Solar coaster news roundup: SolarCity layoffs, SunPower exits utility-scale, Enphase in trouble?

solar industry layoffs

The solar installer base has strengthened across the country, but the largest companies still loom largest. When they sneeze, the industry catches a cold. Here are some of the latest comings and goings at the top of the market following first-half earnings calls.

SolarCity cut backs

Tesla closed a dozen solar installation facilities around the country as part of a round of layoffs this summer, according to Reuters, in California, Maryland, New Jersey, Texas, New York, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Arizona, and Delaware. The installation facility closures leave the company with about 60 solar installation facilities nationwide. The laid off workforce includes installers, telemarketers, and customer service personnel. Tesla is also pulling out of its Home Depot deal.

Does this spell trouble for SolarCity / Tesla? Well, not necessarily. The company is saying this is part of its reorganization efforts after acquiring SolarCity last year – the closings are all SolarCity-specific locations. Since the acquisition, Tesla has been streamlining and combining more of the two companies’ portfolios.

SunPower leaves utility-scale, Enphase acquires microinveter business

The SunPower fit in the utility-scale market never made a ton of sense, and with PPA prices falling as far as they have, SunPower announced it was leaving that space to focus on residential and commercial and industrial projects, with an eye on growth in both storage and services.

“We see the North American distributed generation market really evolving over the next two years, from just solar, to solar-plus-storage, then eventually to solar-plus-storage-plus-services,” said CEO Tom Werner.

The company also sold its microinverter business to Enphase Energy, Inc. for a total of $25 million in cash. This is going to boost the AC Modules market with SunPower’s Equinox Home Solar System now coming with a custom line of Enphase’s IQ microinverters.

“We are excited to close the acquisition of SunPower’s microinverter business ahead of plan,” said Badri Kothandaraman, president and CEO of Enphase Energy. “We now expect volume shipments of IQ 7XS microinverters in the fourth quarter of 2018 and an acceleration of the ramp throughout 2019. The business is on track to achieve its full revenue and gross margin potential. ACM is a significant component of our profitable top line growth strategy. We look forward to being a strong innovation partner for SunPower.”

Speaking of Enphase…

Prescience Point Capital Management, a private investment manager that focuses on investigations of public companies, published a negative follow-up report to support its short position on Enphase. Since the release of its initial report on Enphase, Prescience Point has identified numerous additional red flags which further call into question the reliability of the company’s financial statements. Here are the bullets from the report:

  • Our analysis of ENPH’s Q2’18 results indicates further doubt on the reliability of its financial statements.
  • Management tried to explain away some of the red flags highlighted in our Initiation Report; however, management’s explanations in some cases conflict with statements previously made on the record and in other cases defy logic.
  • Despite our doubts about the reliability of its accounting, ENPH still missed Q2 consensus estimates and whiffed on guidance. The 12.9% and 8.9% YoY decline in ENPH’s Q2’18 inverter volume and adjusted revenue, respectively, indicate that its business is deteriorating at a faster pace than we initially thought.
  • According to sources, former SunEdison CEO Ahmad Chatila is currently working for ENPH. ENPH appears to have adopted many of the same practices which ultimately led to SUNE’s downfall.
  • Prescience Point reiterates our estimate that Enphase stock is worth ~$1/share on a fundamental basis, implying 80% downside.

— Solar Builder magazine

Seaward updates PV testing products with higher resolution I-V curve, more

PV200 Complete Kit

Solar test equipment manufacturer Seaward Group released an updated version of its solar PV test equipment with new features to improve functionality and boost performance and precision.

The biggest updated in the PV200/210 Complete Kit  is a new I-V curve algorithm designed to produce higher resolution results. Users will also find new messages that indicate if there has been a problem with the test – limiting occurrences of invalid tests and saving time on site. Even better, combiner box text leads and a mounting bracket are now included with every kit as standard – previously users had to purchase these separately.

RELATED: How to design a perfect solar system — then sell it — with Aurora Solar COO

“We had a fantastic response to the original PV200 and 210 devices – which provide an intuitive and cost-effective way to measure the I-V curve of PV modules and strings,” said Michael Middlemast, category manager at Seaward, said. “We’ve listened carefully to user feedback to implement these latest updates. The improved level of accuracy makes the devices even more efficient to use, limiting downtime and increasing energy production.”

Seaward, which unveiled the latest devices at last month’s Intersolar North America, also announced updates to the PV200/210’s software, SolarCert Elements V2. The latest version of the software now simply called SolarCert, enhances the I-V curve reporting function, allowing users to quickly and easily generate a report for thousands of strings.

— Solar Builder magazine

This 3 in 1 Roof boosts solar cell efficiency with new approach to surface temperature management

Slate solar 3 in one roof

Black or blue silicone solar cells have average efficiency ratings of around 22 percent in test settings, often with a range of 15 to 17 percent in real-world conditions during a course of the day. The creators of the new 3 in 1 Roof system think they have a better solution, at least when it comes to mitigating efficiency loses caused by high temperatures.

The 3 in 1 Roof

3 IN 1 ROOF is designed for the roofer by a roofing contractor located in South Florida. After hurricane Wilma, the contractor completed several hundred roofing jobs where he analyzed why traditional tiles failed under such extreme weather conditions and corrected those flaws in his design of the 3 IN 1 ROOF product.

3 IN 1 ROOF install much, much faster than traditional tiles so roofers earn more annual profits without increasing personnel. 3 IN 1 ROOF will not break or crack under foot because its underside patented wedge shape design eliminates potential fractures when too much pressure is applied. Also every horizontal and vertical row installs perfectly straight without chalking lines.

How it reduces temperature

For every 20 degrees, the surface temperature of a traditional roof rises above 120 degrees, the solar functionality decreases by 5 percent. Therefore when common roof products are at their hottest, a solar panel’s efficiency is at its lowest. Plus, asphalt, concrete and metal takes many hours to heat up, and the same amount of time to cool down or even longer if the attic is poorly ventilated.

RELATED: Silicon heterojunction solar cell technology moves beyond the lab

The secret sauce of the 3 in 1 Roof system is two amalgamates. The 3 IN 1 ROOF embodiment is comprised of heat-resistant closed cell foam, and it’s coated with a durable Geopolymer that increases in temperature only about 12 degrees above ambient. As the ambient rises and falls, so does the surface temperature of the 3 in 1 Roof and at near simultaneous frequencies. Therefore, unless summer temperatures exceed over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, the 3 in 1 Roof system’s solar module will always yield maximum efficiency.

Through in-house testing, the company shows that the 3 in 1 Roof system is “as efficient” as solar panels between the morning and afternoon hours. But after 3 p.m., the difference in performance is dramatic. On an 88 to 90 degree day, test data reveals beyond mid-afternoon about 23% more energy is generated by the 3 IN 1 ROOF, because traditional roofing has collected and amassed so much heat from the sun, it reaches surface temperatures well over 150 degrees. When one takes into account around 4-5 hours of advanced power creation, it mathematically boosts the 3 IN 1 ROOF system’s over all efficiency rating to 17 to 19 percent.

3 in 1 Roof features a highly UV resistant topcoat that keeps its surface temperature slightly above ambient temperatures. Also our durable foam embodiment prevents heat transference prolonging substrate life expectancy by approximately 300%, while it keeps attics cool saving up to 38% on BTU consumption. That means reduced monthly kilowatt needs lending lower fuel bills and most important, a lesser amount of solar cells needed to power the house, allowing consumers to reduce before they produce

In addition, its SPF-like foam character blocks all solar gains from entering into the attic area, lending day-long cool substrates, decking and garrets, virtually eliminating heat flowback.

What is heat flowback and why eliminate it?

Solar gains into an attic causes all sorts of humidity issues fundamentally negative to any structure, including but not limited to; dry-rot, condensation, mold and everything that’s related to moisture plus heat. Flowback is when attics get so hot, they’re virtually structural incubators. Hot air prevents the wood decking it contacts from cooling down while the traditional roofing cools over night, thus prolonging the roof’s ability to equalize ambient temperature.

All these dilemmas are not only problematic with traditional roofing systems, they’re also drawbacks for each and every integrated solar tile and integrated solar shingles system, but not for the 3 in 1.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fraunhofer Center vouches for AE Solar’s hot-spot free solar module design

Hot-spots remain an issue for various module types and present long-term issues for owners of older PV systems. The term hot-spot refers to the excessive heating in an area of a solar panel — a raise in temperature that may result from a drop in the output of electric current in one or more cells of a string. The drop in output occurs from shading, dirt, dust, snow, and manufacturing defects.

But the R&D team at AE Solar has solved the problem with a true hot-spot free module. The Hot-Spot Free Modules developed by AE Solar use bypass diodes to eliminate the development of hot-spots and thus the damages and risks associated.

The temperature of Hot-Spot cells within AE Smart Hot-Sport Free Modules does not exceed 85°C. This temperature management eliminates material hazard, the safety of the module and its surroundings. Available from 260W to 350W range, the AE Smart Hot-Spot Free Modules offer up to 30% more power output compared to standard PV Modules thanks to their improved efficiency. The module was tested by Fraunhofer Center for Silicon Photovoltaics and the results showed the highest efficiency at real conditions with resistance to shading.

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

This added efficiency translates into less modules needed and less space required for installation. Space Saving for PV plants by using Smart Modules compared to standard “non-smart” modules Temperature of cells does not exceed operating temperature of PV modules. No reduction of PV module stability and no fire risk from hot-spots.

In a standard module, the impact of shading on a single cell affects a whole string, while an AE SOLAR SMART
MODULE with HOT-SPOT FREE technology loses the output of only one single cell during the shading.

The video above explains the concept in more detail.

— Solar Builder magazine

TerraSmart’s new TF3L ground-mount is lighter, adds more panels per foundation

TerraSmart ground mount TF3L

TerraSmart introduced the latest edition to its racking portfolio, the TF3L. Similar to TerraSmart’s TF2P, the TF3 Landscape Racking System is designed to maximize construction efficiency on large-scale utility-solar sites thus saving the client from unnecessary civil work. In addition, the TF3L accommodates more panels per foundation, reducing overall site cost and optimizes panel capacity.

“TerraSmart’s latest TF3 Landscape system is designed to be much lighter than any of the other parts in our current racking portfolio resulting in longer peak performances of our field employees,” says TerraSmart CEO Ryan Reid. “We are able to install within longer hours and complete projects in much shorter time periods. The new system allows us to maximize efficiency on solar construction sites and continue to stay ahead of the curve with future solar projects benefitting the client, developer and end user.”

RELATED: Pre-assembled mounting structures speed site installation by 35 percent

The TF3 Landscape racking system is configured with 6 high rows by 8 long columns and has a tilt angle of 35 degrees. Yielding to a max table size of 6 x 8, the rack accommodates more panels per foundation and optimizes panel capacity. The system is also paired with TerraSmart’s versatile ground screw foundation that can work in any soil condition, saving time and budget on every site.

Additional benefits of the TF3 landscape module orientation rack include:

• With an integrated wire management, the rack has no extra parts or pieces. This allows workers to simply tuck and go, resulting with a forty-percent reduction in man-hour installation time.
• The ultra-lightweight design allows for easier handling aiding in a longer peak performance of field workers.
• The two-piece simplified hardware stacks increase connection velocity.
• The featured Smart Bracket adapts to steep slopes, minimizing civil work and expediting project schedules.

Designed to meet the most rigorous international standards, the TF3 Landscape Racking System complies with the NEC, is UL 2703 Edition 1 certified and is CPP wind tunnel tested. The system can withstand winds up to 150 miles-per-hour and snow weight up to 60 pounds per square-foot. It is protected under a 20-year limited warranty, ensuring the system’s bankability and reliability over the life of the project.

— Solar Builder magazine