In 2010, China wanted to grow their market share of solar panels in America and Europe. This caused many small, new manufacturers to pop-up and flood the market with cheap solar panels, putting American and European manufacturers out of business. As a tool to aide consumers, Bloomberg New Energy Finance developed a classification system (Tier 1, 2, and 3) that allows consumers to better understand the panels they are buying.
While the tier rankings aren’t directly based on quality, the criteria that is used by Bloomberg to determine tiers can be associated with quality. Some of the criteria have to do with age of company, research and development, and automation.
Tier 1 Panels:
- Have been in business for at least 5 years.
- Make their own panel components in-house.
- Invest heavily in research and development.
- Manufacturing process is entirely automated.
- Produce large quantities of panels per year.
Tier 2 Panels:
- Have been in business for less than 5 years.
- Buy components from Tier 1 manufacturers.
- Only invest a small amount in R&D.
- Some parts of the manufacturing process are automated, but some is done by humans.
Tier 3 Panels:
- Usually a young company.
- Do not invest in R&D.
- Use techniques of Tier 1 manufacturers.
- Manufacturing is done mostly by humans.
In-house manufacturing, research and development, and automation can all be associated with the quality of the solar panel. While some defects are unavoidable, Tier 2 and 3 panels have a much higher rate of failure than Tier 1 panels.
Harvest Energy Solutions only uses Tier 1 panels when installing a solar array.