Solar Energy info/Tips for customers in Pakistan

Solar Energy info/Tips for customers in Pakistan

Solar Panels are basically panels with Photovoltaic Cells (PV) embedded. PV takes the packeted thermal energy (Photons) from the sun and converts them into electricity to facilitate you. Each panel is rated by its DC output power under standard test conditions (STC), and typically ranges from 150 to 395 Watts (W). The efficiency of a panel determines the area of a module given the same rated output – an 8% efficient 230 W panel will have twice the area of a 16% efficient 230 W panel. There are a few commercially available solar modules that exceed the efficiency of 24%.
Country like Pakistan with all these energy crises, need some support from consumers in order to replace energy sources. Pakistan is uniquely located. It has extensive solar rays coming to it. It has certain regions that are extremely hot for over 6 months in a year. But the question is that is ‘Solar Panels’ the solution to it? And Is it worth spending all that money?
There are 03 Major parts of a solar system (a) Solar Panels (b) Solar Inverter (c) Batteries  rest there are different passive components like structure, Cabling , accessories, Trackers, Data Logger & Installation part.
Solar panels come on per watts or per kilowatt basis, following Table give you Idea about Prices;

10KW Grid Tie System

TOP Quality Mono
European, Korean, Chinese
A Grade Chinese A Grade Chinese B Grade Chinese
PANELS 60-70 pw (Mono) 50-58 pw (Mono) 45-50 pw (Poly) 35-40 pw (poly)
Inverter 10KW on grid 28 – 34 pw
15 – 20 pw
10 – 15 pw
Structure 6 – 8 pw MS Hot Dip Galvanized 14 Gauge 3-4 pw GI 14 Gauge 2.5 – 3 pw GI 16 Gauge
Cabling & Accessories 7 – 10 pw Branded Cable & accessories 3 – 4 pw Relatively Low Quality 2-3 pw low / Use Quality
Installation 3 – 5 pw 3 – 5 pw 3 – 5 pw
TOTAL 120 -130
25 Years Plan
100 – 105
10 Years Plan
70 – 80
5-10 Years Plan
55 – 60
Upto 5 Years Plan

Note : Above Prices are based on 10KW system size, definitely for 100kw or above system, per watt prices will be relatively less.
Globally it is being observed that Solar Energy always plan for minimum of 25 Years, so you have to plan whole system including all components for 25 years, Unfortunately in Pakistan most of the companies not following this practice, They just told customer that panels are with 25 Years performance Guarantee, so customer assume, since Panel is major part of system, system will also work for 25 years, There are many sites in Pakistan which are installed before 2012-13 are no-more working, Here I am giving you some tips to evaluate solar companies & products so that your system remain live for 25 years.
Check Product Quality physically by visiting supplier, definitely a Best quality Solar Panel somehow speaks it self, Check Cells, UV sheet at back, Frame, Junction Box, Glass Quality, Spots, Scratches & Connector Quality. Most of Chinese brand listed on Bloomberg Tier1, claims that since they are tier1 so they are good in Quality, TIER1 enlistment does not guarantee Best Quality, as many TIER1 solar panel manufacturer produce Low Quality panels as well, they have separate assembly line for developing countries like Pakistan, Africa, Bangladesh etc. So it is not enough if someone say it’s brand is TIER1.
Browse major parts of Solar System over internet (solar Panels, Inverters, Batteries), thoroughly check reviews & history of each Brands, especially of Solar Panels, many new ventures enter into market, give 25 years performance guarantee than close factory, There are so many examples, companies manufactured Solar Panels with 10 Year Warranty & 25 Years Performance Guarantee but after 5-7 Years it create manufacturing issues.
Always study Terms & Conditions & Warranty procedure, normally consumer does not follow this, There are many complaints in Pakistan regarding Moisture & Snailing Effect in Panels, and Manufacturer refused to claim warranty by saying it does not cover warranty policies. Before buying discuss warranty claim procedure in detail with Local Supplier, also check Third party insurance detail, However A reliable global brand with good repute does not need any third party insurance.
Assessment & Verification Testing (SGS)
For Large scale project there are lots of reputed testing organization available, that can inspect manufacturing process deeply, like SGS. SGS offers assessment, verification, testing and support services throughout the entire life of solar energy projects, from the conceptual phase to design, manufacturing of solar panels, transportation, installation and set-up of a solar power installation.These type of testing methodologies are real threats for Chinese Manufacturer, who compromise quality, So an industrial or Large scale customer may demand local supplier or manufacturer these type of TEST, for his satisfaction, there is some cost behind these types of TEST, say 3-4 PKR per watt, It has also been observed that if you talk manufacturer of Solar PV for “A Grade panels”, he give you price, and later on if you inform him that you might go with SGS type PV Panel Testing, he might increase prices, because they know SGS or equivalent test process can put all hidden details to front.
There must be some check & balance from state on port at the time of import, to check the genuineness & quality of Solar Panels, A well equipped LAB may be established at the port to test each or random panels, Inverters & Batteries (or just test PV Panels) it might add some cost but it will give great benefit to society.
In Pakistan, many new supplier import panels / inverters / batteries when they see now margin has been squeezed they switch to other business, so it will be difficult from consumer to claim warranties, A good Principal always support customer but most of Chinese principals not follow this. Customer must do some due diligence of local supplier, including customer’s feedback, Years of experience, Offices & Team etc. Does local supplier signed any agreement with Manufacturer regarding distribution of product and does it cover “After Sales”
In Pakistan, Since our market is Price conscious so customers normally discuss prices and compare each product by keeping in mind the price of other, However After Sales Support is a big issue in Pakistan, many companies are not considering After Sales a powerful tool to attract more & more customer, so always discuss Principal & Local Agent about After Sales support & in case if local supplier fail to give “After Sales” How Principal will give same.
Since Net Metering approved in Pakistan , so there is huge potential of Grid Tie System, Now people realized that Hybrid systems are not giving enough advantage in terms of Utility billing, It mostly cover load shedding, now Hybrid customers are replacing their Inverters with On-Grid Inverters, there are some reasons, why customers are replacing Hybrid Inverters / Systems with On-Grid Inverters, common are;
(a) Quality & Reliability of Hybrid Inverters is still questionable, Maximum life of these inverters are upto 3-5 Years, While average life of on grid inverters is 20-25 years (top brands)
(b) Monthly Utility bills not reducing, it is because hybrid systems are limited to be used within same premises (not sharing excess energy to Utility company or Neighbors) many customers install hybrid solar system but unable to utilize them in the day time, so when they use electricity, Sun not available and customer has to pay the cost to Utility distribution company.
(c) You cannot calculate return on Investment (ROI) in Hybrid system as you have to replace batteries after every 02 years, So Hybrid solar system cannot work for Long term say 25 years.
So it is very important to understand which type of system to select as per customer’s requirement. If there is frequent load shedding or any Critical load, Hybrid systems might be required. And if there is stability of Utility Grid Tie system Might suit you.
Selection of Solar Panel is also very important, Unfortunately in Pakistan 95% Importers / solar companies promoting Low Quality Solar Panels with Poly-Crystalline, Since PERC / PERL technology adopted worldwide, so now many plants are moving to PERC / PERL, Now we have Better choice of Mono with PERC / PERL, these are best in Efficiency , Performance, Reliability and also Price. So if you are planning your Home / Office / Factory of Agriculture site for Long term, go with Mono-Crystalline PERC or PERL. Previously Chinese were focusing Poly but now they realize that future is in Mono-Crystalline, Now many Chinese reputed manufacturer announced Mono & discontinuing poly for future.
Operation & Maintenance of System
Operation & Maintenance are must for any system, In Pakistan, only large scale industries or Solar Power Plants do this Operation & Maintenance, It is must for each solar system, whether it is Residential, Industrial or Commercial customer, Solar Panel cleaning can be decided subject to environment condition of site, It may be weekly or bi-weekly. In Pakistan mostly customer take interest in deploying Solar Energy system, specially in Govt projects, they just spend money on Solar system without dedicated O&M, For a 10KW residential customer it take only 30 minutes per week to clean all panels.
It has been observed that in Street Light or Highway Solar Lights, due to no maintenance or Seldom maintenance, these projects unable to give any benefit to public or community, So if a customer cannot do maintenance it must not go with Solar Energy.
SOP for Solar Industry
There are some associations working on Solar Energy in Pakistan, they might come on single agenda to redefine SOPs for Solar Energy companies so that only Quality product import in Pakistan not garbage and customer’s investment in solar will be secured in long run, to overcome  after sales & warranty issues. Every solar energy company claims to be best in products & services before getting order, since Solar panel issues mostly comes in Long run , so we have to wait & see who fulfill this claim.
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