An Expert Review of Q CELLS Solar Panels

Solarkobo Score: 4.2/5

Manufacturer's Profile

The makers of Q CELLS solar panels, Hanwha Q Cells, is a German company wholly-owned by the South Korean conglomerate Hanwha Group, with headquarters in Seoul, South Korea. It was founded in 1999 in Germany and still retains its engineering offices there. It began manufacturing solar cells in 2001. It began trading its assets on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange in 2005 and 2010, it was offering solar panel modules.


After being hit hard by the Great Recession of 2008 and the global crash of the solar cell market in 2011, and following significant loses, on April 3, 2011, Q CELLS filed for insolvency. In August 2012, it was sold to the Korean conglomerate, Hanwha Solutions. Shortly after acquiring Q-Cells, Hanwha Solutions also acquired Solarfun, a Chinese panel manufacturer. After this acquisition and merger, the new solar business became 'Hanwha Solar One'. In 2012, Hanwha Group launched the 'Hanwha Q CELLS' brand. In 2020, it rebranded to 'Q CELLS'.


Supported by German engineering (they are marketed with the tagline 'Engineered in Germany'), Q CELLS has manufacturing facilities in China, Malaysia, South Korea, and the United States. Q CELLS is one of the world's largest manufacturer's of solar cells. It is a 'Tier 1' solar manufacturing company by Bloomberg. According to Bloomberg, "Tier 1 module manufacturers are those which have provided own-brand, own-manufactured products to six different projects, which have been financed non-recourse by six different (nondevelopment) banks, in the past two years." This status means that Q CELLS has access to debt financing by banks and thus a secure financial future.


Q CELLS is generally highly regarded in the solar world for its advanced technology as well as aesthetics. Q CELLS solar panels rank highly in the 'PV Module Reliability Scorecard Report' conducted by the independent solar module testing and performance services company, PV Evolution Labs in association with DNV GL. This places them among the highest-performing solar modules in the market with no severe no severe degradation or sign of failure through the four rigorous testing regimes.


Q CELLS was also the first manufacturer to pass the more stringent TÜV Rheinland ‘Quality Controlled PV certification’ in early 2020. It afterwards stated the certification would become its official certification standard for its latest modules.


Q.ANTUM™ Technology

The Q.ANTUM™ technology is Q CELLS proprietary adaptation of the Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) technology. In a PERC cell, the back sides of the solar cells are 'passivated' allowing the capture of unused sunlight back into the cell and thus, increase the generation of more electricity.


In Q.ANTUM™ solar cells, the back surface of the solar cells are treated with a special nano-coating. The layer functions similarly to a typical mirror by reflecting back the light through the cell to increase electricity generation. This technology adds laser-fired contacts that enhance the module's electrical properties and increases their efficiency.

q.antum cell structure
Source: Q CELLS

In addition to the Q.ANTUM™ PERC cell technology and the nano coating, Q CELLS incorporate these additional technological features into their modules


Hot Spot Protect

Hot-Spots lead to delamination and power degradation over time as the backsheet degrades in high temperature. Hot-spots can even lead to solar panel fires.


In order to detect hot-spots, during the final inspection stages, as reverse current flows throughout all cells, Q CELLS uses an infrared camera to identify cells with heat spots. These defective cells are later sorted out and are recycled. Q CELLS only ships solar cells that are 100 % hot-spots free. It says its the only are the only solar manufacturer that sorts out all solar cells in which hot-spots can potentially develop before shipping. Q CELLS guarantees its panels against hot-spots.

Anti-PID (Potential Induced Degradation)

In photovoltaic systems, voltage differences occur between the frames and the solar cells of a module. Especially in wet weather, this can lead to undesired leakage currents which can decrease the performance of the cells and result in yield losses of 20% or more. This effect has been named "Potential Induced Degradation", (PID).

PID can cause performance losses of up to 20%. Since 2012, Q CELLS panels incorporate Anti-PID Technology. Q CELL says that its solar modules in the field have failed due to PID. Q CELLS guarantees its panels against PID.


Anti-LID (Light Induced Degradation)

Exposing such solar cells to sunlight causes significant power degradation of up to 10%. This is caused by unstable Boron-Oxygen complexes. These can be found in all p-type solar cells. Q.CELLS deactivates the unstable Boron-Oxygen complexes and thus minimizes the LID effect in Q CELLS solar cells. Q CELLS guarantees its panels against LID.


Tra.Q™

Traceable Quality (Tra.Q™) is a unique laser engraved matrix barcode that every single Q CELLS solar cell has that makes it possible to trace back every single individual cell to production. The Tra.Q™ code contains information about the place and date of production and the materials used in the manufacture of every single cell. t the moment, Q CELLS says it is the only brand in the solar industry to offer the patented Tra.Q™ labelling technology.

Source: Q CELLS

Q.ANTUM™ DUO

Multi-Busbar and Half-Cut Adaptations

Q CELLS uses the the Q.ANTUM DUO™ technology that incorporates MBB, all-black and half-cut solar panel technologies alongside the Q.ANTUM™ PERC cell technology, in its panel designs, to increase output and reduces internal losses due to the shading of the solar cells by the busbars and fingers.


Range of Q CELLS Solar Panels

Q MAXX Series

Panels in this series are made from monocrystalline wafers and come in 120 half-cut design with power ratings of up to 360W. They are covered by a 12 year product warranty and 25 year performance warranty. They are also designed with 12 busbars per cell and come with efficiency ratings up to 20.1%. Additionally, they are aesthetically pleasing when installed on rooftops. They degrade at 0.54% after the first year, in comparison with the industry standard of 0.7%.

Q.PEAK DUO Series

Solar panels in this series are upgrades on the Q.MAXX. Q CELLS offers a 25 year performance warranty to its modules in this series. Panels delivered in this series come with a relatively high efficiency rating of up to 20.2% and a low degradation rate of 0.54% per year after the first year.


The more recent Q.PEAK DUO G7 (385W to 405W) and G8 (415W to 430W) panels use the Q.ANTUM DUO™ technology, that is, 12 busbars in a larger 144 cells format. They are designed for commercial and utility scale systems. They boost efficiency up to 20.3%.

Q.ANTUM DUO Z
The G9 Series

In late 2020, Q Cells began offering the new G9 series. With an even more advanced technology Q CELLS refers to as Q.ANTUM DUO Z™ technology, they boost efficiency up to 21%. It advances the Q.ANTUM DUO™ technology by incorporating a high density cell format that eliminates the vertical gaps between the cells and increases cell surface area.

The G10 Series

In November 2021, it began offering all-back and half-cut panels in the G10 Series. The panel is available in five versions with power outputs ranging from 475 W to 495 W, efficiency ranging from 20.55% to 21.4%, and a maximum system voltage of 1,500 V. It uses 156 cells in a half-cut arrangement and 12 busbars.

Warranty

Q CELLS offer a standard 12-year product warranty and the standard 25-year performance warranty. Q CELLS guarantees its customers that their panels will retain at least 98 % of the nominal power within the first year. Thereafter, decrease of the power output will not exceed 0.54 % per year. It guarantees that minimal nominal rated power after 25 years will not be lower than at least 85%.


For the latest G5+, G6+, G9+ and G10+ Series, Q CELLS offers a 25-year limited product warranty against material or processing defects, hot-spots and PID alongside the standard 25-year performance warranty. Q CELLS guarantees its customers that their panels in these series will retain at least 98 % of the nominal power within the first year. Thereafter, decrease of the power output will not exceed 0.5 % per year. It guarantees that minimal nominal rated power after 25 years will not be lower than at least 86%.


Conclusion

Q CELLS solar panel have a longstanding reputation in the industry as industry leaders and movers. Efficiency-wise, it still lags behind the premium brands, Panasonic, LG and SunPower. But the new extended warranty on their latest panel offerings sets it above fellow industry giants and major competitors like Jinko, Trina, JA Solar and LONGi and slightly close to the premium brands, Panasonic and LG. They come at a mid-range-to-premium costs. For their price, they stand close to the premium brands than to the high-value and mid-price brands. But they are capable of greater performance, reliability and longer life. Solarkobo confidently and enthusiastically recommends it to our customers in Lagos and throughout Nigeria .

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