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Solar: Made In China?

Every time someone from Edmonton invites me into their home for a solar consultation, the inevitable question that comes up is “Where are the panels made?”

That is one of the most fair and valid questions to ask!  We’ve all seen the memes on Facebook floating around showing a big open strip mine with a heart felt warning on the bottom of the photo telling us how many children have died for the minerals and other toxicities involved in the production of solar modules. It looks big and scary, but it is not accurate!

As I’ve talked about before, sustainability and sourcing your products from ethical production plants, mines or forests is very important to many people, myself included. That is why when people asked where the panels are made from, it was always a point of pride that we didn’t and wouldn’t use Chinese made panels due to some less then acceptable production methods. It is no secret that a lot of products to come from China are “cheaper” for a good reason – usually there is a higher cost in slave labour or environmental damage.

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Yesterday my opinion might have shifted. When my solar supplier emailed me the fall price list, they included a press release from Trina Solar. Trina Solar has been named as this years Top Solar Manufacture by PV Evolution Labs ("PVEL" for short) and was rated as a top performer in the Module Reliability Score Card Report 2017 issued by DNV GL.

China, really? Top Manufacture of Solar, really? Its going to get technical for the next few paragraphs..

PVEL Product Qualification Program (PQP) is an integrated one incorporating module reliability and power generation performance tests. As the typical destructive test, this certification test comprises 2-4x IEC thermal cycling test, damp heat test, UV irradiation test, dynamic mechanical load test, humidity-freeze test, PID attenuation and hot spot test etc. PVEL test is much more rigorous than some basic tests such as IEC and UL tests in terms of both test conditions and sequence, thus it continues a huge challenge for product reliability.

DNV GL test is extremely authoritative in the industry. Trina Solar has been taking an active part in the DNV GL test since 2014. In this portfolio of tests, most modules from Trina Solar have successfully passed the tests on product reliability based on their power attenuation rates which are all less than 3%.

Trina Solar conducts rigorous quality control and more than 175 individual laboratory tests to ensure a high level of QA. Since PV module is an investment-oriented product with a long life cycle up to 25 years, the choose of a reliable company becomes necessary. As the most respected and reliable solar company, Trina Solar is devoted to providing clients with top quality products. Trina Solar's being rated as a top module manufacturer after passing through all tightened PVEL tests with excellent results.

"The result demonstrates the high reliability and quality of our products, meanwhile, it enhances our products' market competitiveness and help us earn clients trust." said Ms. Zhou Wei, Quality VP of Trina Solar, "looking into the further, we will continue to research and develop new products to meet customer's demand according to different applied scenario. We aim to lead the PV industry to benefit all humanity."

So with the technical information out of the way, why is China, a country known for its low standards and lack of respect for the environment leading the way on solar innovation and technology? From all my reading of reports, blogs and interviews – the simple answer appears to be: Because they want to.

A statement from Hua Chunying, a foreign ministry spokesperson said:

"China will stay committed to upholding and promoting the global governance on climate change, and take an active part in the multilateral process on climate change. We will work with all relevant parties to safeguard the outcomes of the Paris Agreement, press ahead with the negotiation and implementation of the enforcement rules, and promote green, low-carbon and sustainable growth of the world."

China’s dependency on fossil fuels has long been decried as a heavy contributor to global carbon emissions. Estimates from 2016 suggested that China was responsible for a third of the world’s total carbon emissions – having previously fuelled its economic growth through heavy coal usage in industrial sectors.

A report published by the World Health Organisation in 2016 revealed that China was the world’s deadliest country for air pollution. The study estimated that in 2012, more than 1 million people in China died due to complications as a direct result of dirty air. And yet, 2016 also saw a dramatic increase in China’s investment in renewable energy production – making it the biggest producer of solar power in the world.

In 2016, China’s solar energy production more than doubled. The National Energy Administration (NEA) reported that by the end of the year, China’s solar capacity rose to 77.42 gigawatts, with an additional increase of 34.54 throughout the year. Having surpassed Germany in terms of installed solar capacity in 2015, China's ambitious plan for renewable energy investment shows no sign of losing momentum.

China’s commitment to renewable energy production is highlighted by the NEA’s solar development plan, which aims to further capitalise on China’s position as the world’s biggest solar energy producer. The 13th five-year plan for Chinese development aims to add more than 110 gigawatts of solar energy capacity by 2020.

China’s economic investment in renewable power is estimated to total 2.5 trillion yuan (upwards of £292 billion) by 2020, according to the NEA. While solar power currently only represents 1 per cent of China’s total energy output, this increase in investment is set to boost output from renewable energy from 11 per cent to 20 per cent by 2020. China's significant investment in renewals is estimated to bring 13 million new jobs to the sector, according to the National Energy Administration (NEA).

The impressive scale doesn't stop there. The largest solar farm in the world - Longyangxia Dam Solar Park, all 30sq km of it - is a Chinese project. And the country recently opened the world's largest floating solar farm, in Huainan, Anhui Province.

Although it was once among the worst offenders worldwide in the realm of carbon emissions and climate change, China has turned the page in a serious way. Now, it has become a world leader in the adoption of renewables in its quest to lead the way toward a greener, more sustainable future. This kind of dedication is what each country needs to commit to.


One last question comes to mind: Do Canadians want to change and improve as passionately as China does?

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Edmonton AB
Phone: (780) 904-4485

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