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PowerWave Solar Panel Review: Is This Solar Panel Any Good?

PowerWave Solar Panel Review: Is This Solar Panel Any Good?

 

Introduction

PowerWave is a new-comer in the Australian solar panel market.  Although the company has been in operation and registered for over 16 years, very little information can be found out about their solar panel products.  So are they worth all the fuss?

This review will attempt to uncover for consumers whether PowerWave is worth putting on your roof or not, what you should expect to pay for a PowerWave system, and what sort of similar products you should be comparing the PowerWave solar panel with.

 

The Company

Powerwave is currently 100% owned and operated here in Australia and has done so for 16 years.  Its parent company,  The Kingston Group, has been in operation for well over 35 years.Something important to consider when investing in a solar panel is the length of time that a company has been in operation, and who specifically is backing that company.

The fact that PowerWave has been in operation for such a long time and has experienced a steady growth over a long period, indicates that the company is exceptionally well run and will have a stable financial backing for the next 10-25 years (i.e the life of a solar panel).

Many of the cheaper Chinese solar panels suffer from unstable financial backing and combust within a few years of production – leaving you the consumer out of pocket if a warranty needs to be claimed.

PowerWave (The Kingston Group) employs 84 staff, at time of print, of which 34 have worked for the group for between 10 and 32 years.

It is obvious that PowerWave exhibits exceptional operational standards and is looking to build for the future.

All PowerWave products are underwritten by a liability policy through QBE Insurance to ensure total peace of mind.  Oftentimes, many other solar panels do not have such protection, leaving the consumer stranded if the company dies.

Investing in a solar solution is a long term commitment and it appears that PowerWave is taking this seriously by implementing all of the necessary structures to ensure long term viability in the Australian solar market.

 

Three PowerWave Solar Panels

At the time of writing, PowerWave have three solar panels available.  It is important to note this fact as many people incorrectly believe that PowerWave only have one solar panel on the market.

The Standard 325W Polycrystalline PowerWave

The PowerWave 325 Watt module is the entry level module that PowerWave offers.  This module is similar to most other low to mid range tier one panels available on the market.  Panels such as:

  • Trina
  • Jinko
  • PhonoSolar
  • GCL
  • Risen
  • Canadian Solar

At this stage, it is probably worth considering the next PowerWave module up at a minimum, as it is vastly superior in many regards.

The PowerWave Obsidian 270W Black on Black Polycrystalline

PowerWave Solar Panels

The PowerWave Obsidian is the next generation of PowerWave solar panel.  This is a relatively new addition to the Australian market, but already appears to be gaining momentum quickly among consumers.

Perhaps the biggest distinguishing feature of this panel is the the black powder-coated aluminium frame with black backing sheet.  This creates a sleek looking module that doesn’t represent the typical eyesore of silver framed and white backing sheet solar panels.

The PowerWave Obsidian appears to be modelled after higher quality solar panels.  This is obvious when you see a module in person and notice the quality of the solders on the bus-bars, the genuine MC4 connections and the general quality of the build.

The Obsidian features a 12 year physical product warranty and a 25 year power guarantee.  The majority of solar panels coming in from Chinese companies feature only a 10 year warranty.  Having an extra two years is a major plus, in addition to the fact that the company is Australian and is more likely to be able to service the warranties.

The PowerWave MONO-PERC Black on Black

Due sometime late this year, PowerWave have embraced the PERC technology that we’ve been seeing included in top tier products.  PERC technology is expected to be the gold standard in solar panels for the next decade.  Naturally it makes sense that PowerWave would embrace this change.

 

Testing Results: The Obsidian Rivals Top Range Panels

Recently we put the Obsidian to the test to see just how good this Australian owned panel is.  The results were surprising.

The first figure shows one of the following top of the range panels.

  • Winaico
  • LG
  • QCell
  • SunPower

In order to make the test as scientific and fair as possible, we chose two installations that are facing dead north and have solar panels tilted at the same angle toward the sun.  Inverters and cable run distances are the same. Both are located in the vicinity of one another.

Figure 1 – Top Range Competitor Output Results
Figure 2 – PowerWave Obsidian Output Results

It appears that the PowerWave Obsidian actually out-produced the other panel by over 4kWh!  While this may seem like a small amount, multiplied over 10 years (the average life of a system), this amounts to 14,600 kWhrs.  If we assume that this power was fed back to the grid at a rate of $0.11 / kWh, then the PowerWave Obsidian would generate an extra $1,606 over 10 years.

As with everything, this is one test and is by no means indicative of every circumstance.  Certain things could skew the results in favour of Powerwave, such as a lucky batch of panels that have minimal to no defects.  The other installation may also have had an unlucky batch of panels whereby the output is actually lower than what it should be.

The point of this test is not however to declare that the PowerWave Obsidian is the best panel in the world, but rather to show that the panel exhibits very similar output potential to other top of the range panels on the market that were listed above.

 

What Should You Be Paying?

If you’ve been quoted on a PowerWave system, first check and see if you’ve been quoted for the standard module or the Obsidian.  Pricing will be quite different for the two as the Obsidian represents an upmarket solution.  Pricing ranges vary based on company, location and inverter selection.  Higher prices represent a system that includes an inverter such as a Fronius.  All prices are cash prices.

Indicative Pricing Range for Standard PowerWave Modules

3kw – $4,000 – $5,500

4kw – $5,000 – $6,000

5kw – $5,500 – $7,000

6kw – $5,700 – $7,500

6.6kw – $6,000 – $8,000

Indicative Pricing Range for Obsidian PowerWave Modules

3kw – $5,000 – $6,500

4kw – $6,000 – $7,000

5kw – $6,500 – $8,500

6kw – $6,700 – $9,500

6.6kw – $7,000 – $9,000

The Hidden Benefit of Going PowerWave

A special extra point needs to be made regarding dealing directly with an Australian company.  Many solar panel manufacturers utilise distributors that import panels into Australia and then wholesale them out to solar retailers.  This means that if the distributor goes bankrupt, you will then need to approach an overseas company for warranties.

According to PowerWave, they have real Australians working the phones in their warranty and support office located at 131 Millaroo Drive, Helensvale, Gold Coast Australia.  Upon closer inspection, this address appears to be the location of TradeZone, a major electrical wholesaler with multiple locations country wide.  It turns out that TradeZone is partly operated by the owners of PowerWave, thus it makes sense that PowerWave would operate out of the head TradeZone office.

If you are interested in calling PowerWave’s support line, they can be reached here +64 7 3062 8660

 

Conclusion

If you’re considering going for a quote with PowerWave solar panels, feel secure in your decision.  PowerWave has been in operation for a long enough time period that a consumer should feel confident in their investment.  Results using PowerWave should be excellent based on our initial testing.  The caveat here is that the solar panel is installed correctly by a reputable installer, and paired with a high quality inverter that will stand the test of time.