Commercial building PV transformation? Here are two new solar glass solutions getting buzz

Endorsed by leading glass and fabrication companies including Pilkington, AGC, and Walters & Wolf, Solaria is ready to roll out its PowerVision product, which could transform building facades, skylights, canopies and other structural components into power-generating assets. At the same time, SolarWindow Technologies, developer of electricity-generating windows for tall towers and skyscrapers, has entered into an agreement for the fabrication of SolarWindow products with suburban Los Angeles-based Triview Glass Industries, LLC.

Inside PowerVision

PowerVision 9.2017

Deployment of Solaria’s patented technology —which leverages the reliability and efficiency of crystalline silicon technology— enables structures to generate electricity cleanly and reliably.

“By reimagining commercial and residential building structures, Solaria has devised its PowerVision glass in inventive new ways so that nearly every aspect of a building envelope —beyond the rooftop— can generate electricity,” said Nick Bagatelos, President of Bagatelos Architectural Glass Systems, Inc. “PowerVision builds on the success of PowerXT to enable building owners and developers to turn skylights, windows and building facades into electricity-generating assets. Seamlessly integrated and easily installed into building designs, Solaria’s patented PowerVision transforms buildings into on-site clean power plants.”

“There’s increased demand to evolve building designs to incorporate more solar solutions, and construct, when possible, high performance, Net Zero Energy structures,” noted Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma. “Buildings currently account for forty percent of the world’s energy use — to power light, heat, cool buildings. Now architects, developers and builders can deploy solar everywhere – in skylights, windows and building facades, as well as on rooftops.”

Solaria’s unique solar cell process technology has allowed the company to develop an architecturally beautiful vision glass that can be used in locations not typically associated with solar panels; these include skylights, patios, and window openings, providing a see-through surface that generates electricity. Building owners and occupants accrue many benefits – as solar-outfitted windows mitigate the sunlight’s effect on a building. When combined with high-efficiency solar PV modules, together they offer a seamless strategy to unlock the full power potential of buildings with technologies that boost energy generation, providing high yield at a low cost.

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Extensively tested and demonstrated at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s FLEXLAB, Solaria PowerVision has proven to deliver a unique combination of high performance and high power density with optimized thermal performance, effective daylighting, and glare control.

Details on SolarWindow

The prospect of generating electricity on commercial buildings, which consume nearly 40% of all electricity generated in the US, is made possible when transparent SolarWindow electricity-generating liquid coatings are applied to glass surfaces.

As the company’s select regional fabricator in North America, Triview Glass will work to fabricate specific SolarWindow electricity-generating glass products at commercial scale by integrating SolarWindow technologies into its manufacturing processes.

Commercial buildings are ideal customers for electricity-generating windows, which could reduce electricity demand by 30%-50% and provide a one-year financial payback, according to independently-validated engineering modeling for a 50-story building.

Recently, the company achieved an important fabrication step leading to today’s announcement. SolarWindow electricity-generating coatings were successfully processed through the rigorous autoclave system for window glass lamination at Triview.

Layered with SolarWindow coatings, glass modules were subjected to the extremely high heat and pressure of autoclave equipment located at Triview. Despite the harsh conditions, subsequent performance testing confirmed that SolarWindow modules continued to produce electricity, paving the way for today’s announcement and eventual deployment of the company’s electricity-generating glass products.

— Solar Builder magazine

How one PV module manufacturer wants to meet the needs of homeowners

Solaria uses a direct contact between cells

Solaria uses a direct contact between cells to reduce power loss as well as achieve an all-black look.

For all of the intrinsic value of solar, selling it on a wide-scale to homeowners might depend more on stuff like emotional appeal and aesthetics. This is driving the influx of black PV panels coming onto the market. LG’s NeON series comes in black. Panasonic just released all-black versions of its popular HIT panels (as we noted last issue). And so on.

A new entrant into this space is Solaria, a technology company that has been developing its technology over the last decade to commercialize a breakthrough product for the industry. As Chinese panels continued to drive down prices in utility-scale projects, that market became less of a focus.

Looking at the market, Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma thinks residential installs are the next big opportunity for high-efficiency, aesthetically pleasing panels that have residential applications in mind from the start.
“If you look at the Chinese model of panels where you basically make two different sizes that you stuff into different channels, that worked when the market was small, but now the market deserves its own product and focus.”

Solaria took its core technology – solar cell cutting, handling assembly and automation and configured a module and design to do two things:

“Produce significantly more power than a standard solar panel using the same bill of materials and, just as importantly, provide a much better looking panel,” he says. “With the industry maturing, those attributes will become more important. We want to break through from the early adopters in the mass market.”

Right now, Solaria’s residential solar capacity is still on the smaller side. Between its line in Fremont, Calif., and its line in South Korea, Solaria is working on adding additional capacity to meet growing demand.

Inside the Design

Conveniently, Solaria’s strategy for designing an efficient panel naturally created a sleek-looking product. The Solaria formula in a nutshell is to cut solar cells (mono PERC) into five strips and then overlap each of them instead of interconnecting them with traditional ribbon wire. The cell architecture of a traditional module leaves dead space between each cell, whereas this overlapping structure creates a uniform, continuous string of strips as well as the aesthetic bonus of covering up the typically visible busbars.

“All of the active areas of a cell are exposed. Busbars on a typical module shade about 3 to 4 percent of the module and cell, so we eliminate that through the overlap mechanism,” he says. “By creating a direct contact between one cell and another, we get better electrical performance because we don’t have the traditional losses associated with ribbon wires.”

Why high-efficiency modules are the best value for installers, homeowners

Part of the value from increasing system efficiency within the module architecture itself — and wiring in a combination of parallel and series — is also reducing the need for efficiency-boosting or shade-mitigating MLPEs. You may still want to incorporate optimizers in certain applications, but the need is reduced.

Add all of that up, Sharma says a Solaria panel (60-cell, 330 Wp) should be expected to produce 15 to 20 percent higher power than conventional panels using the same cells and materials to pair with that all-black appearance. The price point for Solaria is higher than a conventional Chinese panel, but priced below a high-efficiency SunPower back-contact panel.

Looking Ahead

Beyond improved aesthetics, simplicity is another big factor in the residential market. For that reason, Sharma wants to put Solaria on the path toward smart AC modules.

“How does solar become truly mainstream? The installation of the system needs to be simplified more and more. Plus, it’s a complex sell. The broader we can make the installer base, where more electricians get into it, the bigger it’s going to grow. We want to simplify the installation and that’s where we see the opportunity for integrated AC modules.”

Be on the lookout for more news on that front from Solaria as it tests out concepts with various microinverter manufacturers until it feels comfortable enough to offer an integrated product and stand behind the warranty.

Why Mono PERC?

Key to Solaria’s solution is the mono PERC cell. CEO Suvi Sharma explains his reasoning behind that choice.

“You typically get about 1 percent absolute improved power today from a standard mono cell, but the roadmap to improve that power is better with mono PERC,” Suvi says. “There are more dials to play with in terms of efficiency. Not only does mono PERC have higher power than a traditional mono cell, but the difference is going to grow over time. Could become 2 percent absolute over the next 18 months.”

“One issue with PERC is its light-induced degradation [LID]. The PERC manufacturers have worked on that a lot over the last 18 months. The LID is similar to mono cells now. Sometimes in multi PERC there tends to be more LID.”

“Mono PERC is growing in market share because it’s an add-on. If you already have an investment in a mono cell line, you can leverage it for mono PERC as opposed to new cell contents like heterojunction and bifacial, which require a fundamentally new investment in equipment. We believe that within three years probably, all mono cell capacity is going to be converted to mono PERC.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Solaria PowerXT modules now being distributed by Soligent

Solaria PowerXT residential solar modules are now being distributed by Soligent, the largest pure play solar distributor in the Americas, headquartered in Petaluma, Calif. Solaria’s high-efficiency PowerXT 330Wp residential module is one of the industry’s most bankable solar products.

solaria

The PowerXT module line offers homeowners and businesses a 20% higher energy yield over conventional modules. Thanks to a patented cell cutting and module assembly process, Solaria PowerXT solar modules provide high power with a sleek design. The 330W panels mean labor savings on racking and system components over other lower wattage modules. With Solaria expanding its PowerXT solar cell and module manufacturing line at its headquarters in Fremont, California, it will provide U.S. installers with a top offering of products.

“Soligent is proud to partner with Solaria to make PowerXT available across the country. Soligent, with its 38 years of solar expertise, is excited to introduce Solaria’s high quality, beautifully engineered PV modules to our customers,” said Soligent President Thomas Enzendorfer. Soligent CEO Jon Doochin said “Solaria’s PowerXT accelerates payback period and installer profits, giving our installers a competitive edge. When coupled with Soligent’s distribution capability, Solar Engine financing, system designs, and our Soligent Elite loyalty program, Soligent is equipping its installers with more tools to succeed than ever before.”

Solaria BIPV technology now available through CleanFund Commercial PACE financing

— Solar Builder magazine

Solaria Corp. expands U.S production of PowerXT modules

Solaria

Solaria Corp. says it has greatly expanded its PowerXT solar cell and module manufacturing line at its headquarters in Fremont, Calif.  By the end of 2017, Solaria will have increased its U.S. manufacturing capacity of PowerXT solar cells and modules to more than 40 megawatts per year.

“We’ve ramped up our U.S.-based manufacturing of Solaria’s new aesthetic, high efficiency PowerXT modules to meet the rapidly growing demand from discerning customers who appreciate the PowerXT’s advanced engineering, design and exceptional value proposition,” said Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma. “We’re proud to be accelerating production of this advanced technology developed in Silicon Valley through new investments in plant equipment, technology and staffing.”

 

Delivering top-level efficiency and aesthetics, PowerXT offers a compelling technology value proposition: 20 percent more energy yield. Solaria PowerXT’s advanced cell and module production process significantly boosts power generation while eliminating reliability challenges that can reduce conventional PV modules’ long-term performance. Solaria PowerXT modules accelerate the payback period and increases installers’ profits – making solar energy an attractive investment from both an aesthetic and performance perspective.

GTM Research predicts solar market doomsday scenario if Suniva’s proposal is approved

— Solar Builder magazine

Cornell Tech’s new campus installs Solaria PowerXT PV modules

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Solaria Corp. provided 2,300 PowerXT and customized PowerView modules to buildings on Cornell Tech’s innovative new campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City. Combined, the Bloomberg Center – designed by mOrphosis Architects – and the Bridge building – designed by WEISS/ MANFREDI/ Architecture/ Urbanism/ Landscape – uses 47,000 sq ft of Solaria PV panels, the equivalent of a 900-kW system, part of a strategy to generate all of the power needed for the Bloomberg Center on campus.

The Bloomberg Center is the first academic building on the Roosevelt Island campus and is scheduled to open in September. It plans to achieve NZE by employing multiple strategies including solar power, geothermal ground source heat pumps, an energy-efficient façade balancing the ratio between transparency and opaqueness to maximize building insulation and decrease energy demand, and smart building features monitoring lighting. This strategy prioritizes reduction in energy demand through load reductions as well as maximizing passive and energy efficient design, and using renewable energy to power the building systems.

Why high-efficiency modules are the best value for installers, homeowners

Solaria’s rooftop solar solutions provide high-performance solar panels that produce up to 20 percent more energy than conventional modules. These high-density solar panels are optimized for rooftop applications and leverage a highly refined manufacturing process which results in a significantly higher energy yield than typical PV modules. It not only delivers high power but also improved shading tolerance, premium appearance and durability. Solaria’s architectural glass solutions that deliver the unique combination of high performance and high power density. This enables the optimization of thermal performance, effective daylighting, glare control and power generation. Solaria’s solar windows are easily customizable and offer design flexibility to adjust for a wide variety of sizes, glass type dimensions, coatings, Vt, and voltage.

— Solar Builder magazine