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Solar Panel Certification: Barrier and Benefit; Reviewed by Eric Bastow

Category:
  • Indium Corporation
  • Solar
  • "I recently read an article in the April, 2009, edition of Sun & Wind Energy magazine, titled "Barrier and Benefit" by Ina Ropcke. Therein it brings to light issues of solar cell/panel certification, all the hurdles, costs and time that must be expended to obtain the certification which is so highly regarded by both manufacturer and consumer. Here is a brief summary and highlights of the article.

     

    Depending on the market one wishes to sell into, each geographic location has its regulatory body that defines the testing required for certification. In the US it is typically UL (Underwriters Laboratory); in Europe the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commision), which is also an internationally recognized body as indicated by its name; in Japan, the JIS (Japanese Industrial Standards).

     

    Certification testing involves a myriad of tests all designed to insure that the panel will last 20 or more years and be safe for people and the environment. It includes a battery of tests examining the mechanical strength, measuring its ability to withstand wind and snow, exposure to the sun's UV rays, temperature and humidity cycling, etc. And it is, by no means, an easy thing to pass. The article reports that the failure rate for IEC and UL certification is 30%. New manufacturers are especially prone to failure and are quite shocked at first. But once they have achieved certification it gives them a level of assurance that they are producing a quality product.

    "Tested certification ensures minimum standards and can thus be seen as a proof of quality."

    "The respected certifications also enable manufacturers to visibly set themselves apart from suppliers who think they can get by without the strict tests and then lower prices instead."

     

    Some manufacturers are so dedicated to quality that they perform additional testing on their own as a means of staying ahead of the competition. 

     

    Oftentimes the sense of achievement felt by manufacturers after obtaining certification is deemed such a triumph that a press release is made heralding the occasion. And rightly so, because the process can take six months and cost tens of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, in many cases, a small change in design puts the testing back to "square one". The issue of testing can further be complicated when certification is performed in another country. Shipping costs and getting samples past customs come into play. One means of offsetting the "international issue" is to locate company branches in geographical proximately to certification labs.

     

    All in all, the article highlights the trials, tribulations and triumphs of certifying a solar panel design. Certification appears to be highly sought and virtually necessary means of going to market. Certification offers manufacturers and consumers alike a true sense of product quality." ~Eric Bastow