Best Deal On Solar Modules

How do you define the Best Deal on solar modules?
Is it simply a matter of a big discount off the regular price? Or do you go one step further and do the quick calculation of $/Watt? Or, perhaps you are looking for the maximum power density in terms of Watts per square-meter in order to maximize the production of a limited amount of roof or ground space.
In this brief post, I will look at various ways you can determine what is the best value proposition for your solar array.

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Modern Outpost Solar Module Slate (Jan-2019)

The Best Deal : Low-Cost Leader

If you are looking for simply the best bang for your buck, you will want to calculate the solar module price tag in terms of $/Watt. This is very straightforward.
If you see a 300 Watt solar module on sale for $300, you will be paying $1 per Watt.
Run that division question for all the modules you are considering.
The module with the lowest number wins.

This is a simple means of comparing one module to another strictly in terms of the price per unit of power output. Of course, this leaves out other elements out of the equation, such as efficiency, quality, warranty, manufacturer reputation, aesthetics, manufacturing practices & ethics, etc. Check the solar scorecard for the companies that are doing it right!
After all, you might be able to find a 20-year-old 100W module at a garage sale for $30, which amounts to a smokin’ deal when compared to brand new equipment.

But, on your shortlist of modules, with all other factors being equal, the module with the lowest $/W number wins.

Here are our current leaders in this dimension…
Trina AllMax 300 : 300W, 60-Cell
Hanwha Q.Cells Q.Peak G4 : 305W, 60-Cell
REC Twin Peak 2S Bifacial : 330W, 72-Cell
Trina TallMax : 365W, 72-Cell

The Best Deal : Efficiency Leader

What we are talking about here is Watts per square-meter (W/m^3). This metric is used often, but not often calculated correctly. Let’s say you want to maximize the energy production for a restricted amount of space. So, you need the module with the largest power rating… correct?. Almost correct.
You have 2 tasks:
1. Choose the physical size that will create an array that will fill the space most completely, taking all necessary access setbacks into account. 36-cell, 60-cell or 72-cell modules
2. Choose the manufacturer & product model that provides the highest output for that given module size.

In the current solar PV module market space, the largest power ratings are on the spec sheets for the 72-cell modules. But, a quick bit of math, and you might find that just adding 2 more rows of cells to the module didn’t actually improve the efficiency calculation. It might simply multiply the same efficiency of the 60-cell module out to the larger frame size. What you need to do for accurate comparison between similar & dissimilar frame sizes is divide the power rating of the module by the area of the module (Length x Width). Don’t assume that all 72-cell modules are the same size. There are subtle differences, and sometimes a manufacturer will employ a unique module design, construction technique, or cell size, that makes simple comparisons more difficult.

Here are our current leaders in this dimension…
LG NeON 2 : 320W, 60-Cell : 195.12 W/m2
REC N-Peak : 330W, 60-Cell : 197.61 W/m2
Solaria PowerXT PowerXT-360R-PD : 360W, 60-Cell : 199.00 W/m2
Hanwha Q.Cells Q.Peak DUO L-G5.2 : 385W, 72-Cell : 193.08 W/m2
LG NeON 2 : 400W, 72-Cell : 193.00 W/m2
LG NeON 2 Bifacial : 390W*, 72-Cell : 206.99 W/m2

The Best Deal : Cost of Efficiency

This final calculation of value gives an indication of the cost you are paying for a solar module’s level of technology. In this comparison, we divide the cost of a solar module by its efficiency to arrive at a $/Eff number or cost per unit of efficiency (Eff being Watts/square-meter). The highest power module on the market might be charging you a premium for their product simply because it is the power leader. Is it worth it? How does it compare against a slightly lower-output module with a smaller footprint? This gives you a means of comparison.

Here are our current leaders in this dimension…
REC Twin Peak 2 : 60-Cell, 290W : $1.58
Trina AllMax 300 : 60-Cell,  300W : $1.28
Hanwha Q.Cells Q.Peak G4 : 60-Cell, 305W : $1.58
REC Twin Peak 2S Bifacial 330* : 72-Cell, 363W : $1.73
Trina TallMax 365 : 72-Cell, 365W : $1.57
Hanwha Q.Cells Q.Peak DUO L-G5.2 : 72-Cell, 385W : $1.79

Best Deal On Solar Modules : Last update: November 12, 2018
I will be updating this page regularly as solar technology progresses.
Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding the information provided here.
Happy solar shopping!

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8 thoughts on “Best Deal On Solar Modules

  1. Larry

    good info ,but needs more item info on each of your systems and what is and is not included,this can be very helpful in deciding what each customer is willing to do,spend or have installed ,

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks for your feedback Larry. The article was about solar modules exclusively and how to best choose between the available models. Which systems are you referring to?

  2. Tom Coupland

    We are in a mobile home park in Niagara Falls, looking at solar Energy. Our unit has a north/south layout and measures 14’ x 60’. Trying to figure out if solar can be beneficial.
    There are 66 units in our park, all of similar size. We have a field beside us, that the park uses for our septic system. So we are also wondering about a field array to supply all the units with power and share the costs. Interested in any info you can give us.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks very much for your interest in solar! Just sent you an email direct with some questions and comments regarding how you could proceed.

    1. admin Post author

      Thanks Joe. That Bluetti model has a solar input capacity of 2400W (@ up to 150V), so lots of options. I would recommend using a building block that you can multiply-out easily. For example, perhaps a 200W panel for portable applications. I’d also recommend matching the solar with your expected load consumption – no need to carry more solar than you must. For portable applications, the Powerwerx FSP panels are a lightweight option…
      If semi-permanent, such as in a work camp, then perhaps something more hardy like the GoPower PSK…
      And of course, if this is a home back-up, and you’d like to install solar on or around your home and plug the Bluetti into it, then any 350-450W range module will do the job. Sometimes tough to get the same panels just a couple of months later, so purchase what you need now (ie 6x 400W).
      I favour parallel stringing for such things, but it depends on your installation location (ie required wire runs).
      Hope this helps!

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