Differences between custom made and standard modules
When you order your coffee which dessert you choose – an ordinary cookie or a chocolate brownie? It may sound like a simple question, however, it perfectly illustrates dilemma solar product designers & developers have. Usually they choose between two types of solar modules – custom and standard. How they differ and how to know which one to go for?
The standard modules are the ones I am sure you all have already seen. Usually they come in few sizes and are widely adopted worldwide – in solar plants and households (mainly rooftops). When it comes to custom modules – shapes, colors, size, weight and possibilities for applications varies a lot, depending on customer needs and are a perfect pick where form and size matters, like lighting poles, docks, benches or even bike locks. These are by far the most significant difference. But wait! There is more.
First of all – the price. It is obvious that if standard modules are made in large scales and automatic way, they are cheaper. And it gets mind-blowingly cheap. In October, 2016, The National reported that new solar power project in Saudi Arabia could generate energy for as low as 1.79 cents per kilowatt hour. However, it is not the end. Last year in June it has been reported that 65 cents per watt price – the lowest globally – has emerged in tenders in India. Such lows may influence the global market, but not only for the good, as one of the reasons for this achievement is poorly paid workers behind standard module manufacturing.
Back to custom modules – prices are a completely different story due to many factors. Firstly, such modules are made individually according to customer needs, thus personal touch and additional effort to manufacturing such module is done from the start – individual combination of materials is researched, tested and then refined to its best. As these modules are made in a careful manner, they may last longer too. Secondly, at most times it requires high competence to use great precision required technology of solar cell cutting. Also, for best performance to be achieved – highest quality for such modules is the necessity. Thus to assure it – testing of every module according to international standards is needed. All these aspects constitute price which differ in every case.
Technologically-wise both modules are two different stories. Standard modules are commonly made by using glass/backsheet technology which consists of aluminum frame, tempered cover glass, encapsulation foil, stringed solar cells, second encapsulation foil, back sheet and junction box. Custom solar modules have much more options – the same glass/backsheet technology as standard ones, glass/glass, flexible and PCB/frontsheet. There are even more options to be chosen from, as materials, such as PVC, resin, aluminum and other can be adopted on demand, so thickness level and module weight can be modified accordingly.
In terms of design, standard modules are all typically blueish, few size options, heavy and have limited possibilities for integration, as its main purpose is solar plant installation. Custom modules are an opposite – they can be small, light, flexible, seamlessly integrated and can be used even in harsh conditions. That’s why it is number one choice for companies, working in lighting, mobility, marine and construction markets, which develops their solar product.
While standard modules are likely baked with less personal touch and quality than your morning cookie, custom modules can be regarded as just out-of-the-oven ultimately delicious chocolate brownie. It may initially cost you more, but its rich spectre of flavors and quality has a continuous effect on keeping you satisfied and craving for more.