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.
*Note: If you are looking for information on the 30% tariff levied on solar panels by the Trump Administration, read our complete analysis here.
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.)
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 $0.50 to $0.80 per watt (W) – about $0.10 to $0.30 more per watt than imported panels. The highest quality, ‘premium’ American panels may even come in around $1.00/W.
For a typical 6kW system, an additional $0.30/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.
Check out EnergySage’s list of U.S. solar panel manufacturers for more information about companies that make solar panels in America.
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 based on the most recently available data in 2018. 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.
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|
|Hanwha Q CELLS||1%||South Korea|
|MAGE Solar||< 1%||Germany|
|Perlight Solar (Zebra Energy)||< 1%||U.S.|
Three Tips for Solar Shoppers
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 thousands on their solar panel installation.
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.
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.
* 2015 Data, Residential Solar Installations, Source: GTM / SEIA