Today, solar panels are produced in different countries of the world, but a significant part of their production is concentrated in Asia, namely in China. To be more precise, today four out of five solar cells produced in the world are made in China. This figure speaks volumes about the dominant market share and clearly shows China’s key role in the global solar industry. It is China that is increasingly influencing solar trends around the world: possible guarantees, prices, know-how and manufacturing practices. By the way, in the last few years, the decline in world prices for solar energy was mainly due to the optimization of production costs in the Chinese solar industry.
However, stereotypes about the ambiguous quality of products of Chinese origin work for some people. Therefore, when choosing solar panels, many people wonder whether it is worth choosing Chinese panels for installation, and will they match the quality of leading brands? Let’s try to understand and answer this question.
What to choose: Chinese brands or Chinese-made panels?
Before explaining how Chinese solar panels are compared to those produced in other countries, it is important to clarify how to properly interpret the term “Chinese solar panels”.
Approximately 80% of the world’s solar panel equipment is made in China. But this does not mean at all that 80% of all solar energy producers are companies with a Chinese “registration”. This is because most companies from around the world are increasingly moving their production to China. This is due to the minimization of costs with this approach. For example, China has cheap labor and other production costs are significantly lower than in Europe or America. So when choosing solar panels , potential buyers must decide what is important for them: the country of manufacture, where components and photo modules are made, or the country where the headquarters of the manufacturer is located.
Perhaps today it is not so easy to find panels of famous brands that are not made in Asia. After all, many leading brands producing solar panels have long moved part of their production to other countries, and to China in particular. For example, a premium brand such as SunPower, whose panels are known for their high levels of efficiency, is headquartered in the US. At the same time, its production facilities are located mainly in China, with some more in Mexico and the Philippines. As a result, it turns out that both the components and the solar panel itself are made in China. Even though SunPower is considered to be one of the best solar panel manufacturers in the world and is considered an “American company”, in fact SunPower sells panels made in other regions. Perhaps even more ironic is the Canadian Solar trademark. The panel production of this popular Canadian-headquartered company is almost entirely concentrated in China. Therefore, if the main thing for the buyer when choosing panels is the quality and the brand name, then both considered examples confirm that today it is impossible to focus only on the country where the brand comes from.
Why Chinese solar panels are cheaper
While there is no universal truth in solar panel pricing or value for money, it is safe to say that Chinese manufacturers usually offer lower prices than their European, American or Japanese competitors. The contrast in price between them sometimes reaches 30-40%. One reason is production costs, which are much lower in China than in Europe or the US.
Another reason is the support of manufacturers at the state level. The Chinese authorities began to develop solar energy about three decades ago, and factories for the production of photovoltaic modules were built to provide electricity to remote agricultural areas of the country. Later, at the beginning of the 21st century, the pace of development of the solar energy industry in China increased dramatically due to foreign, in particular German, investments. Since then, the gradual formation of large-scale production of Chinese solar panels began, whose representatives are now confidently conquering world markets.
In an effort to increase the share of alternative energy, the Chinese government provides quite serious support to solar panel manufacturers, for example, by providing low-interest loans and subsidies. Moreover, local authorities invest not only in production, but also invest a lot of money in scientific and technical developments and programs to stimulate them. This made it possible to make locally produced solar panels cheaper than panels made in other countries, which led to less competition from Chinese manufacturers. However, the disadvantage of this scheme was that it stimulated not only parties interested in creating a quality product. As a result, China has had, and still has today, a wide range of manufacturing quality, from very good to very poor.
There is another reason for the competitive price of Chinese solar panels. Companies from the PRC not only generate innovative developments themselves, but also often copy good ideas that come from American and European, for example, German research. As a result, many leading Chinese companies produce panels that are not inferior in quality to European or American counterparts, but are cheaper in cost.
Why are Chinese solar panels popular with buyers?
If we talk not only about panels made in China, but about solar panels of Chinese brands, then their growing popularity in the world can be explained by their advantages, namely:
- high efficiency of solar panels (from 16 to 22-23%);
- reliability – Chinese brands pay great attention to the control and testing of panels at all stages of production, so the panels of Chinese brands have a long warranty period for the product / equipment (12-15 years, sometimes even longer);
- increased wear resistance to loads and climatic conditions – wind, snow, hail, etc.;
- long warranty period for performance – 25-30 years;
- high manufacturability – Chinese manufacturers are very actively working together with engineers and developers of new technologies, constantly introducing innovations to improve the efficiency and durability of the panels; for example, not so long ago, it was in China that heliobatteries with a phosphor were presented, which generate electricity even in cloudy weather and at night.
Should I buy Chinese solar panels?
Solar panels from China have been stigmatized for their quality for a long time. And often quite undeservedly, since there are many good Chinese solar panel manufacturers that suffer from this general opinion.
So you should not be afraid and prejudiced against Chinese solar panels. But certain points should be taken into account when buying solar panels, although this, in fact, applies to the choice of any solar panels, not only Chinese ones.
Visually, the panels may look the same and even have the promised similar characteristics, but it is very difficult for an ignorant person to determine “by eye” which panel is of high quality. Therefore, when deciding to choose solar panels (especially those made in China), you need to carefully study the market, information about a particular brand – how long it has existed, what reputation it has, what guarantees it promises. Be sure to read the reviews – on forums, blogs, and even better to learn from real people who have installed such panels. At the same time, we must remember that people who are satisfied with everything rarely talk about it. But those who have some problems with the panels will write / tell about their situation publicly. And even if it was some kind of separate case, but the opinion about the panels, even good ones, can be spoiled – take this moment into account and draw conclusions as a whole.
So, the answer to the question of whether Chinese solar panels are of lower quality than brand panels from other countries will be negative. Of course, there are unscrupulous manufacturers in China making cheap low-end panels that fail after 5-6 years. But this does not mean at all that all Chinese solar batteries are of poor quality. The country in which the panel is made has little effect on the actual quality of the solar panel installed in your apartment, house or country house. Today, there are many manufacturers of solar panels in China itself, which make highly efficient and technologically advanced panels. By most indicators, a number of them are even included in the TOP-10 of the world’s best manufacturers , gradually ousting the recognized “masters” from other countries due to a more competitive “price-quality” combination. Among the leaders of the Chinese market of solar panel manufacturers are the brands Jinko Solar, Trina Solar Limited, Longi Solar, JA Solar, Suntech, Risen, Astronergy. And according to experts, due to the high competitiveness, the share of Chinese brands in the global solar energy industry will continue to grow, displacing the old-timers of this industry from other regions of the globe.