Solar warning!

Local providers urge caution on the use of second-hand panels

Sunday, September 29, 2019

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SALT LAKE CITY, United States — Jamaicans are being urged to think twice before purchasing used solar panels which could soon hit the local market.

The Florida-based Sun Electronics, which sells used and new solar panels, is headed to Jamaica with an offer of what its owner said are good quality used solar panels at a lower price.

“We try to find really good deals on the used models from solar farms. Every few years they take down millions, but in the future it will be trillions of models off the old farms to replace them with newer more efficient models,” Sun Electronics owner John Kimball told the Jamaica Observer last week at the Solar Power International (SPI) conference and Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.

According to Kimball, Jamaicans who opt for the used solar panels have much to gain.

“When the [solar farms] take down those old models they have to do something with them and the loss of power is minimal, it's only .07 each year so after 30 years you still have 85 per cent of the power left in the panel,” said Kimball.

“You can pick up used models for US$0.10 to US$0.20 per watt, while a new model is selling for US$0.50,” added Kimball.

But local solar expert Damian Lyn, founder and managing director of Alternative Power Sources, is warning against the importation of used panels, which, he says, is not a good idea.

“I think that is a big mistake because first, the price of solar panels is not what it used to be five or 10 years ago. The prices have come down tremendously on the world market,” said Lyn who was also attending the expo in Utah.

“The other problem we face is that why would we be accepting dumped items, used panels in Jamaica. It makes no sense to me,” added Lyn.

He argued that the standard procedure when solar panels are removed from solar farms is for the manufacturer to take them back and either dump them, or recycle the frames, while dumping the modules.

“Because there is a level of degradation which takes place and none of us know how hard these panels have been working out there, you cannot say if it was 85 per cent compared to when it was new.

“With my experience, having been in this business for 15 years, I can tell you it is not a good idea to sell used panels. If you are selling them, they have to be extremely cheap and it is stated that they are used because one of the things the Jamaican public will not get is any warranty,” added Lyn.

He was supported by Ken Moore and Dale Nickason, partners in the Jamaican firm Solar Connections, who were also at the conference.

“I don't think the used panels would be a significant saving because when you look at any used products you are going with technology that is not as efficient as the current technology,” Moore told the Sunday Observer.

“Say you are going to buy solar panels from four years ago, my question is how efficient are those panels, and when it comes to batteries, it is how well they were maintained and what kind of use they had? That is going to dictate how long they last for. It is similar to buying a used car, you don't know who has been driving the car before and how they treated it,” added Moore.

Nickason warned that with the solar panels losing power each year Jamaicans could be left short.

“So if the panel is 10 years old it already lost five per cent of its production, but if it is 20 years old? In addition, we buy panels straight from the manufacturers so we can sell the panels at the same price they want to sell the used panels,” added Nickason.

Moore, Nickason and Jamaican Steve Smith opened Solar Connection in January after having supplied the Jamaican market with LED lights for some time.

“We moved into the Jamaican market because there is a lot of opportunity for solar on the island,” said Moore.

“I think the prospects are super in Jamaica. There is such a big growth spurt in the economy and everything is being restored or new buildings,” added an upbeat Moore.

Lyn, whose company has done work across Jamaica and in other Caribbean territories, expanded to Bermuda in 2015, completing two projects there and making a presentation to the chamber of commerce for a co-generation energy project for the capital city Hamilton.

He is also known for his philanthropic gestures, having donated a 250-litre solar water heater system to the Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in November 2018, and in February that year he outfitted the Laws Street Trade Training Centre in central Kingston with six LED floodlights.


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