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

Photovoltaic-aways: Solar module manufacturers share 7 insights on PV market trends in 2019

solar module manufacturing

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 below, and you can check out the new products here.

1. Mono PERC power

Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) is a photovoltaic design that increases light capture efficiency by adding a passivation film at the rear end of the cell to capture scattered and reflected light. An obvious benefit of PERC technology is that it allows for high-power modules, and the more power a module produces, the more money that can be saved by reducing overall BOS costs. Using high-power modules can mean fewer panels, less racking, wiring, combiner boxes and reduced labor hours.

One step further, half-cut cells have reduced resistive losses, which makes them capable of boosting power output by another 5 to 15 W per module depending on the cell type. The shift to monocrystalline solar modules is accelerating faster than expected, with mono PERC to witness the largest market share increase. In 2017, half-cut cell solar panels took 11 percent of the global module capacity, and this share is expected to rise to around 35 percent by 2020.

2. Bifacial boost

The buzziest of buzzy PV module technology right now is some combination of mono PERC and half-cut cells with the innovative application of bifacial module design.

“Recent projects incorporating this combination dropped levelized cost of electricity so rapidly that the biggest barrier to grid parity for utility-scale photovoltaic plants is not the cost of technology but rather the soft costs related to grid integration, land, labor and legal fees,” LONGi Solar tells us, which has broken world records for PERC cell and module technology eight times since September 2017. “Better, more efficient products on the market will free up resources for other types of innovation in the solar industry.”

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DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts and certification body, was just selected to receive a $200,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to research bifacial PV technology.

“The aim of the study is to accelerate commercial deployment of bifacial PV modules at scale,” says Tara Doyle, head of business development for DNV GL’s PV module testing lab [now PVEL]. “If proven viable through extensive performance and reliability testing, bifacial PV modules have the potential to become the preferred technology for ground-mounted PV installations around the world.”

The project will entail the collection of field data over the course of one year at DNV GL’s outdoor solar test facility in Davis, Calif. It will include bifacial and monofacial 1500V PV modules provided by LONGi Solar, Astronergy Solar, Hanwha Q CELLS and Trina Solar, tested on single-axis trackers provided by solar tracking company NEXTracker, and two albedo ground types. Data acquisition will be highly granular, using actively calibrated equipment. The collected measurements will be used to generate PAN files and subsequent energy simulations using PVsyst.

3. Economics over efficiency

Counter to the half-cut movement is the idea that chasing that extra bit of efficiency juice isn’t worth the squeeze, so to speak. Silfab Solar is taking a different approach, believing the tinkering with the glass size and cell cut of conventional mono and mono PERC technologies won’t result in enough efficiency gains. Instead, Silfab is focusing on the adoption of next generation technologies that could allow material gains in module wattage while maintaining attractive price points, such as metal wrap through (MWT) and interdigitated back contact (IBC).

Silfab says the practice of leading with a high priced premium brand and following up with a low price economy brand in price-conscious situations can lead to reduced revenues and margins.

“There are price effective premium brands that allow EPCs to standardize on a single module partner, recognize better revenues in cost-conscious scenarios (like larger system sizes) and recognize better margins on the remainder of the system in terms of premium value/wattage without premium pricing,” Silfab tells us.

4. Lifetime value

Efficiency numbers in lab conditions and coming out of the box get the biggest headlines, but for an investment that degrades over its 25-year lifetime, it’s not the most impactful metric on its own. Other module lifetime considerations such as warranty terms, temperature coefficients and degradation rates are now winning the day in many segments but especially in residential. EPCs and installers that only look at one facet, such as price or rated DC capacity, are doing themselves and their customers a disservice. While those factors are important, selling certainty over 25 years is more valuable overall.

“Often we hear from our customers that they made the mistake of only looking at the price per watt when choosing a PV module,” notes the team at Trina Solar. “Then they found that they had increased operations and maintenance costs down the road, and that the company they had bought from is no longer around to honor the warranty. Unit cost is important to consider, but if you neglect to look at things like performance, quality standards and company bankability, you may end up paying for it later.”

5. Reduced degradation

Pay attention to that temperature coefficient and light induced degradation (LID) rate because these are huge factors in the actual energy generated throughout a day and over a project’s useful life. Initial field tests carried out by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) have shown that n-type cell technology, specifically REC’s new N-Peak, reduces LID to zero, meaning no power loss right after installation. This provides improved performance in shaded conditions and allows flexible installation options. Similarly, Panasonic’s HIT n-type solar cells have extremely low LID and zero potential induced degradation (PID). Panasonic’s technology reduces annual degradation to 0.26 percent compared to 0.70 percent in conventional panels. This is why Panasonic guarantees a minimum 90.76 percent rated power output after 25 years.

In 2018, SunPower hit the industry’s lowest solar panel degradation rate, according to a calculation method developed in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). When this method was applied to eight years of energy performance data from 264 SunPower solar systems operating at various locations worldwide, it proved that SunPower panels degrade at a median rate of 0.2 percent per year. The company’s P-Series solar panels will soon to be manufactured in America.

6. Aesthetics

Value is often in the eye of the beholder, and as residential solar adoption widens and as the new build market explodes in California, aesthetics of rooftop panels will matter more and more. This is why all of the top residential module manufacturers now have an all-black version of their flagship product, which are often priced a tad higher.

Similarly, thin-film PV could be on the upswing in the U.S. residential solar sector. Swedish solar energy company Midsummer reports that it has received an order from Sunflare for equipment for the production of thin film solar cells worth over $7 million. Midsummer’s DUO system is one of the most widely distributed manufacturing tools for flexible CIGS solar cells in the world. Sunflare, with global headquarters in La Verne, Calif., is a provider of flexible mass-produced thin film solar products that are especially suitable for weak roofs and new roofs for private homes.

“The demand for our products in the U.S. has exceeded our expectations and we rapidly need to expand our production capacity with the help of our established partner Midsummer,” says Philip Gao, CEO of Sunflare.

7. Tariffs

The administration imposed steep import tariffs on virtually all crystalline silicon based solar modules in 2018. Additionally, many of the other materials used in solar panels now also face duties as part of a 10 percent levy on about $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that went into effect in September. The tax on these imports was expected to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, adding additional burden even to U.S.-made solar modules.

Finished solar panels require scores of components, ranging from aluminum framing to transformers, solar glass and power inverters. Solaria’s CEO Suvi Sharma estimates that U.S. tariffs this year have increased the company’s U.S. production costs by about 30 percent — an amount equal to the original U.S. solar panel import duty.

As a consequence of the tariffs, Solaria abandoned its plans of boosting production this year at its plant in Fremont, Calif. Due to capital expenditures imposed by the tariffs, the company was unable to expand its workforce in the U.S. as planned.

LG does not manufacture cells or modules in China, but it too was impacted by the tariffs in 2018. In response to this the company is committed to establishing a 500-MW production facility in Huntsville, Ala. Although this was in the works prior to the announcement of the tariffs, due to the strong market demand from the U.S. and LG’s desire to be closer to its customers, the tariffs certainly accelerated the process. The first modules manufactured in Huntsville will be rolling out in Q1 this year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Titan Solar Power partners with Silfab Solar for module deployment

silfab solar modules

Silfab Solar announced a new partnership with PM&M Electric, Inc. – doing business as Titan Solar Power, one of the nation’s 2018 top solar rooftop contractor. Titan Solar’s initial commitment includes the Silfab 300 W and 320 W modules, and are expected to represent a good portion of Titan’s more than 80-MW annual portfolio. Sales of Silfab panels were initiated by Titan’s team in August.

“Silfab’s ongoing commitment to premium quality modules built in North America ensured our sales teams had access to the most competitive solar solution in the U.S. market,” said David Williamson, President and CEO of Titan Solar Power, adding that Silfab is also providing strategic sales support to Titan.

RELATED: Report: When given the choice, homeowners are going with premium modules

Based in Arizona, PM&M Electric/Titan Solar Power has quickly grown over the past five years to become the leading residential solar company in the country. Due to industry demand increase, the company has opened offices in Yuma, AZ and Tucson, AZ. Additionally, the company has expanded its market to include affiliate branches in Albuquerque, NM; Las Vegas; Thonotosassa, FL; and soon to open Titan Solar Power California, Inc. and Titan Solar Power Texas, Inc.

Silfab continues to grow its distribution partnerships and sales networks with PV modules now present in 33 states and Puerto Rico. Silfab recently announced a partnership with DSM to mass produce high-power back-contact PV solar modules, has launched its first United States manufacturing operation and extended its warranty to 25 years.

— Solar Builder magazine

Silfab Solar partners with Itek Energy to boost U.S. solar panel manufacturing

solar agreement

PV manufacturer Silfab Solar is making a direct investment into Itek Energy LLC to initiate U.S. operations and to meet the growing demand for its solar panels. The investment brings together two big time North American PV companies and provides Silfab with additional manufacturing capacity at a facility already known for its high performance and attention to quality. Silfab says it will integrate its automation technology to Itek’s Bellingham, Wash., facility and add a second manufacturing line to more than double PV module production.

“This is a marriage of highly similar and very compatible visions – to produce the highest-quality PV modules that consistently outperform competing products in efficiency, endurance and long-term power performance,” said Paolo Maccario, COO and General Manager of Silfab. “Our products are already deployed in 33 states. A U.S. operation will now enable us to meet additional demands and customer appetite for U.S.-made solar modules.”

RELATED: Itek Energy launches first PV module packaging reuse program

“Itek looks forward to an exciting future with expanded capabilities and greater automation. Silfab is a leader in North American solar PV manufacturing. We can’t think of a better partner to accelerate expansion within the U.S. solar market to deliver leading-edge technological innovations,” said John Flanagan, President and Founding Principal of Itek.

Itek was founded in 2009 from a passion for creating U.S. jobs in clean energy. In 2014, it opened its second new facility in Minneapolis to provide local built solar modules to Minnesota. As of October of last year, Itek expanded operations again, opening a state-of-the-art flagship facility in Bellingham, Wash. — nearly tripling Itek’s U.S. manufacturing capacity.

Silfab’s state-of-the-art manufacturing facility located in Toronto, Canada, has helped pioneer smart module technology, glass on glass solutions and bifacial modules. Silfab continually invests in automating its manufacturing process, while dedicating technicians and engineers to focus on quality control and design. New manufacturing methods, such as fully automated bussing, has helped Silfab to drive down the price of solar modules by reducing production costs.

— Solar Builder magazine

PCI Solar develops solar 1.8-MW project at brownfield site in Wasco, Calif.

PCI Solar

PCI Solar has completed construction of a 1.8-MW solar array for the City of Wasco in California. The project, developed by Siemens, is part of California’s RES-BCT program, which allows a local government with one or more eligible renewable generating facilities to export energy to the grid and receive generation credits to benefitting accounts of the same Local Government. The energy from the array will virtually offset some of the energy from various buildings operated by the City of Wasco.

The project is located on a previous landfill site and is a brownfield development. The 1.8 MW of DC power will be provided by (5346) Silfab 345 watt panels and utilize (27) ABB Trio 50 KW inverters. So as not to disturb the soil, the panels were mounted on a GameChange ballasted racking systems and surrounded by a ballasted protective fence.

— Solar Builder magazine