Module Buyer’s Guide: 10 modules to know in 2019

module buyer's guide

For our 2019 Module Buyer’s Guide (included in the Jan/Feb issue of Solar Builder magazine) we rounded up profiles on the newest modules on the market and also surveyed solar module manufacturers on the trends they are seeing and some of the new technology to watch. The seven insights are here, and you can check out the new products below.

Mission Solar

To pack as much power as possible in order to dramatically reduce energy costs, Mission Solar developed the MSE PERC 60 module. The MSE PERC 60 features a compact 60-cell design that is smaller while packing 310 W of power. This module is best suited for residential and commercial projects. Warranty: 25-year performance and 12-year workmanship. More Mission Solar news here.

mission solar

 

CertainTeed

CertainTeed says it expects to launch half-cut cells in Q2 2019. The new module will consist of standard PERC mono cells, cut in half, connected in series and parallel to achieve similar voltage and current characteristics as standard 60-cell modules at the module level. Warranty: 25-year linear power output, and a 25-year workmanship warranty when installed by certified contractors. More CertainTeed news here.

certainteed

 

Hanwha

Hanwha’s new Q.PEAK DUO BLK-G6 module will be assembled in the U.S. at Hanwha Q CELLS’ new Dalton, Ga., module facility — the largest module manufacturing facility in North America — slated for completion in January. The 6×20 monocrystalline Q.ANTUM half-cell design allows for higher yield per surface area and higher power classes. The Q.PEAK DUO is ideal for residential applications. Warranty: 12-year product, 12-year linear performance. More Hanwha Q Cells news here.

hanwha

 

LONGi Solar

The combination of elements in LONGi’s Hi-MO — a half-cut, p-type, monocrystalline PERC, bifacial module — is compelling. LONGi says the bifaciality results in a 10 to 25 percent higher yield at a cost similar to a monofacial PERC module. The bifaciality factor, which is the ratio of efficiency on the rear side as compared to the front, is upward of 75 percent. These are ideally suited for utility power plants and commercial rooftop applications and areas with a greater surface albedo. Warranty: 30-year for extra linear power output, 10-year for materials and processing. More LONGi news here.

longi

 

Trina Solar

Trina Solar’s DuoMax Twin is its half-cut, bifacial mono PERC offering. It uses heat strengthened glass in lieu of the polymer backsheet used in other modules. The dual-glass construction provides better protection for the cells and improves the long-term reliability and durability of the module. Also, the Duomax Twin’s junction box avoids shading on the backside of the panel. Trina has extended the power warranty to 30 years. Warranty: 10-year product and workmanship, 30-year linear. More Trina Solar news here.

trina solar

Silfab

Silfab’s SLA-MWT 320 W (Metal Wrap Through) technology removes all stringing and bussing from the front side of the module by integrating a conductive metallic layer to the backsheet for the purposes of conveying current to the junction box. This reduces both resistance and cell shading which ultimately yields higher module efficiency. By removing the conventional stringing process from the module production line, operational efficiencies can be recognized. Ultra-high efficiency modules are optimized for both residential and commercial projects where maximum power density is preferred. Warranty: 25-year product, 30-year performance. More Silfab Solar news here.

silfab

Panasonic

The Panasonic N340 HIT + Series with its heterojunction technology and enhanced 40-mm frame offers customers increased module efficiency, performance and longevity while maximizing available roof space. The new 40-mm frame increases durability and strength, being able to handle loads of up to 5,400 Pa. Also, the water drainage system gives rain water and snow melt a place to go, reducing water stains and soiling. Warranty: 25-year workmanship and linear power output. More Panasonic news here.

panasonic

REC Solar

The REC N-Peak is the world’s first solar panel combining n-type mono half-cut cells with a twin-panel design, featuring zero LID, REC’s best warranty and super-strong frame design for loads of up to 7,000 Pa. Combined with n-type, REC’s PERT technology completely passivates the rear of the cell for increased electron capture and high and stabilized efficiency. The N-Peak is especially suited where space is limited, such as residential and commercial rooftop installations. Warranty: 12-year product, 25-year linear power output.

rec solar

LG

LG’s “V5” series of modules is slated to enter the market in Q2 with some incremental product improvements, in addition to an enhanced warranty, which has one of the lowest degradation rates, and a 25-year product and performance guarantee. NeON2 “CELLO” cells, which have Cell connection with Electrically Low Loss and Optical Absorption Enhancement, create greater yield and less reflection through increased usable surface area on the front of the cell and greater reliability if the cells were to become micro-cracked. Warranty: 25-year linear, extended to 89.6 percent performance. More LG news here.

lg

Solaria

Solaria is unique in that it built what it considers to be the perfect residential module, the PowerXT, and offers it as is or as an inverter-integrated AC version. Solaria uses proprietary manufacturing to singulate its mono PERC cells into uniform strips that are then re-assembled into high-density PowerXT cells. The PowerXT comes in a pure black appearance and uses proprietary technology to eliminate bus bars, so there’s no visible circuitry and fewer failure points. Warranty: 25-year linear power output and workmanship. More Solaria news here.

solaria

— Solar Builder magazine

Photovoltaic-aways: Solar module manufacturers share 7 insights on PV market trends in 2019

solar module manufacturing

For our 2019 Module Buyer’s Guide (included in the Jan/Feb issue of Solar Builder magazine) we rounded up profiles on the newest modules on the market and also surveyed solar module manufacturers on the trends they are seeing and some of the new technology to watch. The seven insights are below, and you can check out the new products here.

1. Mono PERC power

Passivated Emitter Rear Cell (PERC) is a photovoltaic design that increases light capture efficiency by adding a passivation film at the rear end of the cell to capture scattered and reflected light. An obvious benefit of PERC technology is that it allows for high-power modules, and the more power a module produces, the more money that can be saved by reducing overall BOS costs. Using high-power modules can mean fewer panels, less racking, wiring, combiner boxes and reduced labor hours.

One step further, half-cut cells have reduced resistive losses, which makes them capable of boosting power output by another 5 to 15 W per module depending on the cell type. The shift to monocrystalline solar modules is accelerating faster than expected, with mono PERC to witness the largest market share increase. In 2017, half-cut cell solar panels took 11 percent of the global module capacity, and this share is expected to rise to around 35 percent by 2020.

2. Bifacial boost

The buzziest of buzzy PV module technology right now is some combination of mono PERC and half-cut cells with the innovative application of bifacial module design.

“Recent projects incorporating this combination dropped levelized cost of electricity so rapidly that the biggest barrier to grid parity for utility-scale photovoltaic plants is not the cost of technology but rather the soft costs related to grid integration, land, labor and legal fees,” LONGi Solar tells us, which has broken world records for PERC cell and module technology eight times since September 2017. “Better, more efficient products on the market will free up resources for other types of innovation in the solar industry.”

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DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts and certification body, was just selected to receive a $200,000 award from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to research bifacial PV technology.

“The aim of the study is to accelerate commercial deployment of bifacial PV modules at scale,” says Tara Doyle, head of business development for DNV GL’s PV module testing lab [now PVEL]. “If proven viable through extensive performance and reliability testing, bifacial PV modules have the potential to become the preferred technology for ground-mounted PV installations around the world.”

The project will entail the collection of field data over the course of one year at DNV GL’s outdoor solar test facility in Davis, Calif. It will include bifacial and monofacial 1500V PV modules provided by LONGi Solar, Astronergy Solar, Hanwha Q CELLS and Trina Solar, tested on single-axis trackers provided by solar tracking company NEXTracker, and two albedo ground types. Data acquisition will be highly granular, using actively calibrated equipment. The collected measurements will be used to generate PAN files and subsequent energy simulations using PVsyst.

3. Economics over efficiency

Counter to the half-cut movement is the idea that chasing that extra bit of efficiency juice isn’t worth the squeeze, so to speak. Silfab Solar is taking a different approach, believing the tinkering with the glass size and cell cut of conventional mono and mono PERC technologies won’t result in enough efficiency gains. Instead, Silfab is focusing on the adoption of next generation technologies that could allow material gains in module wattage while maintaining attractive price points, such as metal wrap through (MWT) and interdigitated back contact (IBC).

Silfab says the practice of leading with a high priced premium brand and following up with a low price economy brand in price-conscious situations can lead to reduced revenues and margins.

“There are price effective premium brands that allow EPCs to standardize on a single module partner, recognize better revenues in cost-conscious scenarios (like larger system sizes) and recognize better margins on the remainder of the system in terms of premium value/wattage without premium pricing,” Silfab tells us.

4. Lifetime value

Efficiency numbers in lab conditions and coming out of the box get the biggest headlines, but for an investment that degrades over its 25-year lifetime, it’s not the most impactful metric on its own. Other module lifetime considerations such as warranty terms, temperature coefficients and degradation rates are now winning the day in many segments but especially in residential. EPCs and installers that only look at one facet, such as price or rated DC capacity, are doing themselves and their customers a disservice. While those factors are important, selling certainty over 25 years is more valuable overall.

“Often we hear from our customers that they made the mistake of only looking at the price per watt when choosing a PV module,” notes the team at Trina Solar. “Then they found that they had increased operations and maintenance costs down the road, and that the company they had bought from is no longer around to honor the warranty. Unit cost is important to consider, but if you neglect to look at things like performance, quality standards and company bankability, you may end up paying for it later.”

5. Reduced degradation

Pay attention to that temperature coefficient and light induced degradation (LID) rate because these are huge factors in the actual energy generated throughout a day and over a project’s useful life. Initial field tests carried out by the Solar Energy Research Institute of Singapore (SERIS) have shown that n-type cell technology, specifically REC’s new N-Peak, reduces LID to zero, meaning no power loss right after installation. This provides improved performance in shaded conditions and allows flexible installation options. Similarly, Panasonic’s HIT n-type solar cells have extremely low LID and zero potential induced degradation (PID). Panasonic’s technology reduces annual degradation to 0.26 percent compared to 0.70 percent in conventional panels. This is why Panasonic guarantees a minimum 90.76 percent rated power output after 25 years.

In 2018, SunPower hit the industry’s lowest solar panel degradation rate, according to a calculation method developed in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). When this method was applied to eight years of energy performance data from 264 SunPower solar systems operating at various locations worldwide, it proved that SunPower panels degrade at a median rate of 0.2 percent per year. The company’s P-Series solar panels will soon to be manufactured in America.

6. Aesthetics

Value is often in the eye of the beholder, and as residential solar adoption widens and as the new build market explodes in California, aesthetics of rooftop panels will matter more and more. This is why all of the top residential module manufacturers now have an all-black version of their flagship product, which are often priced a tad higher.

Similarly, thin-film PV could be on the upswing in the U.S. residential solar sector. Swedish solar energy company Midsummer reports that it has received an order from Sunflare for equipment for the production of thin film solar cells worth over $7 million. Midsummer’s DUO system is one of the most widely distributed manufacturing tools for flexible CIGS solar cells in the world. Sunflare, with global headquarters in La Verne, Calif., is a provider of flexible mass-produced thin film solar products that are especially suitable for weak roofs and new roofs for private homes.

“The demand for our products in the U.S. has exceeded our expectations and we rapidly need to expand our production capacity with the help of our established partner Midsummer,” says Philip Gao, CEO of Sunflare.

7. Tariffs

The administration imposed steep import tariffs on virtually all crystalline silicon based solar modules in 2018. Additionally, many of the other materials used in solar panels now also face duties as part of a 10 percent levy on about $200 billion worth of Chinese goods that went into effect in September. The tax on these imports was expected to rise to 25 percent on Jan. 1, 2019, adding additional burden even to U.S.-made solar modules.

Finished solar panels require scores of components, ranging from aluminum framing to transformers, solar glass and power inverters. Solaria’s CEO Suvi Sharma estimates that U.S. tariffs this year have increased the company’s U.S. production costs by about 30 percent — an amount equal to the original U.S. solar panel import duty.

As a consequence of the tariffs, Solaria abandoned its plans of boosting production this year at its plant in Fremont, Calif. Due to capital expenditures imposed by the tariffs, the company was unable to expand its workforce in the U.S. as planned.

LG does not manufacture cells or modules in China, but it too was impacted by the tariffs in 2018. In response to this the company is committed to establishing a 500-MW production facility in Huntsville, Ala. Although this was in the works prior to the announcement of the tariffs, due to the strong market demand from the U.S. and LG’s desire to be closer to its customers, the tariffs certainly accelerated the process. The first modules manufactured in Huntsville will be rolling out in Q1 this year.

— Solar Builder magazine

Six solar industry storylines to watch from Solar Power International 2018

Q Cells

Photo of a cool booth setup.

Your Solar Builder editor entered the whirlwind of news, numbers and handshaking that is Solar Power International and emerged with a notepad filled with gibberish. What language is this? What secrets does it hold? We sent it to a forensics lab, the archaeological department at Oxford and the guy with wild hair on Ancient Aliens for their interpretations. After this thorough analysis, we believe these are the top solar story lines in a post-SPI world …

1. Focus shifts from federal politics to local action

You get the sense that the solar industry has finally punted on trying to waste much more time inching the message boulder up the current administration’s hill and is now putting those resources into local efforts. This is likely the better route to go anyway, and the initiatives announced at SPI could do the trick if developed.

Just before SPI kicked off, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation unveiled the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative, which is the latest collective effort of the industry to streamline permitting. Reforms include: A safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, to eliminate traditional multi-step permitting processes; a standardized online platform provided to local governments at no cost, a list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects installed through the proposed process and more.

There have been several attempts at this over the years, all of which fell short, but this one might have a shot because of the timing. The economic case for solar has never been better, and the technology and techniques are proven with copious examples to highlight.

Also, what local government would turn down the promise of a ton more jobs? To grow that base of skilled solar workers around the country, the Solar Training Network introduced AmericanSolarWorkforce.org, an online platform to help solar companies recruit qualified candidates; allow solar job seekers to find career and training opportunities; and help the entire industry build a strong and diverse solar workforce. Using this platform, which is free of charge, employers can post opportunities on a solar job board and connect with thousands of candidates looking for solar career opportunities. Employers can also create company profiles, review candidate applications, and communicate with potential hires.

2. Solar pros see the short-comings of the industry and are actively trying to address them.

Two key examples here. First is in grid services. Features for grid services are mentioned all of the time now, from inverter and optimizer products to the need for storage and other ancillary services. I take it as a sign that the relationship between utilities and solar companies is now evolving past an adversarial stage because there’s nothing left to prove about solar as viable generating asset. Now, solar has to prove how it will best integrate and play nice on a wide scale over the long-term. This was always the case, but it feels everyone is getting on the same page about pursuing solutions.

For example, of all the things bouncing around the mind of CJ Colavito, VP of Engineering at Standard Solar, these days, he most wants to find a way to sync third-party radar forecasts with smart inverters for advanced ramp rate control — to ramp down voltage slowly prior to cloud cover that will cause voltage flicker.

Solar Power International

SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper and SEPA CEO Julia Hamm discuss diversity as an important goal for their respective industries.

The second short-coming is a short-coming for most industries: diversity. Judging by comments during the opening session and the upcoming Solar Jobs Census, solar thought leaders realize the industry is in position to not just remake the grid, but the makeup of the American workforce – not just to be PC and nice but because there is value inherent in a diversified workforce with growth opportunities. Also, check out this initiative from SEIA to work with Historically Black Colleges.

3. The full solar life cycle needs more attention.

One area in the U.S. solar industry still in need of attention is the full sustainability of a solar project. For example, panel recycling is a fairly big can that keeps getting kicked down the road. A DNV GL report released at SPI listed stranded assets as a key question in its market mechanics. At some point we will run out of road and kick that can straight into a million tons of PV that needs to be put somewhere. This isn’t a crisis (at least not yet) because there are solutions, at least according to First Solar, which has developed a standard for doing so and been put its system in place. Solar is recycled fairly easily — and for a profit — in Europe and that model could be replicated here.

The next can soon to be kicked is in storage. Storage is basically the key to solar taking over the world, but storage is dirtier than solar on the clean energy scale. Cobalt is a safety hazard. Lithium needs to be mined and poses its own potential for fire. Lead-acid battery companies claim to have the most recyclable solution, but does it perform as well as the future needs? And also, it is comprised of lead and acid. This is stuff that needs to be fully considered within the grand plans.

4. So many storage solutions…

LG energy storage

The new LG energy storage system.

Speaking of storage, every turn on the trade show floor seemed to present a new energy storage system or bundle of products to solve all sorts of solar + storage equations, from simpler backup capabilities to time of use to peak shaving and on and on. Panasonic has a full solution pairing Pika’s islanding inverter with its batteries and modules. LG debuted its complete solar + storage system for the home. SimpliPhi has varied its case sizes and voltage range. Sonnen has gone full tilt into energy management + home automation – a long fantasized idea that is now real-life – that is more load shaping than load shifting.

It’s all very cool. The issue from installers we chatted with at the show is there’s no one software that can deftly handle all of the storage mathematics they need (those that are great for peak shaving can’t be used for resiliency, etc.). There’s more to figure out here, just like on the battery side, but each SPI feels closer and closer to the goal line.

5. Some cool C&I rooftop innovations.

The reigning champion for the “biggest solar opportunity with the biggest issues to solve,” the commercial and industrial rooftop, saw several big-time debuts to ease some of these headaches.

A ton of solar deals are off the table because of the commercial rooftop life cycle and price tag. The deals that do go through on a different timeline than the roof itself are going to be a huge headaches come roof replacement time. Headaches meaning stuff will for sure be broken when the solar system is removed, stored and put back on. Standard Solar and Carlisle Roofing teaming up to solve this at the outset with a bundled package — a new C&I silicone coating spray applied to the existing roof membrane (with optional insulating foam) that installed with the PV system. The deal is financed through a PPA agreement with Standard Solar, so the building owner is essentially paying for the new roof (good for 50+ years) during the 25-year PPA.

ESDEC rooftop solar mounting system

The ESDEC Flat-Fix

On the system side, available in the first time in the U.S., Holland-based ESDEC debuted its slick Flat-Fix commercial rooftop mounting system. The same lightweight design can be laid out in south-facing or east-west configurations and is built with one tool, keeping the SKUs at a minimum. The feet are adhered with glue (or a bolt if needed) and an optional ballast tray. The system is already proven but the team needed to make a few tweaks to launch in the U.S., mostly relating to cable management, all of which were cleverly designed like the rest of the system.

Remote C&I system design has never been easier thanks to Nearmap’s updates. Its digital surface and line of sight analysis produces a jaw-droppingly clear picture for 71 percent of the U.S. population that is updated 3 times per year. You can really tell the difference between obstruction or dirt, as well as accurately measure the pitch and dimensions of any surface. When combined with the newest version Aurora Solar’s software, Aurora estimates 10x performance upgrades for multi-megawatt, commercial-scale solar projects added with the ability to simulate the solar energy production of a PV system while designing, allowing real-time assessment of design choices and elimination of change orders. An enhanced “fill zone” functionality is also available to automatically optimize solar panel locations to maximize the number that fit within an available space.

6. The next big trend will emerge from the California solar mandate (and maybe it’s an old one?).

Consider a company like CertainTeed – been around for a long time, and didn’t have a lot new at its booth to discuss. Its solar products are focused mostly on roof-integrated options that are not as popular as traditional mounting + solar panels on an existing roof sold and installed by solar installers. But when all new homes in California are going to need to come with solar already on the roof, will builders and roofers favor something like this they can handle themselves? Or, consider SunFlare, a company with a flexible CIGs technology. In 2018 it seems like a niche product – can be installed on top of existing carports and other nontraditional areas, but it’s close to working with a high-end national homebuilder that liked its solar shingle because “it’s a roofing product, not a solar product,” thus allowing them to install new solar on a new house without contracting out. The president of ESDEC also mentioned that in Holland their mounting system is seen as so simple to install that HVAC companies are a big customer segment for them because they could easily add it to their service offering.

Will the mainstreaming of solar earlier in the building process end up cutting out companies and products that rule the day today? Maybe a wild thought, just remember to keep your hands and arms inside the solarcoaster at all times.

— Solar Builder magazine

Six solar industry storylines to watch from Solar Power International 2018

Q Cells

Photo of a cool booth setup.

Your Solar Builder editor entered the whirlwind of news, numbers and handshaking that is Solar Power International and emerged with a notepad filled with gibberish. What language is this? What secrets does it hold? We sent it to a forensics lab, the archaeological department at Oxford and the guy with wild hair on Ancient Aliens for their interpretations. After this thorough analysis, we believe these are the top solar story lines in a post-SPI world …

1. Focus shifts from federal politics to local action

You get the sense that the solar industry has finally punted on trying to waste much more time inching the message boulder up the current administration’s hill and is now putting those resources into local efforts. This is likely the better route to go anyway, and the initiatives announced at SPI could do the trick if developed.

Just before SPI kicked off, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and The Solar Foundation unveiled the Solar Automated Permit Processing (SolarAPP) initiative, which is the latest collective effort of the industry to streamline permitting. Reforms include: A safety and skills training and certification program that allows residential and small commercial solar and battery storage installers to attest that their projects are compliant with applicable codes, to eliminate traditional multi-step permitting processes; a standardized online platform provided to local governments at no cost, a list of established equipment standards and/or certified equipment for solar and storage projects installed through the proposed process and more.

There have been several attempts at this over the years, all of which fell short, but this one might have a shot because of the timing. The economic case for solar has never been better, and the technology and techniques are proven with copious examples to highlight.

Also, what local government would turn down the promise of a ton more jobs? To grow that base of skilled solar workers around the country, the Solar Training Network introduced AmericanSolarWorkforce.org, an online platform to help solar companies recruit qualified candidates; allow solar job seekers to find career and training opportunities; and help the entire industry build a strong and diverse solar workforce. Using this platform, which is free of charge, employers can post opportunities on a solar job board and connect with thousands of candidates looking for solar career opportunities. Employers can also create company profiles, review candidate applications, and communicate with potential hires.

2. Solar pros see the short-comings of the industry and are actively trying to address them.

Two key examples here. First is in grid services. Features for grid services are mentioned all of the time now, from inverter and optimizer products to the need for storage and other ancillary services. I take it as a sign that the relationship between utilities and solar companies is now evolving past an adversarial stage because there’s nothing left to prove about solar as viable generating asset. Now, solar has to prove how it will best integrate and play nice on a wide scale over the long-term. This was always the case, but it feels everyone is getting on the same page about pursuing solutions.

For example, of all the things bouncing around the mind of CJ Colavito, VP of Engineering at Standard Solar, these days, he most wants to find a way to sync third-party radar forecasts with smart inverters for advanced ramp rate control — to ramp down voltage slowly prior to cloud cover that will cause voltage flicker.

Solar Power International

SEIA CEO Abigail Ross Hopper and SEPA CEO Julia Hamm discuss diversity as an important goal for their respective industries.

The second short-coming is a short-coming for most industries: diversity. Judging by comments during the opening session and the upcoming Solar Jobs Census, solar thought leaders realize the industry is in position to not just remake the grid, but the makeup of the American workforce – not just to be PC and nice but because there is value inherent in a diversified workforce with growth opportunities. Also, check out this initiative from SEIA to work with Historically Black Colleges.

3. The full solar life cycle needs more attention.

One area in the U.S. solar industry still in need of attention is the full sustainability of a solar project. For example, panel recycling is a fairly big can that keeps getting kicked down the road. A DNV GL report released at SPI listed stranded assets as a key question in its market mechanics. At some point we will run out of road and kick that can straight into a million tons of PV that needs to be put somewhere. This isn’t a crisis (at least not yet) because there are solutions, at least according to First Solar, which has developed a standard for doing so and been put its system in place. Solar is recycled fairly easily — and for a profit — in Europe and that model could be replicated here.

The next can soon to be kicked is in storage. Storage is basically the key to solar taking over the world, but storage is dirtier than solar on the clean energy scale. Cobalt is a safety hazard. Lithium needs to be mined and poses its own potential for fire. Lead-acid battery companies claim to have the most recyclable solution, but does it perform as well as the future needs? And also, it is comprised of lead and acid. This is stuff that needs to be fully considered within the grand plans.

4. So many storage solutions…

LG energy storage

The new LG energy storage system.

Speaking of storage, every turn on the trade show floor seemed to present a new energy storage system or bundle of products to solve all sorts of solar + storage equations, from simpler backup capabilities to time of use to peak shaving and on and on. Panasonic has a full solution pairing Pika’s islanding inverter with its batteries and modules. LG debuted its complete solar + storage system for the home. SimpliPhi has varied its case sizes and voltage range. Sonnen has gone full tilt into energy management + home automation – a long fantasized idea that is now real-life – that is more load shaping than load shifting.

It’s all very cool. The issue from installers we chatted with at the show is there’s no one software that can deftly handle all of the storage mathematics they need (those that are great for peak shaving can’t be used for resiliency, etc.). There’s more to figure out here, just like on the battery side, but each SPI feels closer and closer to the goal line.

5. Some cool C&I rooftop innovations.

The reigning champion for the “biggest solar opportunity with the biggest issues to solve,” the commercial and industrial rooftop, saw several big-time debuts to ease some of these headaches.

A ton of solar deals are off the table because of the commercial rooftop life cycle and price tag. The deals that do go through on a different timeline than the roof itself are going to be a huge headaches come roof replacement time. Headaches meaning stuff will for sure be broken when the solar system is removed, stored and put back on. Standard Solar and Carlisle Roofing teaming up to solve this at the outset with a bundled package — a new C&I silicone coating spray applied to the existing roof membrane (with optional insulating foam) that installed with the PV system. The deal is financed through a PPA agreement with Standard Solar, so the building owner is essentially paying for the new roof (good for 50+ years) during the 25-year PPA.

ESDEC rooftop solar mounting system

The ESDEC Flat-Fix

On the system side, available in the first time in the U.S., Holland-based ESDEC debuted its slick Flat-Fix commercial rooftop mounting system. The same lightweight design can be laid out in south-facing or east-west configurations and is built with one tool, keeping the SKUs at a minimum. The feet are adhered with glue (or a bolt if needed) and an optional ballast tray. The system is already proven but the team needed to make a few tweaks to launch in the U.S., mostly relating to cable management, all of which were cleverly designed like the rest of the system.

Remote C&I system design has never been easier thanks to Nearmap’s updates. Its digital surface and line of sight analysis produces a jaw-droppingly clear picture for 71 percent of the U.S. population that is updated 3 times per year. You can really tell the difference between obstruction or dirt, as well as accurately measure the pitch and dimensions of any surface. When combined with the newest version Aurora Solar’s software, Aurora estimates 10x performance upgrades for multi-megawatt, commercial-scale solar projects added with the ability to simulate the solar energy production of a PV system while designing, allowing real-time assessment of design choices and elimination of change orders. An enhanced “fill zone” functionality is also available to automatically optimize solar panel locations to maximize the number that fit within an available space.

6. The next big trend will emerge from the California solar mandate (and maybe it’s an old one?).

Consider a company like CertainTeed – been around for a long time, and didn’t have a lot new at its booth to discuss. Its solar products are focused mostly on roof-integrated options that are not as popular as traditional mounting + solar panels on an existing roof sold and installed by solar installers. But when all new homes in California are going to need to come with solar already on the roof, will builders and roofers favor something like this they can handle themselves? Or, consider SunFlare, a company with a flexible CIGs technology. In 2018 it seems like a niche product – can be installed on top of existing carports and other nontraditional areas, but it’s close to working with a high-end national homebuilder that liked its solar shingle because “it’s a roofing product, not a solar product,” thus allowing them to install new solar on a new house without contracting out. The president of ESDEC also mentioned that in Holland their mounting system is seen as so simple to install that HVAC companies are a big customer segment for them because they could easily add it to their service offering.

Will the mainstreaming of solar earlier in the building process end up cutting out companies and products that rule the day today? Maybe a wild thought, just remember to keep your hands and arms inside the solarcoaster at all times.

— Solar Builder magazine

Panasonic, LG solar panels now available through Solaris

panasonic

Panasonic HIT panels.

Solaris Technology Industry, Inc., a national solar distributor, has now added LG Solar and Panasonic solar panels available for purchase through their website. The new solar panels are available to both consumers and installers for residential and commercial system applications.

“Looking forward, we anticipate a demand for even higher quality solar panels. These are the best PV modules available on the market, and we are able to supply them to DIY and installers alike for much less than traditional retail outlets,” said Brandi Casey, of Solaris-shop.com. “Interest in our systems are grown tremendously over the last year, and we anticipate further growth to continue with the new additions of these manufacturers. We also see solar paving the way forward regardless of the tariffs.”

Solaris delivers solar energy products for wholesale prices to consumers and companies nationwide.

RELATED: Modules and integration: Four reasons why AC, smart modules are on the rise

— Solar Builder magazine