Major US residential solar lease provider Sunrun has partnered with due diligence company SolarBuyer on a quality assurance programme for its PV systems.
The initiative will subject the modules and inverters used in Sunrun’s systems, and their manufacturers and their factories, to rigorous testing and ongoing monitoring that go beyond industry requirements.
Although modules and other hardware on the market must be certified to various international standards, there are concerns across the industry that these do not go far enough and offer no assurance of long-term reliability.
Speaking to PV Tech, SolarBuyer co-founder Ian Gregory said: “If I were to be blunt I would say the certification process is almost ineffective [and] insufficient in determining whether a product is going to survive for its expected lifetime.
“Also, manufacturers cherry pick a small number of modules which they submit to the lab for certification and there’s no verification process to ensure that what makes up the module really is what’s inside it. So when the lab certifies a module, the question is, is it really clear what’s been certified, and when it has been certified how much does that tell you about how long that product is going to last?”
The programme developed by SolarBuyer addresses these issues by carrying out a combination of laboratory testing, factory auditing and regular inspection of finished hardware on a quarterly and annual basis. These tests assess the design, material and manufacturing quality of panels and inverters to ensure they meet Sunrun’s long-term performance and reliability requirements.
Paul Winnowski, Sunrun's chief operating officer, said: “We build and service thousands of solar systems a month and are devoted to providing the best customer experience possible by installing only high-quality equipment from world-class manufacturers who demonstrate an exemplary commitment to quality and consistency.
“With SolarBuyer, we are providing quality to consumers that is unmatched in the industry, which will play an ever increasing role in customer referrals and the adoption of home solar by even more families. Homeowners can feel assured that they have a high quality system on their roof that will reliably produce clean electricity for the long term.”
Gregory said in the absence of more exacting standards across the solar industry, it was up to buyers and investors such as Sunrun to be proactive in managing quality for the good of the industry.
“We have nearly a century of cumulative experience with panels that gives us an edge in helping customers like Sunrun who need to understand what makes a good quality solar system. And we have demonstrated a consistent track record by performing more than 140 factory audits on more than 65 different mainstream suppliers and independently inspecting thousands of solar components a year,” he added.
PV Tech will be exploring the quality issue in an in-depth special report next month.