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Solar Panel Certifications Demystified

With dozens of brands of solar panels on the market, choosing which one to buy can be a conundrum. One of the things you that may help you navigate this field is to understand the various certifications that are given to solar panels and all the acronyms that go with them.

UL (Underwriters Laboratories) is a global independent safety science company with more than a century of expertise innovating safety solutions.

The first thing you need to know is the difference between a “standard” and a “certification”. Standards are design qualifications written by entities like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and International Organization for Standardization (ISO) whose acronym makes better sense in other languages. When a solar panel receives a certification, it means that a recognized, approved lab has tested that solar panel to make sure it meets certain standards. 

UL 1703 is the set of standards for safety for flat-plate PV Modules

Let’s look at UL 1703 as an example. Officially published by Underwriters Laboratories, UL 1703 is the set of standards for safety for flat-plate PV Modules (aka the commonly used solar panels with the glass on the front). Cities and counties in the United States will only provide installation permits for systems that have solar panels that have the UL 1703 certification. This means that a manufacturer must send their solar panels to a Nationally Recognized Test Laboratory (NRTL) like Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek, TUV or CSA Group to have it tested. If it passes the test, that lab will provide a certification that the solar panel meets the UL 1703 standard. This process is also called UL listing and when the solar panel gets its official certification the manufacturer can say it is UL Listed. A UL Listed solar panel will have a special “mark” on its label from the NRTL that certified it.

TÜV Rheinland is the leading provider of product testing and certifications for the worldwide marketplace. 

While getting the UL 1703 Listing is a requirement, the solar panel manufacturers can step up their game and have the lab also test for other standards like IEC 61215 standards for durability and performance for standard monocrystalline and polycrystalline PV module. The IEC 61646 is a similar set of durability and performance standards for thin film PV modules. There are also very specific standards like IEC 61701 that includes salt mist corrosion tests (which you should look for if you are installing your solar panels on your beach house) or IEC 62716 that includes ammonia corrosion tests (in case you are installing your solar panels in agricultural environments).   

PVEL is the independent lab for the downstream solar industry. Solar panel bankability testing helps developers access and optimize financing.

There are also certification programs that test several aspects of a PV modules performance and durability over time like the DNV GL PV Module Reliability Scorecard. Financial companies investing in solar leases and large solar farm products look at certifications like DNV GL to have assurance of the “bankability” of a particular solar panel.

The ISO 9000 family of quality management systems standards is designed to help organizations ensure that they meet the needs of customers and other stakeholders while meeting statutory and regulatory requirements related to a product or service. 

Solar panel manufacturers can also get their manufacturing plants certified to give you added piece of mind. The factory certification for ISO 9001 Quality Management standard and ISO 14001 Environmental Management standards are common to see in solar brochures because you would assume quality facilities would produce quality products.

So now you know what all the solar panel certifications mean and you can go about the business of choosing which solar panels to buy. The sooner you choose, the sooner you will start saving money on your electric bills.

Author: Harold Tan

I believe clean, renewable energy is key to the evolution of society as a whole. Solar powers our planet, why not harness it to power humanity? Let's power our homes, our work, and our vehicles with solar energy. It begins with raising awareness and encouraging those around us to go green.

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