S-5! releases SolarFoot product for exposed fastener metal roofing

S-5! sent word about its new SolarFoot, made for exposed fastener metal roofing via four points of attachment. The SolarFoot provides an ideal mounting platform to attach the L-Foot of a rail-mounted solar system or other ancillaries to the roof. Behold:

SolarFoot

The SolarFoot ensures a durable weathertight solution for the life of the solar system and the roof. Each piece contains two reservoirs of a factory-applied butyl co-polymeric sealant, allowing a water-tested seal. Simply peel the release paper from the butyl sealant and fasten through the predrilled holes in the base of the SolarFoot.

S-5! specializes in zero-penetration clamps that attach ancillary items to standing seam metal roofs without violating the integrity of the roof or the roof’s warranties. The clamps mount snow-retention and wind-performance systems, solar arrays, signs/banners, light fixtures, gas piping, stack/flue bracing, walkways, HVAC, lightning protection, equipment screens, conduit, condensate lines and more.

— Solar Builder magazine

Nearmap rolls out two new views for its hi-res aerial mapping services

nearmap

Hi-res aerial maps provide a lot of value to the solar industry when it comes to streamlining that initial proposal creation and design process. Nearmap, a location content provider specializing in high-resolution aerial maps, released two new forms of aerial geospatial data services – Nearmap Panorama and Nearmap Oblique imagery.

Nearmap Panorama enables users to view perspective maps in all cardinal directions for small or large areas in uninterrupted fashion. Users do not need to jump from one image to another and, in the process, lose context. They can easily navigate, pan and zoom across any size geography, quickly analyze perspective maps and make faster decisions that impact government and commercial operations – all within an instantly accessible 100 percent cloud-based environment.

“Nearmap Panorama is delivered via our new, highly intuitive MapBrowser interface, enabling users to effortlessly visualize and navigate across regions or local areas in an uninterrupted way,” said Patrick Quigley, SVP and GM for Nearmap North America. “Our users can inspect aerial location content faster than ever before using Nearmap Panorama. Consistent with past location content, Nearmap Panorama is delivered in high-resolution, 3-inch GSD.”

Eye in the Sky: How Momentum Solar doubled its business with aerial imaging software

Nearmap Obliques enable users to interactively inspect and measure the height of features, such as buildings and terrain, from all cardinal directions. Nearmap Oblique images are also accessed through the new MapBrowser.

“Our customers need location content aligned with their requirements,” said Natasha Ridley, product manager for MapBrowser. For example, with Nearmap Oblique images, government organizations conducting property appraisal can accurately value property using measurement and detailed, tilt-angled perspectives. At the same time, commercial organizations interested in engineering and construction can quickly select a north, south, east or west orientation, measure heights of buildings and better plan changes.”

Users working within MapBrowser can switch from Nearmap Vertical to Nearmap Panorama or Nearmap Oblique location content. “We’ve added new features that our customers are going to be very excited about,” said Ridley. “For example, now users can export our imagery with measurements added. The saved image provides the whole picture, which is very useful in proposal development and communicating specific aspects of the aerial maps essential in planning and operations.”

“These enhancements represent a major step forward in both our location content and delivery capabilities. There’s also more on the way,” said Robert Carroll, VP of 3-D commercial and government for Nearmap. “This imagery is produced by our patented HyperCamera2 technology, enabling us to continue to proactively survey the U.S. urban areas including 50 percent of the population with obliques while also producing high-resolution 3-D content. Our plan is to extend our leadership position by introducing Nearmap 3-D combining ‘off-the-shelf’ digital surface models (DSM), textured 3-D mesh and 3-D point clouds in the near future.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Pared-down MLPE: How Empower Micro Systems does residential solar with two SKUs

empower-genesys-8k-powerbridge-1In its early days, the U.S. residential solar market was dominated by high-volume buyers like Sunrun, Solar City and Vivint, which means they bought most of the equipment, with the remaining market being served through distribution channels. But big-time growth going forward in the residential solar segment will be driven by the local installer, and the growth of that local installer market will come through greater simplicity, in both process and systems. That’s how we see it at least, and that’s the thesis driving a new PV electronics platform from Empower Micro Systems, a technology company that is currently licensing its new patented solar platform to larger established brands.

“With more financing options available, there is just not a huge advantage in being larger,” says Mika Nuotio, CEO of Empower Micro Systems. “The system is collapsing. Hyper regionalized deployment is coming. The vast majority is from installers, sold through distribution.”

So, if smaller companies gravitating toward simple solutions is the operating assumption, Nuotio says SKU consolidation is one of the most important goals to shoot for — reducing inventory costs and inventory turns makes an installer’s job easier and more profitable.

“In particular in solar, if you sit on inventory for a month or two, you are eroding your profit margin and reselling that equipment. Fast inventory turns make things much easier,” Nuotio says. “Installers are in the service business. They need transactional efficiency. When we designed our technology, we looked at the whole value chain from manufacturers through distributors to homeowners. What’s the technology that streamlines everything?”

SKU consolidation

Installers like stocking products in a van or keeping confined stock at a distributor. Select the wrong size or put the wrong one in the van and another trip is needed.

Simplicity is far from a new concept, as pretty much all manufacturers are trying to simplify their products and an installer’s workflow, but Empower’s Genesys 8K modular technology platform is maybe the simplest out there, cutting the SKU count to two: just a PowerBridge and a PoweHub. With those two, Nuotio says you can build any system from 2.4 to 11.4 kW, which could cover about 99 percent of U.S. residential installs. Comparable module-level power electronic solutions will likely have eight to 15 different SKUs.

Introducing ‘fractal inversion’

Empower Genesys So, how is Empower able to say “just buy two components and then that’s it?” Nuotio explains it is part technology and part design. The Empower technology uses a combination of microinverters and DC optimizers, an architecture that Nuotio is calling fractal inversion.

Here’s how it was described to us: The PowerBridge is a microinverter, one installed per module; the input is DC, and the output is low voltage AC (operating between 0 and 40 volts). Multiple units are then connected in series to create an AC string and aggregated together to hit grid voltage.

The PoweHub is the smart energy combiner. It combines multiple output circuits into one circuit that goes into the service panel and can support up to three strings. Each string is 16 amps, and the aggregate output max is 48 amps. The power rating of the system scales with the number of PowerBridges.

“Because we are connecting the PowerBridges serially in the string, we have an all AC system that doesn’t need a proprietary trunk cable,” Nuotio says. “Installers we talk to say they don’t like trunk cables; they are complicated to deal with, you need three different versions in stock, slicing connectors, sealing caps. That whole thing goes away.”

Overall, the system concept reminds us of Enphase, except for the commitment to pared down SKUs and the move away from trunk cables. It is similar to SolarEdge in that the DC to AC ratios aren’t rigid, which is a trend you can expect to continue in residential solutions. It differs from SolarEdge by being all AC voltage, which means less thermal stretch compared to an oversized DC string.

“Thermal stretch on an individual PowerBridge actually goes down when you oversize in our system,” Nuotio says. “Each PowerBridge is operating at a lower power output, and the string current is limited to a max level of 16 amps. If you keep loading more and more DC power, the total power is max 3.8-kW AC, so each unit actually processes less power and therefore puts less thermal stretch on the electronics.”

Lastly, as solar + storage systems start to take off, Nuotio says the PowerBridge simply couples to a lithium ion battery pack in the way it would a PV module, to help keep those SKU counts low and install solar today but be ready with the infrastructure for storage down the road.

Limitations?

The rigid modularity of the system might not work for every single home on the market because a single string of at least 8 PV modules is needed to make the system and economics payoff. But that is a fairly small volume of projects.

“If you look at the cost of customer acquisition, permitting, installation and truck rolls to do anything, an eight-module system is just not economical. It is washed out by soft costs, so we don’t see that as a major limitation from an overall market perspective.”


Tigo with Amazon AlexaTigo Skill connects a PV system to Amazon’s Alexa

Tigo is now offering its customers the benefits of Amazon Alexa technology via the new Tigo Skill, available on Alexa-enabled products. Using the Tigo Skill, residential and commercial customers with monitored PV systems can request tailored information from Alexa, the cloud-based voice service by Amazon. For example, simply saying “Alexa, ask Tigo how much power my PV system generated today,” will report a day’s worth of power without the need to log in to Tigo’s SMART website.

“Within seconds, you can know how well your PV system is producing — without logging on to a computer or climbing on the roof,” says Maxym Makhota, Tigo’s VP of Software Development. “Tigo Skill is the first to bridge the gap between solar, artificial intelligence and the Smart Home mentality in which information is always available.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Nonconductive Tool Co. selling its Voltclaw hand tools in new combo pack

voltclaw solar tool

Pulling, pushing, grabbing and bending wires is a major part of every professional electrician’s daily grind. To make it safer and easier on the widest range of wires, Nonconductive Tool Co. (NTC) announced a value-packed combo offer of its original Voltclaw-12 hand tool and its new Voltclaw Multi-Gauge tool for only $24.97 – a savings of 30% versus purchasing the tools separately.

The Voltclaw-12 was the first non-conductive wire control tool. For the first time, electricians could grip, hook, push, bend and pull 12-14 gauge wires in outlets, switches, junction boxes and breaker panels without damaging wire insulation like metal tools can. More importantly, they could do the job safer because the all nylon Voltclaw-12 is non-conductive to 1,000V. Incredibility versatile, it even lets electricians loosen and tighten twist-on wire connectors with ease. Lightweight and compact, the Voltclaw-12 perfectly fits in a tool belt.

The Voltclaw Multi-gauge provides more versatility. Like the Voltclaw-12, it is non-conductive to 1,000V making it a far safer alternative to metal screwdrivers or wire strippers for the grabbing, pulling, pushing and bending of electrical wires, delivering peace-of-mind even when navigating in the most crowded electrical boxes. A built-in sliding wire gripper is optimized to tightly grasp on 6-16 gauge wires commonly used in commercial and residential installations. It also features two pull hooks, one on the front and one on the back, to handle both small or larger wires, along with a V-groove for pushing wires back into junction boxes. Deep finger grips ensure a safe grasp with greasy or gloved hands.

In addition, the two tools can be used at the same time for additional safety. For example, an electrician can hold the wires with the Voltclaw Multi-Gauge while removing the twist-on wire connector with the Voltclaw -12.

— Solar Builder magazine

JinkoSolar breaks PERC solar cell efficiency record, debuts new mobile solutions

jinkosolar

At China International Industry Fair (CIIF), JinkoSolar announced that it has broken its own world record for P-type monocrystalline PERC solar cell efficiency by achieving that of 23.45 percent. The record was independently validated by the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Photovoltaic and Wind Power System Quality Test Center. This new achievement eclipses JinkoSolar’s world record breaking P-Type monocrystalline PERC solar cell efficiency of 22.78% that was achieved just last month in October.

Also at CIIF JinkoSolar introduced new applications of cutting-edge technology such as IoT devices, intelligent mobile devices, and mobile robots to its manufacturing process. The innovative applications allows JinkoSolar to consolidate data collection, enable yield traceability, improve workflow efficiency, and optimize material transportation, which ultimately allows the company to continuously enhance its fab operating efficiency. Following through with its commitment to manufacturing excellence, JinkoSolar has further integrated functions such as advanced data analytics, smart diagnostics, self-reporting, and precise forecasting, with its operational know-how. The integration has revolutionized JinkoSolar’s fab operations from “Automated” to “Intelligent”, allowing the company to achieve greater efficiency, flexibility and quality, maximize cost effectiveness, and accelerate overall innovation.

— Solar Builder magazine