Instyle Solar Which Solar Panel Brands Are the Best?

When designing and installing a solar system, selecting the brand of panel is crucial when it comes to reliability and quality. No one wants a solar power system that looks like a Ferrari but has a sub-standard engine installed that barely moves out the driveway. (We don’t want to point fingers here!)

When solar PV took off a few years ago, all of a sudden it seemed that every Tom, Dick and Harry was setting up solar panel businesses. The industry was in a global boom mode, but since then a lot of the smaller manufacturers have gone belly up.

This caused a lot of challenges around warranties, etc. Most solar panels come with a 20 to 25-year performance warranty. This, of course, doesn’t help if they are no longer around a few years after installing them.

So it makes sense from a risk perspective to stick with Tier 1 manufacturers. Tier 1 manufacturers is merely a classification for the financial stability or bankability of a solar panel manufacturing company. (We guess we can also call it the Big Boys club of solar panel manufacturers.)

Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers also tend to be the leaders in quality and innovation. So it makes sense to stick with a Tier 1 manufacturing company when selecting solar panels.

Here we take a look at a few of Tier 1 solar panel brands to keep in mind when selecting a solar panel.

GCL

GCL is a Chinese brand of solar panels and is part of the Golden Concord Group. An international clean energy company specialising in sustainable energy. The company shipped over 2 GW of Solar PV modules in 2015. They have been in the game for a while so have the necessary experience and have been through all the ups and downs as can be expected.

They manufacture both monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. With wattage output ranging from 280W at the lower end of the spectrum to a whopping 355W!

Their panels have been used in numerous utility-grade solar farms with capacity ranging in size from 5.2MW all the way up 209MW.

GCL focus on supplying the residential, commercial and utility sectors with reliable, well manufactured solar panels.

Some of their innovations include utilising thin silicone sheets known as wafers. Using thinner solar cells reduces electrical current resistance. The end result is a higher efficiency panel with less energy loss.

Potential-induced degradation (PID) is a potential-induced performance degradation in photovoltaic panels and is caused by stray currents. It’s a phenomenon that doesn’t affect all solar panels. But GCL tests against reversible and non-reversible PID on all their panels and shows their commitment to quality through persistent testing.

Solar panels are exposed to the environment and must be able to withstand the harsh conditions Mother Nature unleashes on our solar panels. All GCL solar panels are tested against salt mist, ammonia corrosion and sand blowing.

Their modules comply with the EC 61701, IEC 62716 and DIN EN 60068-2-68 international standards.

REC

REC is a Norwegian company founded in 1996. They have manufactured 30 million solar panels to date with a total global installed capacity of 7.6GWs! One of REC’s major draw cards is that they claim to have the lowest warranty claims in the industry.

REC has developed some unique innovations that improve the performance of their solar panels.

The REC Twin Peak technology increases the solar panel efficiency and power output. How does it do this, you may ask? Conventional polycrystalline solar panels feature 60 cells. REC has managed to increase this amount to 120 cells per a polycrystalline panel.

How do they do this?

They used a unique laser cutter to split the cell into two. This approach reduces the electrical resistance in the panel, leading to lower losses and increased efficiency. Not only this, but it also increases the panel’s power output by 20W per panel. This means you get more power output per square meter and more bang for your buck!

REC panels also include PERC technology. When you break down the fancy technical acronym, it stands for Passivated Emitter Rear Cell technology. In simple terms, it’s a reflective material behind the solar cells that captures the light that wasn’t absorbed by the solar cells initially. That same light is reflected back into the solar cells to produce more energy.

The REC Twinpeak technology also includes four busbars, while the standard in the industry is two. Busbars are the copper wires separating the solar cells and is where the DC power generated flows through before it eventually reaches the inverter.

Having more busbars improves the efficiency of the panel and reduces electrical losses.

REC Twinpeak solar panels also consist of three split-junction boxes instead of the usual standard two junction boxes.

The junction box is where the busbars meet and have a positive and negative configuration for the flow of electricity.

Having three junction boxes improves heat dissipation and therefore reduces losses and improves the reliability of the panel.

Hanwha Q Cells

The Hanwha Q Cells brand of solar panels is quite a well known and respected brand in both Europe and Australia. They also have a global footprint in forty countries with four R&D centres. The solar PV game is a highly competitive industry and the race is always on to improve efficiency levels.

They have won numerous awards internationally including the prestigious Solar Industry Award. We guess this gives them bragging rights along with the rest of their awards! The company was founded in 1999 so they’ve definitely done some mileage in the solar business, with a total installed global capacity of 8GW!

Not only do they manufacture PV modules but also provide EPC services (Engineering, Construction & Procurement) for large-scale PV plants. They provide photovoltaic modules for the residential, commercial and large-scale utility power plants.

They have recently been selected to provide solar panels for a 1.85MW floating PV plant in the Netherlands. Floating PV plants are gaining traction as a new way to produce clean energy from the sun. As many countries are starting to run out of suitable space for solar plants. This is definitely true for the Netherlands where space is at a premium!

Their Q-Peak residential range of solar panels include half cell technology to increase the efficiency and performance of their panels. The panels also include six busbars combined with state-of-the-art circuitry—that’s four up from the conventional industry standard.

The Q-Peak black range is stylish and sexy, giving any roof an aesthetic overhaul!

Tesla Solar Roof Tile

Tesla was founded in 2003 by a group of engineers that wanted to disrupt the traditional fossil-fuel-powered automobile. Since developing the world's first electric roadster, they branched out into solar and energy storage technologies.

Tesla has become a household name in a few short years and the founder/CEO Elon Musk has been compared to Iron Man’s Tony Stark! Their latest offering is the Tesla Solar Roof tile, a brilliant concept that turns your roof tiles into a power generating asset!

The Tesla Solar Roof tile falls under the banner of an emerging trend, namely BIPV or Building Integrated Photovoltaics technology. Yes, there’s another complex technical acronym for you!

The Tesla Solar Roof tile is made of a tough outer quartz glass, giving it superior strength against the elements and has a lifetime warranty. It also comes with a 30-year power output warranty, clearly demonstrating the quality of the Solar Roof tile.

The solar cells are invisible to the naked eye so there’s no telling your roof tiles are actually built-in roof tiles! There are also four different variants of the Tesla Solar Roof tile with different colours to suit your home.

The Tesla Solar Roof tile also seamlessly integrates with the Tesla Powerwall, providing increased self-reliance and off-grid reliability.

Conclusion

Tier 1 solar panel suppliers are known to have a good track record when it comes to innovation, reliability and quality. Tier 1 solar panel suppliers also have good financial backing, ensuring that if your panels fail under warranty then they at least will be taken care of.

The solar panel business is a highly competitive business with solar panel suppliers in a constant race against each other to innovate and increase efficiency levels.
All of this is good news for the consumer, as it means we have a lot more to choose from when making that crucial decision on which brand to go with!

Next Step

If you want to see how much solar or battery storage could save you over the next 5 years, then take our solar saving calculator quiz below!

Or talk to an Instyle Solar expert about the best solutions for home energy storage or PV-panels.

Otherwise, head back to the solar blog to find even more great educational content.

Photo credit: Depositphotos

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