Sunpower shines in ACT Government commissioned panel testing

  • Sunpower Testing

4th of April 2024

In late 2023, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government commissioned comprehensive testing of solar panels used for installations in the Canberra market as part of the Sustainable Household Scheme. Led by PV Lab Australia, this initiative aimed to address concerns regarding the variable quality of solar panels and the lack of accessible information for consumers and installers. The report which is available on the ACT Government website, spanning two rounds of testing, provides valuable insights into the performance and reliability of different solar panel brands.

A total of 121 solar panels representing 42 models from 14 brands were subjected to various tests, including visual inspection, standard test condition (STC) power tests, electroluminescence, wet leakage, and potential induced degradation (PID). These tests were conducted at the PV Lab facility in Mitchell, Canberra, between November 2022 and May 2023. The report outlines the number of panels that passed or failed each test. Notably, all panels passed the visual inspection and wet leakage tests. However, 31 panels failed the electroluminescence test, highlighting potential quality issues. Furthermore, while all panels passed the PID test, some showed signs of degradation, albeit within acceptable limits.

Visual inspections revealed minor defects in some panels, mostly attributed to handling or manufacturing processes. STC power tests indicated that most panels met or exceeded their labeled power output, with a few exceptions showing slight underperformance. Electroluminescence tests identified quality issues in a significant portion of panels, with some exhibiting defects likely to impact long-term performance. However, wet leakage tests confirmed the safety of all panels, indicating no immediate electrical hazards.

The following table pulled directly from the report summarises the results:

It’s great to see SunPower Panels come out on top and certainly not a surprise to the team at SolarHub. With 2 scores of 99 in consecutive tests the thing that stands out is the consistency of the SunPower Panels and conversely the results also highlight the concerning inconsistency of other panel brands. It’s often hard to explain to people purchasing a solar system what quality really means in the real world, as most panels look identical, but there areĀ considerable differences in the build quality of panels, and this is clearly illustrated in the results.

There are several issues with inconsistent quality that have a direct impact on consumers:

  1. Financial returns on systems promised by retailers (particularly over the long-term) are not realised and you as the consumer are left out of pocket
  2. Panels that have visual defects from day one typically degrade faster and there is a heightened risk of product failures such as hot spots and fires down the track.
  3. Inconsistencies between the performance of panels can drag down the performance of other panels in the system (this is somewhat offset through Module Level Power Electonics (MLPE) such as Enphase however)
  4. There is an increased potential for warranty issues, which over a 25 year period may be hard to resolve as you are relying on both the manufacturer and retailer being around to support you.

While failure is never certain, it’s the risk of failure that is increased with panels that exhibit these types of inconsistencies and its why SolarHub takes panel quality so seriously. Its a big investment for every household or business to make and you as the consumer want to make sure your investment is as secure as it possibly can be.

Overall, the ACT Government’s solar panel testing initiative provides valuable insights into the quality and performance of solar panels available in the Canberra market. By identifying strengths and weaknesses across different brands, the report empowers consumers and installers to make informed decisions, fostering a more reliable and sustainable solar industry in the region. Thanks to the team at PV Lab for keeping the industry honest!

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