Are Chinese solar panels any good?
Posted: 15 Dec 2014
For a long time, Solar panels from China have had a stigma attached to them with regards to their quality. For some manufacturers, this isn’t entirely undeserved but, there are a lot of good Chinese panels that suffer under this blanket assumption.
Where did this stigma come from?
In 2009 the Chinese government began offering significant incentives around solar panel manufacturing in order to produce a strong solar industry within China. This was very successful in that government incentives made it very easy to setup a solar manufacturing facility and significantly lowered the cost of production. This in turn allowed China’s solar panels to be sold more cheaply than panels manufactured in other countries resulting in less external competition for China’s manufacturers.
However, the drawback to this scheme was that it incentivised more than just the parties interested in making a quality product. The result was that China had and still has a more diverse spectrum of manufacturing quality; from the very good to the very bad.
Unfortunately the lowered cost of manufacturing and the close proximity to Australia meant that it was very affordable for both the high quality and low quality manufacturers to sell their product to Australians. This is where the problems arose.
In essence it boils down to two main factors; you only hear about problem products and all the products look the same.
Firstly, people who are happy with their system tend to just have it installed and then say nothing about it. However, people who have troubles with their system become very vocal. So the only Chinese panels widely discussed were the bad ones.
Secondly, solar panels are visually very hard to differentiate. If you look at the following two images, even if you know both come from the same place you can tell that the car on the right is probably going to be better than the car on the left.
But if both cars look the same and come from the same place, and you only ever hear about the bad ones then the stigma starts to grow that all cars from that place are bad.
So how do Chinese panels compare to German panels?
The Germans are undoubtedly the great innovators of solar panel technology. They are great at pushing the limits of efficiencies and improving manufacturing techniques to be more cost effective. But, while the Germans lead the way, the Chinese make good practice of copying the good ideas that come out of German research as well as making a few of their own. This means that the leading Chinese companies tend to produce panels that are similar in quality to their German counterparts.
German panels in the market appear to have be consistently high quality whilst, as has already been discussed, Chinese panels vary wildly with manufacturer. This view is skewed though, by the fact that China, being a very close neighbour can afford for even the inferior solar panel manufacturers to export to the Australian market, while only the biggest and the best German manufacturers can afford to bring product here.
In summary, there are a good number of high quality Chinese solar panel brands on the market but you need to do some research in order to sort the good from the bad.
Here are a few good quality Chinese brands available in the Australian market:
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