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  • SunPower or LG?



    Hello, I am trying to finalize my PV project after 6 quotes and some research, and now narrows down between SunPower and LG. Here is a comparison of the two,
    1. Direct quote from SunPower, all in one Equinox system, A-series 410 W panel with micro inverters x 25, 10.25 KWp system, standard 25yrs warranty entire system, degradation at 0.25%/yr, quoted at ~$40,400.
    2. LG quote from local solar company, 395 W LG panel x 28, with SolarEdge inverter + optimizer, 11.06KWp system, 25 yrs warranty on parts, 15 yrs workmanship and roof-penetration, 15 yrs production warranty - incl. reimbursement of electric bills during system down, degradation at 0.33%/yr, quoted at ~$1.2K less than SunPower.

    Interestingly, although bigger system from LG (0.81KW more), their estimated power generation is about the same as SunPower's estimate - maybe adding overhead just to insure their production warranty.

    I don't find much of cost benefit going with LG, but local company's top ranked reviews on service and commitment on reimbursing system down cost (not with SunPower) now make it a hard decision for me. Long term, small company sustainability vs SunPower is also a concern. Technically, small company trying to sell me that optimizer is more efficient than microinverter, both energy and cost wise, also with microinverter, system not able to monitor individual panel while optimizer could do so? Can I get some advice helping me to decide? Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    So:
    $39200 / 11060W = $3.54/W
    $40400 / 10250W = $3.94/W

    Neither of those is great IMO.

    I think the optimizer is probably slightly more efficient than microinverter - BUT - I don't think there's truly unbiased research to show the efficiencies in various scenarios.
    And if everything else were equal, I'd want per-panel monitoring.
    I'd probably even be willing to pay a very small (~1%) premium for that capability. In this case you're getting it at cheaper price.

    1> I would look for a different small local company that does solar and see if one of them can do ~$3/W for a 11kW system.
    2> I would look at pvwatts to get my own estimate of production. And see if I could do a smaller than 11kW system.
    3> I would make sure that the contract included any needed main panel upgrade or power service upgrade to have a 10-11kW system. (Even if you need a panel upgrade, I think it's likely you can get a 11kW system for ~$3/W.)

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    • #3
      I'm with Foo1bar on system cost. Both those costs seem high by maybe 30+% or so.
      Where are you located ?
      What is the annual cost per year for the power either system will produce ?

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      • #4
        Thanks foo1bar, I agree both are quoted at high end. I do have quotes from local small companies using Tier2 panels like REC, Mission Solar, lower at $2.8~3/W, but decided to go with Tier1 panels, these are the only quotes I got so far offering SP and LG. So optimizer does have advantage of monitoring individual panel performance?
        To J.P.M, located at Bay Area, NorCal, yea.. everything here is bumped up...
        Both systems estimated similar annual production ~15700KWh, annual cost to PGE will be roughly $5k, so both systems have about 6 years cost recovery after tax credit.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by InmarketforPV View Post
          Thanks foo1bar, I agree both are quoted at high end. I do have quotes from local small companies using Tier2 panels like REC, Mission Solar, lower at $2.8~3/W, but decided to go with Tier1 panels, these are the only quotes I got so far offering SP and LG. So optimizer does have advantage of monitoring individual panel performance?
          I would say it is a very slight advantage over not being able to monitor it. I think the benefit is more about showing off / novelty, not true utility. I was able to detect 1 module not hooked up in an array of 190, so it does have some utility, but that's a <1% benefit vs not having it.
          Enphase microninverters (not sunpower) do have per-panel monitoring - so keep that in mind as well. (Personally I like Solaredge better than enphase - but I have very little concrete evidence to support my bias)

          Since you're in PGE territory, make sure you are considering the time-of-use billing.
          I know people who produce significantly less than the kwh that they consume - BUT because of time-of-use and how PGE does their net metering the peak period production offsets their off-peak consumption.

          If you don't want what you consider Tier2, contact the companies you've talked to and tell them that you'd like to know if it would be more to go with a different manufacturer of panels. And give them a list of the ones you'd consider (ex. LG, Panasonic, SolarWorld, Canadian Solar, Trina, Qcells, etc.)

          I'm not sure which ones you consider "tier 1" and which you don't, so you'll have to come up with the list.
          Or tell the installer what your concerns are about the panels they put in the quote - ex. "I'm not comfortable with Mission Solar because I don't have confidence they'll be around in 5 years if I have a warranty issue. Is there another manufacturer you commonly use like LG or Panasonic or SolarWorld?"

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          • #6
            All great suggestions, thanks foo1bar! Let me ask around if the other local companies carry LG or SP.

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            • #7
              I assume the LG 395's are LG 395 Neon R, N type 60 cell panels not the Neon 2 72 cell panels. I have 28 LG 365 Neon R for 10.22 kW going into an SMA 7.7 string inverter. I am happy with the LG and SMA string inverter combination. I have seen some forum posts regarding Neon 2 panel interconnect issues, but the Neon R is a different animal.

              You didn't mention anything about shading. Long story short, I have minor winter shading issues. But knowing how my shade progresses across my pole barn roof, with today's solar panel technology, I would probably pick half cut cells so shade only affects 1/6 of the panel and stick with a string inverter using Tigo optimizers (optimizers aren't that much more expensive than rapid shutdown only modules).

              As foo1bar mentioned, Sunpower monitoring using PVS6 doesn't let you monitor per panel production even though you have microinverters. There are several blogs, websites, etc. for people trying to access the PVS6 using a raspberry Pi or similar device. In other words, a work around. That seems like a lot of work and yet another system to learn and maintain.

              More important to me is installer level access to my inverter so I can download data if I ever need to do troubleshooting. I have had to re-update my inverter firmware to get it to work properly. I couldn't do this if I had customer level access, but I am comfortable doing this because I am a retired technical nerd.

              Companies will tell you that "we monitor your system so we can tell you when you have issues". That never happens so I monitor my system frequently.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by InmarketforPV View Post
                All great suggestions, thanks foo1bar! Let me ask around if the other local companies carry LG or SP.
                I'd also add downloading a slightly dated but free PDV of "Solar Power Your Home for Dummies" or spring the ~ $25 for an updated version at Amazon or bookstores. You need an unbiased education.

                Also, know that most all decent quality PV panels in the same orientation and location will all produce about the same annual # of kWh per installed STC kW of PV. Spend more time evaluating vendors than worrying about or having bragging rights on overpriced and overhyped panels. You're still 20% or 30%$ overpriced, bay area or not.

                Lastly, and to reiterate, know that net metering in CA will most likely be changing in the reasonably near future, making your payback times a lot longer. Believe it.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by InmarketforPV View Post
                  Let me ask around if the other local companies carry LG or SP.
                  I think that none of the smaller guys carry LG or SP or anything else.
                  I expect they get the panels from someone like Soligent - probably ordering a week or two worth of installs at a time, after they have a signed contract. They don't want to wind up having 5 modules left over that they can't get more matching ones to use on an install.

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                  • #10
                    foo1bar is exactly right. My install was from a smaller company that ordered my components after I signed the contract (terms pending AHJ approval) and the AHJ signed off on project. My project was 1 pallet plus 4 panels. They made sure the +4 panels were close enough in date code and other characteristics. You don't want the four extra stragglers to be to oddballs they found laying around in the warehouse. I know I have read posts in this forum where somebody has said "these three panels look different than the others, is this right?"

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                    • #11
                      LG and Sunpower are just about the most expensive options there are. Just look on Solarreviews.com for a reputable local installer and get a "most cost effective" quote using mainstream Tier ! panels and you'll be good. PV panels are all very durable, you don't need to pay extra for "quality" panels. There are three important criteria on choosing an inverter though:
                      1) reliability 2) reliability 3) reliability. Don't get a brand that has any plastic in the case, is made in China, mounts under the solar array, or doesn't have built in internet connectivity.
                      BSEE, R11, NABCEP, Chevy BoltEV, >3000kW installed

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                      • #12
                        I have Sunpower, Canadian Solar, Hanwha Qcells and some rebranded cells on different buildings. I agree with solarix to just get tier 1 panels. I am putting panels on a new building and the guy helping me has a supplier with good prices on Mission Solar panels so I may go with those. The important thing to me is the quality of the install.
                        9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ampster View Post
                          I have Sunpower, Canadian Solar, Hanwha Qcells and some rebranded cells on different buildings. I agree with solarix to just get tier 1 panels. I am putting panels on a new building and the guy helping me has a supplier with good prices on Mission Solar panels so I may go with those. The important thing to me is the quality of the install.
                          I did have another quote with mission solar panels, 30x325W panels for a 9.75KW system with Enphase IQ7plus-72x micro inverters. estimated annual production 14250KWh, faster degradation to 85% year 25, priced at $2.8/W.
                          It is a big price difference compared to LG quote, at $3.54/W: 28x395W LG NeonR LG395Q1C-A6 for a 11.06KW system, with SolarEdge SE10000H-US single inverter w/ optimizer, estimated annual production 15637KWh, slower degradation ~92.5% at year 25.

                          However, things I don't like about mission solar are: occupying pretty much all roof space with 30 panels but yet less powerful system (not covering 100%), limited to future upgrade if needed (needs to reserve some space for thermal solar pool heating), micro inverters being less efficient than SolarEdge, and of course faster degradation. Both are from local companies, with the LG one being more prestigious with top reviews and longer in business, their commitment to reimbursing system down cost is also a plus. Trying to see if any luck getting LG quotes from other locals ...

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                          • #14
                            One big factor in making my panel decision was warranty. It's not just the amount of years but which company will still be around after that many years.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by robbyg View Post
                              One big factor in making my panel decision was warranty. It's not just the amount of years but which company will still be around after that many years.
                              Yes that is important. My first panels in 2008 were BP Solar. Four years later they honored a warranty claim for all the panels. There was a recall based on bad solder connections.
                              9 kW solar. Driving EVs since 2012

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