Made in China

Oil Installer editor Jane Hughes meets ET Solar staff, China
Meeting ET Solar staff at the company’s offices in Nanjing, China, Oil Installer’s editor, Jane Hughes, 5th from left
Sixty per cent of the world is now generating electricity using solar products manufactured in China.  In latter years – made in China – left UK consumers distinctly unimpressed, but today companies like the ET Solar Group are producing a quality product at a lower cost.  Now widely used in countries like Germany, where top quality manufacturing is the norm,  representing our sister publication Renewable Energy Installer, Oil Installer (OI) witnessed the company’s operation first hand.

Established in October 2006, the ET Solar Group is a one-stop solar power solution provider which employs 3000 people across its 10 wholly owned subsidiaries and three manufacturing plants.  With local sales and marketing subsidiaries and offices in Asia, Europe, and North America, ET Solar provides solar modules, solar tracking systems and turnkey solution services to its customers in over 50 countries.

“We’re a young, vibrant company with a passion for renewable energy technology,” explained global marketing director, Santran Duan.  “But passion is not enough, to that we have added excellence.”

Dennis She, president and chief executive officer told Oil Installer:  “We were one of the first companies in China to invest in solar PV manufacture and quality has always been paramount. Among the first group of Chinese manufacturers to receive an MCS certificate in the UK, our product portfolio and growing capability in turnkey solution services differentiates us from a pure module supplier.

“We’ve had much to do to convince the world that Chinese manufacture is reliable.  We employ scientists and engineers – with strong academic backgrounds – who started their working life in the UK and USA.  Our vice president and chief strategy officer, Linhui Sui, was formerly with NASA. Wolfgang Trumm, vice president of ET Solutions, has 17 years experience in PV module manufacturing and development.   German, Italian and Swiss technology is used in the company’s manufacturing plants with European engineers on hand to offer technical guidance.”

Quality products under total manufacturing control

The Group manufactures modules, installation kits and inverters, tracker systems, building-integrated photovoltaics and stand alone systems and, by   controlling every aspect of product manufacture, ensures quality control.

The production line at the company’s silicon ingot, wafer and cell manufacturing plant in Taizhou has 200 quality control checks.* From material procurement to the finished panel, a series of rigid tests and examining procedures ensure not only panel output performance but also the anti-corrosion and high pressure features on every module.

Mono and multi-crystalline modules are now covered by a new 25-year linear power performance warranty.  This guarantees no less than 97% of the nominal power output in the first year and then a maximum annual output degradation of 0.65% thereafter. By the end of the 25th year, power output will be no less than 81.4% of the nominal power output.  Weiyong Zhu, manager of the product strategy department, said:  “Coupled with the 10-year workmanship warranty launched in May, this warranty provides customers with a stronger assurance on both quality and financial return.”

Assisting the UK’s solar market

“With its strong focus on rooftop projects, the UK’s solar market is very different, “ said Dennis She.  “But after looking at the competition, we knew one of our strongest selling points would be our cost to performance ratio. “

Entering the UK market in 2009 in advance of the Feed In Tariff’s introduction, the company partnered with regional distributors including Chichester-based Wagner Solar; such partnerships offer co-ordinated marketing and ensure UK installers get a quick service and response to any issues.

Johnny Cheng, is manager of technical support and after sales service:  “We offer a solution to any problem within 48 hours.    However, many questions are answered by Wagner Solar as UK installers feel comfortable about contacting a  home-based distributor.”

Keen to meet both installers and end customers, ET Solar Group exhibited at this year’s Ecobuild; delighted with the response, the company will be back in 2012.   “We want to learn much more about the UK market and its demands,” said Nick Wang, regional account manager, Europe.

“How does it work?” was a frequent question from stand visitors at Ecobuild, added Nick. “The UK audience is not as familiar with solar energy so it’s vital our products are understood; knowledgeable installers can help customers make a better informed decision.”

The company will open a UK warehouse next year, introduce quarterly training sessions and is seeking a partner in the Manchester area to better serve customers in the north.  A UK office, with experienced engineering teams, to provide customised product designs and solution plans specifically for the UK market is also being discussed.

“We’re confident about the UK’s solar PV market but it will take time,” said Patrick Guo, director of sales and marketing.  “We already have many satisfied UK installers and customers* and I’m sure that more will appreciate our quality at a lower cost.”

Specifically for the UK market, the soon to be launched Zero Track system and panel will cut installation time by up to 70%.

A global network with a local service

Asked about the company’s global presence – distribution extends to over 50 countries – Eric Zhang, deputy sales director, said:  “Our markets have very different characteristics but having regional branches in Europe, North America, and Asia provides a deeper understanding of these local markets.  ”

Working more responsibly

Corporate social responsibility is taken very seriously.  Solar systems have been donated to areas without electricity grid connection in China, South Asia and Africa.  Since August 2008, multiple solar systems have been lighting up a large number of Tibetan villages.

Every possible effort is made to save energy and to cut carbon emissions during the working day.  By 2015, the company will be headquartered in a low carbon building in Nanjing with solar thermal, rainwater harvesting, biomass heating and a battery energy storage system.