By Bryan Ekus, CEO – SolarUnited

BE SUSeveral months ago, I received  communication in the mail regarding defective materials in my automobile’s dashboard.  I have noticed that it was indeed deteriorating over the last couple of years, but never thought that Toyota would be concerned with a problem in a car that is older than 10-years old.  From this I wondered if this type of attentiveness to quality and reliability would be the equivalent for those in comparable future circumstances in the Solar PV industry.  When a company issues a recall, the company or manufacturer absorbs the cost of replacing and fixing defective products. For large companies, the costs of repairing defective materials can accumulate enormous financial losses.  Not only are there high dollar losses involved, but also an industry as a whole can agonize embarrassing long-term financial consequences from one companies misfortune.  In the pioneering days of PV we had a good impression as to where the materials and components were coming from as most manufacturing and consumption was in Europe. Nowadays, we are witnessing unprecedented transformation in our global supply chain with solar cells and modules containing parts from around the world. These units are being installed on the far corners of the earth without tangible data as to how these materials will react over time in these different environmental conditions.    The best way to analyze PV performance is through environmental stresses and exposure in the field.   Thermal cycling and high temperatures are the true test for the materials and the components that were used in the PV manufacturing. Lower costs are the key concern for module manufacturers and tremendous pricing pressure continues to be placed on the shoulders of the material and component suppliers to compete with new less recognized brands that lack field experience.    As the industry continues to expand, the rate of module failure will also be exponentially increasing.  This is mostly due to the development rate of the industry.  This also has the potential of becoming a significant problem if the information is not collected and then disseminated by the industry.  Otherwise, we will simply be making the same mistakes over and over again.  In the automotive industry when they do have a problem they have rules in place to put things right.   It is normally that the auto manufacturer, or the NHTSA, which is an U.S. governmental agency, announces that they have a situation along with remedy of how they will correct the failure.  Their solutions might not happen overnight, but they have the experience to work together through their supply chain to identify where the failure occurred and make recommendations on preventing from happening again.    Therefore, it would be in our best interest for our industry to be more open and study the examples of mature industries now, rather than when we have a quality related shortcoming.  SOLARUNITED will continue to highlight these best practices via its quality committee. Interested persons should contact us for more information of how to join the discussion.