It all comes down to curb appeal – pv magazine International
From pv magazine USA
When it comes to buying residential solar panels in the United States, the most important factor is the appeal.
US home equity collectively represents the largest savings account in the country. And because aesthetics are one of the most important factors in determining a home’s value, U.S. solar consumers tend to get a little, well, fussy.
What exactly makes a solar panel attractive? Bee pv magazine USA we believe that all solar panels are beautiful. But we are aware that grumpy neighbors and local HOAs have opinions, also.
The residential solar industry has taken note of the demand for beautiful, concealed panels and is now exploring techniques to provide creative and attractive designs.
Tesla answered the call by designing a new roof product – solar glass – to hold the solar cells. This product is breathtakingly beautiful, but unfortunately it seems to be made of unobtanium. So far, Tesla has struggled to deliver these roofs on time, and growing pains have led to dramatic price increases.
Other manufacturers are experimenting with the “solar shingle” form factor, including: solar luma and certainly. These groups want to replace the standard asphalt shingle with a shingle with a solar panel on top.
GAF Energy installs a standard solar panel, but adds refinements to smooth out the hard edges and replaces the shingles, but no other roofing layers. In mid-June, the company said it had completed work on its largest-ever residential solar roof system, a 31 kW system in California that is expected to produce 50,455 kWh of energy annually.
In Europe, Viridian Solar panels are mounted flush to the roof, completely replacing the roofing material. Unfortunately, these smart panels are not yet available in the US. And for now, almost all of these design panels are still niche products.
Standard solar panels with finer aesthetic qualities – thinner, black frames and black backsheets – remain the most common product available.
Installations like SolariaPhotos, above, represent some of the cleanest lines to be found. Thanks to the company’s shingled solar cells, all you see is the black surface of silicon and aluminum frames.
A leading residential solar panel is produced in Georgia at the Hanwha Q Cell factory. They are available, reasonably priced (no import tariffs), and they offer adequate specs and aesthetics.
The Solar Marketplace Intel Report from EnergySage provides a list of possible hardware you can buy. Note that EnergySage’s data does not represent 100% of the residential solar market, although it offers a solid cross-section of higher quality components.
Appearance is not everything
In addition to appearance, the reasons for choosing one panel over another vary greatly. Efficiency, price, panel size, availability, country of origin and even the environmental impact of a panel’s manufacturing process all play a role.
As the price of solar energy systems has fallen and the prices of solar panels have fallen even more, price is no longer the most important factor in a solar purchase decision. The most important factors today are a combination of efficiency and product quality.
In the most recent Follow the sun In a report from the United States Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, we see a few trends emerging as prices fall and efficiency increases:
However, a premium is still paid for more efficient solar panels. Maxeon from Sunpower has always been the most efficient and usually the most expensive. Others, such as the REC Alpha, LG’s Neon series, Solaria, and soon The heterojunction product of Meyer Burger, go to the same higher efficiency level of more than 22%.
After this trade-off of looks versus efficiency versus price versus availability, we focus on less tangible factors such as the location of production, the specific technologies used, and even how much CO2 was emitted during the manufacturing process. These factors lead to the wide variety of panels we see on the market today. Since there are hundreds of different solar panels on the market, it is difficult to cover them all.
For example, solar panels can be purchased in many countries in the world, including the US. Some companies make solar panels exclusively, while others – such as LG or Panasonic – are part of international conglomerates. You could even buy a solar panel with polysilicon made mainly via hydropower.
Since 2014, the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research has demonstrated the feasibility of painting the surface of a solar panel painted with nanomaterials in the factory. And the company Sistine Solar sells its “sunskin”, a custom graphic overlay that maintains 92%-99% of the efficiency of a solar panel, while matching the aesthetics of any building.
One final consideration is how much space you have available.
Those with limited roof space may want to take a closer look at panel dimensions to maximize energy production. Residential panels are usually about 65″ tall and 39″ wide, but the sizes are not written in stone (or polysilicon). For example, Sunpower has manufactured 425W panels that measure 72.2″ by 40″. And Solaria’s PowerXT 400W panel is extra wide: 64.72 inches by 47.4 inches.
If you’re outlining different configurations, add about 1″ between panels for center clamps. Also remember that most states require panels to be set back 36″ or more from the ridge of the roof. Some states, such as Massachusetts and Florida, have no setback restrictions, allowing installation right up to the edge of your roof. Your local building inspectors and contractors need to know exactly how much setback is needed.
With all these variables, you can get overwhelmed with choices; it’s a bit like buying a car.
One of the better pieces of advice might be to: find a contractor you like and trust, and let her or him recommend products for your home. The lessons learned from this article will help you vet those panels.
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