Snohomish County Public Utility District No. 1

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Customer Service (M-F 8a-5:30p): 425-783-1000

Notice About Silicon Energy PV Modules

Snohomish County PUD staff has recently learned about a potentially unsafe condition involving solar PV modules. We have received anecdotal information from the WSU Energy Extension Office that some panels manufactured by Silicon Energy in the State of Washington have been associated with what appears to be delamination and cell failure. In some cases, there has been partial melting or burning of the panel at the point of failure. Click here to view examples of failed modules. 

We have not had any reports of such failures among our customers, but we care about your safety and wanted to bring this issue to your attention. Since the PUD has no involvement in the selection or installation of this type of equipment, nor do we have the expertise, we encourage you to talk to your solar installer about whether there are safety implications in continued use of your Silicon Energy solar PV modules. Other sources of information about this issue may also include the WSU Energy Extension Office, the State Department of Revenue, or your insurance carrier.

We hope that this information is helpful.

FAQs regarding Silicon Energy Solar PV panel failure

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How dangerous is this situation?

It’s not clear how much danger Silicon Energy Cascade Panels pose at this time. There is the potential for danger – as evidenced by the panels that have failed and, in some instances, have caught fire or melted. But, this does not mean yours will fail and/or result in a dangerous situation. It is best to speak with your installer who can, potentially, inspect the condition of your modules and help you to decide if replacing them is the right course of action for you.                                                     

How many have failed?

We do not have an exact number. What we do know is that over 1300 customers in the state of Washington have installed Silicon Energy panels, and that there have been a handful of issues reported. The Solar Installers of Washington have estimated that between 5% and 10% have been affected by this problem in some way.

Is there an investigation of the situation?

Yes, although we have very limited information on the investigation process, we understand that the Intertek Testing Laboratory, which conducts product safety testing, is conducting an investigation. Specific information regarding the investigation will need to be requested of Intertek.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has been notified but it is not clear whether they are investigating the issue or not.

What should I do?

We do not advise you to get on your own roof to try to assess your situation. Speak with your installer about concerns. Your installer will be able to discuss safety implications and help you in deciding next steps. You may also want to check the Solar Installers of Washington website for information.

Who is liable?

Silicon Energy provides a 5-year warranty for manufacturer’s defects on its modules and up until recently had been replacing defective modules for just the cost of shipping. Unfortunately, Silicon Energy now claims to be out of business and has stopped honoring warranty claims. 

Is my contractor responsible?

Your contractor is not responsible. Your installer simply purchased materials from Silicon Energy, a reputable manufacturer at that time. This appears to be a manufacturing defect. However, most solar installers are aware of this issue and are working diligently to help customers affected by the problem. 

Who will replace the defective panels?

Usually, your original installer would be able to replace the defective modules; however at this time the manufacturer is claiming to be out of business and is not providing warranty replacements.  You should check with your installer.

Should I stop using my solar system?

We are advising you of information we have received. Because we care about your safety, we want you to be aware of a potentially dangerous situation. We encourage you to ask your installer to assist you in your decision to continue use of your current system, turn your system off, or replace your system.

Please be aware that, if you replace your system or components of it, you will need to recertify your system. For information regarding recertification, contact the Washington Department of Revenue at (360) 902-7003.

Why didn’t my contractor warn us about this?

The problems occurring at this time were not apparent at the time your modules were installed. The modules were certified by Intertek to comply with UL1703 and underwent additional rigorous testing by NREL. Installers and solar industry professionals believed that the modules were of high quality and would last their expected lifetime of 30 years at the time of installation. 

Will other panels have the same problem?

We are not aware of the same problem occurring in other solar modules. These issues of delamination and bypass-diode failure appear to be unique to Silicon Energy Cascade Panels. Cascade Panels are markedly different from most other solar modules, so it is unsurprising that these problems are unique to them. 

Will the PUD be taking any legal action?

No, we will not pursue legal action against Silicon Energy. We have not had any affiliation with Silicon Energy. You may want to consult your insurance carrier if you have questions regarding recourse. 

Is the PUD responsible for the panels’ failure?

No. We simply facilitate the payment of the state production incentive. Decisions regarding technical aspects of a product are not made by us. Any decision to invest in a solar installation is between you and your contractor.

Can I get a Solar Express rebate for a replacement system?

No. If you qualified for an incentive for your original installation your decision to continue using, discontinuing using, or replacing your system does not impact the rebate you received. We will not, however, offer new or additional funding for a replacement system.

Why didn’t the PUD warn us about this?

The PUD had no indication that Silicon Energy modules would experience failure. After hearing about this potentially dangerous situation from the WSU Energy Extension Office, the PUD worked to inform our customers and to confirm our registered contractors were aware of the issue.