The Ultimate Guide to Solar Panels
This guide is an educational tool about solar energy. It comprises all you need to know when investing in solar power and targets green energy lovers, solar schools, installers, and everyone else interested in joining the 'solar community.'
We’ve been writing and researching for a long time about green energy for GreenMatch.co.uk and got to the point that everything looks the same. And it can get boring! We thought of this content page that presents all the information you should consider before investing in solar energy, which is easy and fun to read.
You are welcome to have a look at our solar alphabet!
Before taking any step
There are some things you should check to make sure that your building is the ideal place for a solar panel installation, such as:
- Check the size and inclination of your roof.
- Check your roof’s orientation (S, SE, SW are ideal orientations).
- Check that nothing will block the sunlight from reaching the panels (trees, other buildings, etc.).
Clouds are not a problem
Some things you shouldn’t do:
- Don’t sign a deal with a sales person. Make sure an experienced surveyor visits your place and assesses all your needs and building conditions.
- Don’t clean or fix the panels yourself without checking beforehand the warranty conditions with your supplier. Sometimes the warranty won’t cover if you have touched the panels.
- Don’t accept a price over the phone, whether a non-binding estimate or a firm quote.
Heating or electricity?
Ja, Panasonic, Samsung, REC, Sunpower
Long term savings
Monocrystalline solar cells
Normal Operating Test Conditions
Operation and maintenance costs are low
Rent a roof scheme
Solar energy statistics
V is for very easy!
Warranty of solar panels
Typically, most manufacturers offer 2 kinds of warranty:
- one for the product
- one for the output
It is common to get a 10-year material and workmanship warranty. When it comes to output, most manufacturers will cover 25 years. You should check with the manufacturer how much of the output they will actually cover. For example, you could expect 97% of the maximum output in the first year of operation. This will gradually decrease with 0.7% every year reaching around 80% in year 25.
You should get solar panels!
BenQ Solar is a division of AU Optronics Company. The company is a leading global manufacturer of TFT-LCD (thin film transistor-liquid crystal display). Their products are primarily used in PCs, monitors, consumer electronics products and televisions. In addition to display panels, the company manufactures photovoltaic (PV) modules and systems for the solar market. In June 2013, AUO launched Power Legato, its first residential energy storage system designed specifically for the European market, at Intersolar Europe 2013. Additionally, AU Optronics completed the first 1.2 megawatts (MW) solar project in South Africa. BenQ Solar claims over 32 years experience manufacturing solar systems. As a total solutions provider, Benq has a complete solar value chain, including: polysilicon, ingot, wafer, cell module and system production. With a workforce of over 32,000 people, the headquarters and production facilities are located in Taiwan. The company is represented all over the world: Singapore, Japan, China, Netherlands, USA and Slovakia.
Canadian Solar is one of the world’s top 3 solar power companies, holding 6 GW of modules deployed worldwide. Founded in 2001 in Ontario, Canada, the company quickly became one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world. As a leading provider of ingots, wafers, solar cells, solar modules and other solar applications, in 2011, Canadian Solar reached a revenue of $1,294.8 million. The headquarters are located in Guelph, Ontario, while the company is represented at various locations around the globe: Germany, Italy, Spain, South Africa, India, Japan, Korea, Australia, the United States, Singapore, and China. Manufacturing facilities are currently located in Canada and China. The company employs around 7,020 people.
Hyundai Green Energy is part of the Hyundai Heavy Industries and it has been operating on the market for solar panels for the past 20 years. The Korean conglomerate started as a construction company and became one of the Fortune 500 businesses. Hyundai Heavy Industries is known worldwide for manufacturing of plants, ships, cars, machinery and electronics. The Green Energy division produces Solar Power systems, Wind Turbines and Energy Storage Systems. The company is currently supplying quality solar PV’s to more than 3,000 customers worldwide. Hyundai Solar is heading towards more innovation and improvement, recently establishing an R&D laboratory with an investment of 20 million $. 600 MW of Solar Panels make up the capacity of Hyundai Solar. The power plants are located in Spain, Korea, Turkey, Germany, Belgium and Italy.
LG Electronics is a global leading consumer electronics manufacturer. Their product portfolio covers mobile phones, vehicle components, home entertainment products, appliances, heating and air conditioning products. The company has an ambitious growth agenda, investing $820 million over the next five years in its solar cell research. The solar business unit of LG Electronics just celebrated this year the manufacturing of their five millionth module at the manufacturing plant in Gumi, South Korea. 25 years of research and development has brought LG to the forefront of solar manufacturing. A team of more than one hundred solar researchers are working in LG’s R&D department. At the present, LG Electronics employs more than 85,000 staff at 113 factories worldwide. The company achieved total sales of 36.72 billion euros in the 2012 financial year.
Panasonic is a Japanese multinational electronics corporation headquartered in Osaka, Japan. Panasonic Solar Division is aiming to become the No. 1 Green Energy Company in the Electronics Industry by the end of 2018. In 2012, Panasonic Solar bought SANYO, an established solar panel manufacturer. SANYO was the first manufacturer that produced and commercialized worldwide solar cells made of amorphous silicon. The company claims they have produced over one billion cells to date. Their global manufacturing hubs are located in Malaysia and Hungary. Panasonic is now at the forefront of the industry, investing a lot in R&D and striving for better efficiency for their solar modules. Since 2012, the company is building a “Sustainable Smart Town” in Fujisawa, Japan. A whole urban district comprising of 1,000 homes and shopping centres will have a smart energy structure based on solar PVs.
The Renewable Energy Corporation is a Norwegian company, operating in the market for solar panels since 1998. REC produces silicon materials for (PV) and multicrystalline wafers, as well as solar cells and modules. The business activities are organized into three subdivisions: REC Silicon, REC Solar, and REC Wafer. Manufacturing facilities are located in Singapore. At the end of 2013, the company announced they had produced more than 12 million solar panels.
Sharp is a Japanese multinational designer and manufacturer of electronics. Sharp Solar division has been around for over 50 years and they offer silicon photovoltaic cells and even solar TVs. The headquarters are located in Osaka, Japan, and production facilities are currently in Poland.
SolarWorld AG is a German based designer, manufacturer and distributor of solar power technology and systems. The product range is comprised of solar kits, solar modules, sundecks, inverters, planning and monitoring softwares for photovoltaics. Additionally, the company is engaged in further research and development, as well as the recycling process of raw materials. SolarWorld has sales offices in Germany, the USA, France, Singapore, South Africa and Spain, while manufacturing facilities are located in Germany and the USA. SolarWorld AG employs around 2,073 people. In 2013, the company reported revenues of around $600 million.
The company is producing residential solar solutions for the past 30 years. Sunpower is the 2nd largest US solar power maker and holds over 200 patents for solar technology. Currently, the company’s solar panels hold the best energy production record on the market.
Founded in 2001, Suntech is a solar energy company engaged in the design and manufacturing of photovoltaic (PV) cells and modules. Suntech’s products are marketed for a range of applications in the residential, commercial, industrial, and public utility sectors. The company prides itself with delivering more than 8 GWs photovoltaic panels to more than 1,000 customers in over 80 countries. Suntech is a strong player on the solar market, also holding contracts with several local governments and companies for the development of large scale solar projects. Apart from the solar panels, Suntech also offers BIPV (building-integrated photovoltaic) products. BIPV can blend seamlessly with the construction and are used to create buildings that are sustainable, functional and visually stunning. Research and development activities are also strong at Suntech. Since 2010, the company entered into a research partnership with the University of New South Wales to further improve the conversion efficiencies of solar cells. Suntech has its headquarters in the Jiangsu Province, China. In the video below, you can see how their headquarters are covered entirely with solar panels. Suntech is represented all over the world through subsidiaries in Germany, UAE, the US, UK, Greece, Switzerland, China, Australia, and Japan. At the end of 2011, the company had employed 17,693 people.
Founded in 1997, Trina Solar is one of the leading Chinese manufacturers of solar panels and system integration devices (roof racking, DC optimization). Trina Solar has integrated all their supply chain, thus producing ingots, wafers and cells in-house, as well as assembling the solar PV’s. The company prides itself with more than 7.4 GW installed worldwide, a world record in power output. When it comes to innovation, Trina Solar strives to bring new products to the market, currently holding more than 980 solar panels patents. Trina Solar is present in 20 companies worldwide, through its own subsidiaries in USA, Switzerland, UK, Italy, UAE, India, Singapore, China and Australia. The biggest markets for the company are USA and Germany. In total, Trina Solar employs around 14,000 people.
Yingli Green Energy Holding is a Chinese manufacturer of polysilicon PV cells, modules and integrated PV systems. The Chinese giant designs, assembles, produces, markets and installs PV systems for lighting systems, mobile communication base stations and residential applications. Yingli has a production capacity reaching 2,450 Mw a year and prides itself with more than 40 million solar panels installed in over 50 countries. This milestone has propelled Yingli to become the largest solar panel manufacturer in the world in terms of production capacity. Operations are carried through a network of subsidiaries located in Europe, America and Asia. Yingli employs over 19,000 people. Additionally, the company is a sponsor of FC Bayern Munich, 2014 FIFA World Cup, men’s and women’s US national soccer teams.
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