Creating ‘Utility-Grade’ Solar Panels With Bigger Warranties

When RogerEfird, president of Suntech Power’s North America sales, spoke lastweek at the Edison Electric Institute’s convention in San Francisco, hementioned that solar panel makers are going to start offering longerand different kinds of warranties for certain discerning customers.

"We’ll start to see things that will be guaranteed that we’ve neverseen before, such as efficiencies," Efird said. "For utility-gradeapplication, you’ll have to give more details than to say you’ll getthis much after 10 years and this much after 20 years. Maybe ayear-over-year roadmap."

Efird, of course, wasn’t just making a general prediction. He toldme after his talk that Suntech plans to launch utility-grade solarpanels. The company is working on what he called "an advanced leap" insolar cell manufacturing that would make it possible to promise betterand longer output for its panels.

He declined to say when the company would start selling these newproducts with beefier warranties. He did say that Suntech plans tocontinue to work on the tech improvement for this initiative in thenext six months.

Solar panels these days generally come with a 20 to 25-year warrantyregardless of whether they are meant to go on the rooftop of a home oron the ground of a solar farm.

There are, of course, various power ratings that indicate the rangeof power output for each panel. There also are solar panels with cellsthat are made of different semiconductors, which could make adifference in how well they perform. So solar project developersalready have many options to choose from.

I imagine utilities would like to have robust solar panels withwarranties longer than 25 years though. After all, a coal-fired powerplant can stay alive for much longer than that.

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