If you are considering solar power, chances are you have heard the term tier one solar panel. But what is a tier-one panel and what are the criteria for a panel to qualify as tier one?
The answer may come as a bit of a shock.
According to Bloomberg, a tier one solar manufacturer is nothing more than a company that has provided their panels for 6 large-scale solar projects (larger than 1.5MW) that have been financed by 6 different banks within the last two years. Everything else is marketing spin!
Furthermore, Bloomberg clearly explains that this does not guarantee quality or reliability:
“This classification is purely a measure of industry acceptance, and there are many documented examples of quality issues or bankruptcy of tier 1 manufacturers.”
You can read the 4-page executive summary here:
At this stage you may be wondering; So… how does this help? Exactly! We share your pain.
And what’s worse, companies like Bloomberg often sell their report for thousands of dollars, making it close to impossible for households to get their hands on this information, not that the information will help them in the slightest.
The reason this has become such a problem is that ‘tier one solar panel’ is a term used by many salespeople in the industry, and often in a misleading way. Because it is close to impossible for a consumer to verify what panels are tier one, salesmen are making claims that are simply not true. For example:
Customer: Are your panels tier one?
Answer: Yes, of course, they are…
End of conversation.
The other confusing issue is that the tier system ranks manufacturers, not panels. Many manufacturers make a range of panels at different price points, and like with most things cheaper solar panels are made to a comparatively lower standard. For example, a cheap panel from a tier one manufacturers is probably not going to be better than a top of the range panel from a tier 2 manufacturer.
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So how do you ensure you are buying quality panels?
We recommend that you steer clear of the term ‘tier one’. It is more suited to large-scale solar and isn’t relevant for residential solar. What you really want to know is which panel is going to be the best quality, the most reliable and the best value for money based on your individual circumstances, such as how long you are planning to live in the house, how quickly you want your system to pay for itself, and your budget.
Solaray only supply panels from the top handful of manufacturers, in particular, they must:
- Invest heavily in R & D
- Have a local office in Australia (no, not just a serviced office with a phone)
- Have been manufacturing panels for at least 10 years, preferably longer
- Be vertically integrated, meaning they are not just an assembler with no control over the quality of the raw materials – good quality silica makes good quality panels
- Have a fully automated and advanced production line. Yes, some manufacturers in Asia still do certain processes by hand!
Here at Solaray, we only select manufacturers that satisfy all of these criteria. This is why we only stock a handful of brands and why you won’t find us online if you search for cheap solar. More information about that here: Warning about cheap solar systems
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