When Is A German Solar Inverter Not German?

German vs. Chinese solar inverters

Perceptions matter – the provenance and pedigree of solar power system hardware can help it sell. But picking and choosing origins to mention can mislead.

You’ll sometimes see statements like the following accompanying spiels for solar inverters:

  • German heritage
  • German design
  • German reliability
  • German engineering

If you don’t see statements such as “manufactured in Germany”, chances are it probably isn’t1. Solar inverters made in that country also tend to be pricier, so if a “German” solar inverter has a Chinese-level price, chances are it’s Chinese made or manufactured somewhere other than Germany.

Whacking “Germany” on anything solar power related tends to create a perception of quality; that’s why it is pumped up in some promotional materials when there’s even just a whiff of any sort of connection to that country.

I could be considered of German heritage as my father was born there. Given the circumstances, his country of birth contributed to my “design” and “engineering” – I wouldn’t have existed without it. But I was “made” in Australia.

Regardless of my heritage, design and engineering, I’m not German. I’m Australian as I was born here. And an inverter made in China is a Chinese solar inverter.

This is not necessarily a bad thing – it can be very good. If you take a look at SolarQuotes’ recommended solar inverter brands chart, Goodwe, Solis, Sungrow and Huawei are currently listed. All of these inverter brands manufacture in China and produce some good quality gear.

Even Germany’s top-shelf solar inverter manufacturer SMA were producing some inverters in China at one point before returning all manufacturing back to its home country.

Don’t Judge An Inverter By Its Country

Is China a perfect country? No. Does its government do some crappy things? Yes, so does ours; and both should get their acts together on a slew of issues. But does China produce some really good solar power stuff? Definitely.

Arriving at final judgement of a product based purely on its country of origin sees good brands offering quality and reasonably priced components being overlooked. I still remember when “made in Japan” was synonymous with “crap”, but general product quality then improved and so did Australian consumer attitude. It took some time for the latter to catch up and it’s the same sort of deal regarding China.

If product seems good (or bad) at first take, find out more about the company, the support they provide here in Australia and read reviews from Australian customers before disregarding it.

If a solar manufacturer or salesperson appears to be leading you to believer a solar inverter is German-made when it isn’t; ask yourself why that may be. Is it just because of the undeserved reputation China has among some? Or is it something more?

And manufacturers/retailers should ask themselves: what sort of impression could glossing over country of origin while strongly promoting at-times-tenuous ties with another leave on potential buyers when they find out?

Pick up some tips for choosing the best inverter for your circumstances.

Footnotes

  1. But also apply the “trust, but verify” approach if German manufacturing is claimed – more unscrupulous players aren’t above telling flat out porkies.
About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. George Kaplan says

    Not mentioned in this article is whether buyers can ethically support buying Chinese made products. Probably not an issue SQ want to get into, but it matters to some people.

    • Ray Meeuwisse says

      I would like to know how much of SMA’s manufacturing has returned to KASTLE in Germany, ??? I know Covid has stopped a lot of the move back to Germany, and I will also state, I have seen and been on the receiving end of failed SMA inverters, probably still being manufactured in China.

      I have actually stopped using the product, as their failure rate is way too high, and they have gone from number one inverter manufacturer, in the world, to way down the list for my liking. I find the best way to avoid this type of problem, is cease using the product. I think SMA, have lost a lot of the market share, and this is their own fault.

      Not only that, their pricing never dropped, even when they were manufacturing in China, they were charging top dollar, for a shit product. My list of inverters to be able to use is growing shorter by the day. But if you want to avoid going back to a job, because of failed products, its just better to leave them sitting at the warehouse, of the selling wholesalers.

      • George Kaplan says

        Interesting you mention SMA. I actually have an SMA – hopefully German made rather than Chinese, but the Australian support has been frustratingly slow. I had a couple of data glitches earlier this year which mean my Sunny Portal info is partially corrupted. I’m still waiting for it all to be resolved.

  2. Ray Meeuwisse says

    Good luck with SMA, I have been finding them very difficult to deal with, and due to the amount of failures that I have had, I find the easiest way to deal with this problem, is stop purchasing and installing their products, which is what I have done.

    I honestly feel that SMA, have lost their way, and their huge market share, that they once had, has now disappeared. To go from number 1 in the world of solar inverters, to way down the list, speaks volumes in my opinion.

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