Solar Panel Brand Classification
While all solar panels perform the same function, no two brands of solar panels are equal. There are industry standards that are used to categorize brands and those include company profile, cost profile, warranty offering, on-field performance, technology, aesthetics, design and of course, the consensus of solar industry professionals, enthusiasts, installers and reviewers among them.
Of course, this classification is not necessarily air-tight. There are points where there is consensus in agreement and others where reviewers generally disagree. But the classification is based on the points where there is a wide margin of agreement.
LG and SunPower/Maxeon hold the top spot for the best solar panel of anywhere in the world. There are no disagreements on that. However, what is not clear in most cases, is which of the two deserve the top spot.
Premium brands come with efficiency ratings reaching up to 21%-22%. As a rule, all premium brands use only monocrystalline cells in the manufacture of their panels. Their price range fall between medium and very high. Also, premium brands use superior technology in the manufacture of their panels while continuing to invest heavily in innovation, research and development. They also place greater faith in their panels by offering up to 25 years linear warranty, more than twice that of the average manufacturer.
Panasonic is also highly regarded. It is placed next to these two and sometimes above them, in Japan particularly. Unfortunately, SunPower/Maxeon is not available in Nigeria. They have to be imported. LG is a well-known brand in Nigeria with branches in almost all the major cities of the country.
Panasonic is represented in Nigeria by Panaserve Ltd. On February 1, 2021, Panasonic announced that it will cease the production of solar products at its Malaysian and Japanese factories. Panasonic also said it would completely be exiting the solar panel and wafer market by March 2022. It also said that will however continue selling Panasonic-branded modules but through a subcontracted manufacturer.
High-Value (Gold) Brands
The following brands are considered high-value brands by many. Some place Panasonic in this class. In our opinion, Panasonic is a premium brand.
7. Mission Solar
8. Certainteed Solar
The modules in this class come with an average of 12-15 year warranty except REC which since January 2019, offers a standard 20-year warranty on its TwinPeak and N-peak panels and an improved performance warranty with reduced degradation making it one of the best warranties on the market. And Q Cells which has begun to back its new panels with a new 25-year product warranty.
With efficiency ratings up to 21.7%, some place REC Solar among the premium brands but there is more dissent than agreement in that. The efficiency ratings reach up to 19% for Winaico and 20.1% for Q Cells.
These brands are fighting to move into the premium class and have begun to offer higher warranties. For instance, the latest Q cells G6+ Duo panels are backed by a new 25 year product warranty and improved long term performance warranty with 83% rated output after 25 years.
Most of these panels are not widely available in the local market and have to be imported. This adds to the costs of investment.