Did you know that China, the world’s leading producer of solar panels, makes going solar easier for the West? China not only has ample manufacturing capability, but lots of incentives to go solar. What started as a motive to help reduce poverty in China’s underdeveloped rural areas now has them dominating the solar market, and dropping world prices by 80 percent. Installing solar panels across China is going to make life safer and more comfortable for its most vulnerable people.
Like the US, the Chinese government has taken to heart the impact of pollution on public health as well as the international vulnerabilities created by our dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas. After committing to invest the equivalent of $364 billion into renewables this decade, the solar energy market is booming worldwide.
Solar energy customers in the US benefit from their investment. Increased demand for photovoltaic technology has driven down the cost of solar panels and inverters, two of the most significant costs of going solar.
Could “made in China” mean “breaks like China”?
As widespread misconception about China’s imported products prevails, it’s in fact the manufacturers who are responsible for meeting customer quality standards. The “Made in China” label that is often associated to a number of shoddy and dangerous products are essentially goods that are approved by buyers who work for an end distributor, namely the stores we frequent. Regardless of where goods are produced, buyers dictate the quality. Reliable solar energy contractors only source superior products for new solar energy builds. There is no such thing as a “dollar store” solar panel.
Standards exist to specify manufacturing quality for goods like solar panels:
Material tolerance describes the properties of raw materials used in production, which affect performance and durability. For example, defining purity standards for metal components ensures adequate strength and reliable conductivity. Requiring resilient well-made components is paramount to producing solar panels that will last 25-30 years.
Manufacturing benchmarks specify the quality of production. These standards are custom-defined for every type of product. Components can be rejected for being a micrometer off, if exact size affects performance. Other benchmarks can specify how smooth a surface must be, or how bright lights are. In the case of solar panels, guaranteeing the photovoltaic coating on the panels is sufficiently conductive is critical for harnessing free renewable electricity from the sun.
Durability testing is a cottage industry built around stress testing products before distribution to market. Before sending items into production, manufacturers invest time and money into guaranteeing the quality of the finished product. Simulations in recreating years of environmental impacts have proven that your solar panels will withstand moisture, hail, and even tree branches.
What is most important is the concept that electricity is electricity no matter where the panels are manufactured. When a solar panel comes off the production line, it is subjected to “Standard Test Conditions” (STC) to determine how much electricity it produces. Once it is rated, it is guaranteed to produce that level of electricity (declining over time) for 25 years. So if it is rated to produce 280 Watts under STC, it doesn’t matter where the panel was produced, it will generate that level of electricity.
What about buying American?
It is not automatically unpatriotic to purchase goods from another global superpower. First of all, US companies developed solar tech as we know it today and hold the majority of renewable energy patents. The renewable energy industry has created reliable American jobs that are decidedly safer than their fossil fuel counterparts. Regardless of where the components originate, ending our dependence on fossil fuels directly benefits American families, neighborhoods, and strengthens the nation’s economy.
Right now, American manufacturers cannot keep up with the current demand for solar panels. Plus, we already consume billions of dollars in goods from China, so an investment that creates wealth and preserves health is a comparatively guilt-free decision.
There are so many reasons to go solar; namely the amazing financial benefits of ending your dependence on fossil fuels. When you consider the impact on your real estate value and the environment, buying solar panels produced overseas is beside the point. Why not take advantage of the renewable technology boom and go solar this year?