an enormous source of renewable energy with the potential to satisfy an important percentage of the world's demand for electricity. While research and development in this field has been ongoing for many years, the technologies used to harness the energy from waves and from tidal and water currents are still developing. Development of a Conformity Assessment System under the IECRE will allow the marine industry to establish rules and requirements for testing and certifying the design, materials, components. It will allow the marine industry to build and then certify devices to IEC International Standards developed by IEC TC (Technical Committee) 114: Marine energy - Wave, tidal and other water current converters. This is a crucial step towards improving the overall economic viability and acceptability of marine technologies and ultimately will help the whole industry to develop and grow.

Solar PV energy

As solar power is set to occupy a growing share of the global energy mix, PV (photovoltaic) energy generation has been expanding dramatically in recent years. The IECRE will seek to provide a dedicated testing and certification scheme covering  products and installations by verifying their compliance with specified IEC International Standards prepared by IEC TC 82: Solar photovoltaic energy systems.

Wind energy

Wind turbines are being built throughout the world. The manufacturers, buyers and plant owners want to be assured that wind turbines, including their components and their installations are of the required quality and reliability, as specified in IEC International Standards developed by IEC TC 88: Wind turbines. The IECRE Conformity Assessment System will seek to help minimize incoming inspection costs and largely eliminate the need for quality auditing of suppliers. The System, and the conformity assessment solutions that are developed, will be intending to facilitate quality assurance and reduce certification costs by preventing wasteful duplication of testing and assessments.

Potential developments

While IECRE focuses on these three sectors for now, the door remains open for consideration of other technologies such as CSP (concentrated solar power), geothermal energy and fuel cells.

IECRE comprises three Sectors: solar PV... IECRE comprises three Sectors: solar PV...
...wind... ...wind...
...and marine energy ...and marine energy