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Why you need to buy solar systems from a reputable brand

  • 12 Jun 2019

* Disclaimer : Fallon Solutions have never installed any solar systems produced by any of the companies listed as bankrupt or restructured in this article

Thanks to the increased interest in environmentally friendly and sustainable energy options across the globe, the collective interest in solar power options has gone through the roof. Whether it is a solar system for your home or office, the installation numbers increase exponentially every single year. With a booming industry however comes an increase in the amount of companies offering services, and the amount of available products.

Solar Power

In some ways this can be a positive, as the emphasis on renewable energy sources is something that we should all be getting behind, however with an increase in companies and products also prompts an increase in cheaper, not-so-great alternatives and companies that can not financially handle the warranty requirements when the products they sell do not perform (or are faulty). This results in problems for everyone… and is one of the major reasons why you need to be super careful when you are looking at purchasing and installing a solar system, and make sure you are doing your homework before buying from a reputable brand.

Solar power companies

There are a large number of solar companies that are both Australian-based and from overseas which offer solar systems for installation around the country. There are also a huge range of solar panels and inverters available to suit all types of solar needs, from very cheap to very expensive. Although some people may take a ‘cheaper is better’ approach, these options are more likely to fail in a shorter period of time and can lead to greater problems across your entire solar system. A common trend in the solar companies that are going bankrupt is that they offer a cheaper choice of solar panel or inverter and they then go insolvent following a huge influx of consumer claims under the relevant warranty. This can occur if the manufacturer does not honour these warranty claims, or where the installer was the importer themselves. Then the install company themselves, as per Australian Consumer Law carry the make good costs (which are usually, in cheaper models, more than just an isolated incident with an inverter or panel concern). Companies then have a huge amount of make good to complete in a short space of time, and can not financially support themselves through it.

A few stats to consider :

  • The CEC have around 4800 accredited solar installers on their website
  • There are around 55 solar retailers that have CEC approval
  • Over 700 solar companies have gone bankrupt or stopped trading since 2011
  • Around 1 in 5 homes sell their excess energy back to the grid
  • Around 30% of Queenslanders have solar panels fitted to their homes
Solar Power Residential

What do you do if a solar company goes bankrupt?

If you have a solar panel which should still be under warranty but the company has gone under, what do you do? With over 700 companies having gone bankrupt since 2011, there is a high likelihood that quite a few people out there are in this exact position (if we take a look at the numbers, if each of the 700-odd companies lasted on average 4 years, and installed around 250 systems a year, that means 700 companies x 250 systems x 4 years = 700,000 systems which are now ‘orphaned’). An ‘orphaned’ system is one that does not have a currently-working original installation company, which means when you call up to get some repairs or a replacement completed under warranty, there isn’t anyone there to answer the phone. And, if you are in this situation, you have two options available. The best choice is to call the electrician who installed the system, or the manufacturer of the panels and/or inverter (if that’s the issue) and see how they can help.

Solar manufacturers which have restructured, left Australia or gone bankrupt over the past years

2009 - 2010

Acquisition, Sale

  • Advent Solar (emitter wrap-through Si): acquired by Applied Materials.
  • OptiSolar (a-Si on a grand scale): OptiSolar’s utility projects were acquired by First Solar; its manufacturing line was sold to NovaSolar.
  • Ready Solar (PV installation): acquired by SunEdison.
  • Applied Solar (solar roofing): acquired by Quercus Trust.
  • Wakonda (GaAs): acquired by Siva.

Closed, Bankrupt

  • Sunfilm (a-Si): bankrupt.
  • Solasta (nano-coaxial solar): closed.
  • SV Solar (low-concentration PV): closed.
  • Senergen (depositing silane onto free-form metallurgical-grade Si substrates): closed.
  • Signet Solar (a-Si): bankrupt.

2011

Acquisition, Sale

  • Ascent Solar (CIGS): acquired by TFG Radiant.
  • Calyxo (CdTe): acquired by Solar Fields from Q.cells.
  • HelioVolt (CIGS): acquired by Korea's SK Innovation.
  • National Semiconductor Solar Magic (panel optimizers): exited systems business.
  • NetCrystal (silicon on flexible substrate): acquired by Solar Semiconductor.
  • Soliant (CPV): acquired by Emcore.

Bankrupt, Closed

  • EPV Solar (a-Si): bankrupt.
  • Evergreen (drawn Si): bankrupt.
  • Solyndra (CIGS): bankrupt.
  • SpectraWatt (c-Si): bankrupt.
  • Stirling Energy Systems (dish engine): bankrupt.

2012 - Bankrupt, Closed

  • Abound Solar (CdTe): bankrupt.
  • AQT (CIGS): closed.
  • Ampulse (thin silicon): closed.
  • Arise Technology (PV modules): bankrupt.
  • Azuray (microinverters): closed.
  • BP (c-Si panels): exits solar business.
  • Flexcell (a-Si roll-roll BIPV): closed.
  • Gadir Solar (a-Si PV): Spain-based customer of Oerlikon Solar closed.
  • GlobalWatt (solar): closed.
  • G24i (DSCs): bankrupt in 2012, re-emerged as G24i Power with new investors.
  • Inventux (a-Si): bankrupt.
  • Odersun (CIGS): bankrupt.
  • Pairan (Germany inverters): insolvent.
  • REC Wafer (c-Si): Norway operation - bankrupt.
  • Satcon (BoS): bankrupt.
  • Schuco (a-Si): shutting down its a-Si business.
  • Sencera (a-Si): closed.
  • Solar Millennium (developer): insolvent.
  • Solarhybrid (developer): insolvent.
  • SolarDay (c-Si modules): insolvent.
  • Centrotherm (PV manufacturing equipment): bankrupt and restructured.
  • CSG (c-Si on glass) : closed by Suntech.
  • Day4Energy (cell interconnects): delisted from TSX exchange.
  • ECD (a-Si): bankrupt.
  • Energy Innovations (CPV): bankrupt.
  • GreenVolts (CPV): closed.
  • Global Solar Energy (CIGS): closed.
  • Hoku (polysilicon): shut down its Idaho polysilicon production facility.
  • Konarka (OSCs): bankrupt.
  • Pramac (a-Si panels built with equipment from Oerlikon): insolvent.
  • Ralos (developer): bankrupt.
  • Schott (c-Si)v: exits c-Si business.
  • Siliken (c-Si modules): closed.
  • Skyline Solar (LCPV): closed.
  • Siemens (CSP, inverters, BOS): divestment from solar.
  • Solar Power Industries (PV modules): bankrupt.
  • Soltecture (CIGS BIPV): bankrupt.
  • Sun Concept (developer): bankrupt.
  • Sovello (Q.cells, Evergreen, REC JV): bankrupt.

2012 - Acqusition, Fire Sale, Restructiing

  • Oelmaier(Germany inverters): insolvent, bought by agricultural supplier Lehner Agrar.
  • Q.Cells (c-Si): insolvent, acquired by South Korea's Hanwha.
  • Sharp (a-Si): backing away from a-Si, retiring 160 of its 320 megawatts in Japan.
  • Solibro (CIGS): Q-Cells unit acquired by China's Hanergy.
  • Solon (c-Si): acquired by UAE's Microsol.
  • Scheuten Solar (BIPV): bankrupt, then acquired by Aikosolar.
  • Sunways (c-Si, inverters): bought by LDK, restructuring to focus on BIPV and storage.

2013

Acquired

  • Agile Energy (project developer): acquired by RES Americas.
  • Bosch (c-Si PV module): acquired by Solar World.
  • Diehl (Germany inverters): inverter division sold to PE firm mutares AG.
  • Conergy (c-Si module): Astronergy, a part of China's Chint Group, acquired Conergy's PV module manufacturing assets. Kawa Capital Management purchased the solar projects business.
  • GE-Primestar (CdTe technology acquired from PrimeStar): acquired by First Solar.
  • Global Solar Energy (CIGS): acquired by Hanergy.
  • Infinia (Stirling engine CSP): assets acquired by Israel's Qnergy.
  • MiaSolé (CIGS): acquired by China's Hanergy.
  • NuvoSun (CIGS): acquired by Dow.
  • Suntech Wuxi (c-Si): acquired by Shunfeng Photovoltaic International for $492 million.
  • Twin Creeks (kerfless Si) : IP and other assets acquired by GT Advanced Technology.
  • Wuerth Solar (installer): business turned over to BayWa.
  • Wuerth Solar (CIGS line): taken over by Manz.
  • Zenith Solar (CHP): acquired by Suncore.

Bankrupt, Closed

  • Array Converter (Module-level power electronics): bankrupt, IP to VC investor.
  • Avancis (CIGS): discontinuing production.
  • Bosch (c-Si PV module): exists module business.
  • Concentrator Optics (CPV): bankrupt.
  • Green Ray (microinverters): closed.
  • Helios Solar (c-Si modules): bankrupt.
  • Infinia (Stirling engine CSP): bankrupt.
  • Cyrium(CPV semiconductors): bankrupt.
  • Direct Grid (microinverters): closed.
  • Hoku Solar (silicon): bankrupt.
  • Honda Soltec (CIGS thin-film modules): closing.
  • Nanosolar (CIGS): closed.
  • Pythagoras Solar (BIPV): closed.
  • Solarion (CIGS): went bankrupt but restructured and in limited production.
  • SolFocus (CPV): bankrupt.
  • Sunsil (module level electronics): closed.
  • Suntech Wuxi (c-Si): bankrupt.
  • Tioga (project developer): closed.
  • Willard & Kelsey (CdTe panels): bankrupt.
  • ZenithSolar (CHP): bankrupt.

2014

Acquisition, Sale

  • Emcore's CPV business: Suncore acquired the remaining interest in Emcore's CPV business.
  • RSI (CdTe PV panels): sold to Chinese strategic - RSI, a VC-funded cadmium telluride thin-film solar module startup formerly known as Reel Solar, was acquired by an undisclosed "Chinese strategic," according to the company's CEO.
  • Solar Junction (CPV semiconductors) : sold to Saudi strategic.
  • SAG Solarstrom: bankrupt PV project developer, was sold to Shunfeng Photovoltaic, the new owner of PV panel builder Suntech, in an $85 million deal. Germany's SAG Solarstrom ranked among the top ten of PV O&M providers in the world in 2013.

Bankrupt, Closed

  • Areva's solar business (CSP): Suffering through a Fukushima-inspired slowdown in reactor sales, Ausra..
  • HelioVolt (CIGS thin-film PV): closed.
  • LDK (vertically integrated module builder): filed for bankruptcy.
  • Masdar PV (a-Si): closed its SunFab-based amorphous silicon PV factory in Germany.
  • SolarMax (PV inverters): Swiss inverter maker SolarMax's parent firm, Sputnik Engineering, filed for insolvency.
  • Sopogy (small-scale CSP): closed.
  • TEL (a-Si): withdrew from its a-Si solar business.
  • Xunlight (a-Si): bankrupt.
"While a lot of these company details now back a few years - the key fact is that since 2014 over 300 solar panel manufacturers, who had panels registered and sold in Australia with long warranties have left the country, leaving many panels and models unsupported in the product warranty and the 25 year performance warranty." - LG Energy

Solar system tips

So, how do you avoid getting into a situation like that listed above? Start by doing your research! Ensure you have looked at all the systems and companies around your area and complete as much homework as possible. Besides this, we have a few other tips that can help you make the best choice for your circumstances.

Use an established company

When looking at having a solar system installed for your home or business, it is highly recommended that you deal with reputable companies that have been operating for a period of time (at least 5 years is the recommended time - Fallon Solutions have been around for over 50 years!). Look for companies that are Australian-based and that deal with accredited models and accredited installers (if they do not install them themselves - if they do, check they are actually accredited).

Check the company are accredited

You may deal with more than one company when you have a solar system installed, or one company may be able to do it all. Either way, it is crucial that you check to see if all parties you are dealing with are Clean Energy Council (CEC) approved/accredited. The CEC are the accreditation body for the industry and provide details of accredited companies on their website.

Check the panels and inverter are accredited

It’s not just the various companies you are dealing with need to be accredited - make sure the panels and the inverter are accredited too. A register of approved inverters and modules is maintained by the CEC for options that meet Australia standards and regulations. It is super important to ensure that when you receive a quote for your new solar system, check the size, make and model against the list to ensure it is CEC approved.

Steer clear of cheap solar arrangements

A large majority of solar companies that have gone under since 2011 offered cheaper solar options which just don’t have the same lifespan and quality as the more expensive options. Don’t get us wrong, there are some suitable solar system options that aren’t too expensive however, if it seems too cheap to be true, it probably is (and will cause you a lot more problems into the future).

Fallon Solutions

Your reputable solar system specialists

If you have any questions regarding solar systems, the best brands to buy or the most appropriate system for your needs, give the qualified team at Fallon Solutions a call on 1300 762 260 or complete an online job enquiry form today. We are your Brisbane CEC accredited specialists when it comes to all things solar, so get in contact now.

* Disclaimer : Fallon Solutions have never installed any solar systems produced by any of the companies listed as bankrupt or restructured in this article

 

Resources :

LG Solar FAQshttps://www.lgenergy.com.au/faq/buying-a-solar-system/a-list-of-solar-manufacturers-which-have-restructured-left-australia-or-gone-bankrupt-over-the-past-years

Choice (What to do if your solar company goes out of business) : https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/solar/articles/what-to-do-if-your-solar-company-goes-out-of-business

Choice (How to buy quality solar PV) : https://www.choice.com.au/home-improvement/energy-saving/solar/articles/how-to-find-a-good-solar-installer 

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