Truth is harder to come by in the solar industry than you might think, given its collection of tree-huggers, scientists and followers of Zen! Unfortunately, the utopic conditions under which the solar industry rates its products are simply never around here on mother earth. Ratings were designed by scientists to promote their new discovery, rather than thinking of the everyday usage in which customers would need to depend on the ratings given. I’ll even admit openly that I was taken by the paradigms of an industry without self-regulation, played by its rules for a while, and won. I have discovered that the path to sustainability and growth in anything we do in life is littered with one common thing no matter what you do..the truth! And that is how I now intend on leading my company’s rating protocol for our solar products.
A disturbing current phenomena that must be taken seriously is the one of false power reporting. Today, we can go to major retailers and find panels that output 8Watts under the standard test conditions but are being claimed at 15Watts! Even under those “utopic” conditions, these panels do not meet industry standards. If our industry doesn’t self-regulate soon, the courts or governments will. ICP has taken one such competitor to court in the USA for false advertising. I’ll keep you informed of the progress of that lawsuit here. This action was taken because there is no regulatory body, so consumers are left to fend for themselves. I’ll be damned if we are going to let them get away with fraud! If these guys expect us to lay low and let them scrap the reputation of solar, I’ve got news for them. Not me. Not happening. Not now. Not ever.
Governments have been quick to regulate “on-grid” panels. In the “off-grid” market, the ultimate regulation is YOU, the customer. I’m talking about applications like RVs, boats, gate openers, fence chargers, fish finders, or camping where you would not be able to measure outputs as easily. I viewed an ad on canadian TV for a solar panel by a large canadian retailer, with the charger draped over a tent, supposedly energizing a powerbox. It would take that solar panel 12 sunny days to fully recharge that battery when its facing the sun with never a cloud in the sky or anyone ever shading it! But you wouldn’t know it from the commercial! What if the campers are depending on that solar panel to quickly recharge the battery to give them light or heat food? If there’s a “sucker born every minute” there are likely to be tens of thousands of sucker-canadians by the end of this summer! We’ve invited this retailer to come to the table and try to figure out language that the entire industry would be held to…unfortunately they don’t seem interested in such candor..for now.
When someone connects solar panels to their house, the meter is there to tell them what’s being generated and thus, what their savings are. But for those other applications I mentioned above, you are entirely trusting the manufacturer and your reseller to be truthful. As you learn to compare what you’re offered, I urge you to ask relevant questions about testing reports, degradation over time and performance under “less than ideal” conditions. By probing just a little, you can save a lot of money and potential trouble. Some would say I’ve just lost some customers for the solar industry. Bah humbug! I’d say the contrary..in the long run our industry survives by delivering value.
The future for solar is quite simple. Tell the truth and we all win. I’m sure we’ll get there. Otherwise, we might as well go fishing…with our solar-powered fish finder in tow!
You can view an article on just such topic here,or read a commentary on our posting here