Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

cpfl65cpfl65 Posts: 4Registered Users
Hi everyone. I'm Chris, a newbie to solar.

The general consensus of opinion of Uni-Solar amorphous laminate seems to be negative, on the basis that the efficiency of the technology is not as high as the mono- or poly-crystaline technologies; they are over-priced when comparing the area required to generate a given wattage, and the life-span of the product isn't quite as long.

At what price point would they become perceived as a viable option?

$3 per watt? $2 per watt? $1 per watt? Never?

The reason I ask, is that I have the opportunity to obtain some laminate rolls at the lower end of the given price per watt range.

Your opinions are most welcome.

Comments

  • Solar GuppySolar Guppy Posts: 1,959Solar Expert
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    seeing as one can by Asi panels for under a buck a watt and Si panels for about 1.80 watt, I would say never
  • mike95490mike95490 Posts: 6,346Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    If you need power, and the source has to be flexiable, survive a hole being punched in it, and last 10 years in the weather, I think Unisolar can do that. It works where other panels can't . Won't give a lot of power, but will work. How badly do you need the power?
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

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  • cpfl65cpfl65 Posts: 4Registered Users
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    Thank you Solar Guppy and mike90045, I'm getting the impression that the laminates have their place but overall, "standard" panels are the way to go. Probably best to run with the herd.

    Solar Guppy. As you pointed out, there are companies out there, including those with "sun" and "elec" in their names, who seem to offer "standard" products at increasingly reasonable prices.

    mike90045. I am looking at installing an off-grid system on my south-west Texas property. Having done some homework, I am thinking up to 2KWs of panels, coupled with a Magnum MS-PAE 4448 120/240 inverter/charger (for expandability), Magnum Classic Charge Controller (when available, otherwise an Outback FM60 or 80) and 450AHs of T105's. I realise I am skimping on the batteries but I figured that I would start off small and upgrade to L16s when the T105s eventually die. Anyway, since I am still building the modest 640 sq ft property, I am in no hurry. Still plenty of time to consider my options.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    a company is selling 13.7%-efficient crystalline Suntech modules for $1.70 per Watt:


    while their pricing for the 6.3%-efficient Unisolar laminates is $1.20 per Watt ($1 per Watt, if you buy the inverter as well):


    Whether Unisolar's module is price competitive with the crystalline module depends on the balance-of-system (BOS) costs, the long-term performance degradation, and the system mounting (tilt vs no tilt). BOS costs are typically lower for modules with higher efficiency - the "advantage" is about 7-8c per Watt for each efficiency point, for large ground systems, and maybe a bit more for large rooftop systems. Using this common shortcut, Unisolar's module needs to be priced at $1.20 per Watt, all else equal (i.e, ignoring long-term performance degradation), which is what that company has done. While this shortcut does not apply to you (you will be doing the installation yourself from what I understand), you correctly note that Unisolar's laminates may have a shorter life and may underperform, so probably the $1.20 per Watt price is fair anyway.

    Note though that Unisolar's cost of manufacturing was $2.95 per Watt in the March quarter - in other words, the company effectively lost money on each and every modules it sold. The company claims that prices for its modules at the factory gate are $2.00-$2.10 per Watt on average, but it is liquidating some nonstandard inventory this quarter (the modules that company is selling have 20 cells instead of 22 cells - that's all that's nonstandard, apparently). Regardless, the company's survival is questionable, so don't expect that your warranty will be honored if a problem develops in year 2014 and beyond.

    mike90045: The only reason that the Unisolar modules can SOMETIME survive a hole being punched in them is because of the built-in bypass diodes, and many crystalline modules have bypass diodes these days as well. Unisolar's modules' long-term performance is questionable (the company really started shipping the current "triple junction" products in 1998, and there aren't many such Unisolar systems that have survived 10 years, while there are plenty of crystalline systems that have survived 20+ years). Some results by NREL indicate that the modules might be violating their long-term performance warranty (and there are documented cases of real-world system underperformance). Also, note that the Unisolar modules ignited on the rooftop of the Long Beach Convention Center in LA in February of 2008 (admittedly, there have been a few other fires linked to PV installations, with other modules such as BP's, Sunpower's, Open Energy's, etc). Finally, there have been documented failures of the adhesives used by Unisolar (take a look here: http://picasaweb.google.com/fan.of.ecd/FloridaInternationalUniversitySolarInDistress )

    modified only due to some educational benefit as the whole post would've been deleted otherwise. this serves as a warning to the poster as well that this forum is a business sponsored forum. niel
  • BB.BB. Posts: 24,654Super Moderators admin
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    Those last photos of the laminated panels with, apparently, little structure and mounting bolts through the "middle of the panel"--wow... :confused:

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • hmansourhmansour Posts: 18Registered Users
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls
    cpfl65 wrote: »
    Thank you Solar Guppy and mike90045, I'm getting the impression that the laminates have their place but overall, "standard" panels are the way to go. Probably best to run with the herd.

    Solar Guppy. As you pointed out, there are companies out there, including those with "sun" and "elec" in their names, who seem to offer "standard" products at increasingly reasonable prices.

    mike90045. I am looking at installing an off-grid system on my south-west Texas property. Having done some homework, I am thinking up to 2KWs of panels, coupled with a Magnum MS-PAE 4448 120/240 inverter/charger (for expandability), Magnum Classic Charge Controller (when available, otherwise an Outback FM60 or 80) and 450AHs of T105's. I realise I am skimping on the batteries but I figured that I would start off small and upgrade to L16s when the T105s eventually die. Anyway, since I am still building the modest 640 sq ft property, I am in no hurry. Still plenty of time to consider my options.

    Sun Elec have good pricing for Grad B solar Panels, they are panels with minor manufacturing defects. The site lists them as Grade B.
  • dmillerdmiller Posts: 68Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    Uni-solar has a bypass diode about every 6 watts. This feature combined with laying flat on the roof make it a unique choice for rough mobile application. Some people have even been know to walk on the panels.
    I'm not aware of another product with similar characteristics. Perhaps there are thin film panels that can lay low on the roof.
    Efficiency of a panel that's been ripped off and left on the road is pretty low. Not to mention the warranty claim probably isn't going to go to well. :)
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    dmiller: Walking on the Unisolar laminates is a sure way to invalidate the warranty, or worse, rip apart the internal wiring and damage those numerous bypass diodes, and yet, some clueless installers who don't know how to read the warranty are still doing it (and take pictures of themselves).

    There are several products on the market that are essentially crystalline PV cells glued to a membrane and covered with Tefzel or similar transparent layer, which then you could glue to a mobile roof (if that's what you want) - Toyota's Prius solar roof is made of crystalline cells, for example. One of the advantages of crystalline cells is their efficiency - they require 1/3 to 1/2 the area that Unisolar cells need to generate the same amount of electricity.

    And, unlike crystalline modules, Unisolar laminates don't need to be ripped apart to start underperforming - NREL has documented severe long-term degradation (not the initial light-induced one) that appears to violate the warranty, but Unisolar is hiding the final results of the study.
  • russruss Posts: 593Solar Expert
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    Hello ECD Fan - Been a while since I ran across you! Always enjoy reading your posts!
  • dmillerdmiller Posts: 68Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    They don't warrant mobile application anyways, as far as I know.

    Is the type of crystalline product you mention available to civilians? Smaller high efficency pieces would work very well.
  • System2System2 Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    dmiller: Well, the last time I checked, Toyota Prius is mobile and available to civilians.

    Apparently, you can buy some flexible crystalline stuff on a popular auction web site - search for "Sunflex 40W Flexible Solar Panel, 40watts 12V Charging" or "30W Flexible Solar Panel for Electric Car SUV Bike SPP" - the first one is 11% efficient on module level, the other one, just 9% efficient on module level (due to the numerous gaps between the cells). I haven't done extensive searches nor have I tested these products.
  • dmillerdmiller Posts: 68Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls
    ECD Fan wrote: »
    dmiller: Well, the last time I checked, Toyota Prius is mobile and available to civilians.

    ..........

    Yes, but the Prius a bit pricey per watt :)

    Sunflex looks very interesting. Thanks. 10 x 40w for $1800.

    sunflex-40w-flexible-solar-panel-40-watts-free-shipping_1381577.jpg
  • McGuyverMcGuyver Posts: 14Registered Users
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls
    cpfl65 wrote: »
    Hi everyone. I'm Chris, a newbie to solar.

    The general consensus of opinion of Uni-Solar amorphous laminate seems to be negative, on the basis that the efficiency of the technology is not as high as the mono- or poly-crystaline technologies; they are over-priced when comparing the area required to generate a given wattage, and the life-span of the product isn't quite as long.

    At what price point would they become perceived as a viable option?

    $3 per watt? $2 per watt? $1 per watt? Never?

    The reason I ask, is that I have the opportunity to obtain some laminate rolls at the lower end of the given price per watt range.

    Your opinions are most welcome.

    Hi Chris, my reply is way after your post, but I guess others might still benefit so I'll reply anyway.
    I have a housebus. I fitted 6 x 68Watt UniSolar panels. Firstly, installation is a dream come true. Yes, you can walk on it - not play football on it. It is really very strong stuff. Although you don't walk on it unnecessarily. I have these connected in parallel thru a FlexMax80 Controller. The controller keeps detailed stats for 180 days. I had a look again yesterday and the average Input voltage is 22v. The rated voltage by UniSolar is 16.5V Few companies underestimate their products.
    IMHO these panels perform very well.

    In summer I get 2.4kW/day from the system. It peaked at 32Amps - 30% over its rating :D. I'm quite wrapped with these. Been on the roof for 2½ years now and never missed a beat. UniSolar is no Mickeymouse company. Yes watts/m² is not as high but if you have the space I recon it is a good option for the price.
  • nielniel Posts: 10,311Solar Expert ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls

    that 22v is the open circuit voltage and not the vmp point of an optimally loaded pv. the higher voltages seen by all pvs is the reason why we need controllers otherwise the pvs would be only outputting the desired optimum voltage batteries would need and it just does not quite work that way.
    i have some us64s and they aren't very efficient and they had cost almost as much per watt as the more efficient pvs available at the time.
  • McGuyverMcGuyver Posts: 14Registered Users
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls
    niel wrote: »
    that 22v is the open circuit voltage

    Thanks Niel, you're right. When it is on BULK cycle, the input voltage hovers around 16.5v and on float it goes to 22v.
  • McGuyverMcGuyver Posts: 14Registered Users
    Re: Uni-Solar Laminate Rolls
    cpfl65 wrote: »
    Thank you Solar Guppy and mike90045, I'm getting the impression that the laminates have their place but overall, "standard" panels are the way to go. Probably best to run with the herd.

    One other little thing I forgot to mentions is wind resistance when driving a lot. The laminates have virtually zero impact on wind resistance whereas crystal panels can cause quite some turbulence especially when it is mounted on an angle or lifted off the roof.
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