Experts raise alarm over influx of substandard Chinese solar panels in Africa
London, Oct. 8, 2019 (AltAfrica)-Chinese businesses are taking advantage of the rising demand for renewable sources of energy in Africa to dump substandard solar panels on the continent’s market, energy experts warned
In Zimbabwe, Nobert Mataruse, an engineer with the Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority (ZERA), recently warned desperate consumers to be cautious about substandard products.
“In recent months, we have witnessed an influx of solar products which are not appropriate,” said Mataruse, as quoted by the government-owned newspaper The Herald
Zimbabwe, South Africa, Nigeria like many countries in Africa, are facing an energy crisis, and the government is advocating the wider use of solar energy. But many products entering the market are not meeting local standards.
A vast majority of defective solar panels in the market can be traced back to Chinese manufacturing plants, Tawanda Chitiyo, an energy expert based in Zimbabwe, told The Epoch Times.
“The growth of the local market has resulted in high inflows of PV [photovoltaic] products in Africa. That’s resulted in many substandard products finding their way into the market, with negative consequences for consumers,” said Chitiyo, who is also the director of Tawanda Energy.
Chitiyo said the lure of a bargain is strong, and saving hundreds or even thousands of dollars is an attractive proposition, especially when the quality deficits of lower-priced panels aren’t immediately apparent, making Africa a dumping ground for cheap and defective solar panels.
“Like all manufactured goods, solar panels and other solar energy system components degrade and generate less electricity over time. But the rate of failure of Chinese solar panels is now a great concern. There are no industry-wide figures about defective solar panels; no one is sure how pervasive the problem is,” he said.
Counterfeit solar products in the marketplace are now a key challenge facing solar energy in the continent Chitiyo said.
“Products from such suppliers often suffer from uneven performance and low power output, and do not perform according to specifications written on their data plates. Another problem is low-quality components and fittings, which sometimes lead to the complete failure of solar panels,” he said.
Solar panels, he said, are relatively uniform in appearance and have no moving parts, so it’s difficult—if not impossible—for the average consumer to gauge a particular panel’s quality when compared to another, even side by side.
“Most suppliers offer a 25-year warranty, but malfunctions and failures usually surface a few months from purchase, especially solar lighting systems, leading to losses,” he said.
According to Chitiyo, these issues have also created a new problem of how to dispose of these panels, resulting in environmental problems since there is insufficient expertise in the safe disposal of solar panels.