Photovoltaic (PV) Best Value or Best Price?
Buying Photovoltaic Panels is a long term investment with significant returns, but many within the industry, in the UK , are obsessed with buying at the cheapest possible price and are not aware or concerned about minimising the risk taken by investors.
PV panels all look very similar, one monocrystalline panel looks very much like any other monocrystalline panel and the same goes for polycrystalline and thin film, they have become a pure commodity product, however there are significant long term performance differences, even with panels rated with the same output.
Project finance is the norm for schemes over £10m in value and all the decisions are obviously made about risk, however once the technical data has been analysed, the financiers normally look at the balance sheets of the manufacturers to determine if a company is of a size to trust and sue in any doomsday scenario. The problem is that panels can still underperform and in Germany there have been court cases about under performing panels and in the results of tests we’ve seen, some panels under perform by as much as 60%. So consideration needs to be made to best value or best price. These panels formed part of a control test and we understand were from well known companies, the tests include subjecting the panels to extreme temperature variations from minus 40 degrees to plus 85 degrees, and accelerated daylight tests, but these variations do not always become apparent until 2000 -3000 hours, which would in real time be well after an installer had completed even a large project, potentially leaving a client and investor with a litigation case.
We work with Antaris Solar, as they have invested in ongoing rigorous quality control systems to ensure they offer the best possible product, they use a specialist independent PV testing institute in Germany to test panels from every shipment and inspect the factory productions un-announced to ensure the factory is clean and the correct components are being used. These inspectors then select random panels for accelerated tests which are sent by airfreight to Germany, so by the time the panels arrive by sea Antaris Solar have a full report, allowing shipments to be rejected if necessary. This degree of care and quality control allows them to claim the 30 year performance warranty and ensures the client gets a panel which will generate the required return on investment.
Ecomerchant prefers to sell product on a best value basis although we are also price competitive, and do win on best price, but our offering is not purely price driven as with PV it is all about a 25 year performance related FIT payment geared around the actual performance of the panel not a designed performance.