The Perils of Buying Cheap Solar Panels & Equipment.
Company bankruptcies and factory closures are usually of greatest interest to investors and soon-to-be-laid-off employees. But sometimes the ripple effects extend much further.
In an industry like solar energy where 25-year panel warranties are becoming standard, the future well-being of individual manufacturers can impact ordinary property owners on the other side of the globe.
Take Suntech Power for example – a well-known Chinese manufacturer of solar PV panels. The company is facing a $541 million bond call (i.e. debt obligation) that it probably won’t be able to fulfill. It’s already started scaling down production and closing factories. In fact, you can even find some of its panels right now for as little as $0.60 per watt – an undeniable sign that Suntech and its distributors see the writing on the wall.
Solar Panel Buyers Beware!!!
As a professional solar contractor and installer, I’m happy to see cheaply manufactured Chinese solar products come face-to-face with the invisible hand of economics. When you produce inferior quality, sooner or later, market forces will converge to take you down.
But as someone who champions solar energy and wants to see it spread like wildfire, I feel bad for all of those unsuspecting homeowners and business owners who bought Suntech panels over the years. I cringe just thinking about all of those warranties that could soon become obsolete if there’s no longer a company to back these 25+ year promises.
Solar Contractors & Installers Beware
In our quest to source the highest quality solar packages from leading manufacturers around the globe, Florida Solar One closely follows stories like Suntech’s. And what we’ve discovered is that this is not an isolated cautionary tale.
ASP (a.k.a BlueChip Energy) is another unfortunate saga that crossed our path. The company was caught inflating the efficiency rates of its solar PV panels. In actual fact, ASP’s panels didn’t even meet 65% of the company’s published performance ratings under standard test conditions (STC).
To put this in more accessible terms, it would be like claiming a concert is sold out, when in truth, 35% of the seats are still empty.
In this story, my heart doesn’t go out to the property owners. Rather, I feel bad for all of those installers who were duped into pushing ASP panels. You see, ASP has had to issue a recall as a result of Underwriters Laboratories UL 1703 standards listings violations.
This recall means that these scammed solar contractors and PV installers must remove, ship, and install new panels – mostly out of pocket.
Admittedly, ASP is offering replacement panels, but these substitutes are exactly that – substitutes. They have thinner frames and inferior backing, making them ill suited for the Caribbean and Florida markets (due to our seasonal hurricanes). Perhaps I should feel bad for homeowners who ordered ASP solar packages.
Again, you can find some ASP panels for as low as $0.60 per watt.
I could go on and on, but hopefully you’re seeing a trend here already.
At Florida Solar One, we constantly stress that solar energy is an investment – one that pays for itself many many many times over the 25+ year lifetime of an average installation.
So while cost IS important, quality is even more important. 25 years from now, you’ll have completely forgotten what you initially paid for your installation. You will, however, remember whether or not the warranty and performance live up to the hype.