Sleepless nights: Reject panels sold as "A-Grade"!

I want to share this experience with you, it was the worst incident since I started in the solar field.

Me and 2 friends are working on a second “business” idea focusing more on the solar supply chain. We decided to stock panels and a “Major” big supplier in SA offered us a fairly good deal on 435Watt Canadians so the investors decided to allow us to stock 14 pallets (378) panels.

Real quick we were moving these panels to sites and started installing, On the first day of unpacking I saw that something was not right. The same day a client that we had some panels delivered to send me pictures of his panels and I realized exactly what was going on.

Here is 2 examples.

I saw similar imperfections on my panels and decided to open a pallet I had with me. Every single panel had imperfections. Either very big scratches, signs of delamination and or foreign objects that is visible under the glass.

I can not install panels like these as the African sun will definitely cause the delamination to spread resulting in loss of production.

We contacted the supplier and at first they came up with a few excuses, we asked for a meeting to discuss this and then all of a sudden we received a WhatsApp message saying they dont want to meet, and that they are willing to refund all the money and take the panels back.

All of this played off over a period of about 5 days, and that was 5 days of little sleep for me. I had sold quite a few of these panels and had to replace all of them…

These panels are all “Type B” / “B Grade” panels that did not pass QC and this supplier thought he could buy them for cheap and then offset them into the marked without people realizing it.

I am sure there are people that will be willing to take the risk and buy a “B Grade”
panel but trying to sell it to installers without indicating that they are “rejects”, is just wrong… there is no excuse to even attempt getting away with it.

Edit: Looking at definitions on the net, these seems to be C grade panels…

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Wow, scary that people will go to these lengths just to try and fool people out of their hard earned money…

This is why I firmly believe that once you find a reputable supplier, then you keep supporting them, both to guarantee the quality of service, but also to help that supplier grow their business. In future you will likely call on them again and again and then they are there for you.

When Tenesol still had a factory in Cpt, I bought B Grade panels. Factory tested them all before selling them as B Grade. They where classified as B Grade because of scratches on the frames, pointed out to me, with me thinking, once the panel is on the roof, there will be more scratches, so why not? Saved a ton of money back then AND the way it is supposed to be done.

But this what you are sharing above @JacoDeJongh , this is a whole new next level of low. Geez!

I just found this description on the net, and the ones we bought seems to be C grade, when the imperfections affects the production, the panels gets a C grade rating… even worse than the B…

A Grade solar cells are prime flawless solar cells.

B Grade solar cells are solar cells that contain a visual flaw that does not affect the power, their price is a little lower than A Grade cells.

C Grade solar cells are those with a flaw that affects the power output, so the output power is somehow lower than A and B Grade cells, and the price is lowest. The C Grade solar cells we are selling are guaranteed to be reaching 90% of the power and efficiency rate is over 15%.
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I presume that the “Major” big supplier in SA is importing these panels.
I understand that often the exporters will add extra panels in the order to cover for the panels that are sub standard.
What probably happened is they collected these and offered them at a good price but not disclosing the full story…

The price difference between them and my normal supplier was less than R100 per panel, i did not suspect anything as that is pretty much market related pricing.

That is the issue. On a lower grade panel, you want to pay significantly less, especially if the warranty is going to be reduced. R100/panel isn’t nearly good enough.

I would however gladly buy a B-grade panel at, say, 40% or so less, if it comes with, say, a 5-year performance warranty. Or something like that. But not at R100 less.

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No warranty … they are still preforming beautifully in Prieska (2 x 200w) and Zim (3 x 310w), as of today.

IF I took the warranty ones, Tenesol got sold, and the company who bought them also since has left the “building”.

25 year panel warranties are reliant on a ton of factors in the quarter of a century one would like to have “security”.
Or like my Duratherm 10 year warranty on the geysers, a few T&C’s got changed making it null and void after 9.5 years.
Or like my 150ah cells …

So yeah. Warranties only make sense if the Co’s has been around like uhm, say for example uuu … Victron. :slight_smile:


Yeah I get it, but consider it in context. Normally these things come with a 15-20 year performance warranty, that is to say they will still make 90% of their original power after that many years. That is a long time and it is indeed very possible that the company might not be around in 15 years time.

But the odds aren’t too bad that they’ll be around in 5 years… or even 3…

If you are sooo sure those B-grade panels are perfect (outside of aesthetic concerns)… prove it with a small warranty :slight_smile:

Yeah, it would have been nice but still would not have mattered. Co closed down and that’s that.

Practically, yes. Would not have mattered. As a vote of confidence in your own product, it matters :slight_smile:

A faulty panel whatever the grade is worth finding out about before its up on the roof.
And a panel can be faulty without any tell-tale visual signs.
This little tool is a quick test, it’s a MPPT in a handheld tester form.
Also handy for second hand purchases.
P.S. Don’t buy second-hand panels at night.