Quote Review Sunpower vs Hanwha Qcell system install in eastern Florida, US

#1

I have quotes for a few companies that are similar and two that are very different. I live in zip 32952, which is Merritt Island, Fl. I have a lot of sun and don’t seem to have any obstructions. I have a good portion of south and west facing roof space which is optimal in this hemisphere. Sixteen or Seventeen of my panels would be on the second floor roof there is only a small pitch, the rest on the first; all on the south side. We have a tile roof. I hope to replace our gas heater with DHW on the west side after.

Quote from Brevard Solar for 2.01/watt US or ~2.84/watt AUD. They are quoting me on a 12,470 watt system.

  1. Panels: Hanwha Q Cell QCELL290M, (43 each), 25 year warranty & positive tolerance
  2. Inverter: SMA Sunny Boy High Frequency Grid-Tie inverters with emergency power outlets which
    provide up to 4,000 watts of power when the sun is up, but the grid is down
    These solar modules have a 12 year warranty covering materials and workmanship and a 83.6% production after 25 years warranty covering their guaranteed power output. The company does have good ratings in the area, they were one of the companies used in a recent co-op where a large group all purchased solar from them. This pricing I am told is comparable to the last co-op pricing, from people in the co-op. I would get a $7520 rebate back from the US government at my next tax filing after install but that is all we get in my area unfortunately, beyond wholesale net metering from our utility. Even the government rebate is set to end soon.

Quote from a local Electrical company is $2.50/watt US or 3.53/watt AUD for a 14.0kWh system and 46 panels. I would get ~10,523 back from the US government again and the system would be a gross amount of $35,075 US or $49,478 AUD. I have a few other quotes very similar to this one, but not at good since most involved a single inverter instead of microinverters.

  1. Panel: Hanwha Q CELLS Q.PEAK-G4.1 305 Q.PEAK
  2. Inverter: Enphase Energy microinverters

My other high end quote is from ESA Solar, which is another local company that was also involved in one of the prior co-ops in the area as well and is highly rated also. Their quote is 2.80/watt US or 3.95/watt AUD and they are quoting on a 13,410 watt system so its an astronomical $36,539 US. I get a $1,000 discount because my company has a “deal” w/ them.

  1. Panels: Sunpower Corp. SPR-E20-327-D-AC (240V)
  2. Inverters: n/a (integrated micro inverters)

For this system I would get a $10,962 government tax credit back. From my reading Sunpower has a insane warranty that covers virtually anything and everything for 25 years including labor, shipping and parts and in a beachside area and 92% production after 25 years warranty covering their guaranteed power output. We are on the river ~3miles over a causeway from the beach on the east coast of Florida.

Brevard Solar, the first quote has offered to lower the price by going to Canadian Solar panels instead of Hanwha for 1.85/watt US or 2.61/watt AUD. I have some co-workers that have just recently installed w/ ESA Solar and were able to get them down to 2.50/watt US or $3.53/watt AUD but I haven’t been able to get them down to this pricing, they have only offered me a smaller system, which I think would be fine anyhow, but at this point I am still trying to compare as apples to apples as I can. They also offered quoting us on going to the Hanwha QCell panels instead. My sisten-in-law purchased LG panels with microinverters for $2.01/watt or 2.84 AUD in the past three months as well. I am waiting on a quote from a LG contractor and I have access to my sister-in-law’s system and I see how much power they are producing which is covering all their bills so I know solar PV is the way to go. The Sunpower rep had much material in his packet on why their panel and warranty is much better than LG’s/

There is another co-op group that is close to start up again but from what I could tell from the last co-op is that they downgrade the equipment in order to lower the price and get as many people into the co-op.

So I guess the big question is how much of an advantage is it to go w/ a “more” premium system? Are my quotes totally outrageous? I think what I am being quoted for the Sunpower system is a little high honestly. They are insisting to me its $2000 US higher because of our tile roof, but even that price seems high. It seems I am not going to be able to negotiate the lower pricing my co-workers have been able to get with ESA Solar for whatever the reason. I also suspect I probably don’t need this large a system from looking at my sister-in-law’s output but I am just not sure yet.

Just not sure what direction to go here are you best off just getting the cheapest solar option available or going for one that has the best warranty and performance available. Does it really matter in the end? Most people I have talked to that have done this don’t seem to understand the difference and are just focused on the lowest price.

Thanks for any ideas/opinions,

Alysa

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#2

Hi Alyssa

Welcome. Wow, that’s a really interesting insight, thanks for detailing it all out for us

I think what I am being quoted for the Sunpower system is a little high honestly.

I would have to agree with you on that.

Like I say in the eBook, the most important thing to worry about is the installation company you choose. Let’s assume they are all equal, in that case I would be very happy to have SMA and Canadian Solar on my roof. That’s a good system. It would be nice to have SunPower and Enphase, but for twice as much? I wouldn’t do it. My vote is for the Brevard system with Canadian panels.

12.5kW is a big system. However, if you’re getting a net feed in tariff, and can afford the upfront cost, I think why not. Feed some solar to a neighbour and get paid for it if you don’t use it.

Hope that helps.

Marty

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#3

Hi Marty,

Thanks for taking a look. Yes I did read this in the ebook about the installation company being the most important factor. Both Brevard Solar and ESA Solar seem to be top rated installers. I know people who have had systems installed by both but really only in the past 3 years. Everyone raves about both still post sale and a number of family & coworkers have given me access to their monitoring. I don’t know anything about equipment failure rates thought and how that really factors into the equation. ESA Solar has insisted that dealing with the warranty for Sunpower is more pleasant for the customer compared to doing this with LG or other companies. I heard a horror story about a customer having to send off his LG panels himself and was down for months after that waiting for repairs. I also have another friend who right now her monitoring shows her she is producing full power and the installer came out and insisted everything is operating fine but she is getting really high electric bills and they are pointing the finger at the utility.

I have experience with domestic hot water and solar pool heating. In our last house where we had both we had numerous failures and the warranty was used quite a bit. We had to replace numerous pool panels, had leaks in pipes, valves and the hot water tank for the DHW system. We had a valve that from my recollection was replaced just about every year the last 5 years we owned the house and when it failed it would waste a lot of water. But this doesn’t mean that this correlates to PV technology at all and I know this. My husband felt due to the warranty it was worth going with ESA using the Sunpower/Enphase system.

I also think its a big system, most of our usage is for cooling, though I do have plans to do a duct check before we finalize on the solar sizing since even w/ the A/C it is almost always uncomfortable in this house. I see all the people with only 5kW systems and I am jealous, wish I could get something that small and cover our usage. Reviewing our bills I see it peaks pretty high once we need to start using A/C which is a good portion of the year. But we do have net metering so I will be able to sell the power back at wholesale rates at least.

Thanks so much,
Alysa

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#4

Hi Alyssa

Ah, wholesale net metering, I misread that earlier and assumed it was retail net metering. I was under the impression that almost everywhere in the US had retail net metering, is Florida different or did I misunderstand that?

Regarding the warranty, I think your decision largely comes down to your level of comfort with risk. I would be more comfortable to keep the price difference in my pocket in case of issues, but other people would be more comfortable paying more upfront for peace of mind. It really comes down to personal preference.

All the best. Would love to see a picture of the install once complete.

Marty

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#5

I think its wholesale, but I may be wrong. What has been explained to me in the past was that I would be getting back just under 6 cents a watt sold to them whereas I am buying it at I think just under 12 cents watt. I will have to do some digging on this and locate the net metering agreement. I know Florida untilities have worked hard to be able to make going solar as unrealistic for possible for a long time with legislation but the price economies have made it worthwhile despite all this. Most other states see an advantage to individuals going solar and offer incentives to individuals and push builders to install it, but Florida does none of this. At one point they attempted to make it illegal.

Thanks,

Alysa

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