What are the things to look for in a solar panel?
One of the first things you should look at when buying a solar panel is the strength and history of the manufacturer of the solar panel. Questions such as how long they have been manufacturing for? Do they invest in their own research and development? Are they financially sound?
The Green Power Company looks for the following in our Solar Panel Partners:
- A strong history of manufacturing solar panels.
- Investment in their own research and development department dedicated to improving the quality of the panels they manufacture.
- The company is in a strong financial position to continue their research and development.
- A local presence in Australia.
Companies like Kyocera, Hanwha Q-Cells, Sunpower and Sun-Earth manufacture all the different components of a solar panel themselves, assemble their solar panels through an automated assembly process and continue to do research and development so as to ensure that the products they produce are of the highest quality and will last the 25 or 30 years that the warranty periods cover. They are also vertically integrated which means that they actually own everything from the silicon mine to the assembly line.
Kyocera has been manufacturing solar panels for over 35 years, Hanwha Q-Cells over 12 years and Sun-Earth over 30 years and all have a local presence here in Australia.
Know what you are buying – 25 years is a long time.
Solar panel proven performance
One of the ways to check the quality and performance of a panels is to look for independent testing. A good place to look here in Australia is “Solar Centre: Desert Knowledge Australia”.
Desert Knowledge is a solar testing facility that is run independently of manufactures. All solar companies are welcome to install their solar panels and have them monitored for performance which allows people to see the production yields and efficiencies of the various solar panel manufactures. Both Kyocera and Hanwha Q-Cells have panels installed at Desert Knowledge and both are proving to be the best performers.
Companies like Kyocera and Q-Cells will also submit their panels for independent testing to various independent labs and testing agencies to ensure that their solar panels are of the highest quality and also be able to withstand something of the conditions we have here in Australia. Companied that allow this third party independent testing should be considered over and above those that do not.
A recent conversation with a highly experienced buyer of PV in China really drove home the issue of quality.
Making a solar panel is a bit like making a cake; there is a recipe of materials and some steps to follow. The best ingredients make a better cake but sometimes the result is subtle and sometimes more obvious.
In that recent conversation the sad reality hit home of where our industry has gotten to… in some cases. It is literally possible to visit some unethical solar manufacturers and get them to tweak the recipe by substituting lower quality materials.
“You want 10-15% lower price? Sure, we can substitute back sheets, use low grade or reject cells, non-genuine connectors and lower grade aluminium and glass. It will look the same and for the first year or two, perform almost the same as well. We can even put your brand on it too. Only a short warranty though.”
It could be argued, that using up otherwise wasted materials and producing functional solar panels at a price point that those with little income can afford sounds like a great idea.
However, in Australia, where we enjoy a very high living standard is it justifiable to save a few bucks, even a few hundred on a solar system that will probably fail after 2 or 3 years? I would suggest not.
No-one wants to be overcharged and we all want value for our money but the age- old adage rings true, especially in this industry… “you get what you pay for”.