The pyramid below, by Pike Research, lays out its version how it differentiates the 3 tier rankings of solar panels manufacturers from one another. Other organisations and research firms may have different methods for determining the tier ranking of a solar panel manufacturer, but they are all roughly in the same ballpark as Pike’s. According to Pike, Tier 1 manufacturers represent only a small slice (2%) of the total number of manufacturers on the market, but a number of factors set them clearly apart from their competitors.
- First of all, they are vertically integrated, meaning that they don’t simply assemble solar panels using other companies’ products, they manufacture their panels from the ground up. This means that they control the production process for everything from the silicon cells to the modules frames and ultimately panel assembly.
- Tier 1 installers invest heavily in research & development (R&D) and continually innovate in order to improve their products and processes.
- Tier 1 installers also use highly automated manufacturing techniques that are conducive to a standard level of quality, while (in many cases) saving money on manufacturing costs at the same time.
- Finally, at least 5 years’ history producing solar panels is the other criterion for being considered Tier 1 for Pike Research. Having been around for at least this amount of time in what is a relatively young industry is testament to a company’s commitment to its own longevity as well as to its customers, and is indicative of the likelihood that that company will still be around in 20+ years’ time to service its warranties.