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The Four V’s (As originally published in The Danville/Alamo/Lafayette Today Newspaper, July 2013)

Read Original Newspaper Article PDF here

Independence Day is a wonderful holiday. Local Parades and celebration sare wonderful way to celebrate our nations 237th birthday. “Buy American” is becoming more in vogue again for various reasons. For the solar industry. “Buy American” has of late become a very obvious choice. Recently in New York Times an article titled “Solar Industry Anxious Over Defective Panels” was published.

Before reading on, its very important for the reader to understand that there are solar panel manufacturers still in business who have never had a recalled or defective product. These manufacturers have strict quality control and testing standards. Every solar panel from these manufacturers is tested as it leaves the assembly line. Many panels made by these companies 30 years ago are still in service today. Its safe to say that the best value panels are not lowest cost panels. The best value panels will provide the highest long-term production, thereby the best financial returns that can be achieved from a solar system.

As I read the New York Times article,a sense of pride began to well up inside of me. If one were to “read between the lines”, the article validates what I’ve been proselytizing for years: The best value and the lowest long term Total Cost of Ownership(LCO) of solar projects rarely comes with lowest initial price. After finishing the article, four words instantly came to my mind. “I told you so”(directed at no one in particular) were not the words, although they may have best described my feelings at the moment. The words were “Validation”, “Verification”,”Vindication” and “Value”.

Validation: For the consumer, choice and installation of products based on price alone, without record of performance history, bankability and compatibility, will result in a higher long-term cost of ownership. There are literally tens of thousands of solar panels that are the center of these quality control problems located around us. A solar panel that fails is a solar panel that most likely provided a low initial cost, yet at much greater long-term rusk,financial or otherwise. Many of these panels will perform until their seals fail, be it 2,5, or 10years from now. Read the article for more details.

Verification: Over 50% of Chinese solar panel manufacturers have become insolvent in the last few years,including the world’s former largest manufacturer, Suntech. Multiple independent third party testing services confirmed product quality control problems module manufacturing sites. It was determined that quality control problems occur when corners are cut in material selection and when solar panel production is subcontracted to other small Chinese manufacturers. Defect reporting is not high on the priority list of companies having difficulty remaining solvent. Some developers worldwide reported a 22-35% failure rate of most Chinese modules.

Vindication: A business plan based on utilization of best choice products is the correct approach to appeal to customers who choose value over cost. In my opinion,the best solar panels are panels that are compatible with other products, having long term performance histories, are price competitive, are aesthetically pleasing as possible, and create American jobs.The best-marketed solar panels are the “most efficient”, yet are seriously lacking in compatibility. I’m not singling out Chinese products, but they happen to be at the center of the studies, and traditionally have been the “best” in when it comes to price. When choosing products to achieve maximum financial returns over the course of 25 plus years, the wise choice is quality product that combines and ranks high in all of the necessary above-mentioned traits. Ultimately the best insurance policy is excellent product. One American manufacturer is about to increase their solar panel warranty to 30 years. A product with a flawless performance history backed by such a warranty is easy to trust.

Value: Three separate groups should benefit from research published by the New York Times. Manufacturers with rigorous testing and quality controls should be able to reap the rewards of their value-add approach by selling more product.

Installers who have also strived to maintain a business plan which is most advantageous to their customers will also likely to be rewarded with their foresight. Satisfied customers generate more referral business for the installer.

Customer who have chosen quality over price are vindicated in their choice of product. Those extra few dollars you’ve spent on high quality products are an inexpensive insurance policy which will ensure 25 plus years of excellent financial returns.

It you’re wondering whether your solar system is operating at optimum, or how you can leverage the most financial return out of your solar system, please contact us. We provide bi-monthly seminars to solar home and business owners in our Danville showroom.

By Mark Becker, GoSimpleSolar

Mark Becker is the President of GoSimpleSolar, by Semper Fidelis Construction Inc, a Danville based Solar Installation Firm (License 948715). Mark can be reached at 925.915.9252. Visit GoSimpleSolar’s showroom at 114 West Prospect Avenue in Danville or  www.GoSimpleSolar .com, or email Mark@GoSimpleSolar.com.