Q CELLS solar panels (Hanwha) - 2021 review
Q CELLS is a Tier 1 solar panel manufacturer that makes high performance photovoltaic (PV) products for the residential, commercial, and industrial solar energy markets. Its solar panels are near the top of the market for efficiency, performance, and warranty structure, and they are used by installers all over the world.
If you’re wondering whether Q CELLS solar panels are right for you, check out the information below to learn about how the company’s products compare to the rest of the industry.
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Hanwha Q CELLS history
Q CELLS solar panels have a history just about as long as the modern solar industry itself.
Founded in 1999, Q CELLS AG quickly grew to be one of the top solar module manufacturers in the world. Unfortunately, the worldwide economic downturn and strong competition from government-subsidized Chinese solar panel companies took its toll, and in 2011, the company filed for insolvency. Its assets were purchased by the Hanwha Group, a South Korean company with its own strong solar business.
In the years since, Hanwha has brought together its German engineering team to reinvigorate the Q CELLS brand, becoming one of the world’s top 10 solar module manufacturers. In 2018, Hanwha decided to remove its name from the brand, leaving its products to be called simply “Q CELLS”.
Q CELLS now has manufacturing facilities all over the world, most notably its huge U.S. facility in Georgia, which was the largest solar manufacturing plant in the western hemisphere upon its completion.
|Headquarters||Seoul, South Korea|
|Design & engineering||Thalheim, Germany|
|Manufacturing||China, Korea, Malaysia, United States|
Q CELLS technology and products
Since its inception in 1999, Q CELLS has been a leading innovator in solar cell technology.
The company has dabbled in many different kinds of solar cells, from polycrystalline silicon to CIGS thin-film, but they currently only focus on one technology: monocrystalline PERC solar cells.
PERC, which stands for “passivated emitter and rear contact,” is a fancy way to say these solar cells come with an extra layer of conductive material on the backside of the cell, which can be built into a solar panel with a reflective backsheet to capture a tiny bit of extra energy from photons that would otherwise get reflected back into the sky.
Q CELLS calls its PERC implementation “Q.ANTUM DUO”.
Q.ANTUM DUO PERC technology
Q CELLS takes a traditional PERC solar cell that’s been treated to reduce light-induced degradation (LID) and potential induced degradation (PID).
Both of these problems can occur with any solar cell, causing reductions in power output, but Q CELLS has taken steps to remedy them using its technology.
The “duo” part of Q.ANTUM DUO refers to the newest advancements in Q CELLS modules - each solar cell is cut in half and each panel is wired in two halves.
The advantages of half-cut solar cells include:
- Less resistive energy loss
- More area for the PERC layer to grab photons
- Better durability
The advantages of the split-panel design mean less losses from shading; if only one section of the panel happens to be shaded, the other half will still output its full potential.
How Q CELLS Q.ANTUM DUO technology works. Image source: Q CELLS
Q.PEAK DUO series modules
The company currently offers 5 series of its solar modules, all of which are based on Q.ANTUM DUO technology. All Q.PEAK DUO series modules are made with half-cut, monocrystalline silicon PERC cells, with modules wired in the split-panel configuration described above.
In fact, all Q.PEAK DUO modules use the exact same kind of cells; the only differences between the series are slight changes in construction, the number of busbars (tiny wires that connect cells together), or the number of cells. The reason any given module offers more wattage than another has more to do with cell matching.
Q CELLS manufactures all of its cells, then cuts them in half and carefully analyzes them for efficiency. The cells are then separated into matching batches and used in the various modules.
For example, if a module needs to have an output of 330 watts, Q CELLS selects 120 half-cells with evenly-matched power outputs that will equal 330 watts once wired together in a module.
Slight changes between the series result in very similar panels across the board.
Here is a rundown of the modules within the Q.PEAK DUO lineup:
Each Q CELLS series includes a standard model with 120 half-cells, a “BLK” model with 120 half-cells on a black backsheet, and an “L” model, which uses 144 half cells inside a larger frame.
How the Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G6 and L-G6 compare to the standard model.
The standard modules are meant for residential rooftops while the 144 half-cell modules are meant for ground-mounted or large scale commercial installations.
The BLK models are designed for people who like the look of all-black solar panels, but they suffer from a 5% reduction in power output because they don’t reflect photons back to the PERC layer.
How Q CELLS solar panels compare in the industry
To know whether or not a solar panel brand is good, it helps to look at how its offerings compare to other companies in the industry. Here’s a look at how Q CELLS panels measure up when it comes to efficiency, performance, warranties, and cost.
Q CELLS solar panel efficiency
Most solar panels in the industry are between 15 and 20 percent efficient, but solar panel efficiency in commercially-available products can be as high as 22.8%.
Q CELLS solar panels start at around 20% efficiency with the Q.PEAK DUO-G5, and top out at 20.9% with the Q.PEAK DUO XL-G9, meaning they are high-efficiency solar panels, but not the very highest.
Q CELLS solar panel performance
Solar panels are designed for an operating temperature of 25° C (77° F), but because they are black, the surface of the panels increases in temperature faster than the air around them, especially under the direct sun they need for full output. For each degree Celsius in temperature increase, average solar panel output decreases between 0.3% and 0.5%. This decrease in production is known as the temperature coefficient.
The average Q CELLS solar panel has a temperature coefficient of 0.35%, putting them at the low end of the average range (lower is better). Because all models of Q CELLS solar panels use the same cells, they have nearly identical temperature coefficients across the entire product line.
Q CELLS solar panel warranties
Every standard and “L” model Q CELLS solar panel comes with a 12-year product warranty and a 25-year linear performance warranty.
Q CELLS guarantees that their panels will put out no less than 98% of the panel’s rating during the first year, and degrade by a maximum of 0.54% per year thereafter. These warranty periods match the average Tier 1 solar panel warranties within the industry.
For those who want an even better warranty, Q CELLS extends their product warranty to 25 years on its Q.PEAK DUO-G6+ and Q.PEAK DUO-G8+ series models. These “plus” models use the finest cells produced by Q CELLS, and the warranties represent the quality of these products.
The full 25-year product and production warranty equals those for the best panels from LG, Panasonic, and SunPower.
Q CELLS solar panel cost
Recent quotes from solar companies through our solar panel cost calculator show prices of between $2.30 and $2.49 per watt. The national average cost of solar panels is $2.49, meaning that solar systems using Q CELLS solar panels are competitive with the rest of the market.
Final thoughts: are Q CELLS solar panels a good choice?
Homeowners who have gotten quotes from solar installers can rest assured that Q CELLS solar panels are a high-quality choice backed by a good warranty at a reasonable cost.
While not the absolute best when it comes to performance or warranty, they meet the standard set by other Tier 1 solar manufacturers and come in at about the industry average for cost.
The Q CELLS brand is well-known and will surely last for many years to come, so you can count on them to stand by that warranty if you ever need service.
If you’re interested in making the switch to solar power, use our calculator to get estimated cost and savings, and compare quotes from different providers. Many installers provide quotes for various brands of solar panels, so make sure to look up information on all solar brands here at SolarReviews!
- Q CELLS solar panels are one of the top 10 brands in the world, producing high-quality monocrystalline silicon solar panels for home and commercial/industrial use.
- The company’s key technology advancement is Q.ANTUM DUO, a special way of building solar panels to produce more electricity in the same amount of space as less efficient panels.
- Bottom line: Q CELLS are among the top panels you can buy for your home, with performance, cost, and warranty that equals that of other Tier 1 solar panels.
Author: Ben Zientara | Solar Policy Analyst and Researcher
Ben is a writer, researcher, and data analysis expert who has worked for clients in the sustainability, public administration, and clean energy sectors.