Watt is a Watt?

P=V*A. Most of us learned this formula early on in our educational cycle. Watts equals Volts times Amps.
In the solar industry, watts are used to measure output under standard test conditions (lab utopic conditions for a crystalline solar cell or module). My earlier blog entries address the issues of relevance of the testing protocol, so for this time, I want to ask you if you know what a watt is, what does it do for you, and if any other question is really important for you to determine your own needs? I’m a person who has been in the solar industry for 17 years running and I still can’t see its importance for off-grid applications.
ICP has twice changed the paradigms of the industry and we’re about to do the same. I won’t be so naive as to post our strategy for 2006 because I know that our competition, which often mimics ICP, are avid readers of this blog and our websites. What I will write is that a huge shift is about to occur in the off-grid industry and we’re going to lead the way.
I can already sense that retailers, who have become aware of the legal challenges of certain “characters” in our industry that are selling fake-rated panels, are going to move up the quality ladder in terms of offering products that are fairly rated if only because they care about their reputations. West Marine, the world’s largest marine accessory retailer, dumped a certain vendor recently because of their totally faked ratings. When WM discovered the “watt fraud”, they turned to ICP for legitimate solutions and are now enjoying tremendous uptake in customer satisfaction and sales rates.
The next step will be for retailers to govern themselves according to an agreed industry standard beyond simply the wattage rating. Costco, to their credit, agreed to testing panels BEFORE putting them on their shelves to verify conformity with ALL legal requirements. As a result, ICP was selected as vendor on this basis. The vendor they had originally chosen refused to even submit samples for testing…what does that tell you about their confidence in their product?
In Canada, Canadian Tire launched a new range of solar panels and I’m hoping that their Eliminator brand products will now meet their rated claims and that they will also advise consumers of the true final power output after degradation in the sun (sadly they are made by the vendor who was “outed” in Kenya). This is something we’ve been pressing them to do for over a year. In the USA, its my hope that Northern Tools, Brunton, Sportsman’s Guide, Harbor Freight and others are all watching these moves and decide to join the trend towards equity in ratings, even if all they finally report are the true initial “watts” of their products. That would be a nice change towards truth in advertising. Despite the fact that it may mean significant changes to their current range of products, I do believe their growth in the industry will be enhanced by such moves to quality solutions.
Another paradigm shift is in the explanation of “total system cost”. When you rate the cost of a solution, we will soon help you understand the “total” cost of the system which includes everything from parts to labor to warranty. There are hidden costs in using panels that degrade over time, labor to install and mountings that no solar vendor today tells you about. What you want to know is..how much is my total cost, how long will it last and what is it really going to do for me? So we’ll even tell you savings compared to traditional energy sources!
And the last thing we’ll do is to get rid of “watts” as a measure of anything to compare with. The speed of charging your battery for your particular application and how quickly your electronics or appliances discharge them, is what you really care about.
After all, Watt is a question, not an answer. You want answers. We’ll provide them.
Tata for today,

1 Comment

  1. erica says:

    this is really cool for young kids to look at. Your blog is very educational. Thanks for sharing.

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