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Quality makes all the difference

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By Max B. Koentopp, Senior Manager of the Analysis and Modelling Group, Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH; Nicole Nelles, Project and Process Manager, Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH; Sandra Scholz, Expert Quality Engineer, Hanwha Q CELLS GmbH

The aim of this paper is to shed some light on what difference the quality of a PV product makes to the customer and how much effort is required to deliver it. From the customer’s point of view, the quality of a PV product is key to a worthwhile investment, since the value of a PV system is defined by its cost compared with its yield over the entire lifetime, or the levelized cost of electricity (LCOE). But while many manufacturers make more or less the same promises, in this paper a closer look is taken at what is really involved in living up to those promises. If quality is understood to be a fundamental attitude that is reflected in every single process along the entire value chain, only then will this eventually lead to high-quality products and services. The paper discusses in detail the principles, methods, tests and processes required to secure a superior quality brand.

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There have been encouraging signs in recent months of changing fortunes for PV equipment suppliers after a difficult period of consolidation. Shipment figures, actual and forecast, have in many instances seen an upswing, as booming markets in Japan, China and the US continue to drive demand, even as some European markets continue to dwindle. It’s probably too early to call the beginnings of a new PV technology buy cycle, but it seems more a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if ’ now, and analysts have pointed to mid-2014 as the likely point when supply and demand will be in some kind of equilibrium. Clearly the implication of this is that if demand continues to rise beyond this point, supply will have to keep up, so manufacturers will have to invest in new capacity.

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