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review of the top 5 solar product brands

Review of 5 Top Solar Product Brands

Published 08-06-2012 by George Zeed

With more and more companies throwing their hat in the ring to compete in the growing solar energy industry, it can get confusing to the average consumer who wants to get started using solar panels for the first time. To make the process easier on choosing what brand to go with, we’ve assembled a list of five top solar product brands including a little company history and an overall review about each company’s solar panel products.

BP Solar

This company has one of the best warranties among its competitors--25 years for output vs. 20 years or less for others. BP Solar leads the pack in upgrading their output warranty from 80% to 85% of the performance level. It’s been a leader of the Photovoltaic solar energy industry for more than 30 years and is the third largest company in the energy industry. As a result of BP’s 35 years of manufacturing Photovoltaic Solar technology, they have the experience and know-how to optimize module life and energy production. Their solar panels are known for their first-rate performance and reliability and the company continues to improve and make their output the best in the industry.

Sharp

A century-old company, Sharp has become the third largest solar panel manufacturer in the world regarding production and number one in terms of solar module revenues. It was the Sharp brand that developed the first and ever popular solar-powered calculator. This brand is known for its efficiency and impeccable quality. Their panel prices are competitive and offer a great value to consumers. Even though they are a leader in c-Si Technology, the company recently shifted their focus to a-Si thin film because of higher costs. Because other a-Si thin film competitors have not fared as well in the past, Sharp is positioning itself to capitalize in this open market.

Suntech

The next three manufacturers including Suntech made it into the top five because they are similar in the way they’ve kept their manufacturing costs down and passed those savings along to their customers. Their costs are lower partially because all three put factories in lower-cost areas such as Asia.  In 2010, Suntech was the world’s largest producer of solar panels and one of the first companies to set up operations in China. It’s been slow to expand compared to its fast-growing smaller competitors in China and consequently has lost some market share to them. It is the largest solar panel manufacturer worldwide and its panels are known for being of the highest quality and most efficient solar panels in the world. Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada and Arizona State University are among its many clients. One of their more popular solar panels is the STP range—known for its high efficiency and affordability.  

First Solar

Headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, the focus of this company is their Solar Thin Film product and since they are the only manufacturer of this product in the world, it makes them the benchmark for other thin film companies. While not nearly as efficient as other solar panel products, First Solar uses Cadmium Tellurium Technology and is the lowest cost solar panel producer in the world today.

Sunpower

Headquartered in San Jose, CA, Sunpower Corporation is the U.S. second largest solar company. They pride themselves on being the most efficient PV solar company in the world. Their crystalline silicon solar cells and solar panels are based on 15-plus years of research and development and proprietary manufacturing processes. Their efficiency is demonstrated in their 5% advantage over other competitor modules— 20% efficiency instead of 15% from other competing crystalline silicone manufacturers. Their back contact design is a main reason for the high efficiency cells and the technology was pioneered by co-founder Dick Swanson at Stanford University in the early 1980s. Their design avoids metal grid lines on the front of the cell resulting in more light converting to electricity. What this means to the consumer is better efficiency and lower cost. For example, a system with 15% efficiency versus 20% means buying 33 more panels to equal the same output.

5 Honorable Mentions

Company size, longevity and market share are great indicators of stability and quality products, but some smaller more innovative and nimble companies have quietly carved out a niche in the solar industry. These companies all excel at what they do and focus on a specific segment of the solar market.

Global Solar - Pioneered rugged ultra lightweight foldable & flexible solar panels for the US military. Using a lamnent process to adhere the thin film CIGS cells directly to the fabric they created a portable solar panel that was essential for our mobile troops. Their largest customer is the armed forces, but have also branched out and today have a consumer version available under the SUNLINQ brand name.

Power Up - This reseller is headquartered in Delaware and produce lightweight polycrystalline aluminum framed panels for home, commercial and industry applications. They stick to the more common smaller watt sizes from 1W to 80W.

Samlex Solar - This Canadian based company is your all in one stop shop when it comes to setting up a renewable energy system. Samlex re-brands their solar panels but manufacture an incredible selection of inverters, switches, power supplies, chargers and converters.

Goal Zero - Took the retail mobile power market by storm since 2010 providing innovative battery and solar products. They have a line of foldable and semi-flexible panels, ultra lightweight lithium battery packs and inverters. Goal Zero has the retail consumer firmly in their cross-hairs.

Noco iMob - The makers of the Noco Genius wicked smart chargers also have a line of affordable amorphous solar panels. These inexpensive maintainers are great for vehicles that sit for long periods of time and simply keep your batteries in a full state of charge.

For the easiest way to purchase solar panels, check out an on-line battery retailer like Impact Battery, which carries name-brand solar products, accessories and more. If you search around and compare prices you will find that Impact Battery has an excellent selection of solar energy products to meet your residential solar electricity needs.

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