since all solar panels are not the same, it\'s important to test them
With hundreds of manufacturers, many of them from China and other overseas markets, it\'s not surprising that panel quality may vary a lot-not just between brands, but between specific factories and individual panels.
This is important because investors are counting on panel performance that is expected to last 25 years or more and making big bets for hundreds of millions of dollars.
This will be even more important in the coming years: navigation recently released a report predicting a global solar installed capacity of 438,000 MW by 2020 and an annual income of $134 billion.
The New York Times recently reported that panel quality is becoming a problem, noting that company executives who check panel quality of Chinese companies have recently discovered that,
Some well-known companies either replace them with cheaper, uninspected materials or subcontract the assembly to other manufacturers.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Jenya Meydbray, CEO of PV Evolution Labs (PVEL)
, Talk about their solutions to this different quality problem and have a general understanding of the crystalline silicon panel industry (
PVEL is paid by manufacturers and investors to ensure that the panels they invest in are able to provide the energy output they rely on).
Meydbray started PVEL three years ago because there was a huge difference in the quality of the panels he tested while working at sunpower.
Meydbray commented at the beginning of our discussion on the cost per watt issue: \"Each tile cost indicator used by everyone has a big flaw.
But it\'s still being used because the panel manufacturer is selling Watt instead of Watt-hours.
This is because energy production is different for various reasons.
Factors include the type of inverter used, whether there is tracking, and the different levels of solar radiation.
They all affect the output.
The creation of the panel is not equal.
Even in the same place, they perform slightly differently.
\"Historically, panels are tested using light from a specific angle in the lab, which is very different from the real-world situation where conditions change.
In our lab, we create many different environments so that banks and others can simulate energy production more accurately.
We use the actual features of the panel to achieve specific predictions.
Two specific areas of our focus are supplier quality and statistical batch testing of projects --by-project basis.
\"The quality focus of suppliers is to let buyers and investors know if they are investing in the right modules for their systems.
Historically, investment is based on brands and balance sheets.
But there is no point in the methodology of history.
We perform accelerated testing in the environment room and perform performance predictions.
We see a pretty good range of performance: Some
Show and some belowperform.
Because they\'re all selling a dollar. per-
Based on Watt, it is difficult for buyers to distinguish between Brand x and brand y.
\"Statistical batch testing then focuses on quantity.
If someone buys 10,000 or 150,000 panels, we do random checks and confirm with certain statistical accuracy that the population is not defective.
People in the private debt market began to ask these questions about quality.
Over time, we can confirm the actual performance with some statistical certainty.
\"PV is different when you compare solar energy to other sources of energy because it is a bunch of widgets that should be the same.
Therefore, whether it is a utility project or a large residential supplier that buys thousands of panels, consistency is very important, especially for utility-scale purchases.
\"I asked Meydbray how PVEL evaluated the quality of the panel.
I \'ve seen the wind leaf test in Charlestown, Massachusetts and simulated it for decades in harsh environments, but I\'m curious how people do this for solar: \"PV Evolution Labs test panel in a large environment room, 12-
Foot cubes that surround a highly controlled environment.
One of the key points of photovoltaic panels is often solder joints, where different materials-glass, metal, silicon and polymer-are added.
These different materials expand when heated, shrink when cooled, and the rate of change of each material is different.
These are all glued together.
The difference in the coefficient of expansion causes all interfaces to become tight and behave differently in different environments.
For example, the desert environment is more extreme than in Germany or Ontario.
So we have an environment room that heats the solar panels to 90 degrees Celsius, then cools down to minus 40 degrees Celsius, and then goes back to 90 degrees Celsius.
According to the test, we will do 200 to 800 times.
It takes one month for 200 cycles and four months for 800 cycles.
Occasionally, we will see some panel performances rock solid.
Others will reduce the number of acceptable
Could drop by a few percentage points.
But some people fell off the cliff. In some cases -
There is a complete failure and the output is zero.
So far, we have tested 19 different panel types from 15 different manufacturers.
\"We did six different tests.
Some have to do with the hot and humid environment, others have to do with the dry and desert climate.
Most customers don\'t understand all the different aspects of our review, so we go out and visit customers and explain our findings.
Suppliers have access to technology reviewed by industry experts, while manufacturers have access to complex buyers in markets they may not be able to reach.
Overall, the testing process could be up to 6 months for an in-depth reliability assessment.
Manufacturers can then say \"tested by PVEL\" and they will get a detailed report.
Meydbray pointed out that it is currently on the long-term-
Performance and potential defects.
\"Technical diligence and quality are the latest hot topics, and people say a lot about the industry being a time bomb that will explode on our faces (
Due to panel degradation).
We did not see that.
What we have seen is that mass production without defects has performed very well.
At the same time, people in history believe that zero defects.
But what happened in manufacturing.
A complete assumption of zero defects is never the right one.
If investors think so, they are deceiving themselves.
This is our goal.
\"With the maturity of the solar industry, it will start to be like other mature industries.
But not yet.
For example, insurance companies have not focused on performance --
Related question: \"Insurance in this industry is constantly changing and developing.
There is no dominant insurance product yet.
We \'ve been talking to all the insurance companies that want to get into this area-because what we\'re doing is very important to understand the risks they\'re taking out.
We are discussing with them how to get them to check.
In theory, insurance premiums should be reduced through quality control checks.
In addition, it should help to increase the debt service ratio.
There is no experience in the debt service industry.
The solar industry is a growing teenager.
It is consolidating and maturing.
By 2015 and 1000, we may grow from 100 manufacturers to 2016.
By then, institutional capital will see more sophisticated quality control.
\"At the same time, photovoltaic Evolution Labs are at the forefront of these issues, both in the United StatesS. , and overseas.
Meydbray commented that other markets may need quality control more than the USS.
\"We are talking to some people in China, Japan, Latin America and the Caribbean.
There is similar demand in other emerging markets.
In the past, for example, Japan worked only in Japanese modules where guarantors were stronger, companies such as sharp and Sanyo.
But now that Chinese modules are entering these markets, investors are worried about the quality of new products.
In China, high quality modules usually go into Europe and the United States. S.
Lower quality modules remain at home or are shipped to Africa or other Asian countries.
At the end of our conversation, I asked medbray about his final thoughts.
It\'s not surprising that I got a thoughtful response.
\"2014 is the 60 th anniversary of the first solar panel.
Bell solar cells-original solar panels-
Still working at AT&T Museum
Polysilicon technology is very mature.
We know it can last 25 years or more, 35 years or 40 years.
Today comes down to quality and materials.
If you build them up, they can last for decades.
But in the current market, the price of the panel is slightly higher than the cost of the material, which creates the incentive to cut corners, so investors really need to do their homework.
Our goal is to avoid serious black eyes in the solar industry and keep things of poor quality out of the US.
I think our basic point is when people ask, \"How much risk should we be afraid of in this industry ? \"?
I always ask, how much homework have you done?
It\'s like getting into a test.
Don\'t be afraid if you\'re ready.
It is entirely possible to have a solid grasp of the material today.
You don\'t need to make assumptions when you can make actual measurements.