What is a Tier 1 solar panel? It’s quite apparent that the term “Tier 1” gets used quite liberally and frequently by many solar sales companies who use it to describe their solar panels as being of a high quality. They are in fact incorrect to do this. The Tier 1 ranking scale is orchestrated by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Corporation and is used to rank solar panel manufacturers in terms of their bank-ability or financial stability.
One may quite rightly make an assumption that a Tier 1 ranking has more to do with financial stability rather than product quality… and the answer is yes. Bloomberg defines a Tier 1 solar manufacturer as “those which have provided products to five different projects which have been financed non-recourse by five different (non-development) banks in the past two years”
That being said, a bank would not fund a large-scale project worth say $200 million dollars if the product used was likely to fail in the short-term thus, inadvertently, a Tier 1 solar panel is a high quality panel or should we say a solar panel that is designed to produce power for as long as the expected lifespan which is around 25 years. The other reason why one can make the assumption that a Tier 1 solar panel is a quality panel is based on the criteria set by Bloomberg in that only solar panel manufacturers that own their own manufacturing facility can be included for review. If a solar company outsources the manufacturing of its panels then it will not be included on the Tier 1 list. If a company owns its own manufacturing facility then you know that there will be strict quality control guidelines in place which ultimately will result in better and more reliable product! Companies having invested in their own manufacturing are also investing into research and development of their product. Simply put – they want their solar module to be better than a competitor’s solar module. Having a competitive advantage (say for example a higher efficiency panel) over similar manufacturers can lead to better sales.
It is important to note that only a very small percentage of the world’s solar panel manufacturers achieve Tier 1 ranking so be very wary if a solar sales representative makes a claim that their solar panel is a tier 1 panel. Ask for documented proof. You can see the latest Q2 list below. If you are unsure – contact us.