Gov’t: MN-Made Solar Panels More Durable Than Others

A U.S. Department of Energy test exposed solar panels made by six manufacturers to high humidity and extreme temperatures and found that those made in a plant on Minnesota’s Iron Range are the most durable.

Solar panels made in a factory on Minnesota’s Iron Range are among the most durable in the nation, according to a new report by the U.S. Department of Energy.
The department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Colorado tested panels manufactured in the United States by six companies, including those made by Marysville, Washington-based Silicon Energy in its northern Minnesota plant located in the city of Mountain Iron.
The test involved exposing the panels to high humidity and temperatures as high as 185 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 40 degrees below zero in order to simulate years of normal wear and tear. The Minnesota-made solar panels scored the highest when it came to maintaining performance and are thus the most durable among those tested, according to the lab’s report.
NREL did not reveal the names of the five other manufacturers whose panels were tested. Its report indicated that there are at least 20 companies that manufacture solar panels within the country.
“The panels we make in Minnesota went up against five of the world’s biggest and best, and we beat them all,” Silicon Energy President Gary Shaver told the Duluth News Tribune.
Silicon Energy opened its Minnesota plant in 2011 and currently employs 10 there. Sales have reportedly been sluggish, and the company missed two quarterly $40,000 payments last year on a $1.5 million loan from the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB). That loan was restructured last year with new due dates starting in September, and company officials now say they will be able to meet the new timeline, according to the Duluth News Tribune.
Meanwhile, the City of Mountain Iron reportedly used a second, $3.6 million loan from the IRRRB to build the 25,000-square-foot building where the solar panels are assembled. The city owns the building and the company’s first rent payment of $75,000 is reportedly due in October.
Shaver told the Duluth News Tribune that 2013 can be a turnaround year for the company with the recovering economy and housing market. In addition, there are now smaller number of domestic competitors due to bankruptcies and plant closings, he told the newspaper.