Munich, Germany — Buyers rank reliability and quality as more important than price when selecting photovoltaic (PV) modules, according to a recent survey of solar module purchases conducted by IHS Technology. Survey respondents were given choices including reliability, quality, pricing, efficiency, weight and size, and by a wide margin, 99 percent of respondents said module reliability was either “very important” or “important.”
High quality ranked as the second most important factor when selecting a PV module followed by low price. The survey also finds that although quality was the top factor across three major regions analyzed in the research (Germany, the U.K. and U.S.), other attributes were more important in some regions than others. For example, low pricing was more important to buyers in the U.S. than in Germany and the U.K., where a premium was placed on high efficiency as shown in the table.
“While price is still a highly important factor when selecting PV modules, purchasers believe that performance-related factors are of greater value, particularly in European markets,” said Stefan de Haan, principal solar analyst at IHS, in a statement. “This is a reflection of the growing awareness and focus on the total cost of ownership of a PV plant in Europe. As incentive levels and internal rates of return (IRR) for all types of PV systems become lower and lower, the cost of every kilowatt-hour becomes increasingly important. In other markets, such as the U.S., incentives more commonly take the form of grants and tax breaks—meaning that there is a slightly stronger focus on upfront cost.”
The report, “PV Module Customer Insight Survey,” also finds that less than 10 percent of companies use a single module supplier for their entire business. The group less likely to use one brand compared to smaller installers: EPCs and integrators.
Another finding indicates that the majority of customers would never consider using a single brand for an entire business. However, 20 percent of respondents would consider using just one brand in the future if they could get better pricing as well as easier system design and logistics.
“PV module purchasers demonstrate a clear preference for maintaining business relationships with more than one module supplier, as this allows them to ensure they are receiving competitive pricing and provides them with access to as wide a range of products as possible,” de Haan stated. “Importantly, many also express a reluctance to rely on a single company for their total module supply, reflecting clear concerns about the survival of module suppliers and suppliers’ capability to provide sufficient and flexible stockpiles.”
Despite the preference for buying from more than one supplier, more than half of the respondents reported having a favorite supplier. The top favorites include three Chinese suppliers among the top five overall brands. In addition, the top five brands in terms of competitive prices were also all Chinese, said IHS.
The survey was conducted among photovoltaic system installers, integrators, engineering, procurement, construction (EPC) entities, and distributors of PV components, that all buy modules from the makers.