We recently had a chance to interview solar power veteran Eric Nyman, Senior Project Developer at Sun Light & Power, about the company’s choices for solar panels for our customers. Here are his thoughts on what to look for in a quality solar panel.
Nancy: Eric, we can choose from many options for solar panels from many manufacturers. Tell us why we have chosen the manufacturers we currently work with to provide solar panels for our customers.
Eric: The solar market has been somewhat volatile for the last 15 years. Over that time, we’ve worked with a variety of solar panel manufacturers. Then we make a commitment to a module manufacturer of a high-quality product, well call it a Tier One provider. Tier one refers not only to the quality of the modules but the manufacturer’s commitment to the solar industry. We make sure there’s a certain amount of global capacity they’re developing and producing for, and we make sure manufacturing solar panels is a core business for them. Then we look at the warranty they provide on their modules. We want to know that the warranty meets a minimum standard of 10-year workmanship on the product itself and a 25-year production guarantee warranty. That means that at the end of that 25-year term the module will produce a minimum of at least 80 percent or more than its original output.
Nancy: OK, that’s good to know. What else do you look for?
Eric: Next, we want to make sure that the parameters in which it operates, for example its voltage, give it versatility with the systems that we generally produce and the inverters we use. So, most manufacturers do meet that criteria, but they don’t necessarily meet it relative to the tier one comment I referenced earlier, or the warranty requirements.
Nancy: What are the kinds of things that go wrong with panels that indicate we should not work with a certain manufacturer?
Eric: Most module manufacturers have had great history. The failure rate on modules is incredibly small. We’ve been selling SunPower modules, which have the best warranty on the market bar none, not to mention the lowest degradation. That means they maintain their performance longer and at a higher percentage than modules manufactured by any other vendors. In my 16 years working with SunPower modules, they’ve had one recall that I am familiar with where the cells discolored a bit but that was it. It didn’t affect performance; it was just an aesthetic concern. There have been a few other manufacturers, which we have only used on two occasions, where the modules caught fire. Not in California, but in other areas where they were installed.
Eric: That’s a concern when you have an electrical current running through the modules. Electrical current creates heat, and heat can create fire so that’s exactly what happened.
These are huge outliers and they very rarely, never happen. I would say of the hundreds of thousands of modules we’ve installed we probably have replaced, I don’t know, less than 150 panels over 14 years.
Nancy: That’s impressive.
Eric: So, it’s a very low failure rate, let’s put it that way.
Nancy: Ok, that’s great. We use modules from REC Solar sometimes, too. Tell me about them.
Eric: REC Solar is kind of our main bread and butter ‘value product.’ It’s what we call standard efficiency. Most of the market offers that type of output and that type of efficiency per square foot. We also use modules from LG, which is certainly a very reputable product and it’s probably a little bit higher in its efficiency than REC. And then from there we have the super high efficiency the best on the market, which is SunPower.
Nancy: How long have you been working with SunPower modules at Sun Light & Power?
Eric: 16 years.
Nancy: The same number of years you have worked at Sun Light & Power?
Eric: Yes, that’s right.
Nancy: So, you feel we offer the best choices for good, better and best module choices?
Nancy Summers is the Marketing & PR Director at Sun Light & Power and a blog contributor.
For more information on a solar solution to meet your business’ needs, call us at 510-845-2997.