I heard last week of HUGE issue of premature failures. So I Googled it and here is one in part: Buyer Beware
Science Chinese Solar Firms Caught Using Substandard Materials
Jason Mick (Blog)
- May 29, 2013 6:46 PM
Panels age and break prematurely
The coating of a solar panel
is a critical step for installations small and large alike, allowing a panel to endure the elements and produce power long enough for the owner to break even, or hopeful profit. But these coatings are also an expensive ingredient in the panel design.
I. Soaring Failure Rates Reveal Dishonest Tactics
The global $77B USD solar industry is grappling with revelations that some suppliers -- including a number of Chinese firms -- have used substandard coating materials to save costs. The defects are causing panels to fail as early as two years into their (supposedly) 25-year lifespan.
Other defects in panel electrical
systems have caused fires in some cases, according to a recent report
in The New York Times
. In some cases materials whose use-by date has passed were also used, causing the cell to simply fall
apart after installation.
2012 was a booming year for small solar in the U.S.
amid a general slippage in alternative energy investment nationwide. But photovoltaics division general manager Conrad Burke at chemical giant E. I. DuPont De Nemours and Comp. (DD
) says that corner-cutting has turned some panels from dishonest OEMs into ticking time bombs.
"We need to face up to the fact that corners are being cut," he warns.
Panel failures nearly doubled between 2011 and 2012, according to some testers.
[Image Source: EnergyInformative]
The writing was perhaps on the wall. Since 2009 China has been taking on massive amounts of debt to cut solar panel costs
and increasing the production scale of the panels. Panel makers are desperate to find cost savings in any way possible; in fact the world's largest panel maker up until 2012 -- China's Suntech -- was forced into bankruptcy last year.
, a French-owned testing service with labs in Shanghai revealed that between 2011 and 2012 panel defect rates in 215,000 tested modules jumped from 7.8 to 13 percent. In one case, which the company declined to reveal, a New York Stock Exchange listed Chinese firm had an entire batch of cells prove defective.
One issue, according to Thibaut Lemoine, a general manager at the tester, is that big companies are closing down their lines and subcontracting to smaller, less reliable manufacturers to cut costs. He explains, "We have inspectors in a lot of factories, and it’s not rare to see some big brands being produced in those smaller workshops where they have no control over quality."