Top solar panel manufacturers 2014: Do you need to go with one of the ‘big 10’?

Big ten solar panel manufacturers

Who were the global top solar panel manufacturers in 2014? Industry analysts at IHS have released their list for the year, based on updated shipping forecasts from each of the companies included. The results are very similar to 2013’s, albeit with some reshuffling. But do you as a solar shopper need to worry about whether the company you’re considering is one of the ‘big 10’?

Solar panel rankings: volume vs quality

Because IHS’s rankings are based on the total volume of solar panels that the companies ship by the end of 2014, being in the top position does not necessarily mean they offer the highest quality panel. Some of the smaller manufacturers specialize in premium products, whereas most of the larger manufacturers have gotten to where they are by either making a panel for the mass market or by focusing their efforts on large-scale projects. That being said, a company’s proven ability to produce and sell a large amount of product is testimony to its brand’s credibility, engendering trust among consumers and installers alike. Continue reading

6kW solar systems: Compare prices & installers

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If you’ve been looking into going solar, you’ve probably at some point seen quotes for a 6kW solar system. 6kW solar systems are one of the most popular system sizes in the US because in most places they will produce about the right amount of electricity to meet an average household’s daily electrical needs.

Solar leases & PPAs have made going solar accessible for virtually anyone with a roof, but what if you’re thinking about purchasing a system? Since you’ll probably be spending your own money, you’ll want to be extra selective about the installer who does the job and the components that are used. Continue reading

Electricity prices in Massachusetts, Connecticut & rest of New England to skyrocket this winter. Can solar help?

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Electricity prices in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other New England states are on the rise again this winter. Utilities cite an undersupply of natural gas to the region as the problem behind the increases. But could you take matters into your own hands by turning to rooftop solar to cut costs instead?

How much will electricity prices rise?

In Massachusetts, National Grid and NSTAR customers on a ‘basic service’ tariff will see the amount they pay per kilowatt-hour (kWh) increase by on average 37% from this month and 29% from January 1st, respectively. This will translate into bill increases of roughly $33 and $28 per month for average households. Similarly, prices for Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) customers will rise by 26% from the beginning of 2015 – working out to about $17/mo in additional electricity expenditure. Investor-owned utilities like NStar and National Grid cannot not increase basic service tariffs arbitrarily, but rather must seek permission from the relevant Public Utility Commission (e.g. DPU in Massachusetts) and provide justification for any proposed changes. Common reasons include network infrastructure investment and fuel price increases – the latter of which is behind this winter’s hikes. Continue reading

Where are solar panels manufactured and should you care?

American-made vs imported solar panels

One of the things you may have questions about as you shop around for a solar system is where the solar panels are manufactured. This article will help you determine whether a panel’s country of manufacture should be a key consideration for you.

Does it matter where solar panel companies are based and where they make the panels?

When it comes to quality, the mention of any country’s name will evoke an association; each nation has its own brand image, which may or may not be justified. You as a smart solar shopper, however, will want to look at the facts in order to make a more well-informed decision. Our recommendation is to judge each panel by its own merits. (A good place to start is EnergySage’s Solar Buyer’s Guide.) Continue reading

Sharing the sun: Community solar gardens taking off around US

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With strong government incentives and falling equipment costs, going solar has never made more financial sense on such a broad scale. Testament to this is the tremendous increase of the number of American homes & businesses with solar panels on their roofs in recent years. But at the same time, not everyone has a roof of their own, and even those who do might have one that is shaded or otherwise unsuitable for solar. Community-owned solar projects – sometimes called community solar gardens, or shared solar farms – promise a way for the roofless and ‘roof-impaired’ to go solar. Continue reading

Compare solar prices in Massachusetts: How to get the best deal

Smart solar shopping tips for Massachusetts and beyond!

Its a great time for consumers considering installing solar panel systems.  Solar PV system prices fell 12% – 19% in 2013 and are expected to drop an impressive drop of 12% this year alone. It’s figures like this that have analysts from Deutsche Bank reporting that solar is well on its way to beating conventional generation technologies on cost.

In line with this trend, solar prices in Massachusetts are also on the decline. But how can residents of the Bay State make sure that they’re not paying last year’s prices? We’ve identified three things shoppers can do to make sure they get a good deal based on some analysis of price figures from across the state (summarized in the Chart below). Continue reading

How Solar Installers Design Your Solar Panel System!

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The process of of how solar installers design a solar energy system is often a mystery for most consumers. Because of this, we would like to give you some insight into how solar installers design a solar power system for your home or business. A solar power system is designed considering two important factors – the amount of space that you have available for installing solar panels and the amount of electricity you consume annually. Other factors, like shading analysis and the efficiency of solar panels and inverters also come into play.   Continue reading

Shopping for Solar Panels? Pay Attention to the Solar Panel’s Warranty

Like most technology products that you buy, solar panels come with warranties that help safeguard your investment in the unlikely event that a problem occurs after installation. When evaluating solar panel manufacturers, the two most important warranties on which you should focus are:

1. Product (or materials) warranty, and
2. The performance warranty
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We’ll address both of these in this article.

1.  What is Solar Panel Product Warranty?
A solar panel’s product warranty covers the integrity of the panel itself, and protects you against failures due to manufacturing defects, environmental issues, premature wear and tear, etc. Most solar panel manufacturers warrant that their panels will not fail for at least the first 10-12 years, and some extend their warranty periods even longer than that. As with most warranties, a longer period is generally more advantageous to you, if you own your solar panel system. Continue reading

What is the Power Output of a Solar Panel?

You may hear your solar installer say “it’s a 255 Watt panel” or “the panel I am recommending is a 300 Watt panel” or when you are reading a quote from a solar installer and see numbers like 245W or 300W or 345W next to the name of the panel. They are all referring to a solar panel’s power output. What is the power output of a solar panel?

All solar panels are rated by the amount of DC (direct current) power they produce under standard test conditions. Solar panel power output is expressed in units of watts, and represents the panel’s theoretical power production under ideal sunlight and temperature conditions. Most solar panels on the market today have power output ratings ranging from 200 to 350 watts, with higher power ratings generally viewed as being more favorable than lower power ratings.  Continue reading

What is solar panel efficiency, and why does it matter?

Simply put, efficiency (expressed as a percentage) quantifies a solar panel’s ability to convert sunlight into electricity. Given the same amount of sunlight shining for the same duration of time on two solar panels with different efficiency ratings, the more efficient panel will produce more electricity than the less efficient panel.

In practical terms, for two solar panels of the same physical size, if one has a 21% efficiency rating and the other has a 14% efficiency rating, the 21% efficient panel will produce 50% more kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity under the same conditions as the 14% efficient panel.  Continue reading