A review of Winaico’s Tier 1 non-Chinese solar panel
Last year, Winaico became a Bloomberg tier 1 solar panel manufacturer. The panel caught my interest when looking over the changes in Quarterly Bloomberg tier 1 report last year, so I contacted Winaico to find out more. Today, while Winaico’s Managing Director Blair Pester was in town, he invited me out for lunch.
Now to be fair, invited to lunch generally means Blair pays right? I was running late for the meeting and couldn’t find my wallet – how embarrassing. If you want to know about a product, who better to talk to than a passionate Managing Director? Blair gave me an in-depth rundown on the points of difference that Winaico has, and offered a few panels to install on our warehouse roof panel comparison test. And he graciously picked up the bill at the end of the meal.
As I won’t have any real indication of those results for a few months, I’ll cover the main points in this brief review.
Winaico’s Key Points of Difference
- Bloomberg Tier 1
- Not Chinese. Made in Taiwan. Don’t tell China that I said that was better, or even different, but it is. The easiest way of explaining this is the production facilities. Big Chinese panel manufacturers use various production facilities all with different levels of automation and quality control. The factory that the westerner will get a tour of will be their “glory factory” with a high level of cleanliness and automation. The overflow factories will be a little less pristine with a high level of cheap Chinese labour. Winaico only has 1 production facility and it is very Taiwanese : very pristine. It is fully automated – because they can’t afford cheap Chinese labour.
- They rank No1 on Desert Knowledge’s panel’s comparison. We’ll add one to our solar panel test on our warehouse roof soon to compare it to more current panels on the market.
- The panel build is different. It looks much better than a common Chinese panel. This shouldn’t be surprising given its made in a Taiwanese factory.
- PERC technology. Perc stands for Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell. In high temperature and low light PERC can increase efficiency by up to a geeky 1%.
- They offer a complimentary 2 year whole of system insurance (A bit of a double-up when we offer a 10 year whole of system warranty; and it’s all but mute if you have home insurance).
- They use 3M tape rather than silicone. This is covered in the point below.
3M Tape VS. Silicone
One of the points of difference that Winaico sites is the use of 3M tape rather than silicone to adhere the frame to the glass. While generally higher end panels use 3m tape, some of the better manufacturers do not agree with the advantages of 3M tape.
Dow Corning, a silicone adhesive manufacturer, produced the following (obviosly biased) report : Silicon v Adhesive Tape by Dow Corning
Q-Cells claim the only issue with using silicon is when too much silicon is used and ends up on the face of the panel shading cells. Q-Cells have an automated facility with very precise measurement of silicon, ensuring no overspill outside of the framing. I’ve seen poor silicone jobs on many tier 2 and tier 3 panels, and an occasional tier 1 panel (including CSun.)
More convincingly, LG have reportatly moved away from 3M tape. In the second quarter of 2016, they began moving from 3M tape back to silicone due to its superior strength. They claim silicone provides an increased weight and wind loading without the need to increase the panel frame thickness. Important if you get high snow falls or if you are mounting on the top of a highrise – not such a big issues in Brisbane. One would also have to wonder whether LG are just cost cutting.
Winaico’s Panel Lineup
While Winaico specifications give a larger range, current offerings are the 260W, the 275W and the 310W.
Winaico’s Platinum panel
The 310M6 PERC. The 310-watt mono crystalline panel they admit performs just a tad under LG’s panel. The price difference is negligible, and both will set you back about $350 more per kW compared to our standard Jinko panels. This panel would be in line with the LG’s 315w panel.
Winaico’s Premium panel
The WST-275P6 PERC. The 275W poly crystalline panel piqued my interest. At 275 watts, 24 panels make a very useful 6.6kW. The additional cost of these panels is about $110 per kW. This is the panel that we will recommend when a customer wants a Non- Chinese Tier 1 panel.
Winaico’s Quality panel
The WST 250P6. The 260W Polycrystalline panel is just really a non-Chinese Tier 1 panel with the advantages pointed out above apart from “PERC”. They will cost you about an extra 70 bucks a KW on top of Jinko.
It was an educational free lunch with a very informative and passionate bloke. However, before we offer any panels on a regular basis, I like to get a sample to inspect and test on our warehouse roof. We are organising this as soon as possible. In many ways, I would see Winaico’s direct competition as the renowned Singapore built REC panel, with a similar build quality and price point. The Non-Chinese label and the Desert Knowledge ranking is impressive. The 3M tape story is convincing but with LG’s current position – the jury is still out. The pro’s would have to be somewhat arbitrarily weighed up against the increased cost and payback period compared to (for example) a Jinko panel. That part is up to you!
I’ll keep this post updated with my findings when we do rooftop testing. If you’ve had experience with Winaico panels, good or bad, I’d be keen to hear about it. Leave a comment below!