Solar Panel Supply Chain Issue

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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,205
Northern NH
I have been seeing various reference recently that solar panels are getting hard to get due to "supply chain issues". The big firms seem to have inventory, but the independents are limiting sales if they even have inventory.

I also see various entrepreneurs selling used panels, "reconditioned panels" or "recoated panels" on Ebay and other outlets. I really am not aware of how a panels can be reconditioned for the long run. The surface coatings (usually EVA) have been an ongoing issue with 2nd tier panels over the years and if those coatings go bad it starts out as cracking and then eventually the coating clouds up and the internal wiring can start deteriorating. It is questionable if the reconditioned or recoated units could be used in a permitted installation as they would have lost the original UL listing. . A very big Buyer Beware. I would actually take a chance on used TIer 1 panels as generally if a panel is made right to begin with its got more than 20 years life (but its output will be lower than nameplate).
 

Solarguy3500

Member
Dec 3, 2020
246
Western MA
Yes, several factors are impacting the availability of solar panels right now.

One was the recent surprise announcement by LG that they will shut down their solar panel division and exit the market. LG had been our most popular selling panels for several years, so it was a scramble to find a replacement go-to panel in short order.

Luckily, our company is part of the Amicus solar cooperative so we are in a better position than some others and were able to secure a good supply of REC panels, at least in the short term.

This tariff investigation by the Commerce Department is also causing upheaval already in the industry, even though there hasn't been a ruling on it yet by the department.


Mostly this will impact large scale projects, I think. The day it was announced I got a call from a friend who works in large scale solar who said he had just inked 4 deals for 4-5 MW projects and he was pretty sure they were going to fall apart because they can't get the panels to build the projects.
 

stoveliker

Minister of Fire
Nov 17, 2019
4,353
Long Island NY
Hm, I have LG panels (LG 360 NeON-R) installed Oct. 2018.
I don't know how soon models go out of production and so whether this is a common thing, but what happens if a panel goes bad and needs to be replaced?

I do have (Enphase) micro inverters which I guess is a good thing in this case.

Even if this is only a mechanical issue of panel sizing and mounting...?
 
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ABMax24

Minister of Fire
Sep 18, 2019
1,480
Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
I've heard of this as well, limited availability for most panels. At least 2 warehouses I spoke to are no longer taking applications for new installer accounts, they believe it will already be difficult to supply their current installers as is. It was also mentioned that certain inverters are in short supply as well.

With energy prices up more commercial projects are moving forward, I would imagine this would have a substantial impact on supply for smaller projects. In southern Alberta there is currently a 460MW facility being built, for approximately 1.3 million panels, that would build a lot of residential systems.
 
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peakbagger

Minister of Fire
Jul 11, 2008
7,205
Northern NH
Hm, I have LG panels (LG 360 NeON-R) installed Oct. 2018.
I don't know how soon models go out of production and so whether this is a common thing, but what happens if a panel goes bad and needs to be replaced?

I do have (Enphase) micro inverters which I guess is a good thing in this case.

Even if this is only a mechanical issue of panel sizing and mounting...?
LG has a good reputation for making quality panels. If they are not bad out of the box or a few months after install they should have long life. It far more likely that the panels will be damaged from external factors like "missles" (golf balls, rocks, tree branches, hail), animals (squirrels will gnaw the cables on occasion) or fire. It is highly unlikely that LG or any company will maintain inventory for any length of time to be able to replace defective panels. Ultimately if on the rare chance they made a defective run of panels that show problems years down the road is you get check. The size of the check is going to be calculated by the warranty documents that you should have received with the system. LG is a large company and probably will live up to their commitments. Other large companies that got out of Solar have done so. Generally the problem is finding what department in the company that these responsibilities have been shuffled off to.

My guess is the issue of panel replacement is going to be far more likely be a battle with an owners home owners insurance policy and unless the owner is able obtain and keep in force replacement value insurance, as the years go on the check from the insurance company for external damage will be minimal.

I am not aware of anyone having success replacing a bad panel with a non OEM replacement. I recommend that owners buy a spare panel or two up front and stash them somewhere especially if they are close out type panels.

As you are aware, with microinverters, if the panel dies you just lose the generation of that one bad panel. The trade off is that microinverters fail far more often than panels do. Enphase has had several models that have failed prematurely that have been replaced with newer models. The installers were reimbursed some amount for labor on the earlier models but that I do not think Enphase does that anymore. There is also ongoing issues with reconfiguring the communication gateways that report out the individual panel conditions out to a server. Previously the panels kept putting out power and it was an annoyance, unless SRECs were being sold, but reportedly on the newest systems a communications failure shuts the array down which if true would be enough for myself not to install them. Companies want an ongoing revenue stream from installations and they only way they get a foot in the door is to make it so the systems do not run unless they have to communicate to a company server. There are a lot of entities that want to get a chunk of the home battery management market and the logical gateway is via an existing gateway controlling the panels. Solarcity and Tesla tried to do it but that went away with the SolarCity collapse. Eversource has the Connected Solutions Program but every option requires the battery control to be routed through the inverter supplier.