Yes, you should buy solar panels, but… Should you buy solar panels that are made in America or solar panels that are made in China?
We live in a modern world that operates on a global level. Things are made all over the world and solar panels are no exception to this. Even if a solar panel is labeled and marketed as “Made in the USA” it is very likely that the solar cells and/or other parts of the panel were made overseas. All the manufacturer must do for that “USA” label is assemble the foreign parts here in America.
There are exceptions to this, but most solar cells are made in Asian countries, even in those panels that are assembled in the US. Does being made in Asia automatically mean the solar cell is of lesser quality. No, it doesn’t.
The truth is that there are poor quality products being made in every country. History has shown that even some solar panels that were fully manufactured in the United States have had issues.
But, fear not, there are also high quality products being made in every country. There are top tier Chinese panels made by public companies with world class factories and clean rooms like Trina, Canadian Solar and JA Solar. Just as there are great solar panels made or assembled in America like Sunspark, SolarWorld and Gigawatt.
Finding quality solar panels is more about brand than country of origin. We have a magic word we use in the solar industry, “bankability”.
When a bank decides to offer leases on solar equipment, they have a lot at stake. They will end up owning hundreds if not thousands of systems, all with contracts that guarantee the end user a certain amount of production for up to 20 years. If the solar panels in these systems fail on a large scale, it will cost the bank a lot of money.
So, before investing in a particular solar brand, the bank will do everything they can to ensure they are getting a quality, “bankable” product. This assurance includes third party engineering assessments of factories and products as well as evaluation of the manufacturing company’s longevity and ability to honor warranties in the long term.
The banks have a lot of resources to put into these bankability studies. As an individual consumer, all you have to do is look at what brands the banks have chosen and use those on your own projects.
There is also the consideration of price. Researching Chinese solar panels will bring up many news articles about tariffs being passed and the price hikes they may cause. In the end none of that really matters. Call a distributor or retailer and ask them for a price. The quote they give you will include any tariffs.
So, watch the banks, check the price and shop for bankable solar panels in the global economy with confidence.