Made In China

Sixty per cent of the world is now generating electricity using solar products manufactured in China.  In latter years, made in China, left UK consumers distinctly unimpressed, but today companies such as the ET Solar Group, are producing a quality product at a lower cost. Now widely used in countries like Germany, where top quality manufacturing is the norm, Renewable Energy Installer (REI) witnessed the company’s operation first hand. Jane Hughes reports

 Established in October 2006, the ET Solar Group is a one-stop solar power solution provider which employs 3,000 people across its 10 wholly-owned subsidiaries and three manufacturing plants.  With local sales and marketing subsidiaries and offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, ET Solar provides solar modules, solar tracking systems and turnkey solution services to its customers in over 50 countries.

“We’re a young, vibrant company with a passion for renewable energy technology,” explained global marketing director, Santran Duan.  “But passion is not enough, to that we have added excellence.”

Dennis She, president and chief executive officer, said:  “We were one of the first companies inChinato invest in solar PV manufacture and quality has always been paramount. Among the first group of Chinese manufacturers to receive an MCS certificate in theUK, our product portfolio and growing capability in turnkey solution services differentiates us from a pure module supplier.

“We’ve had much to do to convince the world that Chinese manufacture is reliable. We employ scientists and engineers – with strong academic backgrounds – who started their working life in theUKandUSA. Our vice president and chief strategy officer, Linhui Sui, was formerly with NASA. Wolfgang Trumm, vice president of ET Solutions, has 17 years experience in PV module manufacturing and development. German, Italian and Swiss technology is used in the company’s manufacturing plants with European engineers on hand to offer technical guidance.”

Quality products under total manufacturing control

 The group manufactures modules, installation kits and inverters, tracker systems, building-integrated photovoltaics and stand alone systems and, by controlling every aspect of product manufacture, ensures quality control.

The production line at the company’s silicon ingot, wafer and cell manufacturing plant in Taizhou has 200 quality control checks.  From material procurement to the finished panel, a series of rigid tests and examining procedures ensure not only panel output performance but also the anti-corrosion and high pressure features on every module.

Mono and multi-crystalline modules are now covered by a new 25-year linear power performance warranty. This guarantees no less than 97 per cent of the nominal power output in the first year and then a maximum annual output degradation of 0.65 per cent thereafter. By the end of the 25th year, power output will be no less than 81.4 per cent of the nominal power output.  Weiyong Zhu, manager of the product strategy department, said:  “Coupled with the 10-year workmanship warranty launched in May, this warranty provides customers with a stronger assurance on both quality and financial return.”

Assisting the UK’s solar market

“With its strong focus on rooftop projects, theUK’s solar market is very different, “ said Dennis She. “But after looking at the competition, we knew one of our strongest selling points would be our cost to performance ratio. “

Entering theUKmarket in 2009 in advance of the Feed-in Tariff’s introduction, the company partnered with regional distributors including Chichester-based Wagner Solar; such partnerships offer co-ordinated marketing and ensureUKinstallers get a quick service and response to any issues.

Johnny Cheng, is manager of technical support and after sales service: “We offer a solution to any problem within 48 hours. However, many questions are answered by Wagner Solar asUKinstallers feel comfortable about contacting a  home-based distributor.”

Keen to meet both installers and end customers, ET Solar Group exhibited at this year’s Ecobuild; delighted with the response, the company will be back in 2012.   “We want to learn much more about theUKmarket and its demands,” said Nick Wang, regional account manager,Europe.

“How does it work?” was a frequent question from stand visitors at Ecobuild, added Wang. “TheUK audience was not familiar with solar energy so it is vital our products are understood; knowledgeable installers can help customers make a better informed decision.”

The company will open aUKwarehouse next year, introduce quarterly training sessions and is seeking a partner in theManchesterarea to better serve customers in the north. AUKoffice, with experienced engineering teams, to provide customised product designs and solution plans specifically for theUKmarket is also being discussed.

“We’re confident about theUK’s solar PV market but it will take time,” said Patrick Guo, director of sales and marketing.  “We already have many satisfiedUKinstallers and customers and I’m sure that more will appreciate our quality at a lower cost.”

A global network with a local service

Asked about the company’s global presence – distribution extends to over 50 countries – Eric Zhang, deputy sales director, said: “Our markets have very different characteristics but having regional branches in Europe, North America, andAsiaprovides a deeper understanding of these local markets.”

Working  more responsibly

Corporate social responsibility is taken very seriously. Solar systems have been donated to areas without electricity grid connection inChina, South Asia andAfrica.  Since August 2008, multiple solar systems have been lighting up a large number of Tibetan villages.

Every possible effort is made to save energy and to cut carbon emissions during the working day. By 2015, the company will be headquartered in a low carbon building inNanjingwith solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, biomass heating and a battery energy storage system.