First Solar has announced a $250 million warranty charge for defective panels. For about a year First Solar had a “Manufacturing Excursion” that resulted in a 4%-8% field failure rate after only a couple of years of service.
First Solar has not commented on the exact nature of the “Excursion.” Since it occurred over a period of a year and at three different manufacturing facilities, I would not call this an “Excursion” but a misunderstanding of acceptable process tolerances or allowables.
This is especially troubling because First Solar is the largest and most successful US solar manufacturer. They have the best equipment, the smartest scientists and engineers, and probably the best understanding of their products.
“We thought everything was OK. Our modeling was good. Our in-process controls were good. Our accelerated testing and certifications indicated no problems. We inspected 100% of the modules. Everything is OK.” ……Followed several years later by, ”I think we may have a problem. We didn’t know,” You could hear some upset engineer or scientist say.
Solar modules are exposed to the harshest environmental conditions and are warranted to reliably produce power for decades. Solar materials, can continue to react and degrade with heat over time. Wind and structural loads mechanically stress panels. Sealing and prevention of moisture ingression into the module is a key factor in preventing field failure. Understanding and improving environmental reliability was a manufacturing issue. Now it is a real financial issue.
I think that we can help. Plasmatreat’s Openair technology and production treatment systems have become an important tool for automated, reliable solar product manufacture.
- Openair® Cleaning of glass and metal surfaces for reliable J-box attach, rail bonding and edge sealing
- Openair® Activation of plastic junction boxes for critical and long-lasting potting adhesion
- AntiCorr® Coatings for corrosion protection and adhesion promotion.
Avoid the Excursions and stay on the path. Keep the water out and the smoke in.
As always, comments, opinions and ideas are welcome.