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Buy solar panels – Definitive Guide

Practical guide for buying solar panels for pv systems

When we start the search to know where to buy solar panels, how to do it and what we must take into account, we find that today we have in the market of many brands of panels that makes it difficult to know which is the best and most suitable for our photovoltaic project.

The reason for this article is to give enough information to try to facilitate the selection process before proceeding to purchase solar panels for a project, as we know the difficulties and doubts that can be found anyone who is unfamiliar with this type of devices of renewable electricity generation.

#1 – What solar panel should I buy for my photovoltaic project?

In the current photovoltaic market we could differentiate 3 pv sytems blocks according to their applications:

  • isolated solar projects (Off-Grid systems).
  • solar projects of self consumption.
  • solar projects for solar pumping.

For off-grid photovoltaic projects it is usual to buy solar panels with output voltages suitable for 12V and 24V, to work with batteries. That is, the output voltage must always be higher than those 12V and 24V.

In the case of a 12V solar panel, such as the Futura FU150P, we have an output voltage of 17V, so we would be facing a solar panel for isolated installations at 12V.

On the other hand, in self-consumption projects, the type of pv panel to be selected is the most standard. In the current solar market, the most standardized model is the 290W or 300W (60 cells) Monocrystalline, which for its price and size, make it ideal for this type of systems.

Finally we can differentiate the panels for solar pumping systems. For these cases, although the panels of 60 cells are also perfectly valid, solar panels of 72 cells and 300-310-320W are usually installed due to their high output voltage that favor the operation of the frequency inverters used for this type of projects .

So, once we are clear about the type of photovoltaic project we need, we will move on to the next question:

What brand of solar panel should I buy ?, the answer is as simple as complex: The best possible brand.

Indeed, as you may be thinking, the next question is almost immediate:

Well, and what are the best brands of solar panels ?.

We analyze it below.

#2 -Quality Analysis:

We always recommend to our customers to take the following practical exercise before making the decision to buy solar modules for installation:

  • The first thing is to consult a list of official laboratory tests where you can see which brands have better and worse results.
  • The following would be to consult a list of actual performance readings of operating photovoltaic projects.
  • Finally, of course, ask testimonials or trustable references who have a photovoltaic project and consult their experiences.

To the first two points, we will answer below. The last point, the usual “word of mouth”, will be a personal work of contrasting opinions.

#3 -Consult official laboratory tests:

In the photovoltaic sector it is possible to consult different types of tests about the quality of the pv panels.

Probably the most famous is the Photon Test from Photon Magazine, however, we always recommend going a step further and visiting the PV + Test 2.0 list by the German certifier TÜV.

What differentiates the Photon Test from the PV + Test?, Fundamentally that the PV + Test is made with solar plates bought directly from the market by TÜV, while the Photon Test is made on samples sent by the manufacturers. Needless to say, the reliability of the PV + Test is, consequently, much higher than the Photon Test.

The current list of tested brands in the PV + Test 2.0, made by TÜV, is:

 

Date Points Result Manufacturer
April 2013 92.29 Excellent SolarWorld
Feb 2011 91.3 Excellent (-) Schott
Feb 2011 90.7 Excellent (-) SHARP
March 2012 89.8 Good (+) IBC
Feb 2011 89.0 Good (+) Mitsubishi Electric
April 2012 88.5 Good (+) Jetion
Feb 2011 88.1 Good (+) Conergy
Feb 2011 84.3 Good Sovello
Feb 2011 80-85 Good Hanwha
Feb 2011 80-85 Good Perfect Solar

 

This list is, without any doubt, a basic tool when making a good choice of which solar panel to buy. More information on the PV + Test can be found in our article: The best solar panel on the market.

However, it lacks a fundamental complement, which is a listing of yields of brands of solar panels in operation.

#4 – Know the real performance before buying a solar panel:

As we say, if we put together the PV + Test with a list of performance of panels in operation, we will have the perfect tools to make a good purchase choice.

In our case, we used the list published by SunReport in April 2016.

In it, we can see the performance list of the best performance brands of pv panels in operation in more than 12,000 solar installations in Italy and with reading since 2010.

More information about the SunReport can be found in our article: Panel Performance Test, where you can find more details of the report on the real performance of the best brands in the solar market.

In addition to the valuable information provided by the real performance study provided by SunReport, if we look closely, we can deduce another important fact:

If we analyze together the PV + Test table shown above and compare it to the SunReport list, we see that there are many coincidences, which is not a casuality.

Among the outstanding brands we can find SolarWorld as the best pv panel in both cases for panels with standard technology, but also other brands such as SHARP, Conergy and Schott, among others. Of course, if we don´t focus in only standard solar cell technology, then the best would be SolarWorld and Panasonic (Sanyo).

As we say, it is no coincidence, in fact what makes it clear is the reliability of both tests, which have been made by different companies, with different situations, yield very similar data.

Any of these brands of solar panels, especially SolarWorld or Sanyo (Panasonic now), will guarantee us good performance and quality to our photovoltaic project.

That´s all, by the moment, about how know what to take into account before buying solar panels.

If you need to know which brand or where to buy solar panels, or technical support for your photovoltaic system, please contact us and our technical-commercial department will assist you without obligation.