Good Time to Buy PVs?

CrystalCrystal Solar Expert Posts: 128 ✭✭✭
I've been reading about many solar panel companies may go out of business in the near future. I suppose if I bought pvs from a company that goes out of business the warranty would be null/void. However, many price/watt are at a all time low.
I am curious, if this is the best time to buy pvs?
What company(s), do you think, are going to stick around?
Any opinions will be helpful.


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,007 admin
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    Hard to believe that panel prices will go down much more (between companies going out of business, fuel costs for shipping, and inflation).

    Controller/Inverter prices are probably going to go up (unless you start looking at the Chinese/Asian import inverters/chargers--which are still pretty cheap when compared with top shelf off grid power hardware).

    You might call our host NAWS, or your local retailer/distributor--They would know more than I.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • peakbaggerpeakbagger Solar Expert Posts: 341 ✭✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    I have stated before, there is no way someone can predict what companies will survive. That said legitimate companies that are pulling out of a market but remaining in the solar field are a better shot. Most of the Japanese firms are pulling out of the US to concentrate on the Japanese market due to better incentives. So they will most likely still make a good product up to the day they close down a factory. Panels sold in Germany have to meet tough standards so they are good shot as lasting. Chinese panels not sold by major firms are the biggest risk, basically quality control is no an issue as there is no plan to honor any guarantees. There are some chinese panels covered by thrd party warrantees, these are a better risk but if there is a fundamental design flaw that appears in a few years good luck collecting. Needless to say, factory seconds relabled by a retailer are the bottom end of the barrel.

    More importantly buying panels and stacking them up for the future is not a good idea. No ones going to be making money hoarding panels. If you buy them, install them and start generating,. Sure there may be better deals in the future but with the current incentives and the lousy return on savings, might as well buy solar and offset electric bills which are not going to be going down due to significant upgrades comtemplated across the country to integrate more renewables into the grid.
  • jaggedbenjaggedben Solar Expert Posts: 230 ✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    I suspect that now is indeed a good time to buy. As Bill said, it's hard to see prices going much lower. And with the shakeout occurring, it's at least as likely they'll go a bit higher rather than lower.

    With that said, I agree with peakbagger. Panels are now a small enough part of overall cost that you probably lose more money, either directly or through opportunity cost, by hoarding them instead of buying what you need right now.
  • westbranchwestbranch Solar Expert Posts: 5,183 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    Unless you have any thoughts of enlarging that array, then you should buy them now to ensure you will be able to match the 'existing' panels.
    KID #51B  4s 140W to 24V 900Ah C&D AGM
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    Cotek ST1500W 24V Inverter,OmniCharge 3024,
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    Eu3/2/1000i Gens, 1680W & E-Panel/WBjr to come, CL #647 asleep
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  • rollandelliottrollandelliott Solar Expert Posts: 834 ✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    I bought my first pallette of panels at 1.50 a watt 3 years ago
    a year latter I got my sister a couple of palletts at about $1 a watt
    I got some panels with out aluminum frames for 50 cents a watt and basically have not gotten around to putting them up till about a year latter.
    Now I see the same company advertising panels with out frames for $0.38 a watt! I wish I had waited!

    I've also seen framed panels for around $0.60 a watt

    so yes now is a good time to buy, but I will not be surprised to see prices dropping.

    the same thing was said when panels were $1 a watt! LOL.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    it's really hard to say if a company, be they good or bad will be there in 20-25yrs let alone tomorrow. you can try to go on a company's reputation and word of mouth on the products. for instance kyocera did have a major problem with their pvs years back and made good on the warranty rather than folding to avoid that huge cost to them to make it right. some research on your part may be needed to help you with a decision, but don't think that paying excessively more for a pv is a guarantee either.

    as to buying pvs now, that's a chance one takes as many in the industry did not think prices would still be falling up to now. if you do buy some, be sure it isn't too unique that other pvs can't be used with it. your evergreens are that example as few are going with the 36/72 cell configurations for pvs these days and they are now higher priced in many instances than their 60 celled cousins barring the possibility of some exceptions of course. again, it's hard to predict some things.

    there is some merit to buying all you might need in advance and possibly a few spares to insure availability to you and that is still somewhat unpredictable as to knowing what your future needs will hold too. it will ultimately be your call. if you can afford it and see what you believe are good pvs, then go ahead and buy them, but not one or 2 at a time if you predict you'll need many more than that as you will most likely get burned with advances in the pvs outdating the ones already purchased. this is not always a big risk, but your evergreens are the perfect example of what can happen. you may still be able to acquire some pvs to match the ones you have, but it will be a great effort in finding them. i can say that the german name for those pvs is sovello or sun-solvello as i've seen some designated. just like your evergreen pvs there is a low and high voltage version and you have the low voltage version.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,653 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Good Time to Buy PVs?

    I think most retailers will tell you mono and polycrystalline solar panels are pretty reliable once setup, One who has sells 10's of thousands a year has had only a handful of returns, that said, the problems that I've heard about have typically been in a whole run of panels. Kyocera, BP and Photowatt have had runs of bad panels and made good on them. These are, or rather have been major players in photovoltaics, I believe only Kyocera still makes panels, BP has opted out and Photowatt was bought up, they may be making panels under another name. In truth I haven't heard lots of negative things about Chinese and off brand panels in the United States. There have been a rash of bad panels, off brand and knockoff panels in Africa and the Middle east and perhaps Europe, if you can believe one of the solar feed articles, I think it was a subject of someone speaking at a conference.

    On Pricing, I'm not sure they can go much lower, I've been around for a while, I recently gave away my first purchased panel, I think I paid @$7 a watt in early or mid 90's it was an orphan and I think I purchased it near cost. Around 2001 I purchased 3 almost 20 year old Photowatt panels for $3 a watt, The going rate for new was around $5 cheapest for the Photowatt PW1000 (as I recall) and that was mail order out of a catalog.

    In 2006 I purchased 8 Evergreen Solar, EC115B(Blemished), 115Watts Solar Panels 402.00each, $3,216.00 total This was the cheapest by around $1 a watt for UL listed panels, blems full warranty.

    Between 2008 and 2010 I added panels at continually reduced rates the last about $2 a watt delivered.

    The end of 2011 I purchased 4Kw of UL listed Evergreen Blems at under 90 cents a watt delivered. I didn't think I'd see a lower price...

    Prices have continued their downward trend, having purchased aluminum framing and Glass I am amazed that panels are selling at close to what I perceive is their materials cost, I don't know how much a framed 40"x66" window would cost, but covered with 200watt of PV Cells, with a junction box and leads on the back, they are selling for around $130 in some places before shipping, Thinking of it this way with a spiraling downward value to our dollar, I don't feel it is a bad investment.

    I think the incentives given to businesses in China help, I think the tax credit makes it very good deal (ending in 2016?)

    Usually reliable I think the production run problems often had to do with diodes over heating(I might be wrong on that) Those now 30+ year old Photowatt panels, are likely still capable of producing, I took them down in 2008 or 9 and have them in storage...

    I haven't had a panel fail on it's own, I have torn the back of a couple panels while moving them and once when a mounting bolt bonded, When I recently purchased a warehouse accident pallet of Suntech panels (to salvage the unbroken ones) I discovered they had a heavy plastic sheet under the tedar backing sheet, which makes this sort of accident less hazardous to those panels. I have repair the tears with liquid electrical tape/tool dip type products and it has word well.

    FWIW - I have the feeling a watt is a watt and typically have purchased the cheapest per watt, I liked the Evergreen company and the low energy production and was luck to have purchased them, I have some Ningbo Chinese made panels that are the best made panels of all the panels I have owned or seen and I gladly let people know when that talk badly about Chinese made panels, Evergreen US and Evergreen China and Suntech US all have about the same build quality, though I liked the backing plastic as I said on the Suntech panels, particularly since I had 4 panels with scratches in the backing from broken panels above them in the warehouse accident.

    I'd buy when you need them, I like Neil's idea of buying a spare if you have the ability. I think managing the combining of panels isn't that hard a thing, but you also are trying to buy American made so further limiting your options. I'll likely sell my cabin this fall, I can figure out how to combine the 12 volt and 24 volt nominal panels there with my current array, The Suntechs are 24 volt nominal, so I wouldn't be a chore. I think you won't have a hard time combining your old with new, glad you purchased 2 of the 12 volt nominal panels, 1 would be a problem...

    I would buy in the next 4 years to take the tax credit! Though with out it perhaps the demand will fall and we will have another glut on the market. I know I'm rambling, but part of the current cheap panel situation is the reduction of demand for solar panels in Germany and Spain? who have reduce their feed in tariffs, which has reduced the demand there, They have been a larger purchaser of Solar that the US by far. But other places are increasing their demand so the Glut will be reduced, Japan is taking down Nukes, Australia has some interesting things going on, Saudi has push some solar projects...
    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Magnum MS4024, Prosine 1800(now backup) and Exeltech 1100(former, 660 ah 24v Forklift battery(now 10 years old). Off grid for 20 years (if I include 8 months on a bicycle).
    - Assorted other systems, pieces and to many panels in the closet to not do more projects.
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