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Old 13-06-2014, 09:10   #46
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

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Originally Posted by 4arch View Post
My question, and I ask this not to stir the pot but because I’m seriously grappling with the right decision for my own installation, is why people are paying the price premium for the Solbian panels when there are seemingly identical second tier competitors available for as low as 1/4 the price? What are the advantages of the genuine article other than being from a known company and having a better warranty?
Perhaps this is why?


I have a customer right now dealing with an eBay debacle on some Solbian "knock offs". I suggested he buy the Solbian's and he went cheap. No matter what has been done the panels WILL NOT come anywhere close to the specified performance, cold, hot, breeze cooling them, full sun bright blue sky etc..... If he did not know any better he would just assume he got the same thing as a Solbian and "made out"... Problem is he does know better, and knows the panel is not performing to spec...

My guess is they are loaded with micro-cracking.. The eBay seller will do nothing because by the time he got them installed it was well past the dispute date. The poor guy can't even post a bad review of the seller because it is past the time window... He tried, seller complained, bad service review was removed. eBay often sides with their sellers, the people who pay them and the buyer suffers....


Look-a-like is not always perform-a-like.... The Solbian panels are not made in China using cheaper components, different cells, surplus cells or damaged C or D grade cells and cheaper labor..... You may get lucky, you may not.... After some recent head to head testing of a Chinese "MPPT" solar controller compared to a Midnite KID it rings true there also....

Microcracking is one thing under glass but time will tell under a laminate? Microcracks, under the right conditions, can send the cells to as high as 275 -300F.....

As an electrician who has to put my name on an install, it is Solbian for me.... Sometimes you get what you pay for.. Heck the Kia has all the same amenities as my wife's Honda or my Toyota, at a lot less money, but you could not pay me to own one because I am willing to pay for that Toyota or Honda reliability that I just won't get with Kia......
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Old 13-06-2014, 11:05   #47
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

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Originally Posted by 4arch View Post
My question, and I ask this not to stir the pot but because I’m seriously grappling with the right decision for my own installation, is why people are paying the price premium for the Solbian panels when there are seemingly identical second tier competitors available for as low as 1/4 the price? What are the advantages of the genuine article other than being from a known company and having a better warranty?
I went through the same thinking. The Solbians look really nice, but in the end I could not justify the 4x price. I ended up buying direct from China here 100W Customized marine use semi flexible solar panel-in Consumer Electronics on Aliexpress.com
They've been in use for near a year now in full-time cruising. The output is close to spec (note the 20% efficiency spec). The cells do not look anything like the ones Mainesail put up. They are all clean and black. The electrical mounting connection is kind of cheesy (I beefed it up) and the grommets were crap. I'm happy with the performance and price. If price wasn't an issue I'd buy Solbian (or Arinco) --- for me the premiums were just too high.
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Old 13-06-2014, 11:23   #48
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

Note the pics by Maine Sail are not visual pics. They are "electroluminescence" test pics taken with a special type of camera that shows micro cracking.
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Old 14-06-2014, 14:45   #49
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

Just jumping back to the STC (standard test conditions) performance parameters. They do not correspond to what happens in real life, it is an artificial scientific standard but useful as a comparison. The STC solar irradiation 1000w/sq meter is quite achievable if the panel points directly towards the sun, even at 49°N where I am. It will be lower with a horizontally mounted panel depending on latitude, time of the year (should stay high in Malaysia) and the hour. But the temperature 25°C (77°F) is completely unrealistic as it is not the ambient temperature that matters, it is the temperature at the solar cell surface. As anybody with a panel knows, it can get very hot. Surface temperatures of 75°C (167°F) are not uncommon. Most monocrystalline cells have a loss of 0.37-0.40% per degree C (same per degree K, or per 1.8 degree F). So at 75°C you have lost almost 20%. (Note to Bruce at Ocean Planet: the SunPower cells have the same coefficient -0.38/°K, so they are not less sensitive to heat.) The loss is in volts, amps actually increase slightly which is why MPPT controllers give their best boost in cold weather.

Rather than stare blindly at fluctuating watts, a more meaningful measure for most sailors is what they get in amp hours into their batteries on a sunny day.

To add to the other topic, as an American manufacturer of marine solar panels we are no fans of Chinese eBay panels either. But in this forum I think we should compare products based on facts, not speculation. Are the EL photos (putting current backwards into a panel and taking a picture of electroluminescense with an infrared filter on the camera) comparing a new Solbian with a new China panel? Any crystalline cell will develop cracks with time if subject to too much stress, especially repeated flexing.

Well, the Chinese panels should become more expensive now with an anti-dumping ruling from Commerce last week. Unless the importers forge the customs documents, not too uncommon...
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Old 16-06-2014, 08:49   #50
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

Great info from Patrik!

Btw, the %/C temp loss from heat data for SP cells that we have (from Solbian), is a bit less than some other cells that Solbian has used, and also in some testing we've done. However, they may certainly not be the lowest and we certainly don't know all the cells out there. We are definitely looking fwd to learning more about the new cells coming with the new Aurinco panels!
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Old 16-06-2014, 09:04   #51
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

I'm very skeptical about unbranded Chinese manufacture - but if a substantial company with a US address is standing behind it, that's another thing.

I bought one of these 100w Renology panels. It gives above rated output. Quality of manufacture (connectors, etc.) appear top quality.

100W Monocrystalline Bendable Solar Panel | Renogy Store

Before I buy more, has anyone else had experience with them? So far I've only risked $179.
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Old 16-06-2014, 10:26   #52
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

I really like the Solbian panels and will likely go with them when I do the solar upgrade before we head out cruising. But I think there is a real question missing here or perhaps converging of issues.

The prime reason I think most people are looking at the Solbians and others is the light weight and ability to mount directly to a dodger or bimini. Therefore the issue isn't how do these imitation Solbians compare to Solbians. The questions is how do these imitation Solbians compare to a hard panel?

For instance, there is a 200 watt kit with solar controller and mounting hardware for just about $1000 from Go Power (an American company) sold by Defender.

Is this worth looking into to get 200 watts of panels with a controller for close to the same as one solbian panel if all you want is the flexibility of installation and takedown and not the super efficiency?
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Old 16-06-2014, 11:57   #53
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

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Originally Posted by CarlF View Post
I bought one of these 100w Renology panels. It gives above rated output. Quality of manufacture (connectors, etc.) appear top quality.
At the sub $200 price point (haven't seen them for $179 but have for $199) I am tempted to buy one or two for experimentation since there are few in-depth long-term reviews.

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Originally Posted by JK n Smitty View Post
The prime reason I think most people are looking at the Solbians and others is the light weight and ability to mount directly to a dodger or bimini. Therefore the issue isn't how do these imitation Solbians compare to Solbians. The questions is how do these imitation Solbians compare to a hard panel?
I think that's the million dollar question right now and unfortunately there is not a lot of hard independent data yet. One thing that concerns me about any semi flexible panel is that they are plastic coated. As most car and boat owners (think headlights and dodger windows) have experienced, plastics under prolonged direct UV exposure tend to yellow, craze, haze, chalk, turn gummy, and/or turn brittle over time regardless of the initial quality. In the end, if you go semi-flexible you are jumping in somewhat as an "early adopter" and just have to accept the potential ups and downs that go with that.

That said, I wouldn't be surprised if the marine solar market flips almost completely over to semi-flexible panels in the next five years. The weight and bulk savings are just too great to ignore especially as it's becoming more and more common to see arrays in excess of 300 watts.

I started out thinking I'd go with 2 x190 watt rigid panels but the the weight with mounting hardware would have been over 75lbs and the cost of building a support frame above the bimini would have been over $500 by the time I built something sturdy enough and that looked aesthetically pleasing. That framing cost really changes the value proposition of the rigid panel unless you already have an arch or a hard top.
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Old 16-06-2014, 12:04   #54
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

After running my generator daily for about an hour a day each day for the past 6 months I finally opted to delve into solar power and ordered 3 125W CP-125 panels from Bruce last week. While this is only about half of my energy requirement, I wanted to experiment with the installation location before ordering all of the panels, controllers and getting the final installation done. The panel mounts use grommets and temporary lines, that will be replaced with either Velcro or zippers.

Cables from the solar panels to the board are 10AWG and from the board to the batteries are 8AWG to minimize losses.

I decided to play around a bit and program an Arduino processor to use 3 5A Hall-Effect ammeters to measure the volts and amps plus compute the Watts.
Attached are some pictures of what I've done so far, the parts for the Arduino are still in the mail, so I've removed the IC circuit board from the installation picture.




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Old 18-06-2014, 14:49   #55
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

Could not resist posting this pic from a Chinese Solbian copycat ad. I can guarantee that if you try to bend a crystalline panel like on their picture it is going to fail. The ad is also misleading in trying to pretend that SunPower cells are made in USA. SunPower is U.S. corporation (majority owned by French oil giant Total) but their cells are made in the Philippines and Malaysia. And who knows, maybe now also in Shenzhen sweatshops?
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Old 06-09-2016, 19:58   #56
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

As a latecomer to this very useful discussion, I'm wondering how things may have changed in the last couple years. How have the cheaper panels held up for you? Are there any other brands making a competitive product now for less? I anticipate doing the sewing at home over the winter, which is another advantage of the flexible panels versus building a support bracket in the spring when I have a million other things to do.
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Old 06-09-2016, 20:05   #57
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

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As a latecomer to this very useful discussion, I'm wondering how things may have changed in the last couple years. How have the cheaper panels held up for you? Are there any other brands making a competitive product now for less? I anticipate doing the sewing at home over the winter, which is another advantage of the flexible panels versus building a support bracket in the spring when I have a million other things to do.
My 2 100watt cheap flex panels purchased off Aliexpress delivered good output living on top of a soft Bimini in the tropics for 3 full years. Then they both died. Probably stress at the connector , which was poorly mounted to the panel.
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Old 06-09-2016, 20:44   #58
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

Then by my calculations the solbians wouldn't pay for their price difference until the 15th year of operation, which is three times the warrantee. That doesn't make the cheap ones look so bad.


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Old 06-09-2016, 21:15   #59
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

I know it's not Solbian but it's a 200W panel for $130.00

Simi Flexible Sunpower Solar Panel 200W - China Solar Panel, Simi Flexible Solar Panel | Made-in-China.com Mobile





Then there is this 200W 24AMP panel for $30.00. Hard to believe so I've emailed the company and awaiting reply.

SPC200W
200W
1445*796*3mm
24V 36.3V 5.51A 43.7V 6.06A

6*11=66 21.30%

3.3KG


Hot Sell Flexible Solar Panel 200W - China Flexible Solar Panel, Flexible Solar Panel China | Made-in-China.com Mobile



They say they are using SunPower cells.

I'm researching 300W individual semi flexible. It's amazing what is out there.
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Old 06-09-2016, 22:33   #60
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Re: Solbian Solar Panels

The following is from the results of my research. I have nothing to with the company and I'm not a vendor. There could be better deals out there. It certainly pays to shop around.

From what I've learned it looks like SunPower are selling their cells in bulk to Chinese fabricators who then manufacture end solar panel products.

There are also new thin film cells 1.55mm thick out there and new even thinner and tougher than silicon materials being worked. I seriously don't think the time is far off where we will see affordable solar cells on sails themselves.

The website this came from is:

300w/36v Monocrystalline Flexible Thin Film Solar Panels Light Weight, Ultra Thin 3mm Thickness. Waterproof Junction Box With Diodes Industrial Solar Panels Installation Of Solar Panels From Flexsolar, $441.51| Dhgate.Com

300W Semi flexible panel

panels light weight, ultra thin 3mm thickness. waterproof junction box with diodes

US $441.51 - 489.29 / Piece
Min.Order: 3 Pieces




Flexible Solar Panel 300W /36V

Our flexible solar panel range boast one of the highest efficiency cells in the World from the USA with efficiency levels up to 21.5%, meaning higher power generation of between 25-30% more than conventional PV modules of the same size. The high performance monocrystalline cells are encapsulated between EVA & TPT giving excellent durability under harsh outdoor conditions. Thin, light and when fitted to the roof of a caravan or motor home very aerodynamic. Light weight design combined with high efficiency cells and solar panel flexibility makes our latest Solar Curve range also perfect for marine use and many more applications where a rigid framed solar panel is not an option.
Features
· Ultra flexible(up to 60%) ,ultra lightweight
· Coated surface which can be walked on in deck shoes.
· Highly efficient sunpower "back contact"cell
· Can be conveniently placed on curved solid surfaces
· Fastening points to fix it everywhere
· Low voltage-temperature coefficient allows higher power output at high-temperature condition
Specifications
·Max Power Pmax: 300W
·Maximum power current ( Ipm): 5.5A
·Maximum power voltage(Vpm):55V
·Short circuit current(Isc): 6A
·Open circuit voltage(Voc): 66V
·C-Eff: 20.5%
Size: 1850mm x 920mm x 3mm
Weight: 6.8kg
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