Why Solar PV Panel Quality Matters – Even More Than You Think

Today I would like to talk about solar PV panel quality – and why it matters even more than you think.


If you’ve been looking into reducing your energy bills then solar PV is an awesome option, but there are a lot of different manufacturers out there and there’s a lot of claims around efficiency and who has the best panel. With this article I’d like to help explain a bit more about solar PV panels, what can go wrong with them, what questions you should ask and who in my opinion is the best investment and why. 

You are potentially about to make a significant investment in a solar PV system for your home or business, and some people make the mistake, like I did when I first got into solar PV more than 13 years ago, that “A solar panel is a solar panel, what differences could there be between one manufacturer and another? We’ll just take what the supplier is offering and the cheaper the better.” 

How wrong that opinion would turn out to be for me as I’ll explain further throughout this article. 

It was when my wife and I were walking across a field carrying a Sharp solar panel to be installed and we realised how flimsy it was (the frame was bending in our hands), it kick-started a conversation that went along the lines of: 

  • “Crikey, this solar panel’s a bit flimsy? “ 
  • “Do you think it’ll survive it’s warranty?
  • “I hope so, otherwise we’ll have a pretty annoyed customer and it’s fairly pointless installing something that’s going to landfill in the time period.
  • “Well, we’re building a business for the long-term, why don’t we find the best manufacturers with the best warranties and install them to an excellent standard so we’re really minimising the risk for our customers and the environment.

 And so began our journey into delivering outstanding solar installations using the world’s best kit.  

Having offered maintenance & servicing callouts for years we’ve seen the great, the good, the bad and the ugly of solar PV. And the purpose of this post is to shine a light on Quality so that we can demand better of all manufacturers. Not only in our industry but also beyond so that it becomes standard practice for the environmental and social costs to be placed above the profiteering, exploitative and destructive business models that some manufacturers use. 

So you’re thinking of investing in a solar PV system to reduce your energy bills, what you choose to put on your roof is the most important choice you will make as this is the most expensive area of the system to find and fix faults. Therefore minimising your risk for faults on the roof is what this is all about. 

To give you a brief overview of where a solar panel can differ in quality at a very basic level, there are numerous key components to most solar PV panels: 

Key Component Parts of a Solar Panel 

  • Glass 
  • Frame 
  • Laminate Backsheet 
  • Junction Box (with blocking diodes) 
  • Silicone Cells 
  • Intercell connections 

Depending on the quality of manufacturing and materials will instantly affect what can go wrong with a solar PV panel. 

What can go wrong? 

  • Potential Induced Degradation 
  • Light Induced Degradation 
  • “Snail-Trail” AKA Micro-cracks 
  • Laminate backsheet failure (allowing moisture in) 
  • Junction Box failure (allowing moisture in) 
  • Blocking diode failure 
  • Hot-spots 
  • Intercell Connection Failure 

Image: Recent outdoor hotspot testing of Maxeon 6 AC vs. new competitor offerings

Without diving into the technical ins and outs of how and why each of these issues occur, the above issues will manifest as complete solar panel failure and therefore PV system shutdown or, possibly worse, significant degradation of performance that you may not pick up on for several years. 



So the next step in this research into solar PV panels as an investment is to ask: 

What happens if something goes wrong with a solar panel? 

As I mentioned, when something goes wrong, your PV system will either stop generating or produce less power than it should. And unless a solar panel has caught fire (which is very rare, we’ve not seen a panel fire in 15 years so long may that continue!) or melted or cracked significantly, it won’t be obvious what the issue may be. 

You should then call your installer (or us!) to investigate. 

Your installer should try to diagnose the issue remotely first and then the next step is to visit site and carry out some tests. Normally there’s a callout fee (unless like with our own customers our callout fee is waived if your system is under our workmanship warranty and the manufacturer’s warranty). 

Then, if the fault is on the roof (i.e. the solar PV panels) we then need to organise a roof inspection. This means access costs and labour costs. 

Once we’re on the roof it can be a lottery as to how long it takes us to find the fault depending on what the fault may be. 

If the solar PV panel laminate backsheet is bubbled and full of water, or if the Junction Boxes fall apart as we lift a solar panel, we can find this fault reasonably quickly and if the same issue is with 2 or 3 or more panels on the same array then we are safe to say that the solar panels are on their way out and need replaced. 

However, less obvious may be PID where the voltage has essentially been sucked out of the solar panels gradually meaning the power output is at 80% or less of what it should be. 

Even less obvious may be that the gradual degradation of the laminate backsheet and frame are allowing condensation in which causes the system to go into standby until the moisture evaporates. 

Once we’ve identified the faulty solar panel(s) the next step is raising a warranty case with the manufacturer. And this can be a painful process. 

The worst companies we’ve ever supported a customer through a warranty case were Canadian Solar and LG. 

In the case of Canadian Solar we found 3 panels with identical intercell connection faults causing the laminate backsheet to melt and showing up as no system operation. This was a 3-year-old system and after 6 months of back and forth Canadian Solar agreed to ship 3 replacement panels to the customer but the customer would have to pay the 300 Euro shipping fee. And none of the solar PV engineers time (ours) nor the scaffolding costs were covered.  The customer was concerned that more panels might fail and it took a further 6 months for Canadian Solar to agree to compensate the customer to replace all 28 of their panels. 

Another case with LG was one where the string of LG panels after a few years was causing Low Insulation Resistance. LG wouldn’t accept our test results after the first callout and wanted us to attend site and test every single panel which we duly did proving that the insulation resistance on most of the panels was below what would allos the system to work. LG wouldn’t accept the results again and then proceeded to gradually ignore the customer until the customer decided to cut their losses and change their solar panels at their own expense. 

And I know I’ve singled out Canadian Solar and LG here but over the years we have seen every single manufacturer on the market have a failure with their panels.  Even the best manufacturers have failures. 

As you’ve seen from these cases, having a fault on the roof is expensive. You have multiple visits to site, roof inspections, scaffold costs, admin time with reports and evidence to manufacturers. System down time. Stress. Money, unanticipated expenses. More stress. 

So What Can I Do to Mitigate the Risk of Panel Failure: 

  1. Research who is the best? That’s not as easy as you think as most manufacturer’s claim to be the best! 
  2. Who stands by their product? Which warranty will cover labour and scaffold costs if their panel fails? 
  3. Which manufacturers are ethical and responsible?  

Of these 3 points, I know of only one solar panel manufacturer who offers a comprehensive warranty that covers labour and access costs and that SunPower – you can find out more about them here: 

We have tested their warranty, yes one of their panels failed recently, and they were good to their word and reimbursed all of costs with no cost to the customer. Happy days. 

They also have Cradle2Cradle certification and are a market leader in their manufacturing processes and supply chain to minimise their environmental impact and ensure there’s not a high environmental or social cost to their product.


Maximising Longevity and Performance of Solar PV Systems | Ceiba Renewables Scotland

A well-functioning and effective solar photovoltaic (PV) system is a result of diligent planning, professional installation, and ongoing maintenance. As an investment in both your property’s value and our planet’s sustainability, it is crucial to ensure that your solar PV system operates optimally throughout its lifespan. By focusing on long-term performance, you can maximise both the financial and environmental benefits that solar energy has to offer.

In this article, Ceiba Renewables provides valuable insights and practical advice on maintaining the performance and longevity of your solar PV system. We will discuss the factors that influence solar panel lifespan, as well as preventative measures and best practices for preserving the efficiency of your system over time. Our goal is to empower you with the knowledge and guidance needed to enhance your solar PV system’s durability, maximising its potential to deliver clean, renewable energy for years to come.

1. Factors Influencing the Lifespan and Performance of Solar PV Systems

A solar PV system’s long-term performance is influenced by various interrelated factors. By understanding these factors, you can make informed decisions to ensure the vitality and efficiency of your solar PV system:

a. Quality of Components: Investing in high-quality solar panels, inverters, and mounting systems is instrumental in extending the lifespan and maintaining the performance of your solar PV system. Superior components often come with more extended warranties and higher efficiency rates, ensuring a reliable and robust solar system.

b. Installation Practices: A professional and meticulous installation process is vital for optimising your solar PV system’s performance. Proper mounting, angling, and wiring, all contribute to the efficiency and durability of your solar power system. A well-installed solar system minimises the risk of component failures, system degradation, and premature ageing.

c. Environmental Conditions: Weather conditions, such as temperature fluctuations, snowfall, and natural disasters, can impact the performance and lifespan of a solar PV system. To mitigate these risks, it is crucial to account for local environmental conditions when designing and installing a solar PV system.

2. Preventative Maintenance and Periodic Inspections

Proactive maintenance and regular inspections play a vital role in preserving the long-term performance of your solar PV system:

a. Cleaning Solar Panels: Regular solar panel cleaning is essential to maintain their efficiency. Panels should be cleaned at least once a year, as dirt, dust, and debris can prevent sunlight from reaching the solar cells, reducing energy output.

b. Inspecting Mounting Structures: Periodic inspection and maintenance of mounting structures are critical for ensuring the stability and integrity of your solar panels. Loose components, corrosion, or wear and tear should be detected and addressed promptly to avoid potential damage to the system.

c. Inverter and Wiring Maintenance: Regularly inspecting and maintaining the inverter and wiring will help you avoid component failures and detect issues early on. Regular component checks will ensure optimal performance of your solar PV system.

3. Monitoring System Performance

Continuous monitoring of your solar PV system’s performance will help you detect and address inefficiencies, preserving the system’s long-term functionality:

a. Monitoring Equipment: Installing monitoring equipment, such as performance trackers and data loggers, will provide you with insights into your solar PV system’s operation. These tools allow you to track energy output, identify underperforming components, and detect potential issues before they escalate.

b. Benchmarking Energy Output: Regularly benchmarking your solar PV system’s energy output against its expected performance can help you identify efficiency losses and address them in a timely manner, ensuring optimal performance throughout your system’s lifespan.

4. Upgrading and Optimising Your Solar PV System

Strategically upgrading components and optimising configurations can contribute to extending the lifespan and maintaining the long-term performance of your solar PV system:

a. Replacing Outdated Components: Over time, some components in your solar PV system may become obsolete or less efficient. Replacing outdated components with newer, more advanced alternatives can improve system performance and maintain efficiency.

b. Optimising Configurations: As your energy consumption patterns change, adjusting your solar PV system’s configuration may be required to maximise efficiency and cater to your evolving energy needs. Configuring your system based on your current energy usage will help you capitalise on the system’s full potential.


Extending the lifespan and maintaining the long-term performance of your solar PV system is an essential aspect of maximising the financial and environmental benefits of renewable energy. By understanding the factors that influence system performance, establishing proactive maintenance practices, and continuously monitoring efficiency, you can ensure that your solar PV system delivers clean, reliable energy for years to come.

Ceiba Renewables is committed to providing expert guidance, design, consultancy, project management, and installation services to help you make the most of your solar PV system. Partner with Ceiba Renewables, solar energy specialists, and unlock the enduring potential of solar PV, ensuring your renewable energy investment remains a powerful force for change in the UK’s energy landscape.

Ceiba Renewables Proud to Become Tesla Energy Certified Installer

TE Certified InstallerCeiba Renewables are proud to announce that we have become a Tesla Energy Certified Installer. Tesla are renowned for their high performance electric vehicles from which they have adapted their battery technology in the form of the Tesla Powerwall.

We’re delighted to become a Tesla Energy Certified Installer after a lengthy selection process and we can now offer the Powerwall to customers who are keen to utilise this battery storage technology to enhance their solar PV savings and minimise their reliance on the grid.

Combined with Solaredge inverter technology we can adapt the Powerwall to all situations, including retrofitting to existing PV systems.

We are currently carrying out surveys and taking orders for the Tesla Powerwall now and hope to begin installing at the end of June, start of July. If you’re keen to take advantage of this revolution in battery storage get in touch and we’ll be delighted to help.