When buying a car, you often know the quality of the vehicle you want based on its brand. When people make the decision to go solar they often don’t know if they’re choosing the best “brand” of solar panel.
Fortunately, the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation devised a standard to differentiate between which solar panel manufacturers that make the best products. The solar community widely accepts these ratings.
Bloomberg released the criteria required for a manufacturer to produce “tier 1” panels. To qualify as tier 1, the company must fulfil the following list:
- Produce their own materials, using their own brand name
- Provide these products to six different projects of at least 1.5 Megawatts
- Be financed by six different banks
- Have not filed for bankruptcy or “experienced major defaults on bond payments”
They claim in a report released in March that they based the tiering system for PV module producers on their bankability. That was to highlight the “differentiation between the hundreds of manufacturers of solar modules on the market.” Bankability, in this case, refers to banks offering the manufacturer non-recourse debt financing. This signals their good faith in the company’s success going forward.
Why manufacturer’s financial outlook matters
Why does ‘bankability’ and the characteristics above make certain brands better than others? For one, if a manufacturer runs its own facility, it will have more incentive to enforce stringent quality control standards. It will also be more likely to invest more in its own production process. Really, the raters want to make sure that their solar panels are going to be reputably better than their competitors’.
High-level products, by any name
Ipsun Power uses predominantly Tier 1 panels for our services. The exception is some LG panels, which raters classify as “premium” products. The solar industry’s main online marketplace, EnergySage, created its own standard for characterizing panels sold in the U.S. only. Premium is their highest rating.
To learn more about how solar panel manufacturers are tiered in the market, view Bloomberg’s brochure on how they did it.