Solara AG Solar Panel Warranty Woes

Discussion in 'Electrical Systems' started by geoffschultz, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. geoffschultz
    Joined: Dec 2006
    Posts: 4
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: USA

    geoffschultz New Member

    The following chronicles my futile attempts to get Solara AG, a manufacturer of Solar Panels in Germany, to live up to their warranty obligations. My panels failed and it appears that Solara AG has decided to ignore me as well as the dealer and the distributor.

    In 2003 I moved my sailboat to from the Caribbean to Ft. Lauderdale, FL in order to do some extensive equipment upgrades. One of the projects was the installation of two solar panels. After a lot of research I decided upon Solara AG's SM225M solar panels as they provided the highest output available per their footprint and their flexibility allowed them to be mounted on my hard dodger. The following link provides a good view of the panels as well as information on the panels:http://www.barden-uk.com/semi-flexible-panels.html. I ordered two panels at almost $1000/ea from SE Marine in Oregon. After completing many projects we moved the boat back to the Caribbean. The panels functioned fine during the next cruising season, but upon return to the boat in 2004 they were no longer functioning. One provided no output and the other would only provide output first thing in the morning when the panel was cool.

    The panels carry a 20 year warranty, so I felt secure that my problem would be quickly resolved. I contacted SE Marine and they put me in contact with Peter Burcat, who is a founder and executive VP of Solara Energy, Inc. Solara Energy is the primary US distributor of Solara AG solar panels. Solara AG is based in Germany. It was clear that there was no way to get replacement panels down to the Caribbean, so I decided to wait until we passed through the US again. In July of 2006 we once again brought the boat back to the US and I began writing to Peter Burcat even before we arrived. Peter tried to direct me back to SE Marine, but that didn't go very far as they said they had purchased the panels through Peter's company and they couldn't do anything to help me.

    After some more finger pointing, Peter had me contact Frank Heise (heise@solara.de) at Solara AG in Germany. Initally Frank and I had very good communication. Frank, who is the export manager, was asking me questions about the installation and the problem that I was having. We exchanged multiple e-mails and I provided photographs of the installation. On July 24th, 2006 I received my last e-mail from Frank. All of my many e-mails to him since then have gone unanswered. I've also called and left voice mail for Frank, but I haven't had any calls returned.

    I asked Peter for a list of contacts at Solara, AG and all that he provided was a copy of contacts from Solara AG's web site. This list seemed rather thin as Solara Energy was the exclusive distributor for Solara AG panels. Peter has forwarded copies of my e-mails on to Frank Heise, but apparently has heard nothing from him. If that's true, then clearly something has gone very wrong in the business relationship between the primary distributor and the manufacturer.

    I eventually found the e-mail address of Solara AG's CEO, Thomas Rudolfe (rudolfe@solara.de) and e-mailed him. I didn't hear anything back. I also tried info@solara.de, which is listed as their information contact e-mail address on their web site and received no response. SE Marine has sent several e-mails and received no response.

    This has been going on for 5 months and I've gotten absolutely nowhere. Further, I don't see any resolution forthcoming. The bottom line is that if you're looking for solar panels, I would stay clear of Solara AG panels. Their products may have excellent specs, but they don't stand behind them. The US distributor has done little to help me resolve this problem and the German company seems to feel that they don't need to resolve foreign warranty claims.

    -- Geoff Schultz
    www.GeoffSchultz.org
     
  2. marshmat
    Joined: Apr 2005
    Posts: 4,127
    Likes: 146, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 2043
    Location: Ontario

    marshmat Senior Member

    Hi Geoff,
    I'm normally not a fan of litigation in any form, but have you considered taking this case to small-claims court? (Or whatever the procedure is where you live.) Sometimes the filing alone is enough to kick the company into action.
     
  3. geoffschultz
    Joined: Dec 2006
    Posts: 4
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: USA

    geoffschultz New Member

    I'm afraid that Solara AG is located in Germany and I'm in the US. The warranty is the responsibility of the manufacturer and is not the responsibility of the dealer or distributor. SE Marine has done what they can and Solara Energy has been less than helpful. The cost of persuing Solara AG would out weigh the costs of panels. What people should do is just stay away from Solara AG's solar panels.

    -- Geoff
     
  4. longliner45
    Joined: Dec 2005
    Posts: 1,629
    Likes: 73, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 505
    Location: Ohio

    longliner45 Senior Member

  5. Mikey
    Joined: Sep 2004
    Posts: 368
    Likes: 7, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 75
    Location: Bangkok, Thailand

    Mikey Senior Member

    Thanks, will do that.

    Jeff, should we maybe have a place where we consolidate stuff like this. Alik had a Singaporean sail maker a while back and now this.

    Mikey
     
  6. Poida
    Joined: Apr 2006
    Posts: 1,189
    Likes: 50, Points: 48, Legacy Rep: 497
    Location: Australia

    Poida Senior Member

    I'm in Australia (goody) and even a lot of people here think that the warranty is with the manufacturer and retailers play on that with claims that they have to send it back to the manufacturer for a claim etc. However our laws state that the warranty is the responsibility of the person that sold it to you and thay have to make good on the claim. They then in turn have to make a claim against the person who sold it to them.

    It may be an idea to check your laws to make sure that is not the case in the USA.
     
  7. StianM
    Joined: May 2006
    Posts: 593
    Likes: 23, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 114
    Location: Norway

    StianM Senior Member

    I would sugest you contact anny germans you know or anny germans on this forum(there must be atleast one) and ask who you can send anny cmplains too. They probartly have a consumer organisation or something that can make a diference.
     
  8. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
    Posts: 13,137
    Likes: 297, Points: 93, Legacy Rep: 2031
    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    The distributor is the legal representative in the US and responsible for the warranty. The dealer is also responsible that what he sells is appropiate for the intended use.
     
  9. Bill Cote
    Joined: Jan 2007
    Posts: 1
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: Mediterranean

    Bill Cote New Member

    Solara AG warranty woes

    Like Geoff Schulz I to am having trouble with Solara AG from Germany.
    I have contacted them on info@solara.de and hiese@solara.de and rudolfe@solara.de.
    I have sent them photos of my delaminating panel and all the technical detail of my tests that show the panel now has no output.
    The product, a 36 watt output solar panel, was bought 5 years ago and has a 20 year warranty. I have sent solara copies of the purchase invoice and the product serial number sheet.
    All of this was done by email in December of 06 and again in January 07.
    They have yet to answer my emails. I am unable to locate any warranty procedures on their web site.
    I would like to hear from others that have managed to get warranty replacements from Solara AG and others who have had no success with Solara AG honoring their warranty,
    Bill Cote
    s/y SOLEIL SANS FIN
    Netsel Marina
    Marmaris, Turkey
    www.soleilsansfin.com
    soleilsansfin@aol.com
     
  10. geoffschultz
    Joined: Dec 2006
    Posts: 4
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: USA

    geoffschultz New Member

    Progress Update

    About a week after posting the above note in multiple sailing and solar energy related Internet forums (mid-December, 2006) I received a message from Solara AG informing me that they would replace the panels. They blamed Solara Energy (the US distributor) for not doing anything to help me.

    They also claimed that the warranty period for the panels is 2 years and not the 20 years listed on web sites in the USA, Australia and Great Britain. I wonder how all of these sites got the same wrong information? I also wonder how they compete when their competitors have warranties in excess of 20 years?

    Anyhow, they offered to replace the panels if I paid half of the shipping from Germany. This works out to 100 Euro or about $132 US. Considering that these panels cost me $2000, this was a bargain and I immediately agreed. Someone from customer service contacted me and sent invoice. I noted that the invoice was for a single panel instead of two and questioned this. The customer service person said that they would check on this and get back to me when the manager who approved this got back to the office.

    A week went by. I sent more e-mail questioning what's going on. Nothing...More e-mail from my side...nothing. I keep sending e-mail to everyone who was corresponding with me and nothing comes back. So at this point I'm stuck again. Other than flying to Germany and coming back with the panels (they actually suggested this :), I don't see any solution.

    In case you have any doubts about the veracity of my reporting of the events, I've created a web page with all of the e-mail correspondence with the various parties. It's even color coded so you can easily see who sent what to whom. You can find it at http://www.geoffschultz.org/Solara/e-mail.shtml .

    I'll be headed off cruising to the Turks and Caicos at the end of February and it looks like I won't have working solar panels again. To me this is incredibly bad customer service and anyone who is thinking about purchasing solar panels manufactured by Solara AG should take this into consideration.

    -- Geoff
     
  11. longliner45
    Joined: Dec 2005
    Posts: 1,629
    Likes: 73, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 505
    Location: Ohio

    longliner45 Senior Member

    Geoff thankyou I was going to buy 2 panals for my boat,, but now I will look elsewere or for a altenitive power source,,,,you may not realize it but you probably saved many from grief,,,,thanks longliner
     
  12. ted655
    Joined: May 2003
    Posts: 640
    Likes: 14, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 122
    Location: Butte La Rose, LA.

    ted655 Senior Member

    It may be a small victory to you BUT.... I'm shoppung for panels now. Guess which company I won't be dealing with?
    Good luck!
     

  13. geoffschultz
    Joined: Dec 2006
    Posts: 4
    Likes: 0, Points: 0, Legacy Rep: 10
    Location: USA

    geoffschultz New Member

    I am happy to report that when we arrived at the boat that there were 2 panels waiting for me. Other than the fact that they changed the location of the holes on the modules which required filling and repainting the fiberglass dodger that they were mounted on, I am very happy to have working solar panels again. I do believe that if I wouldn't have mounted an Internet campaign to let potential purchasers of their products know about their abysmal warranty practices, that they probably wouldn't have replaced the panels. I hope that they learned their lesson and will be much more willing meet their contractural warranty obligations.

    I would like to thank SE Marine for their support during this saga. They always tried to help resolve this issue compared to Solara Energy who just tried to pass the buck.

    Now I just need some favorable winds to get across the Gulf Stream and begin this cruising season!

    -- Geoff
     
Loading...
Forum posts represent the experience, opinion, and view of individual users. Boat Design Net does not necessarily endorse nor share the view of each individual post.
When making potentially dangerous or financial decisions, always employ and consult appropriate professionals. Your circumstances or experience may be different.