Shoddy Work Plagues Green Biz

12/15/2010
By

Tokyo (majirox news) – While many talk about green energy, not many people have noticed that it is attracting crooks. With the increase of solar panel installations in Japan, customer complaints are following in their wake.

Solar panel systems are being sold as being maintenance free. In other words, giving the impression that they are not going to break down. But that’s not true, says Ken Tsuzuki, head of the non-profit Solar Energy Network (PV-net).

“We know of many solar panels that were advertised to last for more than 20 years, but they lasted less than 10 years due to aging of the components and the panels,” he said.

Since 2005 there has been a lot of interest in solar panels, which cost about $20,000 per home, and clean energy in Japan. The fact that surplus electricity generated could be sold back to the power companies has also contributed to a massive jump in solar panels installation.

About 20 percent of the 600,000 solar panels installed in Japanese homes develop major or minor problems — something which should send up warning flags everywhere — according to a recent study by PV-net. The biggest problem happens with inverters that are supposed to convert the DC electricity that solar panels produce to the AC electricity that homes use. The second largest problems are breakdowns with the panels which are supposed to collect solar energy and convert it into electricity. Sloppy installations also account for low power production.

Tomohito Shimada said of his experience, “Three cables ran from the solar panels that I had installed, but one of them wasn’t even connected, which resulted in no electricity being produced. Once the connectors were reinstalled, the panels produced electricity.”

Erica Fujita said her panels were producing considerably less electricity than the sales company claimed it would, especially in fall and winter. It was eventually learned that nearby fences were casting shadows on the panels, causing a drop in the amount of electricity generated. “When we removed the fences the electricity returned to normal.”

When customers complain to unscrupulous installers and manufacturers, they typically blame problems on the weather. “It’s their favorite excuse to duck responsibility,” Tsuzuki said.

He added that many firms doing installations don’t have experienced workers. The training of skilled workers has not kept up with the demand, and bad workmanship has become increasingly common. Companies that install panels must get certification from the makers of solar panels.

“This certification is too important to be left solely to the manufacturer of solar panels,” Tsuzuki told Majirox News. “Regulations should be established with consultations between the government and public to put in place actual standards for solar panel installation.”

Tsuzuki noted that Japan’s system is completely different from other countries. “We are unique because many Japanese are now interested in building their homes with solar panels. The government gives each homeowner about $700 for installing the panels.”

To avoid problems, Tsuzuki recommends people look for installers that have been in business for at least 10 years, and keep good records of how much electricity their panels are producing. He also says it’s important to make sure installers, manufactures or sales companies offer a 10-year guarantee.

PV-Net even has a telephone hotline just for solar panels.

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