Sharp Solar Panels | Are They Any Good?

Indeed, Sharp has a big name and a long history of involvement in solar power development and production. We consider Sharp solar panels to be genuine green products.

C O N T E N T S

Sharp had launched its solar research as far back as 1959 and produced first solar cells in 1963.

But, it appears, the company started its mass-production of solar panels only at the beginning of the 2000s and continued expanding it after that. This, of course, is no surprise: the market for solar panels is very new but now growing at a fast pace.

Sharp offers “first-generation” solar panels (both polycrystalline and monocrystalline) as well as “second-generation” thin-film ones.

Poly– and monocrystalline solar panels are mostly used for residential, off-grid and commercial purposes while thin-film panels are offered for large-scale utility applications.

We focus on Sharp‘s residential and off-grid solar products.

Sharp Solar Panels: Technology

As of 2010, Sharp offers several models of residential and off-grid solar panels with different power outputs to suit specific home- or off-grid- solar system requirements.

All of the models use the same proprietary technology which, according to Sharp, incorporates “an advanced surface texturing process to increase light absorption and improve efficiency”.

We include the following Sharp solar panels in our overview:

Residential modules:

  • 165 Watt module (NE-165UC1)
  • 176 Watt module (ND-176UC1)
  • 180 Watt module (NU-U180FC)
  • 198 Watt module (ND-198UC1)
  • 230 Watt module (NU-U230F3)
  • 235 Watt module (NU-U235F3)

Off-grid modules:

  • 80 Watt module (NE-80EJEA)
  • 123 Watt module (ND-123UJF)
  • 130 Watt module (ND-130UJF)

Types of Solar Cells Used in Sharp Solar Panels

As we mentioned above, Sharp uses both poly-crystalline and mono-crystalline types of silicon for its residential and off-grid solar panels.

Polycrystalline silicon consists of many silicon crystals and hence has a “rugged” or “flaky” appearance on the surface.

It is cheaper than mono-crystalline silicon (made of single silicon crystals) but has a lower energy efficiency conversion rate. Lower efficiency means less power produced per given solar cell’s area.

But mono-crystalline’s disadvantage is that it is more expensive to produce (bringing the price of the finished product up), with a lot of silicon wasted during its manufacturing process.

Maximum Power Outputs (Pmax) & PTC Ratings

All Sharp modules are rated for Pmax which is the maximum nominal power output (Watts) of a solar panel measured at Factory Standard Test Conditions (STC).

STCs require that a solar panel receives 1000 watts per square meter of solar irradiance at a solar cell’s temperature of 25°C.

However, the solar industry acknowledges that STCs are not real world (but just factory) conditions.

More realistic conditions have been set by an alternative PTC measure (PVUSA Test Conditions) developed in California, US.

PTCs require that a solar panel receives 1000 watts per square meter of solar irradiance at 20°C temperature of the air at 10 meters above the ground, and wind speed of 1 meter per second at 10 meters above the ground.

PTC ratings are significantly lower than STC ratings.

Tolerance Range of Pmax

Tolerance of Pmax defines a range of variance within which a specific Sharp solar panel will deliver its power output at STC conditions.

For example, a Pmax tolerance range for Sharp‘s 198 watt panel is +10% / -5%. It means that the power output for this model at STC conditions can vary between 218 Watt (+10%) and 188 Watt (-5%).

Most Sharp solar panels have a Pmax tolerance range of +10% / -5%.

It is a nice measure, but it would also likely help consumers to have this tolerance range measured for PTC ratings as well.

Sharp Solar Panels’ Voltage Ratings

Sharp provides open circuit voltage (Voc) and maximum power voltage (Vpm) readings for its panels.

Open circuit voltage (VOC) is a maximum voltage produced by a solar panel when there is no current running through it. At this point, the solar panel doesn’t produce power as such (power (watt) = volt x current).

Maximum power voltage (Vpm) is the maximum nominal rating for the voltage produced when the current runs through the panel as well (i.e., when the actual watt power is generated).

We are only interested in Vpm readings as such. Please note that the actual voltage produced by a solar panel will be less than Vpm depending on the environmental factors in which this panel will be used.

From the technical point of view, if you need a certain amount of Watt power produced for your home (power (watt) = Volt x Current), you’ll most likely achieve it easier with modules with higher voltage ratings (and lower current ratings) than if you were using modules with lower voltage ratings (and higher current ratings).

So when trying to power a standard home (and standard appliances used in it) with solar electricity, it may be technically more useful to have higher voltage ratings than higher current (amp) ratings.

The nominal voltage readings (Vpm) for Sharp‘s 6 residential solar panels we mentioned above vary between 23.4 V and 34.6 V.

The nominal voltage readings (Vpm) for Sharp‘s 3 off-grid solar panels mentioned above vary between 17.2 V and 17.4 V.

Sharp Solar Panels’ Current Ratings

Short circuit current (Isc) is a maximum current produced by a solar panel when there is no voltage running through it.

Maximum power current (Ipm) is produced when the voltage runs through the panel and power is generated.

The maximum current readings (Ipm) for Sharp‘s 6 residential solar panels mentioned above vary between 4.77 Amp and 7.81 Amp.

The maximum current readings (Ipm) for Sharp‘s 3 off-grid solar panels mentioned above vary between 4.63 Amp and 7.5 Amp.

Sharp Solar Panels’ Efficiency

Energy-conversion efficiency indicates how efficient a solar module is at converting solar light it receives into usable solar power.

The higher the efficiency rate, the more power a solar cell/module can generate per given area.

Please note that there is a difference between the efficiency rate of a solar cell and that of a solar module as such. A solar module’s efficiency will always be lower than that of an individual cell’s.

The efficiency rate of monocrystalline solar cells/panels is higher than that of polycrystalline ones. But do bear in mind that, although more efficient, monocrystalline solar modules are more expensive.

From the practical point of view, the issue of energy efficiency may become irrelevant to you, the buyer, once you know the technical / electrical requirements of your home solar system and are satisfied with your system’s overall cost.

The efficiency rates of the Sharp‘s 6 residential solar panels mentioned above vary between 12.7% and 14.4%.

And the efficiency rates of the Sharp‘s 3 off-grid solar panels mentioned above are between 12.39% and 13.1%.

Nominal Operating Cell Temperature (NOCT)

NOCT is the temperature reached by open circuited cells in a solar panel under a set of conditions which are closer to “real world” than STC requirements.

The lower this temperature is, the better the panel will work (i.e., more efficient).

NOCT temperatures below 47°C are considered to be good.

All Sharp panels have a NOCT of 47.5°C.

Temperature Coefficient at Pmax

The maximum power temperature coefficient shows how much power your solar panel will lose when the temperature rises by 1°C above 25°C.

For example, Sharp‘s 230 Watt module has a Pmax temperature coefficient of -0.485% per 1°C.

It means that this panel will lose roughly 1.12 Watt per 1°C temperature rise above 25°C.

The lower the Pmax temperature coefficient is, the better.

All Sharp solar panels have a temperature coefficient of -0.485% per 1°C.

Other Issues

sharp-solar-panels176 W, 180 W and 198 W panels are offered as part of Sharp‘s OnEnergy residential solar system which, according to the company, “sets the standard for solar aesthetics”.

These modules have been specially designed for use with OnEnergy solar racking system.

They have black frames, are covered with tempered glass, EVA lamination and weatherproof backskin, which, according to Sharp, should provide for advanced aesthetics, long-life and enhanced cell performance.

Our understanding is that “advanced aesthetics” is achieved with the use of black frames which are expected to look much nicer on a roof than the light-colored ones.

Other residential modules – 165 W, 230 W and 235 W – are multi-purpose panels that can be installed in any type of home solar systems.

They have either black or light frames, covered with tempered glass, EVA lamination and weatherproof backskin – all this presumably provides for long-life and enhanced cell performance, just like with other residential panels.

Solar cells in all Sharp solar panels are connected in series.

Qualifications

off-grid-sharp-solar-panelsAll residential and off-grid Sharp solar panels are listed with Underwriters Laboratories (UL), to the UL 1703 standard, for the US and Canadian markets.

UL 1703 standard certifies that a product has been tested for safety and passed it.

Sharp‘s off-grid models are also “FM Approved” to the Class 1, Division 2, Groups A, B, C & D standard, for the US and Canadian markets.

This certification is issued in respect of a product’s suitability to be used in “hazardous locations.”

Here is an excerpt from the testing body’s website that explains this certification for Sharp solar panels:

Class 1, Division 2 locations are those in which hazardous concentrations of flammables exist only under unlikely conditions of operation. As such, equipment and associated wiring which are incapable of releasing sufficient electrical and thermal energy to ignite flammable gases or vapors under “normal” operation and environmental conditions are safe to use in Class 1, Division 2 locations.

In plain English, this means that it is safe to use Sharp panels in “off-the-main-road” locations where there is no real risk of “hazardous concentrations” of flammable substances. That is, in places “in which hazardous concentrations of flammables exist only under unlikely conditions of operation”.

Warranty

As of October 2009, the company provides a materials and workmanship warranty of 5 years for its all residential and off-grid solar modules.

The warranty for power output is:

  • 90% minimum rated power output for the first 10 years, and
  • 80% minimum rated power output for the next 15 years

for a total warranty period of 25 years.

User Feedback

Technologically, Sharp has achieved a lot with their solar panels.

But what matters at the end is their actual performance, of course.

So user feedback is crucial to appreciate whether it’s worth paying a premium price for this device.

While researching the articles on Sharp solar panels, I have come across many comments by professional installers who speak very highly of them.

Most of them recommend choosing top-quality panels such as Sharp panels, over cheaper low-quality ones if you are serious about getting a home solar system for the long-run.

The feedback from individual users on Amazon.com is virtually perfect.

We would also like to hear from solar professionals / individual users about their experiences with Sharp solar panels. Your feedback will certainly help our future readers, and thanks in advance!

Got A Sharp Solar Panel? Tell Us Your Opinion …

Have YOU been using this, or any other Sharp solar panels, for your home? What is your opinion about them? Are you satisfied with their performance, or not, and why?