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PV module warranties: separating fact from fiction

on Oct 1, 2017

Timo Moeller, global director for customer support, product field performance, and commitments, First Solar
Timo Moeller, global director for customer support, product field performance, and commitments, First Solar

Let’s start with workmanship warranties: this governs any defect that is the result of failings in the manufacturing process. These warranties span anywhere between 5 and 25 years, with coverage including repair, replacement, or refund at either a depreciated value or at the market price.

It is also important to point out that some defects can negatively impact performance from the moment that the modules are installed; while others may take a year or two to manifest. The reality is that ten years is more than adequate for workmanship defects to come to light and one may argue that longer coverage is redundant to the performance warranty.

Looking at more mature industries – gas turbine manufacturers typically offer no more than a two-year workmanship warranty – a longer warranty usually compensates for the lack of a robust, long-term performance track record.

Manufacturers also provide warranties covering the performance of a module. In case a PV module under-delivers on its power output promise, manufacturers should offer a combination of physical and financial remedies, although hidden clauses may minimize the amount of compensation paid out.

Many module manufacturers will include an option to repair or replace a low-performing module. Significantly, many manufacturers reserve the right to supply used or refurbished modules as replacements. The best policies, however, will offer new modules, free-of-charge, to supplement any shortfall in capacity if a repair is not possible.

Things get a little complex when asset owners seek monetary compensation because the OEMs that offer financial reparation – and many do not – have different ways of calculating their liability.


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