The most critical factors for buyers when selecting a photovoltaic module are reliability and quality, which were found to be more important than low prices, according to a recent survey of solar module purchases conducted by IHS Technology.
In the survey, respondents were asked to rank various PV module aspects by importance, ranging from efficiency to weight and size. The chief factor by a significant margin was module reliability, with 99% of respondents deeming the characteristic as either ‘very important’ or ‘important.’ In comparison, ‘high quality’ was named the second most important aspect, and ‘low price’ came in third.Â
Some results had regional variations. In particular, low pricing was more significant to respondents in the U.S. than in Germany and the U.K., where ‘high efficiency’ was valued more highly.
The survey was conducted among module buyers, including photovoltaic system installers; integrators; engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) firms; and distributors of PV components.
In determining the preferred brands and buying preferences of customers, the survey also uncovered that fewer than 10% of companies use a single module supplier for their entire business, with EPCs and integrators less likely to use one brand compared to smaller installers.
As few as 20% of respondents would consider using just one brand in the future, doing so in order to obtain better pricing as well as easier system design and logistics. The majority of customers, however, reported they would never consider using a single brand for an entire business.
Despite the professed preference of solar module buyers for using more than one brand, over half of customers reported having a favorite. Survey respondents were asked to list their overall preferred brands, as well as their chosen names in terms of quality and price attractiveness. Three Chinese suppliers appeared among the top five overall brands, and the five top brands in terms of competitive prices were also all Chinese.
‘While price is still a highly important factor when selecting PV modules, purchasers believe that performance-related factors are of greater value, particularly in European markets,’ says Stefan de Haan, principal solar analyst at IHS. ‘This is a reflection of the growing awareness and focus on the total cost of ownership of a PV plant in Europe. In other markets, such as the U.S., incentives more commonly take the form of grants and tax breaks – meaning that there is a slightly stronger focus on upfront cost.’