Quality and Value
Jason and I visited the Australian head-office of ReneSola in Melbourne to catch up with their very knowledgeable Marketing Manager, Samir Jacob. Sitting around a table made out of a Virtus II solar panel, Samir gave us the low down on ReneSola. The company started in China in 2005 as a silicon wafer manufacturer for solar panels. In 2007 they began producing their own ReneSola branded panels, and in 2008 they were listed on the New York Stock Exchange. ReneSola is now a true global powerhouse with production facilities in Turkey, South Africa, India, Taiwan as well as China, and over 30 offices worldwide across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. They also still sell silicon wafers to other solar panel manufacturers around the world.
ReneSola is recognised by Bloomberg New Energy Finance as a Tier 1 manufacturer (more about that here) and offers top quality panels, but the company does not focus on producing super high efficiency panels like Sunpower, BenQ and FirstSolar. As discussed in our Best Solar Panels Review article, there is seldom need to pay premium pricing for high efficiency. Quality and efficiency are not always related, and it’s rare for consumers to be financially better off by paying premium prices to maximise a roof space. In my opinion consumers are almost always better off to buy a quality system at a good price, thereby getting the best payback period or getting the biggest system for their money. Consumers can also be convinced to pay a premium based on the country a panel is manufactured in. However, as we have seen more and more, panels and wafers manufactured in China without a doubt offer premium quality (think Trina and Yingli) at a good price.
It’s important to note that whilst ReneSola panels may not be super high efficiency, the Virtus II temperature coefficient (Tco) is one of the lowest we have seen at -0.40%/C. We will talk more about temp. coefficient in another article, but in short this measurement tells us how well the panel will perform in hot temperatures, and Virtus II gets a big tick here. Another important factor that all quality panels must have is to be PID free. All ReneSola panels imported to Australia are certified PID free.
There are a few panel manufacturers on the market that offer similarly good value (like Trina and Canadian Solar), but ReneSola takes this a step further by also selling good value inverters and balance of system products as full packages to retailers (and in Australia directly to installers). That makes it easy to get all your products from one place and to have one point of contact for any warranty issues. ReneSola has teamed up with a number of inverter manufacturers under the Replus brand name, including an all-in-one hybrid model. In the next couple of months they will also offer Alpha ESS energy storage solution which will work with the hybrid inverter for a solar with battery storage solution. ReneSola has engineers around the world which work with a team in China to ensure these OEM offering are up to the company’s standards, and meet regulator requirements in different regions. Whilst we like that ReneSola is working with these inverter companies, we would prefer for the products not to be rebranded. Rebranding makes it difficult to know exactly what you are buying and difficult for a customer to check out reviews and information on the original manufacturer and product.
There is lots to like about ReneSola and the way they operate. They focus on manufacturing a single successful product (polycrystalline solar panels) and incorporate quality products from other manufacturers into their product offerings. This seems to make business sense and ensure quality and value. ReneSola may not offer super high efficiency, or a panel manufactured in the US or Europe, but what they do offer is a very high quality panel at a very reasonable price.