A quality shift in Aussie solar market

Australia has traditionally been a market dominated by poor quality solar panels but that has now changed as buyers become more sophisticated. So who was the top solar PV module company for 2012?

The solar “worm has turned” in Australia according to latest research by SolarBusinessServices.

I just love data. It tells stories, depicts changes, unravels mysteries and in some cases can even reveal the future. In the last few weeks, we have been completing work on analysis of an entirely new set of data in our latest reportAustralian PV - Technologies and Brands 2013.

It tells a fascinating story about what’s going on in the hearts and minds of Australian solar consumers.

In 2009 we started collating and analysing data on PV manufacturers in Australia (and abroad) in detail.  As the years have passed, our data set has broadened and we have been able to test our statistics against a wider array of benchmarks.

Last year, we released a few snippets of information including a key statistic about the types of products consumers (or perhaps more accurately, PV retailers and wholesalers) were preferencing. Our analysis showed clearly that the majority were choosing Tier 3 and Tier 2 products over Tier 1 in Australia (see here for an explanation on the different tiers, but in short tier 3 producers tend to have low quality, less automated production methods whereas Tier 1 have very high quality control). In fact, according to several international companies I discussed this with, Australia had the highest ratio of low end product of pretty much any country in the world.

Our latest research reveals a stunning change, however.

In 2012, this worm turned and consumer’s right across the value chain bought more Tier 1 ranked product in a turn-around we have been predicting and talking about for some time.

There are a number of complex reasons for this turnaround which include changes in the buying behaviour of smaller PV retailers as a result or different market dynamics and upstream PV industry consolidation. However, driving this change is the increasing maturity of our market in my humble opinion.

Although they are thankfully few, there have been PV failures and evidence of woefully poor PV workmanship in Australia and increasing concern internationally. As if to prove the point, a friend who recently bought a home with PV already fitted asked me to drop by and find out why the system wasn’t working over Christmas. When I climbed on the roof to check the three year old PV array I found six modules that were yellowing from UV degradation of the back-sheet, had internal corrosion appearing and looked like delamination was only months away.  These modules were obviously made using completely unsuitable materials, horrendously assembled and undoubtedly not compliant with the standards that they were allegedly made to when they were type tested.

And the local supplier? Bankrupt.

As these stories spread, buyers inevitably become more selective. They are realising that all solar modules are not equal and that careful supplier selection is crucial. As market penetration expands, we are moving into new more discerning (or sceptical?) customer demographics.

Over the years one of the most common requests I have had from new market entrants is: “How do I find out about these suppliers? Where can I find a Tier ranking list and is it applicable to Australia? How do I choose a supplier who will give me good value and great support?”

This is what drove us to invest in this new research and I reckon we now have one of the best data sets on the topic.

In our new report, we have analysed a myriad of data points to develop what is arguably the most comprehensive picture ever produced of PV technology and Brand preference in Australia. We cover brands, technologies, origin, International trends and of course the all-important Tier ranking’s.

We will also be producing an Australian-ised PV Tier ranking and considering carefully what matters most to the local value chain (not just Wall Street), and also looking at the OEM branding issue, which is prevalent in Australia.

Over the coming weeks we will be finessing the final details and most importantly, pulling it all together into a format that we hope will become the benchmark for new reports every year on the changing market for PV in Australia.

There are many factors that make a leading PV brand, and Australia requires its own special blend. In 2012 our data finds it was Trina, selling 100,000 kilowatts for the year. The other brands will be revealed in detailed research report. 


Nigel Morris is the Director of Solar Business Services.

This article was originally published by SolarBusinessServices. Republished with permission.

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