Jinko Solar was founded in 2006 and grew to become the worlds largest solar panel manufacturer only a decade later in 2016. Since then, the company has held the top stop for the last four years running, with global shipments of 14.3GW in 2019 alone. Based in China, Jinko Solar is a huge multi-national, vertically integrated company, employing over 15,000 people in 70 countries and establishing manufacturing facilities in China, Malaysia and the US.
Jinko Solar’s success seems to be primarily due to the focus on R&D, performance testing, quality control and rigorous durability testing. This is highlighted by the numerous record-breaking achievements over the years, with several efficiency records and consistent ‘top score’ results from several independent testing companies, including the well-known PVEL scorecards.
Until recently, Jinko Solar was generally not at the forefront of innovation and usually played it safe by only deploying panels using proven cell architectures such as traditional P-type PERC and half-cut cells. However, Jinko has started pushing the boundaries with the release of the new Tiger series of panels described in more detail below.
JinkoSolar Range of Panels
Like most large PV manufacturers, Jinko offer a range of panels designed for either residential, commercial, and utility-scale solar installations. They can also tailor panel designs and formats to suit specific applications if required for larger MW scale systems.
Solar installers would typically describe Jinko Solar as a good entry-level, cost-effective panels. Until recently, the range mostly featured conventional mono and poly varieties, in either 60 cell or larger 72 cell sizes which were based on a standard P-type silicon base. Like most of the large Chinese manufacturers, Jinko first transitioned to more efficient mono PERC cells before transitioning to the half-cut cell format based on the same P-type silicon.
However, as described below, Jinko has now pushed into the high-performance category with the release of Tiger series built on N-type cells. Most of the premium manufacturers including SunPower, LG, Panasonic and more recently REC, have been building panels based on high-purity N-type cells for years, but now Trina and Jinko have entered the race with higher volume, lower cost, N-type manufacturing methods.
The Cheetah range of panels were the first in the series named after big cats (following on from the soon to be obsolete Eagle series) and are currently the most popular model in the Jinko lineup. First released back in 2018, the Cheetah panels are available in range of sizes from 325W to 340W, in both the standard 60 (or 120 half-cut) cell residential size, or up to 410W in the larger format commercial size. Figures from Formbay, show Cheetah panels as the top-selling panel in Australia so far in 2020, specifically the JKM330M-60H model. The Jinko panels are well regarded by most installers we have surveyed due to a good combination of quality and value for money, but several have noted frames not being perfectly square and some glass colour mismatch (a visual discrepancy only). See the full Cheetah Mono PERC data sheet
New Cheetah Plus 370W 66-cell panels
Jinko expanded the Cheetah range in 2020 to include a new slightly larger 66 cell (132 half-cut) panel with increased efficiency and greater power output ranging from 360W to 380W. This new mid-size 370W panel variety has become a new industry standard and will possibly replace the traditional 60 cell (120 cell) format in the near future. See the full Cheetah Plus data sheet.
The new release Tiger series are rated from 360W to an impressive 470W. These new generation panels feature many of the latest innovations in PV cell technology including larger format cells, multi-busbar (MBB) with 9 thin wire busbars (as opposed to traditional flat ribbon busbars) and what Jinko has termed ‘Tiling Ribbon’ or TR for short. Tiling ribbon is a manufacturing technique where the cells are slightly overlapped, much like shingled cells, to eliminate the gap between the cells and increase overall cell coverage which in-turn increases efficiency. To achieve this Jinko use a unique pressing process to join the thin wire busbars together. This has the added benefit of reducing costs, and almost eliminating the need for soldering which can contain traces of lead. The overall result of these clever innovations is higher performance, improved reliability, and of course, increased efficiency. See the full Tiger N-type data sheet
New larger format 66 and 78 cell panels
Another significant evolution with the new Tiger series is the increased number of cells per panel. For roughly the last decade, most manufacturers have built panels using either 60 cells for residential size panels, or 72 cells for the larger commercial size panels. However, due to the overlapping (Tiling Ribbon) design, JinkoSolar have managed to squeeze in another row of cells resulting in a slightly larger size panel and increased panel voltage. This is a substantial shift away from the industry standard sizing and it will be interesting to see if other manufacturers follow.
Tiger higher-performance N-type cells
Most notably, the Tiger series of panels are available in two main types; the mid-level panels use the same 9 MBB TR cell design on a conventional P-type silicon base, while the high-end ‘N-type Tiger’ panels are built on a high-purity N-type silicon base which achieve up to 20.9% efficiency in the new 78 cell format.
Tiger Pro - up to 610W
Hot on the tail of the Tiger series release, Jinko announced the higher power ‘Tiger Pro’ series of panels with a record breaking power-rating of up to 580W. Then in August at the SNEC PV Power Expo in China, JinkoSolar unveiled a 610W version of their current Tiger Pro panel, making it one of the most powerful panels on the market. However, the initial release will be 530W and build up to 580W, followed by 600W+ as the production volume and cell efficiency increases which is a common practice by most manufacturers.
The large format Tiger Pro panels (exact size yet to be confirmed) will feature the same 9 MBB Tiling Ribbon (TR) cell design using a high-purity N-type silicon cell base to achieve up to 21.6% efficiency. The MBB cell design also results in a lower temperature co-efficient of -0.35%/°C. Unfortunately, at this stage these panels are designed for large scale utility solar farms and are not yet available for rooftop installations.
New Longer warranty
The new Tiger N-type panels are the first from JinkoSolar to be backed by a new 15 or 25 year product warranty and extended 30 year performance warranty. Due to the lower rate of light-induced degradation (LID), the high-purity N-type panels are guaranteed to still operate at a minimum of 87.4% of the rated power after 30 years, which works out to be a very low 0.4% loss per year of use. The new product warranty period is 15 years for most of the N-Type bifacial panels and 25 years for the new all-black N-Type Tiger Pro panels.
The lower cost Tiger P-type panel performance warranty still promises a minimum of 83.1% after 25 years, which is quite reasonable considering the harsh environmental conditions solar panels are exposed to throughout the year. The product warrant is 12 years.
See the official Jinko Warranty specifications sheet - released 11th June 2020. Note the new product warranty period may vary in different regions.
The Cheetah series of panels still maintain the standard 12-year product warranty and 25-year performance warranty, with 83.1% minimum power output, or roughly 0.6% degradation per year.
Making Solar Panels from Solar power
JinkoSolar have committed to source 100% of their electricity demand from renewables by 2025 as part of the RE100 initiative - “RE100 is the global corporate renewable energy initiative bringing together hundreds of large businesses who have committed to 100% renewable electricity.”
In addition to powering all of its facilities from renewables, Jinko also plans to locate all new factories close to regions with a high penetration of renewable energy. To help reach the goal of 100% renewable by 2025 Jinko will focus more R&D on developing higher efficiency solar panels and push to increase the use of recycled materials in its manufacturing processes. Plus efforts will be made to use the most energy efficient manufacturing technologies and reduce the use of lead based solder which is already being achieved through the unique TR cell interconnection being used on the current Jinko Tiger Pro panels.
Quality and Performance
Jinko Solar has a good track record for reliability based on our continuous feedback from solar installers and industry professionals. Like almost all manufacturer’s, Jinko has had some panel failures over the years, but they generally provide good service and will replace failed or very poor performing panels under warranty without too much fuss.
One of the world’s leading independent solar module testing and performance services PVEL, a German based testing facility, produce the annual PV Module Reliability Scorecard Report. Jinko Solar has performed very well in the last five years of testing, achieving a ‘Top performer’ rating every year to be ranked as number 1 among the highest performing module’s in the group with no severe degradation or failures.
The low failure rates could only be due to the stringent testing performed at Jinko Solar’s own UL certified module test facilities, and huge R&D test center which conducts advanced failure analysis. Another important area where Jinko claims to have gone above most competitors is in conducting ‘deep-dive due diligence’ on all material suppliers. This ensures they are receiving only the highest quality raw materials, plus all processes and supplier production facilities must meet the companies requirements.
Jinko Solar did not become the world’s largest solar panel producer purely by luck. Until recently, they did not focus on manufacturing the most efficient panels, but rather mass-manufacturing the most cost-effective and reliable solar panels by deploying panels built on tried and proven PV cell technologies. However, JinkoSolar’s emphasis on research and development is now helping push the solar industry towards new high-performance cell technologies and innovating new manufacturing techniques to improve reliability. This is highlighted by the release of the new high-efficiency Tiger N-type panels.
With Jinko Solar’s good track record and solid market position, they are certainly one of the better choices for those looking for reliable, cost-effective solar panels. In particular, the Cheetah range of panels which have already proven to be a very popular choice for residential and commercial installations. We are looking forward to testing out the new Tiger series panels and how they compare to other high-performance panels on the market.