BP Solar Stops Making Residential Solar Panels

By Rich Bowden:

bp solar

An old school BP Solar panel – now a collectors item? (Credit: Thomas Springer)

The news that BP Solar will close its global distribution for residential solar panels and related PV products in favour of large scale projects has raised eyebrows amongst solar analysts throughout the world.

The announcement came after the company had been in the business of marketing PV products for thirty years, making it one of the world’s acknowledged leaders in this field. A company spokesperson was reported by wire news agencies as saying late last week that “…we think we can have a much stronger business going forward focusing on developing projects,” as he added that the company is now looking to concentrate its interest in this field.

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Australian Researchers Break World Record for Solar Panel Efficiency

By Rich Bowden

Now this is the sort of news your SolarQuotes.com.au correspondent likes to deliver. After weeks of wading through government reversals on solar feed-in tariffs, reporting on the various sniping at the edges of the solar industry and talking about savage cuts from state and federal governments affecting the Australian renewables sector, here comes a really positive development.

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NSW Govt Opts for ‘Hardship’ Package for Out-of-Pocket Solar Customers

By Rich Bowden

The NSW Government has refused to back down over its controversial decision to reduce the bonus feed-in tariff offered to households for solar power returned to the grid from 60 cents per kilowatt hour to 40 cents.

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Will Solar Power Save The Planet?

I suppose some would call me a “Greenie”.  Heck, I call myself that sometimes.

Like any good Aussie, I love the outdoors, the sunshine and the surf. I’m deeply grateful for the beauty and majesty of our planet. It pains me when I see it being brutalized, plundered or wasted in the name of laziness or greed.

And I do believe that we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. I believe that a lot of the political and economic tension that our world currently faces could be reduced with more responsible use of the limited resources we have at our disposal.

And I believe solar power will play a central role in an improving the relationships with our political neighbours and our natural world.

But, I don’t believe solar power is the answer to all our problems. I don’t believe solar power is the great savior of our planet. I don’t believe solar power is right for everyone. I don’t believe we should make too big a deal of solar power.

Why not? Because it’s too easy. [Read more…]

Got A Shaded Roof? Then don’t buy solar without a Suneye shade analysis.

Shade is the number one enemy of a high performance solar power system.

If your roof has substantial shading between 9am and 3pm then installing solar panels is probably going to be a really bad investment.

If you are confident that your roof roof has absolutely no shading, then solar can be a great investment thanks to the current handouts by the Federal and State governments in terms of Solar Rebates and Solar Feed In Tariffs. [Read more…]

BP Solar Panels come last in 2010 German Solar Panel Test


A recent solar panel test by German outfit “The TEC Institute for Technical Innovations” which put 15 Solar Panels under identical conditions for a month had some surprising results.

The test measured the power output of the following brands of solar panels:

  • CSI CS 5A 180 M
  • ULICA 180 (34) D-UL 800
  • Jiangyin Jetion JT 175 (35)
  • ANTARIS AS M 175 AI 1
  • SolarGate SG 2200
  • Yunnan Tianda TD 175 M5
  • 180 Sharp NU-180 E1
  • aleo S16
  • asola 185W/48
  • CSI CS6P-230P
  • Kyocera KC 175 GHT-2
  • Sym. Energy SE-M231
  • bpSolar 3210 N

Here are the results:

(click  here for full size image)

Basically the lesser known (and cheaper) brands like Ulica and the funny sounding Jiangyin Jetion produced more power in the test than the better known and generally more expensive brands such as Sharp, Kyocera and BP Solar in over their 1 month under the German Sun.

Of course your panels have to keep producing power over 25 or more years and the test doesn’t help measure the longevity of the panels, but the results are pretty interesting nonetheless.

The truth about Solar Panel performance and temperature

How does the Aussie heat affect your solar panel performance?

One of the main factors that makes Solar Power so popular over here (apart from the Aussie Pollies throwing wads of money at in in the form of Solar rebates and Solar Feed In Tariffs) is the fact that the Sun is so damn strong down here.

It’s not rocket science to work out why Solar Power hasn’t really taken off in less sunny climes like my homeland; grey, drizzly old England.

In fact the same 1.5kW system on a roof of my Mum’s quaint cottage in Northern England will produce 45% less energy than if it was on my roof here in Sunny Adelaide.

So does that mean the more sun the better, when it comes to generating Solar Power?

That would kind of make sense, right?

Unfortunately, as with most things in this life, it is a bit more complicated than that. [Read more…]

Are you getting the best Solar Panels? The Top 10 Things To Check

the best solar panels

How do you know if they are going to perform on your roof?

There are a bewildering array of solar panel brands out there. How do you sort the wheat from the solar chaff and be sure you are getting the best solar panels for your roof?

My advice is go thru the spec sheet for each panel and judge them on the following criteria.

If you haven’t got a spec sheet, then get another quote!

If the spec sheet combined with the quote doesn’t have the answers, call up the solar supplier and ask. If they don’t know the answers, that’s a bad sign.

The Top 10 Criteria [Read more…]

Solar Panel Warranties – How to make sure yours is worth more than the paper it is written on:

All solar panels should come with 2 types of warranty:

  • Power Output Warranty : usually 20-30 years
  • Material Warranty : usually 2 to 10 years

1. The Power Output Warranty

This covers the power from the panels. Usually if the power drops to less than 80% of the specification in the first 20-30 years, you can make a claim on the warranty.

That’s all well and good but you need to be confident that you will firstly be able to measure and prove that the power has dropped, and secondly be able to contact the correct company to get any warranty claims honored.

Ask to see the warranty details in writing. Get the installer/salesperson to show you where it states how the power from your panels will be measured if you suspect that the power has dropped, who will measure it and if they will charge you for the privilege.

Also ask them to show you where it says how the warranty claim will be handled, who is responsible for honoring it and what costs you might incur. Will they charge you to remove, ship and test the faulty panel and then ship and install the new solar panel.

If your solar installer or salesperson can’t answer these questions then that is a sign that they are badly trained or inexperienced or both.

If the warranty is covered by the installing firm, ask what the backup is if they are not around in 20 years – (This even applies to the bigger solar installers – one thing the world has learned recently is that even huge companies can go bust if the economy changes…). If you have to go back to the solar panel manufacturer, then go to the manufacturers website and see if you can find warranty details. If you can’t find the website or the warranty details that is a bad sign…

Another great question to ask is: “What % of your revenue do you put aside for future warranty claims?” and also “What % of the solar panel manufacturer’s revenue is put aside for future warranty claims”.

The final thing to check out is whether this warranty is “linear” or “stepped”. A linear warranty of 80% (i.e. a 20% power drop) over 20 years would cover you if the output dropped by more than a twentieth of that 20% in the first year (i.e. 1%), then 2% in the second year and so on… at that linear rate of 1% per year until the solar panels were 20 years old.

Linear warranties are rare, but some of the more expensive panels do have them. The more common “stepped” warranty means that, for the “80% over 20 years” example, your panels can lose 19% in the first year and you won’t be covered unless they lose another 1% in the remaining 19 years to get under that 80% threshold.

2. The Material Warranty

The material warranty (2-10 years) is usually for defects that may cause the power of your panels to drop – but don’t cause the power to drop below the “power output warranty” threshold.

So if you have a power output warranty of “80% over 20 years” and some water gets into one of your panels causing the overall system power to drop 19% – this would be covered by the “material warranty”, not the “power output warranty”.

This can be for stuff like delamination of the backing sheet, discoloration of the solar panels (can look really naff!), solder joints coming undone and bypass diodes failing.

Again – ask your solar installer or sales person to give you a comprehensive list of things that are covered by this warranty.

Finally: watch out for get out clauses

In some of the small print in the terms and conditions published by the bottom end of the solar market, I’ve seen clauses that say your warranty isn’t valid unless you get your system “serviced” every 2 years.

If you have one of these clauses, find out exactly what defines “serviced” and how much it is going to cost. This is especially important if you are buying a really cheap solar system with panels of questionable lifespan. The last thing you want is for your panels to fail after 3 years and then have the warranty knocked back because you didn’t get your panels “serviced” within 2 years!

How Important Is Efficiency When Choosing A Solar Panel?

I get a lot of emails from people asking “Which is the most efficient solar panel on the market?”.

Last time I checked, the awesomely awesome Sanyo HIT 195DA3 (note: now manufactured under the Panasonic brand) laid claim to the most efficient panels in production at a whopping 20.5% panel efficiency!

(And before you SunPower fans swamp me with emails – yes, I understand that this is including light coming into the back side of the panel, which is would require special mounting – see the pic below. On a typical roof, the Sunpower E20 327W will be the most efficient at 20.4% panel efficiency)

Mounting a solar panel to allow "backside irradiance"

An example of Sanyo HIT solar panel mounting to maximise efficiency.

But whilst solar panel manufacturers like SunPower and Sanyo battle it out for the “most efficient panel” gong, the question we really need to ask is: “Is the most efficient panel the best option for your roof?”.

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