Beyond merely wanting to make the transition to alternative energy for the benefit of the planet, perhaps you are also drawn to the possibility of the country’s sole provider of electricity paying you for a change with the feed-in tariff (FiT) mechanism. Despite the complicated considerations behind the manufacture and operation of photovoltaic cells, we have noticed a growing interest in grid-connected solar energy installations for homes, so we went ahead and listed our favourite five brands of the most dependable solar panels here.
If the country of manufacture is of greater concern to you, or if you simply do not regard a manufacturer’s size by volume as an accurate indicator of quality, then Taiwan’s AUO is the brand to look for when seeking out affordable photovoltaic cells that perform at or beyond the standards set by other self-proclaimed first-tier manufacturers. Leveraging BenQ’s brand equity in the realm of consumer electronics, in addition to the manufacturing expertise of Acer and Quanta in the production of thin computer displays, AUO manufactures the SunForte range of high-efficiency solar cells, which are capable of producing a peak of 335 Watts – with an industry-shaking efficiency rating purportedly measured at 20.6 percent.
In a landscape of manufacturers focused on increasing the raw efficiency and output capabilities of their solar panels, Canadian Solar looks at maintaining practical limits by producing panels that operate more reliably and last longer for lower maintenance costs. For those more concerned with reliability than pure efficiency, Canadian Solar’s KuModule range features retooled arrays of solar cells that produce fewer hotspots and are less prone to the kind of deterioration expected of installations in climates with year-round sunshine.
One of South Korea’s largest conglomerates – Hanwha, began operations in 1952 as a chemical company and has since expanded to become a prolific alternative energy provider and infrastructure builder in its home country and abroad. While most of their activities are focused around national grids and commercial plants, their domestic solar panels and inverters are readily available for homeowners in the form of the much lauded Hanwha Q Cells – consistently voted as being the highest quality brand of solar modules available. With one of their four research and development centres located in our very own Cyberjaya, one can be assured of the Q Cells ability to operate effectively in our climate.
The inherent fragility of the silicon wafers that go into solar panels have limited what manufacturers could do with the material in the past, but recent developments in glass production have enabled brands like Hong Kong’s GCL to produce solar panels with cells fully-encapsulated in 2.5mm thick panes of glass for greater durability and a longer operating lifespan of 30 years – while most other manufacturers are only willing to guarantee their offerings for a maximum of 25 years.
While solar cells from other manufacturers have only managed to tentatively approach the ceiling of 20 percent efficiency in recent years, JA Solar’s Percium solar cells breach that apparent limit with a purported efficiency rating of 20.4 percent – one of the highest ratings achieved among most other solar cells in production at the time of this writing. Despite the brand being a relatively recent addition to the landscape of solar energy – with its incorporation in 2005, JA Solar is now regarded as one of the top manufacturers of photovoltaic cells in the region.
* Brands are listed alphabetically