Search the Internet, and you'll find almost as many opinions on this subject as there are websites offering opinions.
Meanwhile, Consumer Reports, America's standard for unbiased evaluations of things to buy, has gone over the top in a recent issue focusing on just Tesla, but not actually endorsing them.
That basically puts solar energy consumers, at square one, scouring the internet in vain, looking for answers, but unsure of whom to trust. Even though there may be no single authoritative source identifying which solar companies make the best solar panels, here is what we at CARBON RECALL think about a handful of solar companies that are all pretty good in terms of quality, efficiency, guarantee and cost:
With claimed efficiencies of 18.6%, 22.5%, 24.1%, 22%, and 24.1% respectively (the percentage of energy, contained in sunlight hitting the panel, being converted into usable electricity), First Solar, Jinko Solar, Panasonic and SunPower make some of the most efficient solar panels for homes. Furthermore, in 2016, the National Renewable Energy Lab independently verified the best of these – Jinko Solar and SunPower's solar panels -- as achieving their claimed 24.1% efficiency.
When First Solar announced it was looking for potential buyers for its stake in 8point3 Energy Partners, it gave its upgrade to its Series 6 solar panel product as a big reason why. The Series 6 upgrade will cost a lot of money, and if the company can pull $350 million from 8point3 Energy Partners, it could be a good move long term. But when you look at First Solar's balance sheet and its costs to upgrade to Series 6, the reasoning for selling its 8point3 Energy stake doesn't quite make sense. It seems First Solar has bigger growth plans than it's letting on.
Between now and 2019, First Solar expects to upgrade 3 GW of existing plants to Series 6. In a presentation last year, management said these upgrades will cost about $0.30 per watt. The total upgrade cost would be about $900 million over the next three years. Looking at their balance sheet, First Solar had $2.0 billion in cash at the end of 2016 and expects to have $1.4 billion to $1.6 billion in net cash at the end of 2017. That's after beginning the construction for Series 6. In other words, the idea that Series 6 will require more capital than First Solar already has doesn't make a lot of sense. If Series 6 is indeed a "transformational product," it's possible First Solar sees huge market growth opportunities as the reason for capacity expansion and product upgrades.
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