September 30, 2014
End of Year Rush Again?
In the 11 years that I have been in the Solar Installation Business, there has almost always been an end of year rush. For the last 5 years this is because of the 30% Federal Tax Credit. In order to safely claim the Tax Credit on your 2014 Taxes, you need to have the system "Placed in Service" during 2014. Most "Experts" interpret this as having the system installed, approved by the Building Department and Authorized by the Electrical Utility. There are many potential Customers, who saw there Electric Bills skyrocket in late summer because of Air Conditioner usage, thinking that they could use a nice Tax Credit as they think about filing their 2014 taxes. Usually at this time of year, demand is higher than the capacity of quality local Solar Installation companies. Equipment costs are usually higher at this time and weather / Holidays can impact schedules. Potential customers may find this frustrating as they attempt to get quotes and/or information regarding Solar Installations. Customers may find it better to wait until early 2015, when demand typically cools off. There will still be a 30% Federal Tax Credit in 2015 although you will have to wait to claim on your 2015 Taxes. If you are determined to get your Tax Credit for 2014, make sure the Installation Company can assure you that they will get it "Placed In Service" in 2014...preferably in writing!
March 18, 2013
Module Level Electronics are Inevitable
Solar Modules have traditionally had no electronics built into the Solar Modules beyond bypass diodes. The general consensus was that putting electronics into and/or close to the Solar Modules was risky because of the elevated temperatures may cause reliability problems. Also, the economics seemed difficult....for example, 30 Micro-Inverters would cost more than a single Inverter. The success of Enphase Micro-Inverters has caused the many in the industry to believe that Electronics have advanced to a stage where reliability and cost may no longer be barriers to Module Level Electronics. The benefits of Module Level Electronics are clear: improved shade tolerance, ability to monitor power output of each Solar Module, flexibility of Solar Module installation (different roof orientations, angles, etc.), and Safety. The Safety issue is because Module Level Electronics allows the ability to disconnect each Solar Module in the event of an emergency such as a fire on the building. There is still voltage on each individual Solar Module but this is usually less than 40 Vdc, and no voltage in the conduit routed down to the electrical meter. Typical Inverter systems have many Solar Modules connected in series/parallel that results in high voltage DC (sometimes as high as 600 Vdc) on the roof and in the conduit that is routed to the Inverter, sometimes passing through the residence. The only way to manage this situation is pulling a tarp over the Solar Array.
Enphase, although the market leader, is not the only Micro-Inverter. Other manufacturers such as Power-One and SolarBridge are coming out with Micro-Inverters. Nor are Micro-Inverters the only Module Level Electronics. SolarEdge (see www.solaredge.com ) makes a DC to DC “optimizer” that gives many of the advantages of Micro-Inverters with less electronics which they say will increase reliability. Tigo Energy (see www.tigoenergy.com ) makes a similar “optimizer” with even less electronics. All the companies above are working with Solar Module Manufacturers to get their products built in to the Solar Module to reduce costs and make installations easier.
Mission Solar Electric believes that the Safety issue itself makes Module Level Electronics inevitable, especially in the Residential market. There will be winners and losers among the Manufacturers but they are here to stay.
January 23, 2013
30 kW System Installed on Laundromat
Mission Solar Electric completed a 30 kW Micro-Inverter Solar Electric System on the roof of a Laundromat in San Diego. The system is comprised of 135 Kyocera 245 Watt Solar Modules and 135 Enphase 215 Watt Micro-Inverters. The system is expected to produce 50,000 kWh annually which is 43% of the electrical load of the Laundromat. The system actually back feeds 3 separate electrical meters feeding the Laundromat which necessitated the installation of Enphase Line Communications Filters.
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