Monday, July 29, 2013

When Is A Solar Panel Not A Solar Panel Or At Least Not Genuine Solar Panel?

German Solar Panels |

Are they really made in Germany?

A lot of people believe that the best solar panel is a German solar panel, because our dear friends in Deutschland have an awesome reputation for quality.
But are the German solar panels really the best on the market?
Here's the rub: If you buy a solar panel that is made in Germany then you can be 99% sure that you are going to get a good quality solar panel. I've met a lot of German engineers in my career as an Electrical Engineer, and they appear to be genetically incapable of producing low quality stuff.
So if you are worried about being lumbered with a poor quality solar panel, then buying a solar panel that is made in Germany is one way to reduce that risk dramatically.
The downside, of course, is that you will pay a significant premium for the privilege. Just like if you choose to buy a BMW over a Hyundai when you go car shopping.
The other part of the question is of course: "Are all Chinese made solar panels crap?".
Well no, they aren't.  You hear this line from a lot of unqualified solar sales people who only sell high priced solar systems. In fact I think that statement is borderline racist. Some of the best solar panels in the world come out of China. Some of them regularly outperform many German solar panels! The problem is that there is also a whole heap of cheap crap that comes out of China.
I'll leave how to sort the good from the bad Chinese panels to another article.
In the meantime here is a list of some Solar Panels that are made in Germany:
Solar Panels Made In Germany

Solarworld 

solar world logo
One of the handful of German solar panel manufacturers left standing (although they are losing money hand over fist!). Top quality panels - and about your only option for buying genuine German made solar imported to Australia. Their panels get great reviews in the solar press and should last for at least 40 years. But guess what... they are expensive! Expect to pay a 30% premium for these panels.

Bosch Solar Panels

Bosch Solar Logo
Bosch Solar  Top quality, but expensive.  Expect to pay at least 30-40% more for a system with these panels compared to good quality Chinese panels (like Suntech or Trina etc).
Update: 26 March 2013 In a very sad day for German solar fans. Bosch has announced it is writing off it's over $2 billion investemnt in solar and will stop making solar panels. Bummer. They were fantastic panels! More details here.

Conergy Solar Panels

Conergy Logo
Last time I checked Conergy still made their top-end panels in Germany, but also made panels in China. So if the “German Made” badge is important to you, double check which ones you are getting. 
Schott Solar
Schott Solar Logo
Schott have stopped manufacturing crystalline solar panels. Which is a shame because they were excellent.
 The only German solar panel they still make is a thin-film one. It’s a good panel, but it is half the efficiency of a crystalline solar panel, so it takes up twice the space. If you have a roof the size of a football pitch it may be worth considering.

Q-Cells Solar Panels

Q.Cells Logo
Q Cells are great panels – and are manufactured in both their German and Malaysian factories these days. So, if that "German Made" sticker is important to you - check which ones you are getting.
Q-Cells Germany almost went bust this year, but was bought out by Korean solar manufacturer Hanwha Solar One. This means that Q Cells are not German owned any more. However - all the feedback that I've got from installers is that their German obsession with quality control has not changed under the new ownership.

Solar Panels Not Made In Germany

There are a few companies that like to play to the German reputation for quality, but who make all their panels in China. I personally think the marketing is a bit close to the line, because their names and marketing do confuse a lot of people into thinking they are getting a solar panel made in Germany.
German Solar AG
Many companies promise you are getting "German Solar" panels, but may not be completely clear that they are supplying Chinese made panels from a company called "German Solar".
By all accounts these panels are pretty good – but you can't deny that the name is confusing!

Munsterland Solar
These guys go so far as splashing “Made In Germany” graphics all over their website. That’s just plain deceptive, because the solar panels are made in China.
Here's a screenshot. It's outrageous!
Muensterland Solar's web page

So, to sum up, if you have your heart set on German solar panels, that's no bad thing. Just please make sure that the panels you are offered really are made in Germany!

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