The solar panel tier triangle

The solar panel tier triangle

If you’re considering installing solar and you’ve been doing your research you would have noticed solar panels referred to as Tier 1, 2 or 3. So, what does the solar panel tier triangle actually mean? As you’re about to learn, not all solar panels are created equal.

Tier 1 solar panels:

These panels are produced by the top 2% of solar manufacturers. They are vertically integrated which means they don’t just assemble solar panels using other companies’ products. They manufacture their panels from the ground up. Therefore they control the production process for everything from the silicon cells to the modules frames and ultimately panel assembly.

Tier 1 solar panel manufacturers also invest a lot of money in research and development and they have been manufacturing panels for longer than five years. Most importantly their manufacturing process uses advanced robotics which eliminates human production error and ensures a much higher standard of finished product.

Tier 2 solar panels:

These panels are produced by small to medium scale manufacturers who have been producing panels for 2-5 years. They take up approximately 8% of the solar panel market. Although they may aspire to become Tier 1 manufacturers, they invest little in research and development. Generally they only use partial robotics, still relying on manual work from human production lines. In saying this, there is nothing wrong in choosing a Tier 2 solar panel. They generally meet a price point that suits a lower to medium budget and usually provide warranties similar to that of a Tier 1 product.

Tier 3 panels:

These panels are assembled by companies that don’t manufacture their own silicon cells. In other words, they assemble solar panels using other companies parts. They use a human assembly line only with no robotics and invest nothing in research and development. Approximately 90% of new solar pv manufacturers are Tier 3.

(Image source: Pike Research)

When weighing up your options, in a nutshell:

  • Tier 1 solar panels = Quality from a highly reputable company
  • Tier 2 solar panels = The middleman
  • Tier 3 solar panels = Low end and risky

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