U.S. solar companies turn to OEMs for custom solar panels

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Although solar panel manufacturing in the United States is growing and many global brands have established themselves in the country, domestic demand far exceeds supply. This often leads to incompatible or not executed commands to needy installers. To ensure contracts are met, some installers may choose to source their own panels and use an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) for small orders of custom products.

There are a few panel factories in the United States that also offer space as an OEM, and a number of players are taking advantage, whether it is a foreign company wishing to deliver a batch. products made in the United States or a small national company with a unique need.

CertainTeed Solar has a network of installation partners who have become accustomed to its high quality roofing products and want the same in the solar department. Solar lumos makes beautiful architectural projects with built-in solar power that anyone can provide. And Next energy alliance is an installer and distributor from Utah who wants a constant supply of solar panels. These three companies do not try to be panel manufacturing powerhouses, but provide niche markets and a constant flow of customers through OEMs.

Veteran Manufacturer – CertainTeed Solar

CertainTeed has been an American construction mega-company for over 115 years. Primarily known for its roofing products, the company took the logical step of entering the solar market 10 years ago. Not only does CertainTeed, a Saint-Gobain company, produce solar shingles installed alongside traditional roofing shingles and tiles, but the company also offers 60 and 72 cell panels installed through its “Master Solar” resellers. To install “.

CertainTeed Solar Apollo II Solar Shingles

Instead of partnering with an established panel manufacturer for its installation partners, CertainTeed produces its own modules through an OEM in California. Chris Fisher, head of solar products for CertainTeed, said the move was made to better control the features, performance, quality and reliability of products sold by the company.

“Having been in the solar industry for over 10 years, we have seen a number of very large solar panel manufacturers come and go as they grow too quickly, trade profits for market share, or can’t. not create a durable and convincing product. So bigger isn’t always better, ”said Fisher.

CertainTeed is capable of producing over 100 MW of panels in California. The company uses the California OEM to manufacture its PV options applied to Apollo II and Apollo Tile II buildings and its 60 and 72 cell Solstice panels.

Solstice Modules Solstice CertainTeed

Perhaps because CertainTeed is involved in other aspects of roofing, bringing solar products in-house was an obvious choice.

“We fundamentally believe that for the end customer, a unified, single source warranty for panels and systems balance is much better value than having multiple warranties from disparate component manufacturers,” said Fisher.

Fisher said that while having panels made in the United States is a big selling point for CertainTeed, domestic manufacturing reflects the company’s commitment to the United States.

“We have been in business in the United States for 115 years,” he said. “With more than 60 facilities in North America and more than 6,000 employees in the United States, we are deeply rooted in this country and we want to support it as much as possible. “

Architectural solar designer – Lumos Solar

Colorado-based Lumos Solar began developing and installing solar products in 2006, but founder and CEO Scott Franklin said the installation side was hard to differentiate in the race for the lowest price. As a result, the company changed course in 2014 and is now 100% focused on product development.

“We make solar products that improve the environment. Most commercial projects are on flat roofs that no one can see. Our products are the entrances – canopies or shade structures that people can live with on a daily basis, ”he said. “Lumos changes the perception of solar from an unwanted electrical device to a statement.”

Lumos is a “solar architecture agency”, which works primarily with building and site designers to ensure that its solar products – awnings, canopies, pergolas and solar facades – are included in the final designs. The company contracted with a California OEM to manufacture the exclusive Lumos solar panels.

“There is no solution that can do the same. We don’t make basic modules that you can get from just anyone, ”Franklin said. “Everything is designed holistically from the ground up. “

Lumos produces mono and bifacial modules in California. The LSX is a 60 cell frameless module with a transparent backsheet. GSX is a bifacial glass-to-glass module in a traditional 72 or 60 cell module footprint, but fewer cells can be used to increase module transparency between cell rows. Because every project is so personalized, Franklin said the company manufactures panels in the “megawatt range” every year.

“There are many opportunities for improving architectural solutions,” Franklin said. “We take a whole system approach to designing and manufacturing our products. Solar panel makers make panels, rack manufacturers make shelving, electrical devices make BOS – no one thinks about how the whole project is going. Our solution solves many of these problems: panels, integration, aesthetics. “

LSX and GSX modules have concealed conductors and junction boxes, a “trademark” of Lumos Solar.

“We’re focused on overhead solar power, like awnings and canopies, where your interaction with it is from below,” Franklin said. “We focused on making it as aesthetic as possible. “

Franklin said Lumos Solar has worked with supply modules in China and elsewhere, but bringing that manufacturing control to the United States allows the company to focus on quality.

“We are committed to Made-in-America for our own beliefs and business practices,” he said. “Everything we make is made in the United States. The only things that come from overseas are solar cells and glass. Beyond that, we do everything here.

Newcomer in distribution – Next Energy Alliance

Next Energy Alliance is very new in the manufacture of modules. The Utah distributor / installer got involved in manufacturing after founder Doug Hewitt struggled to secure panel orders from bigger names.

NEA panels

“I was buying direct and it became a joke to try to make sure I had inventory,” he said. “One month I was buying Trinas at 330-W and they guaranteed me I could get them. Then, when it came to ordering, they only had 295 W. “

The demand for the panels was so great that the companies would guarantee something, and it would be gone the next day, Hewitt said. It was then that he began to look to source wholesale from Asian companies. This ultimately led to working with an OEM in Southern California for the NEA brand panels.

“I was receiving things abroad and very quickly decided that it was difficult to navigate the rates. So I spoke to three different manufacturers in the United States and decided to have someone make my panels, ”he said. “I’m just pulling a ‘Nike model.’ They decided, ‘We’re not going to have our own factories everywhere. We’re just going to outsource it.

Hewitt also mentions that almost all Tier 1 companies are adopting this outsourcing process, and many OEMs in Southeast Asia have contacted Next Energy Alliance to manufacture NEA panels on their manufacturing lines alongside other brands. Level 1. When customers request Level 1 panels, they are asking for an industry marketing term that does not reflect the reliability or performance of the panels. Next Energy Alliance panels are UL certified and have received high marks on performance dashboards.

Hewitt envisions Next Energy Alliance as a network of solar companies, linking sales to installers and providing a guaranteed product. For now, the company manufactures all-black 60- and 72-cell NEA modules through the California OEM. Hewitt said he only offered all-black mods because he wouldn’t put a white backsheet on his own house, and people are worried about the aesthetics. Next Energy Alliance sold or personally installed nearly 7 MW of NEA modules last year.

Hewitt said he tries to have at least five containers of modules in stock in the warehouse at all times. NEA and OEM can scale up to 20 containers per month, but the company is not yet at that level. Next Energy Alliance was recently approved with Dividend, Loanpal and Sunlight Financial, so the wheels are on.

Today’s goal is simply to make life easier for solar installers.

“The plan is to continue to build that distribution and these relationships,” Hewitt said. “We’re not just a manufacturer, we’ve done it all. We have made installations. We know the pain and sorrows of entrepreneurs.

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