Quality Crisis ‘Threatens’ Solar Industry

May 30, 2013 By Leon Walker

Solar300Testers, developers, financiers and insurers say that solar panels are facing a quality control crisis, just as the technology is on the cusp of widespread adoption, reports the New York Times.

However, the scope of the problem is unclear. There are no official figures detailing how big a problem defective panels are to the $77 billion solar industry. Furthermore, when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity a secret, the paper reports.

Instead, the mooted crisis has been identified through anecdotal evidence. The paper reports on an unnamed warehouse in California’s Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles where panels ceased to function. Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated, while other failings led to fires that took the array off line for two years. These problems occurred just two years in to the panels’ 25-year life span, the paper reports.

It appears that the quality control concerns come at a far-from-opportune time: on the back of a surge in solar construction. Recent figures from the Solar Energy Industries Association show that US solar capacity grew from 83 MW in 2003 to 7,266 MW in 2012. Nearly half that capacity was installed in 2012, the Times reports.

Quoted in the piece is Conrad Burke, general manager for DuPont’s photovoltaic division, which supplies materials to solar manufacturers. Burke says that the industry needs to “face up to the fact that corners are being cut.” Dave Williams, chief designer at San Francisco-based solar developer Dissigno told the Times that quality issues pose a long-term threat.

Most quality concerns are focussed on panels made in China, where heavily indebted manufacturers are under “extreme pressure” to cut costs, the paper reports. Executives at companies that inspect Chinese manufacturers on behalf of solar developers and their financial backers told the paper that even companies with the best reputations have been found using “cheaper, untested materials.”

Earlier this week, Brightergy Solar Solutions and Kansas City Power & Light  announced plans to team up to install solar panels on 80 buildings by the end of this year, as part of Kansas City’s plans to go solar. The buildings comprise police and fire departments and community structures. The city will lease the energy for 20 years and pay a fixed rate for the electricity. The solar power generated by the 80 buildings will provide the city with $40,000 in savings in the first year.

Do you work in the solar industry? Have you experienced disappointing reliability from solar panels? Or does this scenario sound alien to you? Please tell us in the comments section below.

One comment on “Quality Crisis ‘Threatens’ Solar Industry

  1. Our company have installed a solar grid tied with battery back-ups systems for our client some approx 7 years ago which we monitor our clients which reported to us no appear lost in power generations from 175 Watts solar modules and they reach a point of zero electric bills . We do always take in account the the quality and brand of our products we sell to our customers for many reason we are strong on the monocrystalline vs polycrystalline due to the tolerates efficiency differences plus we only recommend using certain duel -or hybrid type of string-line inverter installation to the demand for on and off grid connection for those clients wanting battery power back-up. But for grid ties only we strictly going with AC module or micro-inverters do to the major advantage it offers in saftey and in complying with NEC codes so we have to questions and require more detail than what is provide within this article after Hurricane Sandy ,the solar industry is looking more promising than ever based upon how well it stood up to this devastating winds plus in considering the huge cost to replacing the old existing infrastructure in NY, NJ and other affected area ; copper, electric poles, wiring , transformers,& labor cost .Engineers are re-thinking new electrical infrastructure designs due to the advantages of a de-centralize electrical distribution systems benefits over one that is each year becoming more costly to replace.

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