Where Are Solar Panels Made and Should You Care?

American-made vs imported solar panels with energysage

One of the things you may have questions about as you shop around for a solar system is where the solar panels are manufactured. This article will help you determine whether a panel’s country of manufacture should be a key consideration for you.

Does it matter where solar panel companies are based and where they make the panels?

When it comes to quality, the mention of any country’s name will evoke an association; each nation has its own brand image, which may or may not be justified. You as a smart solar shopper, however, will want to look at the facts in order to make a more well-informed decision. Our recommendation is to judge each panel by its own merits. (A good place to start is EnergySage’s Solar Buyer’s Guide.)


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What if the country of manufacture is important to me?

This doesn’t mean that country of origin is never important, of course: everyone has their own preferences. For example, many Americans would prefer solar panels made in the USA to ones that are imported, whether for patriotic reasons or because they trust the ‘American-made’ brand for quality.

American-made vs imported panel costs

American-made solar panels generally cost from 80¢ to $1 per watt (W) – about 10-30¢ more per watt than imported panels. The highest quality, ‘premium’ American panels may even come in  around $1.25/W.

For a typical 6kW system, an additional of 30¢/W translates into about $1,800, a reasonable amount to pay if the ‘Made in America’ stamp is important to you. Also keep in mind that some states may offer rebates for locally-made panels that can offset some or all of the additional cost.





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Manufacturing location vs headquarters location

If ‘country brand’ is important to you, be aware that the location of a company’s headquarters is not always the same as its factories. (For example, SunPower is a premium American brand that has manufacturing plants in both the US and the Philippines.) All else being equal, knowing that a company’s head office is relatively close or in a familiar country could help you make a decision.

Where do the top solar companies manufacture panels?

Below, EnergySage has compiled a list of the leading solar panel companies active in the US market in 2015. The table is broken down by each company’s market share, headquarters location, manufacturing facility locations and overall quality ranking.

The key takeaways from the table below are that: 1) no single country dominates the market (although the US and China do appear most frequently), and 2) there is little to no correlation between country of manufacture and the company’s quality ranking.

best solar energy companies worldwide

Exhibit: List of solar panel makers in the US by residential market share and country of manufacture*

Solar Panel Manufacturers

Approx. U.S. Market Share*

Company Headquarters

Solar Panels Manufactured in…

Manufacturer quality ranking

1SolTech

< 1%

U.S.

U.S.

Standard

Aleo

2%

Germany

Germany, China

Standard

Axitec

< 1%

U.S.

Germany, China, Taiwan

Standard

Canadian Solar

6%

Canada

China, Canada

Standard

Centrosolar

< 1%

Germany

China, Germany, U.S.

Standard

Conergy

< 1%

Germany

India

Standard

Eoplly

< 1%

U.S.

China

Economy

ET Solar

2%

China

China

Standard

Hanwha SolarOne

1%

China

China

Standard

Hyundai

< 1%

Korea

South Korea

Standard

Itek

< 1%

U.S.

U.S.

Standard

KYOCERA Solar

2%

Japan

Mexico, U.S.

Economy

LG

6%

Korea

Korea

Standard

Lightway

< 1%

China

China

Standard

MAGE Solar

< 1%

Germany

U.S., Germany

Standard

Perlight Solar (Zebra Energy)

< 1%

U.S.

U.S.

Standard

Phono Solar

1%

China

China

Standard

REC Solar

8%

U.S.

Singapore

Standard

ReneSola

4%

China

China, Japan

Standard

Sharp Solar

4%

Japan

U.S., Japan

Standard

SolarWorld

4%

Germany

U.S., Germany

Standard

SunEdison/MEMC

0.5%

U.S.

South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Italy, U.S., Japan

Standard

Suniva

2%

U.S

U.S.

Standard

SunPower

17%

U.S

China, Mexico, Phillipines

Premium Plus

Suntech

2%

China

China, Japan, U.S.

Standard

Trina Solar

17%

China

China

Standard

Winaico

<1%

China

Taiwan

Standard

Yingli Solar

17%

China

China

Standard

Three Tips for Solar Shoppers

  1. Homeowners who get multiple quotes save 10% or more

    As with any big ticket purchase, shopping for a solar panel installation takes a lot of research and consideration, including a thorough review of the companies in your area. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) recommended that consumers compare as many solar options as possible to avoid paying inflated prices offered by the large installers in the solar industry.

    To find the smaller contractors that typically offer lower prices, you’ll need to use an installer network like EnergySage. You can receive free quotes from vetted installers local to you when you register your property on our Solar Marketplace – homeowners who get 3 or more quotes can expect to save $5,000 to $10,000 on their solar panel installation.

  2. The biggest installers typically don’t offer the best price

    The bigger isn’t always better mantra is one of the main reasons we strongly encourage homeowners to consider all of their solar options, not just the brands large enough to pay for the most advertising. A recent report by the U.S. government found that large installers are $2,000 to $5,000 more expensive than small solar companies. If you have offers from some of the big installers in solar, make sure you compare those bids with quotes from local installers to ensure you don’t overpay for solar.

  3. Comparing all your equipment options is just as important

    National-scale installers don’t just offer higher prices – they also tend to have fewer solar equipment options, which can have a significant impact on your system’s electricity production. By collecting a diverse array of solar bids, you can compare costs and savings based on the different equipment packages available to you.

    There are multiple variables to consider when seeking out the best solar panels on the market. While certain panels will have higher efficiency ratings than others, investing in top-of-the-line solar equipment doesn’t always result in higher savings. The only way to find the “sweet spot” for your property is to evaluate quotes with varying equipment and financing offers.

For any homeowner in the early stage of shopping for solar that would just like a ballpark estimate for an installation, try our Solar Calculator that offers up front cost and long term savings estimates based on your location and roof type. For those looking to get quotes from local contractors today, check out our quote comparison platform.





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* 2015 Data, Residential Solar Installations, Source: GTM / SEIA

13 thoughts on “Where Are Solar Panels Made and Should You Care?

    1. Dennis

      Craig,

      First Solar manufacturers a thin film module that is based off of CdTe technology. Their modules are not as effective in reducing LCOE on a limited space like a rooftop as c-Si based modules. This is the reason why First Solar focuses on utility scale projects.

      Reply
  1. Margot

    Thank you for preparing this list! We are working on a LEED green home renovation and are also seeking to use Made in USA building materials. -Takoma Park, Maryland

    Reply
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  5. David Onyeri

    Hi,
    Thanks so much your list is really helpful. Do you have any lists for top Deep Cycle Battery companies especially AGM, Gel or VLRA i.e. Non flooded types?
    There are so many brands out there but we don’t k ow who to trust and source from.

    Reply
  6. Carlos Eduardo

    Has anybody hear about bluesun from china? , there is not much or any reviews from that company but they are in the Alibaba top sellers. Recently opened a big industry in Brasil.

    Reply
  7. Robert Christie

    The most important question is the net energy cost of producing, transporting, and installing panels vs. the total energy they produce. I read a report of research indicating that unless a panel is produced geographically near the location of its use, the net energy is negative.

    I can’t find the source. Has anyone heard of this research? It seemed solid and if accurate is very important.
    Thanks.
    Robert Christie
    zunioso@gmail.com

    Reply

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