Underwriters Laboratories (UL) has issued a Public Notice indicating that Advanced Solar Photonics (ASP) has distributed solar modules in Florida that do not meet UL standards, but carry the UL mark. The affected solar modules include Models AP-240PK, AP-245MK and ASP-390M.
BlueChip Energy has sold and installed these solar panels in Southwest Florida, and now owners are finding they didn’t get what thought they were buying. BlueChip Energy was crushing the prices we offered two years ago, selling systems priced below our cost! We couldn’t compete. I was sounding the warning bells internally at my company that something was fishy. Early signs of trouble came up in early 2012. Now we know for sure…
BlueChip Energy boasts of solar projects on Florida Public Schools, in the Caribbean, and for Habitat for Humanity on its website. It was also featured on the cover of enerG Magazine for installing the largest privately owned rooftop solar array (on ASP’s manufacturing plant). Is it really the largest if the panels don’t meet specifications? We may never know.
One picture shown in the UL statement even shows a label that has impossible specifications with a module maximum power current exceeding its short-circuit current. This is physically impossible.
Solar dealer and advocate Ray Johnson has written extensively about the ASP/Blue Chip Energy debacle on his blog. ASP was even able to bamboozle this prominent and seasoned solar professional who purchased ASP panels for his own building. It seems that the issue has presented problems for customers who purchased ASP modules and are awaiting utility rebates. ASP is unable to manufacture solar modules while the UL investigation is underway, and therefore cannot supply modules to replace those that do not meet nameplate ratings. That spells big trouble for people who have up to $20,000 in rebate funds in limbo, as there is a time limit for meeting rebate program standards.
Check out the picture below showing the impossibly low price that BlueChip Energy offered for the Charlotte County (FL) Sports Park and Fire Station Photovoltaic Systems project under public Bid No. 2012000092 17 months ago. BlueChip’s full bid is public record, and can be found at this link. I’m not certain whether the affected solar modules were installed for this project, but every time I drive by that Fire Station along I-75 I am sad having lost the bid, and now I’m disgusted to learn that fraud may have taken place.
The allure of cheap solar panels is admittedly attractive, but there is a risk associated with purchasing a new and untested brand. With solar modules themselves becoming a low percentage of the total installed price of a solar energy system, buying cheap solar panels is penny-wise and pound-foolish. Saving 20% on the solar panel may only save you 5% on the total installed price!