Over the past few years, the cost of solar panels has significantly reduced, with panels now priced anywhere between one hundred dollars up to five hundred dollars. Price is determined by the brand of the panel, output of the panel (measured by Watts), physical size, material quality, brand and warranty period.

All panels installed by Sunlife energy have had undergone stringent testing at our factory and are on the Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved product list.  We only use Tier One and Tier Two branded panels and our range includes Hanwha, Q Cells, Jinko and Seraphim.

There are two different types of panels that we offer – Mono-crystaline and Poly-crystaline – which we believe offer value, performance and quality.

istock_27604219_large-300x228Ever heard about ‘Tier 1’ or ‘Tier 2’ solar panels and wondered what it all means?

Asking the question can result in being even more confused than you were before you asked the question.

Many sales solar power sales people are quick to drop these names but have little understanding what they mean and more importantly, what it means to you.

To aid you to understand what it all means we need to have a bit of a history lesson, though I’ll try to be short.

A number of years ago, Germany was quick to pick up on solar technology, and saw the future in this type of alternative power. Not wasting time, many German companies set up producing solar panels for an eager European market.

A solar panel company is much like any other company, it needs finance and needs to convince a bank that they are a worthwhile investment. This can be hard when you have a new technology and the financial institutions have no understanding or experience in what is being produced.

To get around this problem the leading banks in Germany decided to introduce a set of benchmarks, which would be set against the solar panel manufacturers. These benchmarks were very high but enabled the companies able to meet them to obtain the finance required for their business. The German banks referred to these successful companies as having ‘bankability.’

The scaling of the benchmarks set by the German banks were in three levels. Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3. Tier 1 was the highest level and was the only level that was able to be recognized by the German banks as worthy for any form of financial investment.

Once the tier system was in place the benchmark system became a very useful tool for providing reassurance to the consumer that the products they were buying were at a certain level of quality.

So what are the differences between the Tier 1 manufacture and the lower levels?

Tier 1 manufactures of solar panels have to meet the following requirements:

1.    The manufacturing process is subject to very strict and regular audits
2.    The rigorous testing of the panels are done on recognized German manufactured equipment
3.    The manufacture must be vertically integrated (ie they are involved in more than one value chain)
4.    There must be a demonstration of a large amount of leading edge research and development.
5.    The company has been involved in at least 3 major projects of over 1.5 mega watts
6.    The production capacity of the manufacturer must be over 1 Giga Watt of power per year.

The philosophy behind such high benchmarks is that the high volumes in production will result in tolerances in manufacturing quality being very tight and therefore giving the customer the reassurance of knowing they are buying the best solar panels in the world today.

A Tier 2 manufacture is a much smaller company. The 3 main characteristics that define a Tier 2 manufacturer are:

1.    They invest in little if any research and development. The company relies on the larger manufactures to advance the solar power technology.
2.    Only part of their manufacturing plant is robotic. Tier 1 manufactures are almost completely robotic to ensure very high levels of consistency in quality. Tier 2 level manufactures do not have this capability in their production.
3.    They have a track record of production of only between 2 to 5 years. Tier 1 manufactures are far more established.

A Tier 3 is even smaller than the Tier 2 and has the following 4 main characteristics that define them:

1.    They have no research or development ability.
2.    They assemble the panels and have no ability to manufacture the silicon cells.
3.    Human production lines are utilized as they do not have any advanced robotics within their plant.
4.    The company has been in operation between 1 to 2 years.

Now for a word of advice. Many companies claim they use Tier 1 panels but fail to state which manufacture made them. It is always important to know who made the panels and they should be labelled with the name of the manufacturer.

When you talk to Solar light energy  we are proud to state the brand of panels we install because we only use Tier 1 quality for our customers. It is this commitment to quality that has made Solar light energy the number one installer in Australia.