UL warns of counterfeit certification marks on PV panels

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Counterfeit safety markings have been found on modules from Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP), according to independent global certification company Underwriters Laboratory (UL). 

The panels bear counterfeit UL marks for the United States and Canada. UL said in a statement that the panels had not been evaluated by UL to its normal safety standards and that it was unknown whether the panels comply with UL's safety requirements. 

The three ASP models in question are: AP-240PK, AP-245MK and ASP-390M.

UL said US-based SunWorks Solar was one distributor of possibly many known to be selling modules from ASP, also known as Bluechip Energy.

Although there is no suggestion SunWorks Solar is involved in the alleged counterfeiting, UL said it had alerted the distributor of the situation and that it was “co-operating” in UL’s ongoing investigations. PV-Tech was unable to reach SunWorks Solar for comment.

It has emerged that concerns have been growing over ASP products since the beginning of the year.

In February, following a request from UL, ASP issued a recall in February of 1,000 of its modules “for reasons of code compliance”. It is unclear whether the recall was for the same modules currently under investigation.

ASP’s notice said: “Certain photovoltaic products were mislabeled during the manufacturing process and according to Underwriters Laboratory, may contain components with unknown compliance to UL 1703 standards. Such components have not been evaluated by the laboratory for compliance with the appropriate Standards for Safety.”

Ray Johnson, president of US Solar Institute and CEO of contractor Florida Solar One claims in his blog that ASP has been “cutting corners”. He also said: “ASP has already had to shut down a few factories until further notice.”

Johnson also claimed that having purchased about 100 ASP panels “not once have these panels ever met their stated standard test condition promises. On most days, we’re lucky to even reach 65% of the rated capacity”.

Meanwhile, in his blog, Jim Jenal, founder of Run On Sun, a California-based solar installation and consulting company, said that although the three ASP modules are on the ‘approved module list’ for California Solar Initiative (CSI), listed under the name of ASP’s parent company, Bluechip Energy, CSI data shows that none of the modules have apparently been installed under the programme.

“We cannot find any appearance of PV modules – of any model – under either the Bluechip Energy or ASP names – which seems really strange for a product that is approved for CSI and has apparently been sold for years,” Jenal said.

Furthermore, Jenal writes: “We were able to find these products available for purchase online at prices ranging from US$1.29/W to US$1.50/W – not exactly discount prices. We saw no indication of the recall notice on any of the online retail sites.”

PV-Tech was unable to reach ASP for comment despite repeated attempts.

John Drengenberg, director of consumer affairs at UL, told PV-Tech that although counterfeit labels are difficult to identify, if they look suspicious installers should make the relevant enquiries.

He advised that if the manufacturer or distributor’s name is not on the product “this also is often associated with counterfeit products”.

Furthermore, Drengenberg said that “buyers or purchasing agents should keep up on recent government recalls and press releases from UL.”

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