LG has a long history in solar photovoltaics beginning over 30 years ago when they first began research into silicon crystalline cells. The next 20 years of research and development laid a solid foundation before LG started large scale PV module manufacturing in 2009 at their facility in Gumi, South Korea. LG solar is a subsidiary of massive LG Corporation, the South Korean multinational company with over 220,000 employees globally and total revenue in the tens of billions.
After close to 10 years of PV module manufacturing LG are now onto their fourth generation panels and produced over 2GW of panels in 2017. As a Tier 1 manufacturer holding numerous awards, ultra-efficient cell technology and industry leading warranty there are very few solar companies who can compete at this level of quality, service and reliability.
In Australia and north America, LG modules although more expensive than the competition, are very popular and it’s not hard to see why. LG panels are highly rated by customers and solar installers alike as they not only look impressive with the black anodised aluminium frames but the construction quality, detail and finish are of the highest standard.
Panel and PV Cell Technology
While most manufacturers produce a range of both mono and poly-crystalline panels, LG only manufacture mono-crystalline cells which have greater efficiency and lower degradation compared to more common lower cost poly or multi-crystalline cells. LG also use what they refer to as Lily technology (combining boron with hydrogen) to reduce the rate of light induced degradation (LID) in the P-type cells used in the LG Mono X panels.
The latest generation Neon 2 modules have firmly established LG as the leaders in multi-wire cell technology with 12 round wire busbars and the unique finger design being incorporated into all Neon 2 and Neon 2 bifacial modules. The N-type ‘Cello’ cells look impressive and improve performance and conversion efficiency. Cello technology is explained in more detail in the PV cell technology review article.
LG solar module efficiency
Mono X efficiency - up to 18.3%
Neon 2 efficiency - up to 19.6%
Neon R efficiency - up to 21.4%
LG along with SunPower are the only two manufacturers producing high volume IBC or Interdigitated Back Contact N-type cells. The LG Neon R IBC cells use 30 busbars integrated into the rear side of the cell which means there are no visible busbars on the front of the cell and in turn no cell shading. This design using high purity N-type doped silicon has extremely low degradation, lowers electrical resistance, improves high temperature performance and enables the Neon R modules to achieve an impressive 21.4% efficiency (370W).
LG Residential solar Panels
Mono X Plus - 300W
LG has a relatively small range of modules for residential purposes but they cover all applications starting with the entry level Mono X 300W modules. The Mono X use 4 Busbar P-type Mono cells in a standard 60 cell panel however the 15 year product warranty and 25 year performance warranty is above average. Note not currently available in Australia.
See full details and specification sheet here - LG Mono X panels
Neon 2 - 330-335W
The Neon 2 range with 330 to 335W power ratings utilise the sophisticated multi-wire 'Cello' technology in a standard 60 cell panel. With an impressive 25 year product warranty on top of the 25 year performance warranty the Neon 2 range are some of the highest performance modules available. See more about Cello cells in our PV cell technology article.
See full details and specification sheet here - LG Neon 2 335W panels
Neon R - 360-370W
The Neon R is the flagship of the LG range. With a module efficiency of 21.4% the Neon R modules generate an impressive 370W from a panel only slightly larger than a standard 60 cell panel. This performance is due to the high grade IBC N-type cells used. Naturally the Neon R modules also come at a premium price, being around 35% more expensive than more common mono P-type panels. However, with the price comes ultra-high build quality, long life, performance and efficiency.
Note the 370W modules are only currently available in Europe and North America. LG are also working on further technology advancements to increase efficiency and boost the Neon R module power up to 380W by early-mid 2019.
LG Commercial and Bifacial Modules
LG also manufacture a range of large format (72 cell) solar modules for larger scale commercial applications using the same advanced cello multi-wire technology, as well as dual sided bifacial modules which can increase power output by up to an additional 27%. See more about bifacial technology here.
Panel strength and durability
LG have engineered extremely strong double wall aluminium frames on all modules which are rated well above average with an impressive 6,000 Pa rating on the front side and 5400 Pa on rear side for wind loading, this is more than double the industry standard 2400 Pa wind rating.
The Neon 2 modules recently underwent static load testing by SECAust Engineering consultants in Darwin Australia and were able to withstand an incredible 10,000 Pa load without failure, see report here. The extremely high strength and stiffness of the Neon 2 would allow the LG modules to be mounted in any high wind load regions around the world. The Neon R however has an even stronger aluminium frame profile with screwed fastener corner design shown below.
The LG modules are rated to the highest level of corrosion resistance and can be installed in coastal locations with high levels of salt mist (maximum severity of 6), in addition to ammonia resistance.
Quality and Performance
To ensure no cells with defects or micro-cracks get through LG use two EL flash tests during production both before and after lamination. The high grade N-type cells used by LG have exceptional long term performance in regards to low light induced degradation (LID). LID is a common problem as all solar cells reduce output over time with the average power loss being 3% in the first year and approximately 0.8% per year after resulting in an average of 80-82% original rated capacity after 25 years. However LG cells warrants a much lower rate of degradation which improves overall performance and increased energy generation with a claimed 86-88% rated capacity remaining after 25 years.
To ensure reliability and long term performance LG perform strict quality control and testing throughout the manufacturing process with the LG test laboratory certified by the 4 major testing laboratories VDE, UL, TUV Rheinland and Intertek. The latest 2018 results from independent testing organisation DNV GL rated the LG Mono X as as a 'top performer' in the annual 'PV Module Reliability Scorecard Report'.
Warranty and service
LG is one of only two manufacturers offering both a 25 year product and performance warranty, which is offered on the Neon 2 and Neon R panels. SunPower is the other manufacturer to offer a 25 year product & performance warranty while the majority of other manufacturers only provide a 10 year product warranty period. The LG performance warranty is also well above average with a minimum 86% retained capacity after 25 years on the Mono X & Neon 2 and an impressive 88% on the Neon R. To offer this kind of warranty shows the high level of confidence LG hold in their products.
LG Product Warranty
LG Mono X - 15 years
LG Neon 2 - 25 years
LG Neon R - 25 years
LG Performance Warranty
LG Mono X - 25 years to 86%
LG Neon 2 - 25 years to 86%
LG Neon R - 25 years to 88%
The care taken is also highlighted in the way LG distribute and ship panels around the world with all modules stacked and secured with tough plastic moulded corner sections for secure transportation. This is important as many in the industry know that loading or stress placed on modules during transportation can result in micro-cracking and cell failure which usually does not become evident until a few years after installation.
LG have provided us with information supporting the extremely low warranty claims due to manufacturing faults being less than 20 panels out of the roughly 800,000 panels sold in Australia over the past 8 years.
With strong company support, extremely low warranty claims and a very good reputation for service, LG solar modules are certainly one of the best choices available.
LG Electronics have been nominated multiple times by Corporate Knights as one of the top 100 most sustainable corporations and have stated they are committed to continuously improving sustainability, reducing emissions and moving closer to a circular economy. However LG only rate as above average on the Solar Scorecard so some more work can be done. See the full LG sustainability report here.
It could be argued that simply by only manufacturing high grade longer lasting solar panels LG are in effect more sustainable than many other manufacturers who have had panels fail only a few years after installation. As faulty panels require replacement this essentially uses double the resources.
Like most things, premium equipment comes at a premium price. LG panels do cost more than the competition with the Neon 2 coming in at around 25% more than standard mono modules but you get a lot more for your money. Solar is a longer term investment so it is necessary to take into account performance and degradation rates over the life of the system.
Based on LG's solid history of reliability we have little doubt after 10-15 years LG's N-type Neon 2 and Neon R panels would be noticeably out performing most other lower cost P-type panels on the market. Even a seemingly small amount of 6-8% higher power output adds up to a significant amount of additional energy when totaled over the annual generation. With several large panel manufacturers facing financial difficulties, considering the size and history of LG corporation there is little doubt LG will also be around to backup any potential warranty claims in the future.