Before buying anything I would recommend looking at the MCS approved list just to get a good idea of what’s around (http://www.microgenerationcertification.org/mcs-consumer/product-search.php ). However, undoubtedly among the best solar panel manufacturers in the world today are those companies you should already be familiar with, such as Sharp, Sanyo and Mitsubishi. While I am on the subject, it’s probably worth me saying straight away that the Sanyo HIT240 panel has attracted particularly high levels of praise of late. According to the Sanyo website, the HIT series rates at around 19.3% efficient as opposed to competing rates of around 13-14%. The Sanyo panel is a hybrid, which means that it incorporates both crystalline silicon and ultra-thin amorphous silicon layers.
eHow recommends the Sanyo HIT Power N series. This is another hybrid and has a cell efficiency of 19.8%. The website’s second choice is the SunPower E19 with a cell efficiency of 19.1%. SunPower uses black monocrystalline cells on an all-black panel so that it blends into the roof. The drawback however is that you have to negotiate with one of their partners which means a reduction in your ability to negotiate when it comes to the price. Next up on eHow is the Trina TSM-PA05 which has a low cost-to weight ratio and therefore, apparently, pays for itself faster. This panel’s efficiency is much lower than the Sanyo panel at 14.7%. Another panel eHow recommends is the Siliken SLK60P6L which has 15.1% efficiency. This panel is polycrystalline and designed for the grid.
Alongside the more well-known companies there are also a multitude of other high quality brands such as Shott, Sunny Boy and Fronius. A member of the Housing Energy Advisor Forum recommends Sunny Boy as being the best company for inverters by the way (the TL range that is).
GreenWorld Investor comments that most solar panel manufacturers have high costs and are low quality. However the website mentions a range of companies it considers to be worthwhile investigating. One of these, Suntech, GWI promotes as making one of the best quality panel systems in China with Trina Solar following close behind. Other brands the website recommends includes Hanwha Solar One, Sunpower, Panasonic, First Solar (for thin-film)
Freesource Energy have used lots of panels over the years and they recommend Sharp as being the best for a safe, long term investment. Kyocera’s range also appears to be a good option with 16% efficiency and a 20 year warranty and Sunforce is another company that has attracted praise this year, particularly with regard to its stand-alone systems.