2021 REC Solar Panel Review: Is It Worth It?

review REC panel

So, you’re another Aussie looking to go solar, curious to see what all the fuss is about. You’d like to shave a few bucks from your monthly bills, maybe lead a more sustainable lifestyle. Use the planet’s resources without using up the planet. 

Well, you’ve landed on the right page. Every few weeks, we do a deep dive on a solar panel maker and give you a knowledgeable, positively level-headed analysis, so you don’t have to trawl the depths of the web for answers. 

This time, have a look at our REC solar panel review. You’ll find comparisons with other makers linked below. 

PROS:

  • Up to 21.7% efficiency
  • Very low degradation rates
  • 25-year warranty
  • Bloomberg Tier 1 company
  • Innovative twin panel design
  • Heterojunction and monocrystalline cell technology

CONS:

  • Costly
  • Additional outlay for inverters 
  • Require professional installation
Efficiency4.5/5
Strength and durability5/5
Warranty5/5
Value for money4/5
Performance-temperature coefficient5/5

REC Company Overview

REC, or the Renewable Energy Corporation, is one of the best known solar manufacturers on the market. The company’s story begins back in 1996 in Norway, before it sets out to expand its presence globally across the United States, Europe, and Asia. From its first hand-washed wafer in the summer of 1997 to 38 million panels produced by the end of 2019, REC’s success comes as no surprise to those who’ve followed their business and production growth. 

The company is now owned by the China National Bluestar Group and the headquarters are located in Singapore. Now with an office in Melbourne, REC is poised to conquer the Australian solar panel market as well.

REC Solar Panels Features & Cell Technology

Solar cells are tiny devices that transform solar power into electricity, turning photons into volts – which is why they are also known as photovoltaics. A number of them connected together make up the solar panel. A solar system also needs inverters to convert the direct current (DC) produced by the panels into alternating current (AC), which is then used by the household where it was generated or sold to a utility company.

Cells can be made of various blends of silicon, each with varying properties, rates of efficiency, and power output. The sun’s rays will also induce some degradation in the material, so it will gradually lose some top-end performance. Make sure to have all of this in mind when choosing your next panel.

In addition, most of us believe that the most convenient place to install solar panels is on the roof – and rightly so. Alternatively, solar panels can be commercially ground-mounted in a number of configurations that improve efficiency and yield, but this requires a large area where no nearby objects obstruct the sunlight throughout the year. 

Let’s take a look at some REC solar modules and the type of cell technology they implement.

REC Alpha

Introduced to the market in 2019, REC Alpha is the company’s latest model. Some of its key features are given below.

  • 380 W capacity 
  • N-type silicon
  • Lead-free
  • Heterojunction cell technology
  • Advanced cell connection technology
  • Award-winning Twin Panel design
  • 217.4 W/m² power density

This solar panel is the first mass-manufactured model with heterojunction half-cut cells. The technology, first introduced by REC, is seen as the industry’s best shot at maximizing efficiency and power output. Heterojunction cells basically consist of a very pure N-type silicon wafer placed between two thin layers of amorphous silicon. In essence, HJT cell technology combines layers with differing properties to deliver a high-powered unit that exceeds the performance of the industry standard PERC technology.

REC’s patented Twin Panel layout is a revolutionary upgrade in solar panel technology, bringing a sizable boost of up to 20 W per panel. Its layout design is what sets it apart from the competition. Namely, in 2014, REC managed to produce cells with a wider surface to absorb more sunlight. These cells were then split into two equal parts, also referred to as half-cut cells. Separating the cells this way decreases the internal current by 50%, thus reducing power loss. 

If you’re looking for one of the lowest temperature coefficients on the solar module market today, look no further than the REC360AA Black model from the REC Alpha Series. This panel offers a coefficient of -0.26% /°C, meaning that for every degree the temperature rises above its nominal operational standard (usually 25°C), the panel will generate 0.26% less energy. Compare this to the industry standard temperature coefficient of -0.3% to -0.5% /°C and do a bit of math (say, the temperature climbs 10°C above nominal, during peak production hours, for about 30 days during summer), to realize what an improvement in the state of the art REC has achieved here.

REC Twin Peak 

Another current REC product line is called Twin Peak, but there’s nothing murky and mysterious about this series. Thanks to its cutting-edge proprietary technology, it significantly improves panel power output and yield. A brief overview of its key features is given below.

  • Half-cut cell technology
  • Distinctive twin design
  • Extra-strong frame
  • 3.2 mm solar glass with anti-reflection surface treatment 

REC pioneered the manufacture of panels using the revolutionary half-cut cell technology rather than regular full-sized square cells. Thanks to the many benefits and the efficiency boost this technology offers, plenty of other manufacturers have begun implementing half-cut cells in their designs. REC’s pioneering design basically divides the panel into two sections, each consisting of 60 half-sized cells, for a total of 120. While the two sections are joined in the middle of the panel, they operate separately.

Regular 60-cell solar panels may experience power losses of up to 40% when partially shaded. But with half-cut cells, any shading over one of the sections won’t affect the other’s performance. Additionally, the current voltage inside the small individual cells is lowered by 50%. This results in a phenomenal 75% decrease in resistance and power losses, as well as in a lower likelihood of hot spot formation due to shaded cells. This means that busbars can also be reduced in size because of the lower current, further improving the module’s appearance and performance.

REC N-Peak 

Finally, if you’re looking for REC solar panels that are both efficient and practical, the N-Peak series makes for an attractive offer. Its key features include:

  • Premium N-type monocrystalline cell technology
  • Up to 330W in a 60 cell panel
  • Withstands loads of up to 7000 Pa
  • No light-induced degradation

Integrating 330 W panels and high-quality monocrystalline cell technology, REC’s N-Peak solar modules are more efficient at collecting sunlight and generating power. This series also incorporates the Twin Panel design, providing consistent energy generation even in partially shaded conditions.

Light-induced degradation is an industry term describing the performance loss of a solar panel after its first exposure to daylight. This is a consequence of the boron and oxygen in a cell reacting and causing a minute but permanent decline in power output. REC’s premium N-type cell technology aims to prevent this from happening by separating the two elements and preventing any mixing, so the power of the cell remains constant.

The additional support bars located on the back of N-Peak panels significantly enhance their durability. While traditional panels only allow loads of up to 5400 Pa, REC has increased the strength of the panel to withstand 7000 Pa, as it strives to achieve even higher energy yields. 

A Closer Look at All REC Models 


Model
REC Alpha SeriesREC Twin Peak 4REC N-PeakREC Alpha 72REC Twin Peak 2S Mono 72
EfficiencyUp to 21.7%Up to 20.3%Up to 19.8%Up to 21.3%Up to 20%
High energy output1000V1000V1000V1500V1000V/1500V
Cell technologyHeterojunction cell technologyP-type monocrystallineN-type monocrystallineHeterojunction cell technologyMonocrystalline PERC cells
Energy generationUp to 380WUp to 370WUp to 330WUp to 450WUp to 400W
Monocrystalline panelsNoYesYesNoYes
Residential vs commercial useAppropriate for bothAppropriate for bothAppropriate for bothSuitable for commercial and industrial useOptimal for commercial and utility installations
Weight19.5 kg20 kg18 kg23.5 kg22 kg
Frame thickness30 mm30 mm30 mm30 mm30 mm
DesignUnique seamless look, available in all black for a more elegant appearanceExtra strong frame designTwin cell designAward-winning innovative design Pioneering lightweight design
Degeneration rate0.25%0.5%0.5%0.25%0.5%
Number of cells60 cells60 cells60 cells72 cells72 cells
SustainabilitiesIEC 61215:2016, IEC 61730:2016, UL 61730,ISO 14001:2004, ISO 9001:2015, OHSAS 18001:2007, IEC 62941IEC 61215:2016, IEC 61730:2016, UL 61730, ISO 14001:2004, ISO 9001:2015, OHSAS 18001:2007, IEC 62941IEC 61215, IEC 61730; UL 61730, MCS 005, IEC 62804, IEC 61701, IEC 62716, IEC 62782 ISO 9001: 2015, ISO 14001: 2004, OHSAS 18001: 2007IEC 61215:2016, IEC 61730:2016, UL 61730, ISO 14001:2004, ISO 9001:2015, OHSAS 18001:2007, IEC 62941UL 1703, Fire classification: Type 1 (1500 V XV): Type 2 (1000 V); IEC 61215, IEC 61730, IEC 62804 (PID), IEC 62716 (Ammonia), IEC 61701 (Salt Mist level 6), ISO 9001: 2015, ISO 14001: 2004, OHSAS 18001: 2007

Difference Between REC Series Panels

1.REC ALPHA 


Model
REC Alpha SeriesREC Alpha Pure SeriesREC Alpha Black Series
EfficiencyUp to 21.7%Up to 21.9%Up to 21.4%
Power outputUp to 380WUp to 405WUp to 375W
Dimensions1721x1016x30 mm1821x1016x30 mm1721x1016x30 mm
Type of cellHeterojunction cell technologyHeterojunction cell with gapless technologyHeterojunction cell technology
Weight19.5 kg20.5 kg19.5 kg

 2.REC Twin Peak 4


Model
REC Twin Peak 4 SeriesREC Twin Peak 4 Black Series
EfficiencyUp to 20.5%Up to 20.3%
Power outputUp to 375WUp to 370W
Dimensions1755x1040x30 mm1755x1040x30 mm
Type of cellMono c-Si P-type cellsMono c-Si P-type cells
Weight20 kg20 kg

3.REC N-Peak

ModelREC N-Peak SeriesREC N-Peak Black Series
EfficiencyUp to 19.8%Up to 19.5%
Power outputUp to 330WUp to 325W
Dimensions1675x997x30 mm1675x1040x30 mm
Type of cellN-type mono c-Si cellsN-type mono c-Si cells
Weight18 kg18 kg

Performance Warranties and Service

Even if you have the funds and the perfect location, investing in a solar module system is not as straightforward as it might seem. With countless manufacturers currently on the market, deciding on the right product is a daunting task. Further down the line, even good specs can become meaningless without good technical support. Aiming to release buyers of such decision paralysis, REC offers a 20-year warranty in case of malfunction or output loss. In addition, some models are eligible for a 5-year warranty extension with the REC ProTrust Warranty program. In any case, REC has a famously low claims rate, with less than 300 panels returned from about 3 million produced yearly. In the rare case that a REC panel does need servicing, REC also offers a labor warranty, exclusive to the ProTrust Warranty package.

All in all, compared to the competition, REC offers a solid warranty. The other leading solar panel manufacturers in Australia, such as LG, Sunpower, and Winaico, also offer 25-year guarantees.

Should you have any questions or inquiries regarding the company’s products and conditions, you can reach a REC employee by filling out a general contact form on their website. In the unfortunate event of a defect, the claim form is again filed online. An Australian phone number is also available for contact.

REC Solar Panel Price in Australia

Whether it’s home appliances or solar panels, most homeowners’ purchasing decisions are fundamentally cost-based. REC are certainly aware of this and offer good value for money, positioning themselves in the upper half of the price range.

The baseline price for solar panels in Australia, once the government rebate is calculated, is estimated at around $5,250 for a typical 5 kW system. The average REC solar panels price for a 6 kW system (fully installed) is $7,659, while the 10 kW system will set you back a cool $13,896. For comparison, if you’ve been thinking about buying an LG solar system, make sure your budget can stretch to $8,880 for the 6 kW and $14,300 for the 10 kW system. 

On the other hand, Winaico offers a 6 kW system for about $7,000 and a pretty good deal on a 10 kW system for $11,000. Keep in mind that the full price you pay also depends on additional equipment, like inverters or mounts, which aren’t always included in the price of REC systems.

Customer reviews

Cutting-edge specs, reasonable prices, and a solid warranty in a single package may sound too good to be true. That’s not the case with REC panels, though, if customer response is to be believed. Australian buyers have awarded REC solar panels an exceptional 4.8 rating, securing the company a spot among top competitors such as LG, Winaico, and SunPower. 

Satisfied Aussies who’ve given the company top scores enthuse about the panels’ performance on both sunny and cloudy days. Some claim REC panels are easily comparable to the best LG panels, positively remarking on their degradation rate and the duration of the warranty. The sleek REC design also earns plaudits, as buyers love the black edges that help the panels blend in.

REC Solar Panels Alternatives

Recently, SolarQuotes turned to some 350 solar panel installers and asked them to choose the best products for 2021. Perhaps expectedly, LG took first place in the Installers’ Choice Awards as the top high-budget solar module, but REC panels also won high praise, taking second place alongside SunPower. 

REC solar panels vs SunPower

REC’s flagship Alpha Series and its Black Series Alpha are residential solar modules with the highest efficiency, up to 21.7%. SunPower comes close with its X-Series, boasting peak efficiency of 21.5%. However, the X-Series is available in only two 335W and 345W models, whereas the REC Alpha solar group can generate up to 380W. Both models are worthy investments, given their excellent specs and 25-year warranties. 

REC vs LG solar panels

The South Korean behemoth has established itself as one of the most successful electronic device manufacturers in any category and is building a stellar reputation in the solar panel industry too, thanks to its premium quality modules. If you’re looking for a well-known name and a reputation for quality, the LG NeON R series of residential solar panels is a worthy competitor to the REC Alpha series. 

Although slightly less efficient at 21.1%, LG’s 350-365 W models certainly won’t disappoint. Even if they do, the 25-year warranty should cover any defects or damage.

Are REC Panels Worth It?

It’s no doubt that REC solar panels require a deeper pocket. But outstanding specs demand outstanding technology, materials, and production, which always come at a cost. So, if you’re willing to pay top dollar for a reliable solar system built with quality as its first priority, REC panels will make sure to power your home for many years to come.

The company’s reputation in the solar market is another reason to put your trust in their hands. In addition, REC’s exceptional customer service has cemented the company’s standing as one of the most reliable solar module makers out there. 

Their quality monocrystalline wafers and innovative proprietary technologies indicate that the company, much like the panels, is here to stay, which should help consumers with their long-term plans and goals.

All in all, if you have a roof over your head and are prepared to spend a little extra to turn it into an actual powerhouse, REC solar panels are one of the best ways to do it. Serious customers should certainly look into their product line before going for the solar splurge.

FAQs

1.Are REC solar panels Tier 1?

The tier ranking system for solar modules in Australia is created by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. REC solar panels are currently ranked Tier 1 solar systems, along with SunPower and LG. Tier 1 panels are produced by leading companies with outstanding reputations and are considered a safe bet.

2.Where are REC solar panels manufactured?

REC is the leading European solar panel maker with many offices across the globe. The company now manufactures its solar systems in a fully automated, state-of-the-art production plant in Singapore.

3.Are REC solar panels reliable?

REC solar panels received a prominent score in the DNV-GL solar module testing program and were ranked an international top performer. Their revolutionary N-type cell technology is proven to reduce light-induced degradation, meaning you can rely on these panels to perform at a similar level for a long time. While loss of cell capacity is expected over time, N-type wafers reduce the standard degradation to 0.5% and are expected to outperform similar panels with P-type cell technology.

4.What is the best solar panel company in Australia?

This is a difficult question to answer without a specific metric, but REC, SunPower, and LG are certainly among the best solar panel companies in Australia. They have established themselves as top dogs in the solar market due to their advanced production technology, remarkable conversion efficiency, and general reliability.

5.Are REC solar panels any good?

Read any REC solar panel review and the consensus is that you get what you pay for across the entire range of REC panels, as you get top quality and a 25-year warranty if they are mounted by a certified REC installer. REC solar modules do sell at a higher price than some of their competitors, but offer premium features.

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