SolarWorld Urges Industry to Respond to Reports of Rising Solar-Panel Defect Rates

  SolarWorld Urges Industry to Respond to Reports of Rising Solar-Panel Defect
  Rates

Company issues call in light of recent article in The New York Times

Business Wire

HILLSBORO, Ore. -- June 13, 2013

Today, SolarWorld called on the world solar industry to establish, embrace and
promote an industry-wide acceptable quality limit (AQL) for production of
crystalline silicon solar panels sold within the U.S. market. The company
issued the call in response to reports of rising defect rates, which threaten
the solar industry’s hard-won record of high product reliability just as solar
undergoes broader adoption and therefore scrutiny.

A recent article in The New York Times highlighted concerns about rising
defect rates, especially among imports from Chinese factories. An April 30
industry session titled “The Convergence of PV Materials, Test and
Reliability: What Really Matters?” raised similar concerns. Presenters
included a doctoral product-reliability specialist from the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory. Another presenter cited SolarBuyer data showing a sharp
rise in defect rates at a time when Chinese imports peaked. Other media
articles have called for reliability standards to address defects.

SolarWorld, the largest U.S. solar-technology provider for more than 35 years,
said without urgent attention, reports of increasing defects among crystalline
silicon solar panels could undermine low and stable defect rates that the
industry achieved in mass production beginning in the 1970s. The company’s
stance recognizes solar technology as a durable energy appliance; to win mass
adoption, it must reliably fulfill expectations of investment-worthy energy
performance, as well as safety, for many years beyond initial sales. By
definition, an industry-wide AQL standard would set a maximum acceptable
defect rate for products from any given producer.

“We in the international solar industry who competitively struggled for
decades to maximize solar’s reliability cannot now afford to watch
inexperienced producers roll back our amazing progress,” said Raju Yenamandra,
SolarWorld vice president for business development, who has worked at
SolarWorld’s site in Camarillo, Calif., since 1980.

“As consumers put money down on solar panels that come with performance
guarantees of 25 years or more, they deserve to know in advance whether their
guarantees are based on sound manufacturing and products,” Yenamandra said.
“Otherwise, warranties are not worth the paper they’re printed on.”

Affording easy access to consumers, SolarWorld’s U.S. operations stand ready
to back claims under a 25-year linear performance guarantee, now an industry
standard that the company pioneered. In contrast with defect rates reported to
exceed 5 percent among some Chinese producers, SolarWorld’s failure rate
measures up at between a tenth and a hundredth of a percentage point. Unlike
producers cited in The New York Times article, SolarWorld has never settled a
warranty claim under a non-disclosure agreement. The company also has never
suffered a product recall. These feats result not only from perfecting
internal manufacturing checks but also from decades of experience in the
field.

Moreover, like domestic competitors, the company complies with high and
transparent regulatory requirements of the U.S. and European markets where it
produces. Some companies contract out solar-panel manufacturing to foreign
factories operating in lax regulatory contexts or only assemble photovoltaic
cells into panels.

Recent history in another construction-related industry – drywall – shows just
how potent is the risk of indiscriminate adoption of untested products from
unproven producers operating in poorly regulated economies. Even today, online
news searches show that thousands of U.S. homeowners, regulators, court
officers, contractors and real estate brokers still grapple with the physical,
financial, even possible health ravages of noxious Chinese-made drywall
imported into the U.S. market from 2001 to 2005.

“With solar, the risks loom even larger,” Yenamandra said. “Solar products
must reliably produce energy for decades to warrant their investment. Further,
since they often become key parts of rooftop power plants, they must prove
safe. In that light, even scattered reports of high defect rates pose a
disproportionate risk for the technology and industry.”

About SolarWorld

SolarWorld AG manufactures solar power systems and in doing so contributes to
a cleaner energy supply worldwide. The company, located in Bonn, employs
approximately 2,600 people and carries out production in Freiberg, Germany,
and Hillsboro, USA. From raw material silicon to the solar module, SolarWorld
manages all stages of production ‒ including its own research and development.
Through an international distribution network, SolarWorld supplies customers
all over the world with solar modules and complete systems. The company
maintains high social standards at all locations across the globe, and has
committed itself to resource- and energy-efficient production. SolarWorld has
been publicly traded on the stock market since 1999. More information at
www.solarworld-usa.com

Contact:

SolarWorld Industries America
Devon Cichoski
Media Relations Manager
Office: 805-388-6388
Mobile: 805-377-2905
Devon.Cichoski@SolarWorld-USA.com
 
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