Should I buy solar panels from China?

gp_wagp_wa Registered Users Posts: 15
I have a quote here for 8500 watts worth of mono panels (200 watt) at $1.65/watt, all shipped to the port of Seattle for $300 including insurance. I would have to pay import duties, which I have not researched properly yet.

From these folks... http://guang-yi.en.alibaba.com/

Some of the specs I was given:

200 watt.
Voc: 49.6 volts
Isc: 5.4 amps
Vmp: 41.6 volts
Imp: 4.81 amps
Cell efficiency: 16.75%
UL: IEC61215

They claim a 25 year warranty, and 90% output at 10 years, and 80% at 25 years.

That is CHEAP, but would you buy these from China and put them on your house in a grid tie system?

Comments

  • GreenPowerManiacGreenPowerManiac Solar Expert Posts: 453 ✭✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    This is a matter of opinion. I personally wouldn't trust anything outside of our country. Buy American !

    Look at the endless complaints on eBay with Chinese products. Endless. If something goes wrong then BIG problems, return shipping, etc.

    You may get a tax credit but won't get any state rebates like you would here. Call your favorite local Solar installer. A 30k job will cost you 12k after rebates. Example: a 5kw system around here would be approximately 30k. After rebates the 12k / 5kw = $2.40 per watt. Plus, you get a warranty for parts and labor for the next 10+ years. For $1.65 per watt, that sounds unbeatable, however, remember who you're keeping busy.
    Nature's Design & Green Energy on FaceBook : Stop by and "Like" us anytime.. Many up-to-date articles about Renewables every day.
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  • gp_wagp_wa Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?
    You may get a tax credit but won't get any state rebates like you would here. Call your favorite local Solar installer. A 30k job will cost you 12k after rebates.
    Not true in Washington. We have no rebates.

    We do not have to pay sales tax on solar equipment, no matter where it's made.

    We can file for a payment from the state government that pays so many cents per KWH produced, depending on a couple factors. If the panels and inverter are made in Washington, the payment is huge ($.54/kwh), but there is only one company trying to produce panels in Washington, they're not producing yet, and they're likely to be very expensive. If the equipment is not made in Washington, then it doesn't matter where they're made. With a Washington made inverter and Chinese modules, I would get $.18/kwh produced IIRC. That is above and beyond any net metering benefit, by the way.

    So, in Washington, a $50K installed system costs $35K, and is not taxed. $14K worth of Chinese modules would cost me $9800, plus duty, and no tax.
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    Attractive initial price, but 25 years is a long time ;) One concern I'd have is that it will be too expensive to make use of the guarantee, so it's next to useless. The company is also relatively unknown which adds to the risks.

    Panel prices have dropped a lot this year, might just take some time for it to be reflected in local resellers. By all means go for Chinese panels, but I'd get them from a local reseller who can actually honour the guarantee. You could probably find Yingli or Trina panels for close to that price.
  • gp_wagp_wa Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?
    stephendv wrote: »
    Attractive initial price, but 25 years is a long time ;) One concern I'd have is that it will be too expensive to make use of the guarantee, so it's next to useless. The company is also relatively unknown which adds to the risks.
    That's a big concern. I thought that at that price, maybe I'd go ahead and order a couple extra to throw into storage as a hedge against failure.
    stephendv wrote: »
    Panel prices have dropped a lot this year, might just take some time for it to be reflected in local resellers. By all means go for Chinese panels, but I'd get them from a local reseller who can actually honour the guarantee. You could probably find Yingli or Trina panels for close to that price.
    Thanks for that, I'll go see if I can find some prices locally.


    What I'm most concerned about is quality. Are Chinese cells known to be of good quality, or poor quality, or what? I'm handy enough that if a module had a failure that was not related to the cells, I could likely tear it apart and fix it, so the quality of assembly is of somewhat less concern to me.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,008 admin
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    It is a mixed bag... Some panels are good, some are bad.

    Repairing of panels--perhaps... But if you have dozens needing repair in 20+ years--that is not going to be a good deal. Good panels should last 25-40+ years... Bad panels can fail in less than 10.

    Check for UL/CSA/NRTL mark on the panels and confirm with the UL/CSA/NTRL website that the panels are approved. Unapproved panels are not legal to install for GT systems (building inspector may or may not catch the lack of NRTL approvals) and can cause issues with fire insurance (if there is ever a fire).

    It might be worth getting your hands on one of their panels and some other similar "name brand panel" and see how they perform in full sun... At the very least confirm Isc (short circuit current) and put some resistive load on them to measure voltage under load. You can compare between two panels in identical conditions and see that the import is producing a equal porportion of power to your "reference panel"... (comparisons will be much more accurate than trying to characterize a single panel against no reference... Hot/Cold/Humidity/Wind/Sun Angle/etc.).

    -Bill

    PS: NRTL--Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (basically, the UL, CSA, ETL, TUV, BSA, etc. of the world)...
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • stephendvstephendv Solar Expert Posts: 1,571 ✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    Quality varies between different manufacturers. I like to use the number of installed panels as a good guideline as to their quality. A handy database is this one:
    http://www.sonnenertrag.eu/suche.php?&lang=en

    Germany makes for a good search country (they have the most installed PV), then enter the name of the PV manufacturer in the "manufacturer" field and you'll find a good few reference of the panel in real world environment.
  • GreenPowerManiacGreenPowerManiac Solar Expert Posts: 453 ✭✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    Not true in Washington. We have no rebates.

    We do not have to pay sales tax on solar equipment, no matter where it's made.



    My statement was misinterpreted.

    I was talking about the Federal tax credit that everyone can participate in. 5695 IRS form for 2009. States vary per rebate programs.

    Just do your homework before you buy. Safety first ........
    Nature's Design & Green Energy on FaceBook : Stop by and "Like" us anytime.. Many up-to-date articles about Renewables every day.
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    Lots of DIY Renewable Energy Projects on ETSY : Solar Panel builds, Wind Turbine builds, Rain Barrel build,etc.  
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    with no ul listing and no u.s. supplier to back them i would not chance it.
  • gp_wagp_wa Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    I can't find them on the UL site. Methinks the claim is bogus. I will try to get clarification from the sales rep tonight.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    With name brand panels available from reputable retailers with UL listing and "real" warrantees why would you put so much money at risk to save so little? Over the life of the the system the price difference gets less and less significant assuming the cheap system performs for the warranted # of years.

    Tony
  • gp_wagp_wa Registered Users Posts: 15
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?
    icarus wrote: »
    With name brand panels available from reputable retailers with UL listing and "real" warrantees why would you put so much money at risk to save so little?
    $8500 is not saving "so little" in my book...

    Keep in mind, I will not buy anything without the proper ratings. No UL, no sale.

    I do understand your point, but there is a significant potential savings here. Enough savings to make this installation pencil out, where it may not with name brand panels in my area.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,008 admin
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    Just to be clear, UL or NRTL equivalent (building department should be able to help you if you have questions).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,433 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    I agree that $8500 is not small change, but as a percentage of the entire project net/net after tax and utility rebates it gets fairly small. I have no particular problem with the fact that something is made abroad, but I do have a problem dealing with semi-unknown seller who may or may not be here for the warrantee period. Clearly you could run into a similar problem with any local north American retailer who runs into trouble for what ever reason. but your chance for redress is likely to be better with someone closer to home.

    The question would be (for me) how would I feel if the system when TU 10 years in. Personally I would not be happy with my savings.

    Tony
  • CariboocootCariboocoot Banned Posts: 17,615 ✭✭
    Re: Should I buy solar panels from China?

    Here in BC practically everything on store shelves is made in China. The things with "name brands" on them are poor quality, but at least the company will stand behind it. The "no name" stuff doesn't even have that going for it. Some of it is fake; looks like name brand, but isn't actually produced under the direction of that company. Some stores have been shut down repeatedly for selling this stuff.
    And when "Xang-xing" Manufacturing gets caught breaking too many laws they change their name to "Shang-su" and start all over again. That's the problem; no established company that will back the warranty over time.
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