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Old 25-11-2013, 10:31   #16
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

I have been using two SunPower 230 watt panels 24/7 for five years now and they look as good as the day I purchased them. Putting out the same amount of power as new.

They just work, no worries.
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Old 25-11-2013, 11:03   #17
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

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I've replaced three Aurinco panels so far due to water intrusion after less than three years of service. I now have two more panels that have failed...
I suppose in all fairness I should mention that I am sailing a 26 foot, 5 GRT boat in the Pacific near San Francisco. I'm often out in 16 foot seas, and I consider a day on the water where I have to let out my second reef and don't put a spreader arm in the water at least once ... boring.

My treatment of anything installed on my boat is something like this old luggage test. Pearson Ariels are tough little boats, but they do stretch and flex a bit, which is hard on anything mounted flush to the surfaces.
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Old 25-11-2013, 11:06   #18
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

Back a few years ago I bought a pair of sunlinq flexible panels. They never put out anywhere near stated output, even tried hooking up to direct load with meter in line in direct sunlight!

Quote posted back then.,...

Quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I would highly recommend you avoid the Sunlinq 25w foldable panels.

There used to be another brand of 'flexible' panels that were removed from the US market (I believe it was removed for liability issues, something about overheating). I searched for some time for a pair, but settled on a pair of Sunlinq 25w panels.

I had them on top of my Bimini where they fit nicely. The problem was that I noticed very little (a few hundred ma) increase in my charging. I tried several tests, connecting one at a time, making sure there was no shading, etc. Nothing I did got the output to more then 300ma.... as verified with a DMM. I even tried running them into a load (in case the low output was related to charging issues since the batteries internal resistance stays higher in a nearly charged battery... yada yada yada...) No joy.

I installed them prior to crossing to the Bahamas, and did not want to pay shipping to send them back. The seller (alt-energy.org) accepted them back after I returned. They did not fess up to having reports of problems with them, but did not act surprised that I had low output from them.

I noticed after my return that West marine had picked up Sunlinq and was selling them in their stores.

I would avoid these panels.
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Old 25-11-2013, 12:46   #19
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

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I've replaced three Aurinco panels so far due to water intrusion after less than three years of service. I now have two more panels that have failed. The causes of the water intrusion are:

1) Abrasion of the coating protecting the output wires at the bottom of the panel. The wires protrude above the aluminum backing (you'll feel bumps where the wires protrude) and rub on the surface to which the panels are mounted. Once the coating is worn away exposing the wire insulation, wicking and vapor pressure causes water to intrude into the panel. This seems to happen first at the positive (red) lead. Look for discoloration of the joint where the output wire is soldered to the bonding strip. That junction will change color from metallic to beige or brown. Once salt water gets in, the aluminum bonding strip rapidly dissolves and the panel fails.
2) Delamination of the panels at the edges. Look for discoloration, raised edges, and visible water inside the panel.

None of my failed panels were mounted on severely cambered surfaces.

The purchase price for two panels was refunded (I didn't replace them) and one was replaced. I am waiting to hear from Aurinco about the two recently failed panels. I'm considering replacing them with a Kyocera panel (at 1/3rd the cost).
Dang, and I was going to put lotsa aurincos on me boat! I wonder which exactly panels failed (they have many different)? How the wires were leaid out - at 0 dergees or 90 (like on this pic from aurinco site)?

I wonder what can be done to avoid this possible problem. I would opt for cheaper panels, but I don't have much choice - I need to mount a lot on catamaran's roof, it must be walkable and nothing should be protruding. Maybe, using 90 degrees exit option and additionally hermetizing all wires would help.
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Old 25-11-2013, 13:33   #20
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

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Dang, and I was going to put lotsa aurincos on me boat! I wonder which exactly panels failed (they have many different)? How the wires were leaid out - at 0 dergees or 90 (like on this pic from aurinco site)?

I wonder what can be done to avoid this possible problem. I would opt for cheaper panels, but I don't have much choice - I need to mount a lot on catamaran's roof, it must be walkable and nothing should be protruding. Maybe, using 90 degrees exit option and additionally hermetizing all wires would help.
The drawing shows a 90 degree bend where the wires would pass through the mounting surface after exiting the panel. But that isn't where the problem occurs: it occurs at the 90 degree bend inside the panels after the wires pass from the front of the panel (where they are soldered/welded to the bonding strips) to the panel back. The bend is at the transition on the back of the panel where the wires exit from the front of the panel.

After the wires pass through the front of the panel to the back and then make a 90 degree turn, they pass through channels in the aluminum backing plate. That turn has to have some radius - it's impossible to make an abrupt 90 degree right angle - the wires must have a minimum bending radius. At the curve in that bend, the wires poke up above the aluminum backing, i.e., they aren't completely recessed inside and protected by the aluminum backing plate. It's at that point that they are vulnerable to abrasion with whatever the panels are mounted on. Once the coating is abraded away, the outer insulation of the wires is exposed and water will intrude up the wires into the front of the panel by capillary action and vapor pressure - it's just a matter of time.

I believe the panels can be protected by either offsetting them away from the mounting surface with shims between the aluminum backing plate and the mounting surface - allowing an air gap (which I achieved using 3M VHB tape), or bedding the back of the panels in something that prevents abrasion and water contact. If I replace the panels, I'll try Dow 795 silicone. A factory correction would be to use a thicker backing plate to protect the wires that accommodates the bend radius of the wires when they exit from front-to-back, or to apply some very abrasion resistant material over the wires and their channels (but that would produce an asymmetric thickness that would eventually be abraded away).

I mounted panels to one surface with 3M VHB tape, and since the backs of the panels are separated from the mounting surface by this tape, I haven't seen water intrusion at the lead wires. However, none of my precautions will prevent delamination of the panels - which I interpret to be a manufacturing defect - that affected three panels and caused one of the panels to fail completely.

I have installed a total of 14 panels: a mix of 12.5 watt and 25 watt panels in arrays. Of those 14:

1 failed due to delamination
4 failed due to water intrusion at the wire lead entry into the panels
2 had abraded encapsulation at the wire lead entries (pre-failure), were removed from service, and not replaced.
2 have edge delamination that has not yet migrated into the active area of the panels.
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Old 25-11-2013, 14:34   #21
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

Nice thread. Real stories of real issues and efforts to resolve them. I'd pile on, but my panels are still working well (and this isn't a thread for success stories). I will add that edge delamination was the failure mode of my first panels (no-name).
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Old 26-11-2013, 01:31   #22
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

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It's at that point that they are vulnerable to abrasion with whatever the panels are mounted on. Once the coating is abraded away, the outer insulation of the wires is exposed and water will intrude up the wires into the front of the panel by capillary action and vapor pressure - it's just a matter of time.
Thank you, I got it! I guess, one of the solutions could be to brush off some of the deck area where the critical bent will be located, to make some recess in it that would not cause abrasion of wires. Plus, using good silicone in that area too.

Another thing that worries me is a edges delamination. Where exactly does it happen? At the edge of aluminium or at the edge of the crystal itself? I wonder if installing a protective thin frame (with a layer of good silicone) would help.

I really would prefer trouble-free panels, but there is not much choice available when you consider walkable panels...
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Old 26-11-2013, 09:50   #23
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

The delamination occurred between plastic layers. It's difficult to say between which layers of plastic.

Bedding the panels to protect the wires will help, but I bedded mine with 3M 5200 and the coatings still abraded over time.

I'm attaching photos with the abraded areas circled and a picture of the bedding (two panels were installed end-to-end). You'll have to view the photo full size to see the circles.

Silicone is a better choice I think than 5200 since it's more resilient (stretchy).

I believe the solution is to bed the area with silicon and either recess the area under the terminal wires, as you suggest, or elevate the panels with shims/spacers/beddeding/VHB tape so the vulnerable area never comes in contact with the mounting surface.

It is my impression that Aurinco is working hard to produce a quality product, they have put a lot of effort into thuroughly analyzing my problems, and they have always been very responsive.
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Old 26-11-2013, 10:25   #24
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

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I'm attaching photos with the abraded areas circled and a picture of the bedding (two panels were installed end-to-end). You'll have to view the photo full size to see the circles.
Thank you very much for clarification! It is really appreciated! Yes, it is clear for me now that in my case it would be best to recess the surface directly below sensitive area to avoid abrosion, rather than elevate the panel. I will be using larger ones (100W) so I would rather have them bound well to the surface below, besides, the less something protrudes, the better for your feet

I am still puzzled about ways to avoid delamination of the edges. I am sure it is possible to come up with something. Seemingly simpla idea is to use thin plastic frames that would cover the edges, and use silicone between frame and panel. That way, even if delamination occurs, edges will still be protected and hermetized so we will avoid any issues with water etc.
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Old 02-01-2014, 16:12   #25
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

There is a company in Oregon called SolarWorld that makes solar panels to hold up in salt water conditions and was recommended to me by a experienced friend. Their most durable model is the "Sunmodule Protect" Series, and they are half the price as most higher end companies. I am installing them on my Schooner that will be sailing to the Philippines from Seattle.

Sunmodule solar panels for home and business solar power systems
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Old 02-01-2014, 17:59   #26
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Re: Which Solar Panels Are Known to Fail ?

I have a couple of Aurinco 100 watt panels (one on each ama) and I drilled holes through the ama so the wires could go straight down as intended.
No problems in 3? years and the boat's in the weather 24/7.
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