What Makes a PV Module Tier 1?

The terms “Tier 1 solar modules” and “bankability” comes up frequently when discussing solar module brands, but what does it actually mean?

The tiered ranking system was introduced by BloombergNEF (BNEF) to help distinguish higher quality solar manufacturers from the hundreds of others in the industry.

The tier system is based on bankability, which indicates how likely it is for projects using the solar products to be offered non-recourse debt financing by banks. Non-recourse debt financing is a type of loan where banks can only seize collateral for compensation, even if the collateral does not service the full debt. That means that the risk of modules failing in the field is placed on the bank when they provide this type of loan.

In other words, providing non-recourse debt financing demonstrates the banks’ high confidence in the manufacturer and the quality and performance of its solar panels.

To be ranked as Tier 1, module manufacturers must have provided in-house manufactured panels to at least six projects that have been non-recourse financed by six different commercial banks in the past two years.

But what goes into making a tier 1 solar module that investors can trust?

Several factors contribute to producing the high quality and reliable modules that solar project stakeholders want to keep using. 

Let’s take a look at the rigorous manufacturing processes, controls and testing that come together to make a tier 1 PV module.


Robust internal quality control

Implementing robust internal quality control processes is the first step in manufacturing Tier 1 quality PV modules. This includes quality control throughout the entire value chain. 

One way to go about this is for the solar company’s upstream business model to tightly control quality over every step of the manufacturing process. This starts with silicon crystallization all the way through to module deployment in the field

With these internal quality controls in place, the manufacturer can maintain high reliability and solid module performance. These are some of the key panels characteristics that project stakeholders want for their installations. 


Third-party recognition

Independent third-party testing and recognition are other important aspects that help create the environment for producing tier 1 PV modules. 

For instance, two highly respected independent organizations that do this for the solar industry include PV Evolution Labs (PVEL) and DNV. PVEL is the leading independent lab of the downstream solar industry. Meanwhile, DNV operates in more than 100 countries as an accredited registrar and classification society.

These two organizations know the solar industry better than anyone. Their credible third-party testing and independent product performance reviews help guide the solar industry in determining the top performers. 


Standard industry warranties

When a solar manufacturer includes an industry standard warranty, it means the company stands by its products. 

A solar company recognized as fully bankable stands a much better chance to still be in business for the warranty’s duration. This isn’t as much of a sure shot with solar companies that lack a similar level of bankability.


How Trina Solar checks these boxes 

Combined, a dedication to these factors all contribute to making Trina Solar the go-to brand for solar project stakeholders to consistently use in installations. 

Trina Solar has received industry recognition as a Tier 1 solar manufacturer. BNEF ranked Trina Solar as a fully bankable company for the sixth consecutive year, topping the list for the past five years. PVEL has also recognized Trina Solar as a “Top Performer” on its PV Module Reliability Scorecard rankings for seven consecutive years.

Trina Solar’s products have also been evaluated and recognized by authoritative third-party organizations, such as PVELFraunhofer ISE, DNV, BLACK&VEATCH, and UL, for their superior performance and reliability. Collectively, these studies showcase the CAPEX and LCOE advantages of the 210 ultra-high power Vertex modules in fixed tilt and with trackers, especially when compared to modules of different wafer sizes.

But what really sets Trina Solar apart from the rest of the pack is that we consistently partner with major developers, EPCs and distributors around the world. By delivering unrivaled project success for our partners, Trina Solar maintains its reputation as a truly best-in-class manufacturer.

Trina Solar accomplishes these feats with its 200 in-house quality tests that guarantee the reliability and performance of its products. 

Want to learn more about what makes Trina Solar a tier 1 module manufacturer? Contact us today. 

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