Solar Panel Ingredients

What makes a good quality solar panel?

What makes a high quality solar panel? Aren’t all solar panels the same? They all look pretty similar if you‘re on the ground looking up at panels on a roof and even close up it can be difficult to tell the difference. We thought we’d take a closer look and provide a few tips, if you’re looking to buy a good quality solar panel.

If you ask a chef what the key is to making a great meal, they’re going to tell you that it starts with the quality of the ingredients. It’s the same with solar panels, if you cut costs on the inputs, the end product will probably be compromised. Whether this results in a shortened life, lower performance, safety concerns or aesthetic issues, there are good reasons to be careful about the solar panel that you select to put on your roof.

When you first start looking at solar panels it can be pretty mind boggling. There are over 20,000 solar panels accredited for use in Australia, and every solar company is going to tell you that their panels are the best. So how can you tell the difference? Here’s a bit of an overview of what ingredients go into a solar panel, a few things to look for and some questions to ask when purchasing a solar system.

Solar panels are made up of a number of different materials and components. Below, Yingli Solar have provided a great breakdown of a solar panel’s different parts.

 

Yingli Anatomy of a solar panel

 

 

Yingli also have a more detailed overview of what goes into their panels here – yingli-solar-components.

Some of the Tier 1 panel manufacturers are now becoming more transparent and providing information about what ingredients go into their panels, innovative Australian panel manufacturer Tindo solar have provided also provided details here.

Some examples of problems that can arise from inferior quality components include:

  • Panel delamination

This can happen if an inferior quality of EVA laminate is used or if the wrong curing times or temperatures have been used in the manufacturing process. Delamination can lead to corrosion, moisture ingress and loss of performance.

  • EVA discolouration or browning

Again if the EVA laminate is inferior or the wrong manufacturing processes are followed, the panels can take on a yellow or brown colour, this can lead to a loss of output and aesthetic issues.

  • Defective or mismatched connectors

Multi Contact AG is a Swiss company that pioneered the current MC4 connector type used on most solar panels in Australia. Many cheaper solar panels are using “MC4 compatible” connectors, which are copies of the original. The Australian standards now require connectors to be the same make and model. If there is a bad or loose connection between connectors this can lead to DC arcing and burning resulting in a serious safety issue.

  • Micro-cracks in cells

Silicon solar cells are very thin and fragile. If the cell or the panel is not handled carefully in the manufacturing or installation process, it can result in micro cracking of the cells. Micro-cracks are hard to see with the naked eye and lead to a loss in power output.

  • Hotspots

On a solar cell, there are solder joints where the busbars are connected. If the quality of this connection is not good, it can lead to a high resistance in that spot, heating up and causing a “hot spot”. This generally will show as a discoloured yellow or brown spot and can potentially be a fire hazard. An inferior quality or scratched panel back sheet can also lead to resistance and heat causing hot spots.

An issue that Green Energy Options has become aware of recently is that some solar panels on the Australian market appear to be underperforming. For example, when a 250 Watt panel is tested in a flash test, to determine its rated output, normally the panel manufacturer will have an expected tolerance. High quality panels tend to have a positive tolerance stating the panel will perform at say 0/+5W, meaning that you get a panel rated at 250-255W. Some cheaper modules might have a -5/+5% tolerance meaning that they may produce less than their nameplate rating. An issue that appears to be coming up is that some panels are performing below their tolerance range.

Green Energy Options recommend sticking with well-known solar brands that are using high quality components and are transparent about the components and processes they use. We look at a number of other factors when selecting a panel manufacturer:

  • Build quality of the panel
  • Independent performance results in the field
  • Business’s financial position
  • Manufacturer’s track record
  • Highly automated manufacturing process
  • Technical specifications
  • Australian support
  • Warranty conditions

When we supply a solar system we aim to give you a great product, minimising the chances of having problems. Hopefully this gives a good insight in what to look for in a solar panel and some questions to ask if you are comparing different options. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about solar panels 1300 931 929.