Are Foreign-Made Solar Panels Any Good? Find Out More

By : Next Level Energy | March 20, 2019

A lot of questions are often asked by homeowners when making considerations for solar. Most of these questions relate to the manufacturer origin of a solar panel and if it’s a regrettable idea to select Chinese or other foreign-made solar panels for an installation.

This question is a very common one as the recent estimates show that at least 70% of the world’s solar panels are being manufactured by China today – this is a clear and supporting factor that dictates China’s major role in the solar industry globally. China has a substantial impact over global solar vogue such as manufacturing practices, warranties and pricing. For example, improvements in manufacturing costs in China was one of the major reasons for the 80% decline in global solar prices between 2008 and 2013.

Many U.S. homeowners are often skeptical if they should go for Chinese solar panels because of China’s large involvement in solar and if it will meet up with the quality of other top brands. Well, this article will enlighten you more about all you need to know about the Chinese solar panels brand; pricing and quality.

Chinese solar panel manufacturing vs. Chinese solar panel companies

Before we go ahead with making explanations of how Chinese solar panels compare to those made in other countries, it is very crucial to elucidate on what is called “Chinese solar panels”

As earlier explained, close to 70% of all solar panel equipment is made in China. Still, this doesn’t justify that Chinese companies form 70% of all solar manufacturers. Actually, a lot of companies worldwide subcontract their actual manufacturing to China as a result of low costs production.

Therefore, homeowners should reflect on what particular aspect of solar panel production is paramount to them; either if it’s where the company is headquartered, where the solar panel is manufactured or where the components are made. 

Let us take SunPower as an example. SunPower is a premium solar brand that is reputable for its high level of efficiency.  Everyone knows that SunPower is an American company located in San Jose, California. And still, the company now sources most of its production from China, Mexico and the Philippines. The panel itself is made in China and the solar components are mostly Chinese in origin.

Though SunPower is regarded as one of the top solar panels worldwide and an “American company”, the company is selling and distributing panels made elsewhere. Another ironic case is that of the Canadian Solar. The solar panel company which is very famous, has its headquarters in Canada and still, the panels are made in China.

Back to the main matter, if your focus is on procuring the panels with the highest quality, these two cited cases above would make you understand that it’s not a sensible method to indicate the quality of the product based on the country of company’s headquarters.

solar panel manufacturer

Are Chinese solar panels priced lower than other brands?

Solar panel tariff update

Although one can’t categorically make a solid affirmation when it comes to quality or price of solar panels, it is still very safe to say that typical Chinese solar manufacturers don’t price much unlike other brands because of the remarkable cheap cost of production in China. This contrariety between American solar panels and Chinese’s received media attention recently consequential to the bankruptcy of U.S. solar maker Suniva. In the early 2017, Suniva filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and petitioned the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) to place a heavy tariff on solar panels that are imported from China.

In summary, Suniva, which hails from Atlanta, Georgia with production facilities in Michigan and Georgia, insisted that their bankruptcy was as a result of inequitable competition. It claimed that the low prices from other rivals who subcontract to other Asian countries and China made the company fall less in profit.

The Trump administration levied a 30% tariff on solar imports to the United States on January 22nd, 2018. In accordance with a fact sheet published by the U.S. Trade Representative, the tariff is set to last for a duration of four years, and will drop annually by 5%  This means there will be a 15% tariff reduction in 2021.

Are Chinese solar panels lower quality than other manufacturer brands?

The main question of whether solar panels manufactured in China have lesser quality than other manufacturer origins is still left unanswered right? Okay, here is your answer, Chinese panels do NOT have lower quality than other manufacturer brands.

The vast majority of solar manufacturing takes place in Asia. In fact, the top 3 solar panel brands by market share (Trina, SunPower, Yingli Solar) produce their products in China.

In addendum, a diverse quality of solar panels (Economy, Standard, Premium) are manufactured in China and there is no latest complementary relationship between the panel’s quality level and either if it is made in China or in some other place.

For those customers who would rather purchase only an American manufactured panel, two great American manufacturers include Solaria (Freemont, CA) and Mission Solar (San Antonio, TX).

*Note: An All-American, 100% Made-in-the-USA panel does NOT exist. Even the American-based manufacturers use various imported manufactured components in their panels and inverters.

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