Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

david3david3 Solar Expert Posts: 37
How are solar panels typically packaged for shipping? If you order a pallet of solar panels, would they be packaged differently than if you ordered an odd number or partial pallet? Would they still be put on a pallet for freight shipping regardless of quantity?

I'm thinking of trying to arrange to have solar panels reshipped to me by ocean freight, so I'm wondering if it would be to my advantage to just have a complete pallet shipped, or if I could get away with ordering a bit more than a pallet's worth.

Solar panels locally (Philippines) are more than twice the price as in the U.S.


  • rollandelliottrollandelliott Solar Expert Posts: 834 ✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    solar panels would alwasy be shipped on a palette for a long distance ocean freight trip.

    A palette typically holds around 30 panels or less, stacking a few more on top could easily be done and would be cheaper than having two pallets since ocean frieght quotes are often based on volume.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,015 admin
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    And there can be significant costs to repackage partial pallet shipments to protect against damage during shipment.

    Check with the supplier to see what their cost differential may be to package partial pallets.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • solarixsolarix Solar Expert Posts: 713 ✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Be very careful about this. I have tried a number of different module manufacturers and have been amazed at the corners they cut in the packing department. They are under a mandate to cut costs to be sure, and they go to some lengths to each custom design their own packing systems, but as expensive as this products are, I would think they would be more paranoid about protecting them. Some use these cheezy, all plywood pallets (crappiest plywood you've ever seen) with no bottom boards on the pallet (so it can tip right off a forklift with regular length forks). I understand you can't use real wood any more in international shipping because of insect migration but come-on.
    No one crates the panels of course, just cardboard or plastic wrapping. Always inspect your modules at delivery because it is not uncommon for a forklift to bang the side of a pallet denting a module down low in the stack. Usually will have glass bits dribbling out when that happens, but maybe not. Might be lucky to get a plywood top, but that is so they can stack another pallet on top of that! Some use these special plastic corner spacers that hold all the modules in alignment but many just stack the modules up and use a cardboard corner protector to hold them. If the stack gets out of alignment by more than half an inch, now it is sitting on the glass of the lower module. They must get a lot of shipping claims, I know I've done my share.
    Some pallets have very few top boards, and its easy for a fork lift to lift up through them and actually be lifting on the bottom module.
    Another favorite packing method is to stack the modules on their side. Works Ok as long as the pallet is banded and full, but as soon as you cut the bands or remove a couple modules or have a partial pallet, it becomes very unstable and the worthless cardboard wrapper doesn't have a chance of keeping it from falling over.
    As a consequence of all this, distributors, (while they seem happy to do so) have a hard time with partial pallets or adding on a few modules to a full pallet. Those cases are especially prone to damage. We are now in the practice of buying more than we need to get full pallets, leaving them banded until delivered to the job site, and using distributed type inverter systems (SolarEdge) so that we always utilize the extra modules.
  • david3david3 Solar Expert Posts: 37
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Thanks for all the advice. It sounds like full pallets might be safer.

    Do you know which manufacturers do the best job packing their pallets for shipping?
  • rollandelliottrollandelliott Solar Expert Posts: 834 ✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    I've only had experience with sunelec
    The evergreen panels have plastic panel corners and it would be childs play to add a few more to a stack.

    the flat laminates were crated in a 3/4" plywood crate which was very strong and heavy and it was only half full so again it would be easy to add more panels inside.
  • TheBackRoadsTheBackRoads Solar Expert Posts: 274 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Not sure how the inside was packaged, but this was a full crate of Trina TSM230's I found at work... Eventually mounted on that red pole behind.



    Oh look! My Jeep ;):D
  • david3david3 Solar Expert Posts: 37
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Thanks TheBackRoads, that's very useful. That pallet of Trina Solar panels looks like it's been packed nicely.
  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 3,112 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Hi david,

    "How are solar panels typically packaged for shipping?" Answer, Fairly poorly.

    Agree with some of the posters above. Given the cost/value of a pallet of solar panels, it has astonished me that most/many manufacturers believe that a few plastic stacking spearators and three layers of plastic failm is adequate for a 1400 Lb pallet with a value of about $15K US. It further astonishes me that, at least one year ago, that that pallet could be shipped half way across the US for about $300, Motor Freight.

    Unless the packaging improves quite a bit, I'd bet that Solar Panels as a freight class might have the freight rates double or so, given the ease with which a fork lift can camage quite a few in just one second.

    Had one pallet of SW 245 shipped from a mainstream supplier to CA. Upon inspection, prior to accepting them, did notice that eight or nine panels had dents/cings on one side of the pallet -- the lowest ones on the pallet. Photographed them, had the Freight company note the damage, and did accept the shipment. FedEx National Motor freight was very prompt id handling the claim, and paid for the damaged panels within two weeks, and allowed me to keep the damaged panels for a nominal sum. Have no complaints about them. But, if I were a freight carrier, I'd double my rates for poorly packaged panels, or refuse to touch them.

    Bought replacement panels, and had the seller create an OSB skinned pallet, and that worked fine.

    For an international shipment, I'd ask for the panels to be crated. THat will add hundreds of $$, but should limit the headaches, altho, sometimes crates can hide damage.

    AND, David, be certain to check on any import Tarrifs/Fees, which will raise your cost, and perhaps make locally obtained panels more competitive.

    Good Luck, Vic
    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH [email protected], 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • david3david3 Solar Expert Posts: 37
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    Thanks Vic. I wouldn't mind paying extra to have the pallet crated, so that might be a good way to do it.

    As I understand it, the import duty for solar panels here is 0% (free), though what the law says and what happens may be two different things.
  • TheBackRoadsTheBackRoads Solar Expert Posts: 274 ✭✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Solar Panel Packaging & Shipping / Pallets

    You should just give our host NAWS a call, they must receive pallets of panels?!:confused:
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