Suntech, the world’s leading solar panel maker, with 1,800MW of annual production last year in China, is now looking to Israel for its next launch of solar panels. With a panel made specifically to meet Israeli requirements, the top Chinese panel maker is making its debut in the tiny, parched, sunny nation with a new generation of high-efficiency solar modules, the Suntech 300W Vd series, with 72-cell modules of 6-inch black square cells per panel.
The series is designed to be tough, water conserving and lightweight enough for typical Israeli rooftops.
Suntech has customized the series for the market. Weather conditions in Israel demanded that the panel be super resistant to harsh sunlight. For maximum efficiency an anti-reflective surface traps the sunlight into the cells, making the panels extremely tough and durable.
Water conservation is also a serious issue in always parched Israel. To cut down on the need for washing the panels, Suntech engineered a hydrophobic self-cleaning structure into the surface. Israeli customers were primarily concerned with weight, power and aesthetics.
As a result, the company claims that its 300 watt Vd solar panels will deliver “one of” the highest power per weight ratios in the industry for polycrystalline panels, with up to 15.5% conversion efficiency. But actually, an efficiency of 15% for most normal weight polycrystaline (or multicrystaline = old fashioned traditional) solar is about average.
For example, SunPower has broken the efficiency record for (normal weight) polycrystaline solar, getting up to 24% in lab conditions, about 22% in real world conditions. Also – just comparing polycrystaline (multicrystaline) solar manufacturers – Sanyo is next at 23% in the lab. Suniva hopes to exceed 20% efficiency before January 2012 using the traditional (multi/poly) solar production methods.
However, for monocrystaline solar, (the newer thinfilm: often used in Building Integrated PV – or BIPV) 15.5% would indeed be a huge achievement. But it hardly is news in traditional (multi or polycrystaline) solar.
But the claim refers however to power per weight. So, compared with only lighter weight (monocrystaline) panels, (which is typically the less efficient BIPV thinfilm) their efficiency may be “among the highest”. So, the panels are somewhat misleadingly compared in efficiency.
But in any case, efficiency just refers to how much space is needed to produce the same power, so less efficient panels just need more space on the rooftop.
Since the more efficient (lower space requirement) panels are also more expensive, the issue that homeowners need to consider is also the cost per watt produced. A solar estimator can help homeowners discern the best cost/benefit ratio between different panel options for their roof. Most solar companies will come out and check out the roof situation (angle to the sun, the degree of power reduction from any shading problems from trees or neighboring buildings, available space, etc) and then can calculate your return on investment.
Usually solar installation companies will give homeowners a free estimate, and the expected procedure is that the homeowner will get estimates from three different solar installation companies (using panels from the same or different manufacturers) before making a choice.