Module Buyer’s Guide: 10 modules to know in 2019

module buyer's guide

For our 2019 Module Buyer’s Guide (included in the Jan/Feb issue of Solar Builder magazine) we rounded up profiles on the newest modules on the market and also surveyed solar module manufacturers on the trends they are seeing and some of the new technology to watch. The seven insights are here, and you can check out the new products below.

Mission Solar

To pack as much power as possible in order to dramatically reduce energy costs, Mission Solar developed the MSE PERC 60 module. The MSE PERC 60 features a compact 60-cell design that is smaller while packing 310 W of power. This module is best suited for residential and commercial projects. Warranty: 25-year performance and 12-year workmanship. More Mission Solar news here.

mission solar



CertainTeed says it expects to launch half-cut cells in Q2 2019. The new module will consist of standard PERC mono cells, cut in half, connected in series and parallel to achieve similar voltage and current characteristics as standard 60-cell modules at the module level. Warranty: 25-year linear power output, and a 25-year workmanship warranty when installed by certified contractors. More CertainTeed news here.




Hanwha’s new Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G6 module will be assembled in the U.S. at Hanwha Q CELLS’ new Dalton, Ga., module facility — the largest module manufacturing facility in North America — slated for completion in January. The 6×20 monocrystalline Q.ANTUM half-cell design allows for higher yield per surface area and higher power classes. The Q.PEAK DUO is ideal for residential applications. Warranty: 12-year product, 12-year linear performance. More Hanwha Q Cells news here.



LONGi Solar

The combination of elements in LONGi’s Hi-MO — a half-cut, p-type, monocrystalline PERC, bifacial module — is compelling. LONGi says the bifaciality results in a 10 to 25 percent higher yield at a cost similar to a monofacial PERC module. The bifaciality factor, which is the ratio of efficiency on the rear side as compared to the front, is upward of 75 percent. These are ideally suited for utility power plants and commercial rooftop applications and areas with a greater surface albedo. Warranty: 30-year for extra linear power output, 10-year for materials and processing. More LONGi news here.



Trina Solar

Trina Solar’s DuoMax Twin is its half-cut, bifacial mono PERC offering. It uses heat strengthened glass in lieu of the polymer backsheet used in other modules. The dual-glass construction provides better protection for the cells and improves the long-term reliability and durability of the module. Also, the Duomax Twin’s junction box avoids shading on the backside of the panel. Trina has extended the power warranty to 30 years. Warranty: 10-year product and workmanship, 30-year linear. More Trina Solar news here.

trina solar


Silfab’s SLA-MWT 320 W (Metal Wrap Through) technology removes all stringing and bussing from the front side of the module by integrating a conductive metallic layer to the backsheet for the purposes of conveying current to the junction box. This reduces both resistance and cell shading which ultimately yields higher module efficiency. By removing the conventional stringing process from the module production line, operational efficiencies can be recognized. Ultra-high efficiency modules are optimized for both residential and commercial projects where maximum power density is preferred. Warranty: 25-year product, 30-year performance. More Silfab Solar news here.



The Panasonic N340 HIT + Series with its heterojunction technology and enhanced 40-mm frame offers customers increased module efficiency, performance and longevity while maximizing available roof space. The new 40-mm frame increases durability and strength, being able to handle loads of up to 5,400 Pa. Also, the water drainage system gives rain water and snow melt a place to go, reducing water stains and soiling. Warranty: 25-year workmanship and linear power output. More Panasonic news here.


REC Solar

The REC N-Peak is the world’s first solar panel combining n-type mono half-cut cells with a twin-panel design, featuring zero LID, REC’s best warranty and super-strong frame design for loads of up to 7,000 Pa. Combined with n-type, REC’s PERT technology completely passivates the rear of the cell for increased electron capture and high and stabilized efficiency. The N-Peak is especially suited where space is limited, such as residential and commercial rooftop installations. Warranty: 12-year product, 25-year linear power output.

rec solar


LG’s “V5” series of modules is slated to enter the market in Q2 with some incremental product improvements, in addition to an enhanced warranty, which has one of the lowest degradation rates, and a 25-year product and performance guarantee. NeON2 “CELLO” cells, which have Cell connection with Electrically Low Loss and Optical Absorption Enhancement, create greater yield and less reflection through increased usable surface area on the front of the cell and greater reliability if the cells were to become micro-cracked. Warranty: 25-year linear, extended to 89.6 percent performance. More LG news here.



Solaria is unique in that it built what it considers to be the perfect residential module, the PowerXT, and offers it as is or as an inverter-integrated AC version. Solaria uses proprietary manufacturing to singulate its mono PERC cells into uniform strips that are then re-assembled into high-density PowerXT cells. The PowerXT comes in a pure black appearance and uses proprietary technology to eliminate bus bars, so there’s no visible circuitry and fewer failure points. Warranty: 25-year linear power output and workmanship. More Solaria news here.


— Solar Builder magazine

Side Business: Three solar contractors discuss selling, constructing solar-covered patios


The Skylift is a new mounting product designed for attaching to an existing roof, grounding one end of the patio while elevating the ceiling and solar array.

Solar-covered patios are a niche product worth exploring as part of your solar business. The first step in pursuing these projects is knowing they aren’t for everyone. Many solar customers are interested in cost per watt, so pitching an addition that comes in around $7 per watt will stop conversations. This doesn’t mean it’s a dead end, just that they require a different sales and marketing approach and locating the right, easy-to-install solution.

What’s the market?

Andrew Read at Voltage River had high hopes for pursuing solar patios out in southern California, considering the high-income customer base and year-round outdoor living in the area, but he found that traditional advertising didn’t get the return he needed.

“Finding customers for this is not easy,” Read says. “I wanted it to be bigger than it is, and I did push it for a bit but have backed off trying to market it.”

Instead, he lets most of the business come to him via referrals from a cadre of high-end architects and builders. Approaching the market this way has been a success.

“We sell them for a high price because of what they are: a statement piece. Anyone looking to get out from under an electric bill, it’s not the system for them,” he says.

Region matters here more than in the standard residential PV business. John Hunter at Florida-based Premium Solar Patios, for example, is a bit more bullish on the current market for the solar patio, calling it “astounding.”

“We have seen a major influx of interest from your average homeowner to track homebuilders,” he says. “Today we are fulfilling orders from dealers around the country as well as installing sales from our inside sales teams.”

Don’t miss our Solar Installer Issue in March — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

One angle that has worked for Hunter is in HOA developments that make it difficult for homeowners to go solar. The solar patios they install are often a way around HOA rooftop aesthetic issues. They also can be placed anywhere on a property to get the best direct sunlight if the home is shaded.

But a word of warning: You think regular solar permitting is annoying, try coordinating between one person for the patio itself and then another person for the solar portion.

“It can land on a desk of someone used to seeing one thing, they don’t know what to do with it and then you get stuck in the washing machine of bureaucracy,” Read says, noting it took him six months to get one project through in Laguna Beach.


Once you are ready to pursue solar patios, the question is whether you want to also get into the patio construction business and offer a turnkey solution or just handle the solar piece and contract out the rest.

“The people good at doing this are the same that build regular patio covers because it’s an extension of what they do,” Read says. “From my experience, solar guys get hung up on patio covers. The patio cover structure guys can build that pretty easily, and then I can bring in a contractor just to wire up the panels and get it plugged into the main circuit.”

Premiums Solar says a solar patio installation, in most cases with an experienced crew, will take three days, due to the concrete drying time and footer/house attachment inspections where required. Vince McClellan with Solar Energy Design calculates a typical job takes about a third longer than mounting the array on the roof.

“After the structure is up, our Solar Rainframe system installs in about the same time as a typical solar array mounted on a roof,” McClellan says. He notes the market for solar patios is just starting. His company’s Solar Rainframe racking system (originally designed for parking structures) creates a water shedding roof using standard framed solar electric modules — a design built with 10 years of experience designing and building BIPV canopies. It uses no seals or gaskets and creates a weatherized roof out of standard solar modules, meaning there is no need for a separate roof under the solar array because the solar array is the roof.

That’s the other thing: Each solar installer we talked to had developed and settled on their own structural and design approach for the solar + patio.

“I’ve been toiling along with different solutions and finally found something that works. Hasn’t come from a simple stroll down the aisle at Wal-Mart,” Read says. “This solution literally took years of futzing around and figuring out because these are elegant systems and not designed to be cheap.”

“With our awnings, the wire is hidden behind wireways that are a part of the system,” McClellan says. “The extruded aluminum rails of the Solar Rainframe product can span about 20 ft with only two points of contact. This creates an uncluttered look underneath the awning because there is no need for additional beams supporting the solar array.

Premium Solar uses its standard reinforced aluminum 3 in. x 8 in. support beam, which makes it an easy fit and retains the style of their other solar patios. Wire management is also key here. Be sure to select conduit or other solutions that will keep the wiring out of view.

“We have a more commercial system in appearance that is a lower cost option to our Premium Solar Patio. Each option can be customized for the application the customer desires,” Hunter says. “Due to it being a more complex project, it does come with an added cost versus a rooftop, but we have come to find markets that sell rooftop for what the patios retail for in the majority of markets.”

Key to each of these unique designs was the Skylift, a new mounting product specifically designed for attaching to an existing roof and grounding one end of the patio while elevating the ceiling and the array. This makes it easy to retrofit a patio cover onto an existing building and attaching the solar while saving money on installing the footers and posts on that side. It also solves issues with eaves in some cases being too low to allow for the attachment of a solar patio along with the need to slope for water runoff. The Skylift allows for the needed height.

“We would have many patios that could not be installed in many cases due to a pool,” Hunter notes as an example. “Depending on where you are in the country, the requirements to offset from a pool wall would be damning to a project. The Skylift provided the solution that allowed us to back further away from the pool and get these special cases permitted.”

“Another great option for building integrated solar roofs using our Solar Rainframe system is using clear backed or bifacial solar modules that let the light shine through between the solar cells,” McClellan says. “It creates a stunning architectural detail for porches, patios, covered walkways, entryways, etc. Coupled with the Skyjack system it’s a great way to add beauty to a home or business while making clean renewable power.

Pairing the right system design with the right sales and marketing plan (and sales expectations), solar patios could develop into a nice side business.

Don’t miss our Solar Installer Issue in March — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar stories: CertainTeed’s Kate Collardson on her solar installer career, advice for other women

Even from a young age, Kate Collardson was dedicated to saving the planet.

“When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said I wanted to be a naturalist,” Collardson said. “To me, that meant someone who cares about the environment and works to keep the planet livable.”

Originally from Corsicana, Texas, her passion for the environment never faded, though she developed a love for the German language, as well as literature and history. Kate attended Colorado College and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in German. While attending college, she discovered a passion for working with her hands and woodworking, leading to a career in carpentry. While working on a job in Arizona, Collardson inadvertently made a turn into the solar industry.

Kate Collardson Headshot“I said out loud that I wanted a job that combined my love of working with my hands with my love for the environment,” said Collardson. “I then opened the newspaper to see a job listing that read, ‘Wanted: Carpenter/Solar Installer.’ The listing even noted that they would train in solar installation, so I applied and was hired.”

The job was the beginning of a three-and-a-half year career as a solar installer, which eventually led to being hired by CertainTeed as a Solar Technical Support Representative. In her 12 years since joining the solar industry, Collardson has earned several certifications, including NABCEP (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) certification, a Technical Certificate in Sustainable Technology and Management, as well as an MBA from Arizona State University.

She has also received several promotions since joining CertainTeed, coming into her current role as a Solar Services Manager in 2015. Although she has worn many different hats in her career, Collardson is still passionate about her work and the influence it has—both on people and the planet.

Watch for our 2019 Module Buyer’s Guide in January — subscribe to Solar Builder magazine (print or digital) for FREE today

“I love that the work I do has an impact on climate change,” said Collardson. “However, my favorite activity I do in my job is training. I love helping people understand new things. It’s great to see a person’s face light up as they understand a new concept. I have the privilege of being able to hold in-person trainings at industry events, and I get to join installation crews on the roof to train them on our products.”

Though there have been steady increases of women in the trades, Collardson still represents a minority in the solar workforce. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, only 27 percent of solar employees were women in 2017.

“It’s difficult being a women in the solar field, just like it is in every other industry,” said Collardson. “It’s not all smooth sailing, but from my perspective, it can be easier than it is in other trades. My personal experience, even as an installer, is that most of the people I work with don’t care about my gender.”

Her advice for women interested in getting into the solar industry? Be brave.

“Bravery is doing something even though you are afraid,” said Collardson. “It’s important to know that it’s common to be scared. Many of us have a voice in our head that tells us we are not good enough or not smart enough or that we should be afraid. Even though it’s scary, it’s important to be brave in the face of these fears. When we do this, we open the door to new possibilities.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Allied Solar Products to distribute CertainTeed’s Solstice Solar System

Solstice System Hi Res

Allied Solar Products, a Beacon Roofing Supply company and one of the nation’s largest distributors of photovoltaic panels, inverters, mounting hardware and solar accessories—has partnered with CertainTeed to expand the distribution of its Solstice Solar System.

Dave Jenkins, national vice president of solar for Allied Solar Products, noted his parent company’s long-standing relationship with CertainTeed’s building products divisions and said extending the relationship to its solar division “builds on our roofing and solar opportunities” and is “a win for both companies and their contractor customers.


“Allied Solar always looks for ways to improve its supply chains so we can deliver popular products to as many customers as possible as quickly as possible,” said Jenkins. “The move allows us to leverage our logistics, just-in-time delivery, and dedicated solar sales teams to deliver Solstice. With one of the best warranties in the industry, this solution translates into value and peace of mind for installers and their customers.”

CertainTeed’s Solstice system combines high-quality components including modules, inverters, mounting and flashing with a single-source warranty. In addition, when installed by one of CertainTeed’s Credentialed or Master Solar Installers, CertainTeed warrants the installation workmanship on the system for up to 25 years. Considered CertainTeed’s most economical solar solution, Solstice systems are designed to maximize roof space and can be configured to best suit the needs of the client.

— Solar Builder magazine

Six solar industry storylines to watch from Solar Power International 2018

Q Cells

Photo of a cool booth setup.

Your Solar Builder editor entered the whirlwind of news, numbers and handshaking that is Solar Power International and emerged with a notepad filled with gibberish. What language is this? What secrets does it hold? We sent it to a forensics lab, the archaeological department at Oxford and the guy with wild hair on Ancient Aliens for their interpretations. After this thorough analysis, we believe these are the top solar story lines in a post-SPI world …

1. Focus shifts from federal politics to local action

You get the sense that the solar industry has finally punted on trying to waste much more time inching the message boulder up the current administration’s hill and is now putting those resources into local efforts. This is likely the better route to go anyway, and the initiatives announced at SPI could do the trick if developed.

Just before SPI kicked off, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation unveiled the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative, which is the latest collective effort of the industry to streamline permitting. Reforms include: A safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, to eliminate traditional multi-step permitting processes; a standardized online platform provided to local governments at no cost, a list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects installed through the proposed process and more.

There have been several attempts at this over the years, all of which fell short, but this one might have a shot because of the timing. The economic case for solar has never been better, and the technology and techniques are proven with copious examples to highlight.

Also, what local government would turn down the promise of a ton more jobs? To grow that base of skilled solar workers around the country, the Solar Training Network introduced, an online platform to help solar companies recruit qualified candidates; allow solar job seekers to find career and training opportunities; and help the entire industry build a strong and diverse solar workforce. Using this platform, which is free of charge, employers can post opportunities on a solar job board and connect with thousands of candidates looking for solar career opportunities. Employers can also create company profiles, review candidate applications, and communicate with potential hires.

2. Solar pros see the short-comings of the industry and are actively trying to address them.

Two key examples here. First is in grid services. Features for grid services are mentioned all of the time now, from inverter and optimizer products to the need for storage and other ancillary services. I take it as a sign that the relationship between utilities and solar companies is now evolving past an adversarial stage because there’s nothing left to prove about solar as viable generating asset. Now, solar has to prove how it will best integrate and play nice on a wide scale over the long-term. This was always the case, but it feels everyone is getting on the same page about pursuing solutions.

For example, of all the things bouncing around the mind of CJ Colavito, VP of Engineering at Standard Solar, these days, he most wants to find a way to sync third-party radar forecasts with smart inverters for advanced ramp rate control — to ramp down voltage slowly prior to cloud cover that will cause voltage flicker.

Solar Power International

SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper and SEPA CEO Julia Hamm discuss diversity as an important goal for their respective industries.

The second short-coming is a short-coming for most industries: diversity. Judging by comments during the opening session and the upcoming Solar Jobs Census, solar thought leaders realize the industry is in position to not just remake the grid, but the makeup of the American workforce – not just to be PC and nice but because there is value inherent in a diversified workforce with growth opportunities. Also, check out this initiative from SEIA to work with Historically Black Colleges.

3. The full solar life cycle needs more attention.

One area in the U.S. solar industry still in need of attention is the full sustainability of a solar project. For example, panel recycling is a fairly big can that keeps getting kicked down the road. A DNV GL report released at SPI listed stranded assets as a key question in its market mechanics. At some point we will run out of road and kick that can straight into a million tons of PV that needs to be put somewhere. This isn’t a crisis (at least not yet) because there are solutions, at least according to First Solar, which has developed a standard for doing so and been put its system in place. Solar is recycled fairly easily — and for a profit — in Europe and that model could be replicated here.

The next can soon to be kicked is in storage. Storage is basically the key to solar taking over the world, but storage is dirtier than solar on the clean energy scale. Cobalt is a safety hazard. Lithium needs to be mined and poses its own potential for fire. Lead-acid battery companies claim to have the most recyclable solution, but does it perform as well as the future needs? And also, it is comprised of lead and acid. This is stuff that needs to be fully considered within the grand plans.

4. So many storage solutions…

LG energy storage

The new LG energy storage system.

Speaking of storage, every turn on the trade show floor seemed to present a new energy storage system or bundle of products to solve all sorts of solar + storage equations, from simpler backup capabilities to time of use to peak shaving and on and on. Panasonic has a full solution pairing Pika’s islanding inverter with its batteries and modules. LG debuted its complete solar + storage system for the home. SimpliPhi has varied its case sizes and voltage range. Sonnen has gone full tilt into energy management + home automation – a long fantasized idea that is now real-life – that is more load shaping than load shifting.

It’s all very cool. The issue from installers we chatted with at the show is there’s no one software that can deftly handle all of the storage mathematics they need (those that are great for peak shaving can’t be used for resiliency, etc.). There’s more to figure out here, just like on the battery side, but each SPI feels closer and closer to the goal line.

5. Some cool C&I rooftop innovations.

The reigning champion for the “biggest solar opportunity with the biggest issues to solve,” the commercial and industrial rooftop, saw several big-time debuts to ease some of these headaches.

A ton of solar deals are off the table because of the commercial rooftop life cycle and price tag. The deals that do go through on a different timeline than the roof itself are going to be a huge headaches come roof replacement time. Headaches meaning stuff will for sure be broken when the solar system is removed, stored and put back on. Standard Solar and Carlisle Roofing teaming up to solve this at the outset with a bundled package — a new C&I silicone coating spray applied to the existing roof membrane (with optional insulating foam) that installed with the PV system. The deal is financed through a PPA agreement with Standard Solar, so the building owner is essentially paying for the new roof (good for 50+ years) during the 25-year PPA.

ESDEC rooftop solar mounting system

The ESDEC Flat-Fix

On the system side, available in the first time in the U.S., Holland-based ESDEC debuted its slick Flat-Fix commercial rooftop mounting system. The same lightweight design can be laid out in south-facing or east-west configurations and is built with one tool, keeping the SKUs at a minimum. The feet are adhered with glue (or a bolt if needed) and an optional ballast tray. The system is already proven but the team needed to make a few tweaks to launch in the U.S., mostly relating to cable management, all of which were cleverly designed like the rest of the system.

Remote C&I system design has never been easier thanks to Nearmap’s updates. Its digital surface and line of sight analysis produces a jaw-droppingly clear picture for 71 percent of the U.S. population that is updated 3 times per year. You can really tell the difference between obstruction or dirt, as well as accurately measure the pitch and dimensions of any surface. When combined with the newest version Aurora Solar’s software, Aurora estimates 10x performance upgrades for multi-megawatt, commercial-scale solar projects added with the ability to simulate the solar energy production of a PV system while designing, allowing real-time assessment of design choices and elimination of change orders. An enhanced “fill zone” functionality is also available to automatically optimize solar panel locations to maximize the number that fit within an available space.

6. The next big trend will emerge from the California solar mandate (and maybe it’s an old one?).

Consider a company like CertainTeed – been around for a long time, and didn’t have a lot new at its booth to discuss. Its solar products are focused mostly on roof-integrated options that are not as popular as traditional mounting + solar panels on an existing roof sold and installed by solar installers. But when all new homes in California are going to need to come with solar already on the roof, will builders and roofers favor something like this they can handle themselves? Or, consider SunFlare, a company with a flexible CIGs technology. In 2018 it seems like a niche product – can be installed on top of existing carports and other nontraditional areas, but it’s close to working with a high-end national homebuilder that liked its solar shingle because “it’s a roofing product, not a solar product,” thus allowing them to install new solar on a new house without contracting out. The president of ESDEC also mentioned that in Holland their mounting system is seen as so simple to install that HVAC companies are a big customer segment for them because they could easily add it to their service offering.

Will the mainstreaming of solar earlier in the building process end up cutting out companies and products that rule the day today? Maybe a wild thought, just remember to keep your hands and arms inside the solarcoaster at all times.

— Solar Builder magazine