Choosing a Solar Panel

February 7, 2022

It’s fair to say that when it comes to developing a solar array on your buildings/land, it can be something of a minefield.

There are a plethora of options to choose from, and knowing which route to take can be very difficult; it was once remarked that you could put 5 engineers in a room and you’ll get 6 opinions on how to do something.

One area where there can be considerable confusion is with the solar panels themselves – the main part of the array.
 
At last count there are more than 350 companies worldwide who manufacture PV cells – the vast majority of which are based in the Far East (though not all).
 
When it comes to deciding which panel/manufacturer to work with it can be helpful to work through a process of elimination –

Step 1 -

Bankability

Solar panels are engineered and manufactured to perform efficiently for 25 years – in almost all cases this is covered by a performance warranty from the manufacturer.
 
As there are no moving parts in a solar panel, failures after installation are rare but it’s important to choose a panel manufactured by a financially-sound organisation so that if a warranty claim is necessary, they are around to support you.
 
As we live in an uncertain world, there is no way of knowing for sure who will be around for the long-term but there is some help in the form of research carried out by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (NEF).
 
BloombergNEF’s research ranks manufacturers on their bankability; manufacturers who appear on their ’Tier 1’ list are judged to be more bankable, and therefore more likely to exist in the long term – than those who do not. 

Note, however, that the Tier 1 list ranks the manufacturers rather than particular product lines.

Step 2 -

Warranties

Reputable solar panels will have two separate and distinct warranties –
 
  • Product warranty – this covers the physical integrity of the panel itself. The panels you choose should have a minimum product warranty of 10 years.
 
  • Performance warranty – this covers the output of the panel. The panels you choose should have a minimum performance warranty of 25 years; at which point the panel should retain a minimum of 80% of its maximum power output

Step 3 -

Efficiency

Although the efficiency of a solar panel is important, depending on the proposal application, it can be something of a red-herring.
 
The efficiency of a solar panel is essentially the amount of solar energy that is converted into electricity. Practically this is determined by the output of the module against the size.
 
Broadly, commercial solar panels have an efficiency rating of anywhere between 19 – 21%; however some domestic panels offer efficiency ratings up to 23%.
 
When considering the efficiency of solar panels for your project, a more efficient panel might not actually be the right thing to choose.
 
The reasons are cost and space.
 
Subject to your motivation for installing solar panels, you may have more than enough space to install regular panels. If this is the case installing a system using more efficient panels will not provide an additional benefit other than a higher cost.
 
Think of it like this – what weighs more, 1kg of bricks or 1kg of feathers? Both are 1kg, you just might have more feathers than bricks. The same is true of solar panels – 100kW is 100kW, regardless of how many panels it takes to achieve this output.
 
BeBa Energy are proud to be an independent developer of commercial solar PV systems. As we are not tied to a particular manufacturer – we will always specify the right product for the right application.
For a further help or advice please call us today.