Monday, 13 July 2015

Is Your Solar Power Installation STILL Under Guarantee?

Do you remember when you were getting quotes to install solar panels on your roof? I wonder if you had a better idea of what you were doing in comparison to me?

I think I'm a careful consumer. Before any major purchase I do some intensive research regarding the options available and how the fit in with my budget. We're not necessarily influenced by price (although it's a major consideration) what we want is value for money. Something that's reliable, well built and carries a guarantee if problems occur.

Some of you may have read my description of the problem with my leaking roof in September 2013. This proved comprehensively that I'd got in VERY wrong in choosing a company to install solar panels on my roof. 
Barely 2 years into a 5 year warranty period I needed to make a claim (or get them to remove the panels) to allow me to repair a leaking roof.
Unfortunately, the company which seemed the so professional and financially secure had gone out of business.

In fairness to myself I did realise in June 2011 that the technology and expertise used by solar installers' was so new that none of the companies could provide a detailed history of their past. We were making a judgement on how glossy the sales leaflets were and how plausible the salesmen seemed.

So. I'd got it wrong in choosing a supplier, but I'd been far more careful in choosing the manufacturer of the panels and inverter. 

If only that was true...

Which countries have the best reputation for manufacturing reliable products? I decided Germany and Japan. The expensive equipment I was installing on my roof wasn't something that I'd be replacing on a regular basis, it needed to last the lifetime of the 25 year Feed in Tariff contract. 

Can you imagine how difficult it would be if you have to replace one or more of the panels on your roof? 

  1. Would they be compatible with the other panels? 
  2. Would the achieve the same output?
  3. If the output generated was higher than the original FiT agreement would the original agreement be void and you'd have to register again at current (much lower) FiT rates?

In 2011 Japan had three companies dominating the solar market, Panasonic, Sharp and Sanyo. All three were constantly innovating and introducing newer and more efficient panels into the solar market place.
Japanese technology was setting the benchmark for the world. 
What could go wrong?

Four years later only Panasonic still markets solar panels, China builds them, but Panasonic markets them. 

After the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster Japan has become one of the leading countries in the world for solar power installations. It currently produces approximately 10 GW (UK 3GW).

They may be using solar panels to produce power, but it's China who's suppling the panels.

In Germany there was similar story. In 2010 Shuco's solar division had a turnover of €1 billion, yet in 2012 it closed all of its manufacturing capacity as it couldn't compete with the products being produced in China.

How did I miss that? Why didn't I consider Chinese panels and inverters? 

I suspect it's because I have a blind spot for products and manufacturers I don't much about. I recognise Japanese manufacturers from the High Street. Every electrical shop has their names in their showrooms. I'm also influenced by German advertising which emphasises the quality of their products.

I'm faced with the reality of NO guarantee from my installers and NO guarantee for my panels and inverter. I have a product which was predicted to last for 25-30 years and was guaranteed for 15 of those years. I'm hoping that the equipment is better than my ability to choose it!

Did you do better than me? Share your experience in comments.

Icarus Twitter: (@solaricarus)

1 comment:

  1. This is an extremely well written and informative article. And I really like the way you have explained each and everything so well Very well done with the article. thanks I enjoying reading them