The world market sales of solar panels more is growing rapidly almost more than twice in the last few years. And according to the forecasts, demand on photo-electric solar modules will stably grow in the near future. Combination of increased demand with spread and development of the technologies of solar batteries manufacturing led to the great amount of producers at the market nowadays, and their number increases constantly. It is a quite difficult task for a non-expert, who is not acquainted with realities of this market, to find a way around such variety of brands and models, to make correct choices here, to buy only quality and reliable solar panels. That’s why our company, relying on the long-term experience of production and sales of equipment for solar power-stations, offers some advices, how to make correct choice of good solar panels.
Cost of production of the photo-electric modules decreased by several times during last few years. One of reasons for such considerable cost decrease is a transfer of production capacities from USA and countries of Europe to the Asian countries, where salaries and other productive expenses are considerably less. It led to the consequencies that nowadays all basic European and American market players manufacture almost all their products in countries of South-Eastern Asia. China undoubtfully takes the first place on amount production of solar panels. Most panels with “made in Europe” label, were actually produced in Asia, only under European requirements. Similar panels produced in China released by large and reliable vertically-integrated manufacturers, are made with very similar quality as those “European” panels. Japan competes China, but authentic japan-made products, similar to American and European, substantially lose in cost competition with producers from Celestial Empire. That’s why Chinese products make the major part of Ukrainian solar panels market.
Solar photovoltaic panels are the most important and most expensive component of any solar power-stations (SPS), their correct choice mostly determines efficiency, reliability and durability of SPS functioning. There are several basic factors, which enable correct choice of quality solar panels. For example, amount of produced panels; it is better to choose solar batteries of that producer, who can provide no less than 500 МW of productive capacity.
But, however, the main indicator is the rating of the panel manufacturer. There is world-known classification that divides producers of solar modules into three levels: Tier 1 ( leading companies with the highest level of quality), Tier 2 (second class) and Tier 3 (lower class). If we compare cost of those panels, the difference between Tier 1 and Tier 3 panels can make up to 20%. We will try to understand, how such considerable pay up is formed and is it really reasonable to overpay for some extra quality. Let’s consider in more detailed way, what features each quality class present.
Manufacturing companies on solar batteries market, ranked as Tier 1 level, are top brands with excellent market reputation, and their products are famous for excellent quality. Only 2% of the world market of photo-electric modules are Tier 1-class products. There are several factors, describing exactly this class of solar modules:
Therefore, products of Tier 1 top-brands are actual hi-tech standards with very high reliability and quality assurances. If we compare Tier 1 ratings for last few years, it is possible to mention that leading positions remain almost unchangeable, they are occupied by same companies every year. Their high-quality products can be strongly recommended for construction of solar stations. Speaking about Ukrainian realities, nowadays most popular solar panels are produced by JA Solar, Jinko, Trina, Hanwha Q Cells and other top brands.
Tier 2 class producers of solar batteries make some kind of ” the golden mean” between the highest Tier 1 class and lower Tier 3 companies. Today Tier 2 solar panels take about 8-9% of global market of solar batteries.
Let’s consider key features that are typical for Tier 2 producers:
It is the most mass segment of photoelectric modules, that has the most lower class of quality. Tier 3-class panels occupy about 90% of all global market of solar batteries. We will mention several factors, that are distinctive for this class of quality:
To make right choice with preferred quality of solar panels, it is necessary to specify several characteristics before making a purchase. It is not crucial, which type of solar panels you will choose: polycrystalline or single-crystal. Not so much technology of a panel-making itself is important, but the price per 1 W of its power capacity. Associated terms, on which you can purchase one or another model of solar battery, are no less important. Specifications that are necessary to check before you buy a solar panel are the following:
Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) is frequently requested by clients for a list of ‘major’ or ‘bankable’ suppliers – in common industry parlance, tier 1 suppliers – for use in manufacturing forecasts, preliminary competitor analysis, and other internal comparisons. It is very common for industry players to refer to ‘tier 1’ players, but these terms are seldom defined or described, which is unhelpful for firms outside the solar industry trying to get a basic overview.
BNEF strongly recommend that module purchasers and banks do not use this list as a measure of quality, but instead consult a technical due diligence firm such as Edif ERA (formerly OST Energy), Sgurr Energy, DNV GL, Black & Veatch, TUV, E3, STS Certified, Clean Energy Associates, Solarbuyer, Enertis or Leidos Engineering. These would usually consider what factory the module comes from, as well as the brand, and give an informed opinion on whether the modules will perform as expected.
‘Bankability’ – whether projects using the solar products are likely to be offered non-recourse debt financing by banks – is the key criterion for tiering. Banks, and their technical due diligence providers, are extremely unwilling to disclose their whitelists of acceptable products. Bloomberg New Energy Finance therefore bases its criteria in what deals have been closed in the past, as tracked by our database -17,000 photovoltaic financings worldwide as of February 2017.
BNEF only tiers manufacturers which actually own production facilities and sell under their own brands. Companies which outsource production under brand names are not tiered. BNEF does not publish a tier 2 or 3 list.
Tier 1 module manufacturers are those which have provided own-brand, own-manufacture products to six different projects, which have been financed non-recourse by six different (non-development) banks, in the past two years. These 1.5 MW+ deals must be tracked by our database, i.e. the project location (sufficiently to identify the project uniquely), capacity, developer, bank and module maker must be in the public domain. One exception is manufacturers which have filed for bankruptcy or a form of insolvency protection, or experienced a major default on bond payments; these are removed from the tier 1 list until further notice.
Taking advantage of our pieces of advice, you will be able to choose the quality of solar panels more carefully that will ensure the efficient and stable operation of your solar power plant.
Fossil fuels dominate the global power supply because until very recently electricity from fossil fuels was far cheaper than electricity from renewables. This has dramatically changed within the last decade. In most places in the world power from new renewables is now cheaper than power from new fossil fuels.
The fundamental driver of this change is that renewable energy technologies follow learning curves, which means that with each doubling of the cumulative installed capacity their price declines by the same fraction. The price of electricity from fossil fuel sources however does not follow learning curves so that we should expect that the price difference between expensive fossil fuels and cheap renewables will become even larger in the future.
Falling energy prices also mean that the real income of people rises. Investments to scale up energy production with cheap electric power from renewable sources are therefore not only an opportunity to reduce emissions, but also to achieve more economic growth – particularly for the poorest places in the world.
An important driver of the fall in prices for electricity from renewable energy sources is the constant decrease in the cost of solar panels. The global trend on this issue is illustrated in the figure below.