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Solar News

Rating Solar Panels: For Quality and Environmental Impact


If you are planning on putting home solar panels on your roof for the next 25 years, you have to be concerned about the quality of the solar panels. Certification by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the premier independent product safety certification organization, under stringent testing conditions is one measure of the quality of solar modules.

When a solar panel manufacturer receives UL certification, it is a milestone for the manufacturer to gain market acceptance for its panels. Consequently, the announcement earlier this week that a company in North Carolina, SBM Solar Inc. received UL Laboratory certification was an important achievement for that company. Here is the announcement on instalbiz: "The SBM, panels underwent four years of stringent, UL1703 (flat-plate photovoltaic safety) testing." According to the announcement, "SBM C-Si (crystalline silicon) panels are 40 percent lighter than conventional panels due the lesser weight of plastic as compared to glass, and capable of withstanding hail, high wind and lightning. Their low weight makes them perfect for on roofs that won't support the weight of traditional solar panels."

Now Underwriters Laboratories is going global. According to the news release:

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), a global leader in safety testing and certification, announced today the expansion of its global photovoltaic (PV) footprint near the Frankfurt/Main airport in Germany, where it opens Europe's largest photovoltaic testing and certification facility. The new Photovoltaic Technology Center of Excellence reinforces UL's commitment to drive global progress and innovation of safe and reliable solar energy technologies and equipment.

Now there is one other measure to rate your home solar panel, and that is for environmental impact. Solar Industry  Magazine reports that the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition has released a scorecard ranking manufacturers of solar modules on a range of factors, including, including environmental health and safety, sustainability, workers' rights and social justice. According to the article:

The report also found that 57% of respondents would support mandatory takeback and recycling programs in the markets where they sell solar panels. In addition, 42.8% of companies are setting aside money to finance the collection and disposal of end-of-life panels. Half of the manufacturers said that they provide recycling services free of charge.

The complete scorecard is available at online.