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Clean Power A Thin-Film Solar Panel Installation

Published on September 29th, 2008 | by Michelle Bennett

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A Thin Film Solar Installation Revisited



A season has passed since we covered the installation of Magco Inc.’s new thin film solar panel installation. The previous article generated a lot of interest and questions, so it’s time to get back on the roof and report on some real-world figures.

If you need a refresher on thin film solar technology, check out two of our previous posts. The important thing to remember here is that thin film solar is lighter than silicon panels, and uses different wavelengths of light.

In May of 2008, Magco Inc. installed 27kW of Unisolar‘s triple-junction laminate panels. That’s 4,900 sq ft of thin film goodness. The building contains a warehouse and offices, and it has a metal roof. The solar panels were literally glued to the roof.

Total installation cost: US$215,000 (including inverter and hiring a master electrician)

Energy produced each month provides about 1/3 of Magco’s total needs. That may not seem like a lot, but recall that this includes a warehouse with associated heating/cooling, machinery and equipment. Magco anticipates producing about US$9,000 each year from the panels. So let’s do the math:

If Magco earns $9,000/year, they’ll regain their investment in almost 24 years. That’s about US$43.88 per square foot on this installation. If you only calculate the installation cost and optimal energy production, the price per watt comes out around $8/watt.

Keep in mind that these are pre-rebate figures. State and national renewable energy programs can go a long way towards reducing these costs. Maryland does have a solar energy rebate program. More on that as the information becomes available.

Solar panels typically come with a twenty-year warranty, and they’re built to last; the wires connecting the panels will probably wear out first. These panels actually protect the roof because they’re glued right on top of it, extending its lifetime and potentially reducing maintenance costs. The panels themselves do not require any maintenance. Also, because thin film is light weight, the building did not require any extra structural support. For a large building, that’s an important feature.

thin film solar panelhigh tech solar panelWant to keep track of Magco’s solar panels? Click here for daily and monthly information and trends. As of this writing (Sept. 2008), the panels have produced 15,191kW of renewable energy.

Readers also asked important questions. Do rooftop heat islands affect performance? What about performance on sunny vs. cloudy days?  Both answers relate to the qualities of thin film technology. Thin film solar panels perform well in high temperatures because of the chemicals involved. Most solar technologies (except of course solar thermal) lose efficiency at high temperatures, but the changes in performance should not be significant, unless you stick your panels in an oven.

As for sunny vs. cloudy days, the wavelengths of light that thin film solar absorbs are also the wavelengths that pass through clouds. Typically thin film solar performs better in cloudy conditions than silicon solar, but silicon panels are more efficient in direct sunlight. That’s currently the trade-off between these technologies, and it’s important to consider your local climate when choosing solar panels. Germany, for example, gets a lot of cloud cover, but that hasn’t stopped them from leading the charge to deploy solar technology.

We’ll keep our eye on Magco’s roof and report back if there are any new developments. I should also mention that Magco has other green technologies in its commercial repertoire. The same building boasts a small green roof, solar tubes, and rain barrels – oh my! Magco installed these products on their building to “go green” and better understand the real-world commercial applications of these  technologies.

Have any more comments or questions? Leave a message below.

Many thanks to Patrick Bollinger and Magco Inc. for their valuable time and information!

Related Posts:

Magco Roof photo courtesy of Magco Inc., Silicon close-up via markus941 on Flickr Creative Commons.

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About the Author

is an environmentalist who loves to write. She grew up across the southeastern USA and especially love the Appalachian mountains. She went to school in the northeast USA in part to witness different mindsets and lifestyles than those of my southern stomping grounds. She majored in English Lit. and Anthropology. She has worked as a whitewater rafting guide, which introduced her to a wilderness and the complex issues at play in the places where relatively few people go. She also taught English in South Korea for a year, which taught her to take nothing for granted.



  • Uncle B

    The astounding devaluation of the U.S. dollar and the inherent hyper-inflation spirals about to befall the American investor may prove the Solar cells to be more valuable and more useful than the current “Gold Rush”. Interest rates about to soar on loans make fixed rate investments with a solid return relative to the price of fuel based electricity may be the golden opportunity America has to present to the lucky people to live here! Nobody has announced free Uranium give-aways just yet, and I don’t hear of hoards of volunteers trying to build reactors to save the nation either! With the devalued dollar and more to come, I don’t see the value of a Solar electrical output ever losing value! Long as they last long enough to pay off initial costs, everything after that is gravy! folks pure gravy! Don’t kid yourselves A decade from mow power will certainly not be cheaper! only in a fool’s paradise folks!

  • Uncle B

    The astounding devaluation of the U.S. dollar and the inherent hyper-inflation spirals about to befall the American investor may prove the Solar cells to be more valuable and more useful than the current “Gold Rush”. Interest rates about to soar on loans make fixed rate investments with a solid return relative to the price of fuel based electricity may be the golden opportunity America has to present to the lucky people to live here! Nobody has announced free Uranium give-aways just yet, and I don’t hear of hoards of volunteers trying to build reactors to save the nation either! With the devalued dollar and more to come, I don’t see the value of a Solar electrical output ever losing value! Long as they last long enough to pay off initial costs, everything after that is gravy! folks pure gravy! Don’t kid yourselves A decade from mow power will certainly not be cheaper! only in a fool’s paradise folks!

  • http://ecdfan.blogspot.com/ ECD Fan

    Carlton: What makes you think that electric utility costs will increase over the next twenty years? Utility rates in Japan declined between 1985 and 2004.

    http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/japan.html

  • http://ecdfan.blogspot.com/ ECD Fan

    Carlton: What makes you think that electric utility costs will increase over the next twenty years? Utility rates in Japan declined between 1985 and 2004.

    http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/japan.html

  • Carlton

    Do the ROI calculations take into account the average annual increase in electric utility costs over the next twenty years? That could change the ROI time frame considerably, especially as fossil fuels begin to decline and “conservation” forces the utilities to increase rates.

  • Carlton

    Do the ROI calculations take into account the average annual increase in electric utility costs over the next twenty years? That could change the ROI time frame considerably, especially as fossil fuels begin to decline and “conservation” forces the utilities to increase rates.

  • equitydr05

    TruthSeeker neither speaks the truth or seeks it. He is hell bent to degrade Unisolar products and uses half-truths and inuendo to spread his vile interpetation of how things are. He lives on a Yahoo message board and has been put on ignore by most of the regulars there.

  • equitydr05

    TruthSeeker neither speaks the truth or seeks it. He is hell bent to degrade Unisolar products and uses half-truths and inuendo to spread his vile interpetation of how things are. He lives on a Yahoo message board and has been put on ignore by most of the regulars there.

  • http://ecdfan.blogspot.com/ ECD Fan
  • http://ecdfan.blogspot.com/ ECD Fan
  • TruthSeeker

    Reuben: Fair points, but remember that the dark blue laminates, glued to the metal panes, will actually heat up the roof in the A/C season. Thus, depending on how good (and expensive) insulation was used by Magco, airconditioning costs could have actually increased. This is quite different from regular glass solar panels, which cast shadows and improve air circulation, and thus, coll the roof.

  • TruthSeeker

    Reuben: Fair points, but remember that the dark blue laminates, glued to the metal panes, will actually heat up the roof in the A/C season. Thus, depending on how good (and expensive) insulation was used by Magco, airconditioning costs could have actually increased. This is quite different from regular glass solar panels, which cast shadows and improve air circulation, and thus, coll the roof.

  • Reuben Thonerfelt

    For Ms. Bennet,

    In order to make Magco’s claimed $9,000/yr savings and using just 10 cents per kwh they will have to generate 90,000 KWH; i.e. average 247 KWH/day. Assuming 10hr/day active insolation they need to average 24.7kw generation, with peak of nearly double that… 50KW, which is nearly double the inverter capacity. What is their utility cost?

    However, Magco’s operational data shows 29,691 kwh after 11 months operation, which projects to annual generation of 32,390 kwh. To get their $9000 savings they must be paying their local utility as much as 27.8 cents/kwh.

    I opine that to include degradation losses in this thread is only useful if we also include the beneficial effect of potential savings in HVAC systems loads, especially in A/C season; and the utility savings in load and demand shedding during peak hours, typically noon to dusk. These latter should overshadow degradation factors as they are economy sensitive variables.

    Reuben Thonerfelt, PE, CEM

  • TruthSeeker

    Yes, my initial estimates appear to have been too optimistic. Based on the data so far, it appears that Magco’s system will generate less than 35000 KWHs in its first year of operation, so the electrical energy “savings” will be less than $4,600 a year, almost 1/2 of the $9,000 Ms. Bennett was projecting. This project turned out to be a total disaster. No wonder she has been silent for quite some time…

  • TruthSeeker

    Yes, my initial estimates appear to have been too optimistic. Based on the data so far, it appears that Magco’s system will generate less than 35000 KWHs in its first year of operation, so the electrical energy “savings” will be less than $4,600 a year, almost 1/2 of the $9,000 Ms. Bennett was projecting. This project turned out to be a total disaster. No wonder she has been silent for quite some time…

  • TruthSeeker

    Paradigm_2009: PV is still a risky, very long-term investment, even after all the federal, state, and local incentives you can get. But if you have decided that you want it, what you should be really looking is the lowest all-in system cost per expected KWHs of electrical energy delivered over the warranted life of the system. A good shortcut is to simply look at the panel’s cost per Watt, but you have to be careful: First, thin-film generates up to 30% more KWHs per rated watt than crystalline depending on weather conditions. Second, optimally tilted panels generate up to 30% more KWHs than panels laid flat to the roof, depending on the geographic location. Third, we have different warranties – Unisolar has only a 20-year warranty, promising just 80% of rated power (and likely violating even that promise), while most other solar panels have 25-year warranties. Forth, don’t ignore the balance-of-system costs (racks, installation costs, wring, etc).

    Efficiency is just one part of the equation (the higher the efficiency, the lower the installation costs, the lower the wiring requirements, and the lower the electrical losses in the wiring to the inverter). But what good is high efficiency, if the panels are 5x more expensive that the others, or if they are warranted just for 5 years?

    So, here is what you may want to do: You ask for quotes for the total cost of the system. Then you subtract any tax rebates and other incentives. Then you figure out how much electricity the system will generate over the warranted life of the system (for example, a 5KW, flat-mounted system with certain thin-film panels on a roof in the East Coast, can be expected give you 5550 KWHs the first year, and each year after that it will give you 55 Watts less, on average, due to degradation). You sum up all the KWHs for the 20 years (or 25 years, depending on the warranty), and you divide the system cost by the sum of those KWHs. The system with the lowest ratio wins!

    Right now, systems with First Solar panels appear to be the cheapest by that measure (assuming you can get them at wholesale prices), but some crystalline panels are getting very close. Find some local distributors and installers and ask around!

  • TruthSeeker

    Paradigm_2009: PV is still a risky, very long-term investment, even after all the federal, state, and local incentives you can get. But if you have decided that you want it, what you should be really looking is the lowest all-in system cost per expected KWHs of electrical energy delivered over the warranted life of the system. A good shortcut is to simply look at the panel’s cost per Watt, but you have to be careful: First, thin-film generates up to 30% more KWHs per rated watt than crystalline depending on weather conditions. Second, optimally tilted panels generate up to 30% more KWHs than panels laid flat to the roof, depending on the geographic location. Third, we have different warranties – Unisolar has only a 20-year warranty, promising just 80% of rated power (and likely violating even that promise), while most other solar panels have 25-year warranties. Forth, don’t ignore the balance-of-system costs (racks, installation costs, wring, etc).

    Efficiency is just one part of the equation (the higher the efficiency, the lower the installation costs, the lower the wiring requirements, and the lower the electrical losses in the wiring to the inverter). But what good is high efficiency, if the panels are 5x more expensive that the others, or if they are warranted just for 5 years?

    So, here is what you may want to do: You ask for quotes for the total cost of the system. Then you subtract any tax rebates and other incentives. Then you figure out how much electricity the system will generate over the warranted life of the system (for example, a 5KW, flat-mounted system with certain thin-film panels on a roof in the East Coast, can be expected give you 5550 KWHs the first year, and each year after that it will give you 55 Watts less, on average, due to degradation). You sum up all the KWHs for the 20 years (or 25 years, depending on the warranty), and you divide the system cost by the sum of those KWHs. The system with the lowest ratio wins!

    Right now, systems with First Solar panels appear to be the cheapest by that measure (assuming you can get them at wholesale prices), but some crystalline panels are getting very close. Find some local distributors and installers and ask around!

  • Paradigm_2009

    Truthseeker,

    You raise some very interesting point, and I too would be curious to know what you would suggest as a better alternative. Also, if you are just against certain solar panel producers because of inefficiency, etc., which panels do you recommend? Thanks in advance!

  • Paradigm_2009

    Truthseeker,

    You raise some very interesting point, and I too would be curious to know what you would suggest as a better alternative. Also, if you are just against certain solar panel producers because of inefficiency, etc., which panels do you recommend? Thanks in advance!

  • Garyods

    Thank you Michelle and Truthseeker for a lively, interesting and well thought out exchange.

    While I agree with Truthseeker on many points including that currently solar PV isn’t currently cost effective. I have high hopes for Nanosolar and other solar ink companies in driving down the cost per watt into the sub $2.50 area within a few years.

    As an old dude I remember how the country was sold on the interstate freeway idea, for those of you whippersnappers out there we were told that it was necessary for troop movements. It was outrageously expensive and many thought it was a waste of time. Yet it transformed our country.

    I believe that a low cost renewable energy source, even if it takes 10-15 years to ramp up will have an equal effect.

  • Garyods

    Thank you Michelle and Truthseeker for a lively, interesting and well thought out exchange.

    While I agree with Truthseeker on many points including that currently solar PV isn’t currently cost effective. I have high hopes for Nanosolar and other solar ink companies in driving down the cost per watt into the sub $2.50 area within a few years.

    As an old dude I remember how the country was sold on the interstate freeway idea, for those of you whippersnappers out there we were told that it was necessary for troop movements. It was outrageously expensive and many thought it was a waste of time. Yet it transformed our country.

    I believe that a low cost renewable energy source, even if it takes 10-15 years to ramp up will have an equal effect.

  • Garyods

    Thank you Michelle and Truthseeker for a lively, interesting and well thought out exchange.

    While I agree with Truthseeker on many points including that currently solar PV isn’t currently cost effective. I have high hopes for Nanosolar and other solar ink companies in driving down the cost per watt into the sub $2.50 area within a few years.

    As an old dude I remember how the country was sold on the interstate freeway idea, for those of you whippersnappers out there we were told that it was necessary for troop movements. It was outrageously expensive and many thought it was a waste of time. Yet it transformed our country.

    I believe that a low cost renewable energy source, even if it takes 10-15 years to ramp up will have an equal effect.

  • Garyods

    Thank you Michelle and Truthseeker for a lively, interesting and well thought out exchange.

    While I agree with Truthseeker on many points including that currently solar PV isn’t currently cost effective. I have high hopes for Nanosolar and other solar ink companies in driving down the cost per watt into the sub $2.50 area within a few years.

    As an old dude I remember how the country was sold on the interstate freeway idea, for those of you whippersnappers out there we were told that it was necessary for troop movements. It was outrageously expensive and many thought it was a waste of time. Yet it transformed our country.

    I believe that a low cost renewable energy source, even if it takes 10-15 years to ramp up will have an equal effect.

  • Richard Knox

    Is there anyone in the Las Vegas, NV area that I could contact for info etc.?

  • Richard Knox

    Is there anyone in the Las Vegas, NV area that I could contact for info etc.?

  • Richard Knox

    Is there anyone in the Las Vegas, NV area that I could contact for info etc.?

  • TruthSeeker

    This is so funny. AGT must be getting real desperate. They list Tecta Solar and Magco as two different projects, but show the same rooftop picture for both of them:

    http://www.agt.com/content/category/8/38/52/

    http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/52/

    http://www.agt.com/content/view/84/52/

  • TruthSeeker

    This is so funny. AGT must be getting real desperate. They list Tecta Solar and Magco as two different projects, but show the same rooftop picture for both of them:

    http://www.agt.com/content/category/8/38/52/

    http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/52/

    http://www.agt.com/content/view/84/52/

  • TruthSeeker

    1. The “real” costs of fossil fuel have been accounted for in Mr. Borenstein’s research cited above.

    2. I do not make allegation and accusations, I simply seek and state the truth: http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/154/

    3. Yes, I am sure the Long Beach Convention Center thought the same just before they had to shut down their multimillion Unisolar PV system (750KW) after the panels ignited. Maybe it is worth making that call to them or to the Long Beach Fire Department, don’t you think?

    4. Accelerated degradation and panel failure after the warranty expires will require expenditures to replace the “underperforming” panel, if Magco desires its system to generate the same KWH as in the pre-warranty years. You have no evidence how long the Unisolar panels will “last,” as a-Si triple-junction thin film technology has been commercially produced only since 1997/1998.

    5. Unfortunately, Unisolar has not disclosed any of their own long-term degradation data (it is even refusing to disclose the latest 10-year NREL results). That is not surprising – it turns out, for example, that one of their early “success stories,” the 1998 Glenmeade Elementary School PV system was never turned on and never generated any electricity (see page 5, ovonic.com/PDFs/media_room/united_solar_project_experience.pdf and contact the school administration). Not only that, as indicated previously, Unisolar is engaging in research fraud in their own Technical Report by misrepresenting the long-term degradation data of a dual-junction technology (which is no longer in production) as those of a triple-junction technology.

    6. You are plain wrong about the tilt. Unisolar’s own testing site at Santa Cruz, CA (See ElectroRoof at http://www.rmeter.com/GB.aspx) indicates that tilted Unisolar panels generate 24% or more KWH than flat Unisolar laminates on an annual basis (every year since 2004). Regarding costs, $8 per Watt is definitely not the cheapest and easiest installation. An analysis of the CSI data (https://sce.powerclerk.com/CSIProgramData.aspx) shows that the average cost for a 27-28KW system is $7 per Watt, and as I noted above, an $8 per Watt flat Unisolar system is equivalent to a $10 per Watt crystalline system (in terms of KWHs generated over the warranted life). There are various ways, including nonpenetrating racks or clamps, for a cheap and easy installation of tilted glass PV panels.

    7. There were a lot of people who poured billions even trillions in dollars recently into homes, mortgages, and the stock market, believing they are sound investments. Yet with the home prices down 20% and stock market down 40%, I am sure some of these people are now wondering whether they made an informed decision.

    8. If you are able to convince Unisolar to release their internal long-term degradation data (if they have any) or even disclose the latest 10-year results sent to them by NREL for the September end period, I would be happy to analyze them and present my conclusions.

  • TruthSeeker

    1. The “real” costs of fossil fuel have been accounted for in Mr. Borenstein’s research cited above.

    2. I do not make allegation and accusations, I simply seek and state the truth: http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/154/

    3. Yes, I am sure the Long Beach Convention Center thought the same just before they had to shut down their multimillion Unisolar PV system (750KW) after the panels ignited. Maybe it is worth making that call to them or to the Long Beach Fire Department, don’t you think?

    4. Accelerated degradation and panel failure after the warranty expires will require expenditures to replace the “underperforming” panel, if Magco desires its system to generate the same KWH as in the pre-warranty years. You have no evidence how long the Unisolar panels will “last,” as a-Si triple-junction thin film technology has been commercially produced only since 1997/1998.

    5. Unfortunately, Unisolar has not disclosed any of their own long-term degradation data (it is even refusing to disclose the latest 10-year NREL results). That is not surprising – it turns out, for example, that one of their early “success stories,” the 1998 Glenmeade Elementary School PV system was never turned on and never generated any electricity (see page 5, ovonic.com/PDFs/media_room/united_solar_project_experience.pdf and contact the school administration). Not only that, as indicated previously, Unisolar is engaging in research fraud in their own Technical Report by misrepresenting the long-term degradation data of a dual-junction technology (which is no longer in production) as those of a triple-junction technology.

    6. You are plain wrong about the tilt. Unisolar’s own testing site at Santa Cruz, CA (See ElectroRoof at http://www.rmeter.com/GB.aspx) indicates that tilted Unisolar panels generate 24% or more KWH than flat Unisolar laminates on an annual basis (every year since 2004). Regarding costs, $8 per Watt is definitely not the cheapest and easiest installation. An analysis of the CSI data (https://sce.powerclerk.com/CSIProgramData.aspx) shows that the average cost for a 27-28KW system is $7 per Watt, and as I noted above, an $8 per Watt flat Unisolar system is equivalent to a $10 per Watt crystalline system (in terms of KWHs generated over the warranted life). There are various ways, including nonpenetrating racks or clamps, for a cheap and easy installation of tilted glass PV panels.

    7. There were a lot of people who poured billions even trillions in dollars recently into homes, mortgages, and the stock market, believing they are sound investments. Yet with the home prices down 20% and stock market down 40%, I am sure some of these people are now wondering whether they made an informed decision.

    8. If you are able to convince Unisolar to release their internal long-term degradation data (if they have any) or even disclose the latest 10-year results sent to them by NREL for the September end period, I would be happy to analyze them and present my conclusions.

  • TruthSeeker

    1. The “real” costs of fossil fuel have been accounted for in Mr. Borenstein’s research cited above.

    2. I do not make allegation and accusations, I simply seek and state the truth: http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/154/

    3. Yes, I am sure the Long Beach Convention Center thought the same just before they had to shut down their multimillion Unisolar PV system (750KW) after the panels ignited. Maybe it is worth making that call to them or to the Long Beach Fire Department, don’t you think?

    4. Accelerated degradation and panel failure after the warranty expires will require expenditures to replace the “underperforming” panel, if Magco desires its system to generate the same KWH as in the pre-warranty years. You have no evidence how long the Unisolar panels will “last,” as a-Si triple-junction thin film technology has been commercially produced only since 1997/1998.

    5. Unfortunately, Unisolar has not disclosed any of their own long-term degradation data (it is even refusing to disclose the latest 10-year NREL results). That is not surprising – it turns out, for example, that one of their early “success stories,” the 1998 Glenmeade Elementary School PV system was never turned on and never generated any electricity (see page 5, ovonic.com/PDFs/media_room/united_solar_project_experience.pdf and contact the school administration). Not only that, as indicated previously, Unisolar is engaging in research fraud in their own Technical Report by misrepresenting the long-term degradation data of a dual-junction technology (which is no longer in production) as those of a triple-junction technology.

    6. You are plain wrong about the tilt. Unisolar’s own testing site at Santa Cruz, CA (See ElectroRoof at http://www.rmeter.com/GB.aspx) indicates that tilted Unisolar panels generate 24% or more KWH than flat Unisolar laminates on an annual basis (every year since 2004). Regarding costs, $8 per Watt is definitely not the cheapest and easiest installation. An analysis of the CSI data (https://sce.powerclerk.com/CSIProgramData.aspx) shows that the average cost for a 27-28KW system is $7 per Watt, and as I noted above, an $8 per Watt flat Unisolar system is equivalent to a $10 per Watt crystalline system (in terms of KWHs generated over the warranted life). There are various ways, including nonpenetrating racks or clamps, for a cheap and easy installation of tilted glass PV panels.

    7. There were a lot of people who poured billions even trillions in dollars recently into homes, mortgages, and the stock market, believing they are sound investments. Yet with the home prices down 20% and stock market down 40%, I am sure some of these people are now wondering whether they made an informed decision.

    8. If you are able to convince Unisolar to release their internal long-term degradation data (if they have any) or even disclose the latest 10-year results sent to them by NREL for the September end period, I would be happy to analyze them and present my conclusions.

  • TruthSeeker

    1. The “real” costs of fossil fuel have been accounted for in Mr. Borenstein’s research cited above.

    2. I do not make allegation and accusations, I simply seek and state the truth: http://www.agt.com/content/view/149/154/

    3. Yes, I am sure the Long Beach Convention Center thought the same just before they had to shut down their multimillion Unisolar PV system (750KW) after the panels ignited. Maybe it is worth making that call to them or to the Long Beach Fire Department, don’t you think?

    4. Accelerated degradation and panel failure after the warranty expires will require expenditures to replace the “underperforming” panel, if Magco desires its system to generate the same KWH as in the pre-warranty years. You have no evidence how long the Unisolar panels will “last,” as a-Si triple-junction thin film technology has been commercially produced only since 1997/1998.

    5. Unfortunately, Unisolar has not disclosed any of their own long-term degradation data (it is even refusing to disclose the latest 10-year NREL results). That is not surprising – it turns out, for example, that one of their early “success stories,” the 1998 Glenmeade Elementary School PV system was never turned on and never generated any electricity (see page 5, ovonic.com/PDFs/media_room/united_solar_project_experience.pdf and contact the school administration). Not only that, as indicated previously, Unisolar is engaging in research fraud in their own Technical Report by misrepresenting the long-term degradation data of a dual-junction technology (which is no longer in production) as those of a triple-junction technology.

    6. You are plain wrong about the tilt. Unisolar’s own testing site at Santa Cruz, CA (See ElectroRoof at http://www.rmeter.com/GB.aspx) indicates that tilted Unisolar panels generate 24% or more KWH than flat Unisolar laminates on an annual basis (every year since 2004). Regarding costs, $8 per Watt is definitely not the cheapest and easiest installation. An analysis of the CSI data (https://sce.powerclerk.com/CSIProgramData.aspx) shows that the average cost for a 27-28KW system is $7 per Watt, and as I noted above, an $8 per Watt flat Unisolar system is equivalent to a $10 per Watt crystalline system (in terms of KWHs generated over the warranted life). There are various ways, including nonpenetrating racks or clamps, for a cheap and easy installation of tilted glass PV panels.

    7. There were a lot of people who poured billions even trillions in dollars recently into homes, mortgages, and the stock market, believing they are sound investments. Yet with the home prices down 20% and stock market down 40%, I am sure some of these people are now wondering whether they made an informed decision.

    8. If you are able to convince Unisolar to release their internal long-term degradation data (if they have any) or even disclose the latest 10-year results sent to them by NREL for the September end period, I would be happy to analyze them and present my conclusions.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Suggesting that solar panels are a “burden on society” based solely on their cost is short-sighted. Many of the real costs of fossil fuels are not included in the market price.

    As for the corporate specialist, it was not the man you mentioned. Whatever your allegation along those lines, I’m sure you’re aware that the people and companies in question could read these comments and may not approve of wonton accusations.

    I’m not aware of the incident you mentioned, but the idea of solar panels igniting is simply ludicrous. They are not flammable and they do not cause fires.

    I’m also curious about what kind of “repairs and maintenance” that starts to accumulate with these solar panels. There is simply none, and that has already been stated in the original blog article. Tests revealed that cleaning and other maintenance over time did little or nothing to improve the panel perfomance. The electrical wires that connect the panels are protected from the elements and should last at least as long as the warranty, if not longer. The panels themselves will long outlast the wires.

    Also, “accelerated degradation” is a gross overstatement of the efficiency losses you yourself cited, and all from a single source. The NREL is a highly reputable lab, but that does not mean their experiments cover the full range of real-world variables or consistute an absolute truth. No scientist would claim such.

    As for tilting thin-film panels, they can absorb lower wavelenghts of light and are designed to capture light from different angles. The cost of “tilting” them, which requires a custom job per roof, did not justify the cost for Magco Inc’s flat roof. Part of the allure of the thin-film system was the easy and cheap installation: gluing it directly onto the roof. It is worth noting that the case would be different for silicon panels.

    Finally, comparing solar technologies from the 1950s to solar technologies today is like comparing dinosaurs to birds. If it were truly too expensive I doubt that the billions of dollars of investment money pouring into utility-scale solar power facilities would exist. Clearly someone believes that solar is a sound investment. Magco Inc clearly thought it was a good investment too. To my knowledge, they have no regrets.

    Until now you’ve been very good at presenting relatively credible information for a relavant debate, but I’m concerned about your accusations. I’m not sure why you’re offended by Unisolar in particular, but I have seen no difinitive information to defame the company or their products. If their test results are different from the NREL, it is reasonable to assume they used different experimental methods and assumptions. If you would like to analyze and compare each in detail, I’d be interested to hear your results.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Suggesting that solar panels are a “burden on society” based solely on their cost is short-sighted. Many of the real costs of fossil fuels are not included in the market price.

    As for the corporate specialist, it was not the man you mentioned. Whatever your allegation along those lines, I’m sure you’re aware that the people and companies in question could read these comments and may not approve of wonton accusations.

    I’m not aware of the incident you mentioned, but the idea of solar panels igniting is simply ludicrous. They are not flammable and they do not cause fires.

    I’m also curious about what kind of “repairs and maintenance” that starts to accumulate with these solar panels. There is simply none, and that has already been stated in the original blog article. Tests revealed that cleaning and other maintenance over time did little or nothing to improve the panel perfomance. The electrical wires that connect the panels are protected from the elements and should last at least as long as the warranty, if not longer. The panels themselves will long outlast the wires.

    Also, “accelerated degradation” is a gross overstatement of the efficiency losses you yourself cited, and all from a single source. The NREL is a highly reputable lab, but that does not mean their experiments cover the full range of real-world variables or consistute an absolute truth. No scientist would claim such.

    As for tilting thin-film panels, they can absorb lower wavelenghts of light and are designed to capture light from different angles. The cost of “tilting” them, which requires a custom job per roof, did not justify the cost for Magco Inc’s flat roof. Part of the allure of the thin-film system was the easy and cheap installation: gluing it directly onto the roof. It is worth noting that the case would be different for silicon panels.

    Finally, comparing solar technologies from the 1950s to solar technologies today is like comparing dinosaurs to birds. If it were truly too expensive I doubt that the billions of dollars of investment money pouring into utility-scale solar power facilities would exist. Clearly someone believes that solar is a sound investment. Magco Inc clearly thought it was a good investment too. To my knowledge, they have no regrets.

    Until now you’ve been very good at presenting relatively credible information for a relavant debate, but I’m concerned about your accusations. I’m not sure why you’re offended by Unisolar in particular, but I have seen no difinitive information to defame the company or their products. If their test results are different from the NREL, it is reasonable to assume they used different experimental methods and assumptions. If you would like to analyze and compare each in detail, I’d be interested to hear your results.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Suggesting that solar panels are a “burden on society” based solely on their cost is short-sighted. Many of the real costs of fossil fuels are not included in the market price.

    As for the corporate specialist, it was not the man you mentioned. Whatever your allegation along those lines, I’m sure you’re aware that the people and companies in question could read these comments and may not approve of wonton accusations.

    I’m not aware of the incident you mentioned, but the idea of solar panels igniting is simply ludicrous. They are not flammable and they do not cause fires.

    I’m also curious about what kind of “repairs and maintenance” that starts to accumulate with these solar panels. There is simply none, and that has already been stated in the original blog article. Tests revealed that cleaning and other maintenance over time did little or nothing to improve the panel perfomance. The electrical wires that connect the panels are protected from the elements and should last at least as long as the warranty, if not longer. The panels themselves will long outlast the wires.

    Also, “accelerated degradation” is a gross overstatement of the efficiency losses you yourself cited, and all from a single source. The NREL is a highly reputable lab, but that does not mean their experiments cover the full range of real-world variables or consistute an absolute truth. No scientist would claim such.

    As for tilting thin-film panels, they can absorb lower wavelenghts of light and are designed to capture light from different angles. The cost of “tilting” them, which requires a custom job per roof, did not justify the cost for Magco Inc’s flat roof. Part of the allure of the thin-film system was the easy and cheap installation: gluing it directly onto the roof. It is worth noting that the case would be different for silicon panels.

    Finally, comparing solar technologies from the 1950s to solar technologies today is like comparing dinosaurs to birds. If it were truly too expensive I doubt that the billions of dollars of investment money pouring into utility-scale solar power facilities would exist. Clearly someone believes that solar is a sound investment. Magco Inc clearly thought it was a good investment too. To my knowledge, they have no regrets.

    Until now you’ve been very good at presenting relatively credible information for a relavant debate, but I’m concerned about your accusations. I’m not sure why you’re offended by Unisolar in particular, but I have seen no difinitive information to defame the company or their products. If their test results are different from the NREL, it is reasonable to assume they used different experimental methods and assumptions. If you would like to analyze and compare each in detail, I’d be interested to hear your results.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Suggesting that solar panels are a “burden on society” based solely on their cost is short-sighted. Many of the real costs of fossil fuels are not included in the market price.

    As for the corporate specialist, it was not the man you mentioned. Whatever your allegation along those lines, I’m sure you’re aware that the people and companies in question could read these comments and may not approve of wonton accusations.

    I’m not aware of the incident you mentioned, but the idea of solar panels igniting is simply ludicrous. They are not flammable and they do not cause fires.

    I’m also curious about what kind of “repairs and maintenance” that starts to accumulate with these solar panels. There is simply none, and that has already been stated in the original blog article. Tests revealed that cleaning and other maintenance over time did little or nothing to improve the panel perfomance. The electrical wires that connect the panels are protected from the elements and should last at least as long as the warranty, if not longer. The panels themselves will long outlast the wires.

    Also, “accelerated degradation” is a gross overstatement of the efficiency losses you yourself cited, and all from a single source. The NREL is a highly reputable lab, but that does not mean their experiments cover the full range of real-world variables or consistute an absolute truth. No scientist would claim such.

    As for tilting thin-film panels, they can absorb lower wavelenghts of light and are designed to capture light from different angles. The cost of “tilting” them, which requires a custom job per roof, did not justify the cost for Magco Inc’s flat roof. Part of the allure of the thin-film system was the easy and cheap installation: gluing it directly onto the roof. It is worth noting that the case would be different for silicon panels.

    Finally, comparing solar technologies from the 1950s to solar technologies today is like comparing dinosaurs to birds. If it were truly too expensive I doubt that the billions of dollars of investment money pouring into utility-scale solar power facilities would exist. Clearly someone believes that solar is a sound investment. Magco Inc clearly thought it was a good investment too. To my knowledge, they have no regrets.

    Until now you’ve been very good at presenting relatively credible information for a relavant debate, but I’m concerned about your accusations. I’m not sure why you’re offended by Unisolar in particular, but I have seen no difinitive information to defame the company or their products. If their test results are different from the NREL, it is reasonable to assume they used different experimental methods and assumptions. If you would like to analyze and compare each in detail, I’d be interested to hear your results.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: Sorry, the example I gave was not very clear: a 27KW Unisolar system (costing $215K) generates as much electricity over the warranted life as a 21KW properly tilted crystalline system. So even if the crystalline system costs more per Watt, that is, about $10 per Watt, it will still cost $215K overall and produce the same dollars worth of energy over the warranted life as the cheap (on the surface!) $8 per Watt Unisolar system.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: Sorry, the example I gave was not very clear: a 27KW Unisolar system (costing $215K) generates as much electricity over the warranted life as a 21KW properly tilted crystalline system. So even if the crystalline system costs more per Watt, that is, about $10 per Watt, it will still cost $215K overall and produce the same dollars worth of energy over the warranted life as the cheap (on the surface!) $8 per Watt Unisolar system.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: Sorry, the example I gave was not very clear: a 27KW Unisolar system (costing $215K) generates as much electricity over the warranted life as a 21KW properly tilted crystalline system. So even if the crystalline system costs more per Watt, that is, about $10 per Watt, it will still cost $215K overall and produce the same dollars worth of energy over the warranted life as the cheap (on the surface!) $8 per Watt Unisolar system.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: Sorry, the example I gave was not very clear: a 27KW Unisolar system (costing $215K) generates as much electricity over the warranted life as a 21KW properly tilted crystalline system. So even if the crystalline system costs more per Watt, that is, about $10 per Watt, it will still cost $215K overall and produce the same dollars worth of energy over the warranted life as the cheap (on the surface!) $8 per Watt Unisolar system.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: It would be interesting to find out who that corporate specialist was. Not AGT/AdvancedRoofing by any chance? That company is headed by Mr. Kornahrens, the former director of the penny-stock scam Eagle Capital. AGT’s own rooftop Unisolar installation already underperforms their own initial expectations by 25% (based on the data available on their own web site). May I suggest that Magco obtain a second opinion regarding the inappropriateness of tilting panels and choosing other variety? In addition, may I suggest that Magco inquires about the cause of fire on the rooftop of the Long Beach Convention Center (as the Long Beach Fire Department investigation reveals that the Unisolar panels there ignited, which led to the shutdown of the 750KW system less than 2 years after installation).

    You are right about the warranty – the car does not stop immediately. But the repairs and maintenance start accumulating, often exceeding the initial “investment.” That is why a 25-year warranty is better than a 20-yr warranty. And that is why accelerated degradation effectively increases the cost per KWH. It can be shown easily that a $8 per Watt Unisolar laminate system glued to a flat roof generates as much electricity as a $10 per Watt properly tilted crystalline system over the warranted life (with a 25 year warranty and 0.5% annual degradation).

    It is a stretch to call PV solar a developing technology. Modern PV technology dates back to 1950s. Unisolar’s own a-Si triple junction thin film technology has been sold for 10 years. What is true way back then is true today as well – PV solar is still too expensive as an alternative energy source, and Unisolar-based systems are particularly noted offenders.

  • TruthSeeker

    MichelleBennett: It would be interesting to find out who that corporate specialist was. Not AGT/AdvancedRoofing by any chance? That company is headed by Mr. Kornahrens, the former director of the penny-stock scam Eagle Capital. AGT’s own rooftop Unisolar installation already underperforms their own initial expectations by 25% (based on the data available on their own web site). May I suggest that Magco obtain a second opinion regarding the inappropriateness of tilting panels and choosing other variety? In addition, may I suggest that Magco inquires about the cause of fire on the rooftop of the Long Beach Convention Center (as the Long Beach Fire Department investigation reveals that the Unisolar panels there ignited, which led to the shutdown of the 750KW system less than 2 years after installation).

    You are right about the warranty – the car does not stop immediately. But the repairs and maintenance start accumulating, often exceeding the initial “investment.” That is why a 25-year warranty is better than a 20-yr warranty. And that is why accelerated degradation effectively increases the cost per KWH. It can be shown easily that a $8 per Watt Unisolar laminate system glued to a flat roof generates as much electricity as a $10 per Watt properly tilted crystalline system over the warranted life (with a 25 year warranty and 0.5% annual degradation).

    It is a stretch to call PV solar a developing technology. Modern PV technology dates back to 1950s. Unisolar’s own a-Si triple junction thin film technology has been sold for 10 years. What is true way back then is true today as well – PV solar is still too expensive as an alternative energy source, and Unisolar-based systems are particularly noted offenders.

  • TruthSeeker

    GreenJoyment: Alternative for what? PV solar will be pretty much a burden to society and a drain on scarce resources until all-in system costs per Watt get to about $2.50 per Watt in your state (CO), by my estimate. You might want to look into wind, if, for some reason, you don’t like the 10c per kWh coal-generated electricity from your utility.

  • TruthSeeker

    GreenJoyment: Alternative for what? PV solar will be pretty much a burden to society and a drain on scarce resources until all-in system costs per Watt get to about $2.50 per Watt in your state (CO), by my estimate. You might want to look into wind, if, for some reason, you don’t like the 10c per kWh coal-generated electricity from your utility.

  • TruthSeeker

    GreenJoyment: Alternative for what? PV solar will be pretty much a burden to society and a drain on scarce resources until all-in system costs per Watt get to about $2.50 per Watt in your state (CO), by my estimate. You might want to look into wind, if, for some reason, you don’t like the 10c per kWh coal-generated electricity from your utility.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Magco’s choice of solar panels was based on variables unique to their situation. In their case, tilting the panels or choosing another variety of panel was deemed inappropriate by their corporate specialist who’s been installing solar for quite a long time. They chose Unisolar because of the quality and service of the company, and they did take technical considerations into account. If they didn’t think it was a worthy investment, they wouldn’t have dropped the money.

    As for warranty issues, inverters and solar panels don’t stop functioning the moment the warranty expires, and warranties can be renegotiated and extended with an inspection from the producer. It’s a moot point. If we all stopped driving our cars or using our gadgets when the warranty expired, I suspect their costs would be much higher. You can easily find 30+ year old silicon panels that produce a significant amount of energy and have generously repaid their initial investment.

    It’s no secret that solar technologies are a long-term investment. Criticizing a developing technology for a) not being a developed technology, and b) not financially operating like a different class of technology is like telling a young teenager to get a job and kicking them to the curb when they can’t pay rent. Given enough time, the same teen could prove much more productive as an adult.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Magco’s choice of solar panels was based on variables unique to their situation. In their case, tilting the panels or choosing another variety of panel was deemed inappropriate by their corporate specialist who’s been installing solar for quite a long time. They chose Unisolar because of the quality and service of the company, and they did take technical considerations into account. If they didn’t think it was a worthy investment, they wouldn’t have dropped the money.

    As for warranty issues, inverters and solar panels don’t stop functioning the moment the warranty expires, and warranties can be renegotiated and extended with an inspection from the producer. It’s a moot point. If we all stopped driving our cars or using our gadgets when the warranty expired, I suspect their costs would be much higher. You can easily find 30+ year old silicon panels that produce a significant amount of energy and have generously repaid their initial investment.

    It’s no secret that solar technologies are a long-term investment. Criticizing a developing technology for a) not being a developed technology, and b) not financially operating like a different class of technology is like telling a young teenager to get a job and kicking them to the curb when they can’t pay rent. Given enough time, the same teen could prove much more productive as an adult.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Magco’s choice of solar panels was based on variables unique to their situation. In their case, tilting the panels or choosing another variety of panel was deemed inappropriate by their corporate specialist who’s been installing solar for quite a long time. They chose Unisolar because of the quality and service of the company, and they did take technical considerations into account. If they didn’t think it was a worthy investment, they wouldn’t have dropped the money.

    As for warranty issues, inverters and solar panels don’t stop functioning the moment the warranty expires, and warranties can be renegotiated and extended with an inspection from the producer. It’s a moot point. If we all stopped driving our cars or using our gadgets when the warranty expired, I suspect their costs would be much higher. You can easily find 30+ year old silicon panels that produce a significant amount of energy and have generously repaid their initial investment.

    It’s no secret that solar technologies are a long-term investment. Criticizing a developing technology for a) not being a developed technology, and b) not financially operating like a different class of technology is like telling a young teenager to get a job and kicking them to the curb when they can’t pay rent. Given enough time, the same teen could prove much more productive as an adult.

  • MichelleBennett

    @ TruthSeeker:

    Magco’s choice of solar panels was based on variables unique to their situation. In their case, tilting the panels or choosing another variety of panel was deemed inappropriate by their corporate specialist who’s been installing solar for quite a long time. They chose Unisolar because of the quality and service of the company, and they did take technical considerations into account. If they didn’t think it was a worthy investment, they wouldn’t have dropped the money.

    As for warranty issues, inverters and solar panels don’t stop functioning the moment the warranty expires, and warranties can be renegotiated and extended with an inspection from the producer. It’s a moot point. If we all stopped driving our cars or using our gadgets when the warranty expired, I suspect their costs would be much higher. You can easily find 30+ year old silicon panels that produce a significant amount of energy and have generously repaid their initial investment.

    It’s no secret that solar technologies are a long-term investment. Criticizing a developing technology for a) not being a developed technology, and b) not financially operating like a different class of technology is like telling a young teenager to get a job and kicking them to the curb when they can’t pay rent. Given enough time, the same teen could prove much more productive as an adult.

  • http://www.GreenJoyment.com GreenJoyment

    TruthSeeker’s sure doing the homework here. Wow.

    On the other side, it’s going to take some early adpoters to move this technology along, and probably will take some people losing some money to learn along the way.

    Out of curiosity TruthSeeker, (and this isn’t an attack at all, just curious) what would you suggest would be a better alternative, since you do know a lot about the topic.

    Thanks!

    Jonathan

    http://www.GreenJoyment.com

  • http://www.GreenJoyment.com GreenJoyment

    TruthSeeker’s sure doing the homework here. Wow.

    On the other side, it’s going to take some early adpoters to move this technology along, and probably will take some people losing some money to learn along the way.

    Out of curiosity TruthSeeker, (and this isn’t an attack at all, just curious) what would you suggest would be a better alternative, since you do know a lot about the topic.

    Thanks!

    Jonathan

    http://www.GreenJoyment.com

  • http://www.GreenJoyment.com GreenJoyment

    TruthSeeker’s sure doing the homework here. Wow.

    On the other side, it’s going to take some early adpoters to move this technology along, and probably will take some people losing some money to learn along the way.

    Out of curiosity TruthSeeker, (and this isn’t an attack at all, just curious) what would you suggest would be a better alternative, since you do know a lot about the topic.

    Thanks!

    Jonathan

    http://www.GreenJoyment.com

  • http://www.GreenJoyment.com GreenJoyment

    TruthSeeker’s sure doing the homework here. Wow.

    On the other side, it’s going to take some early adpoters to move this technology along, and probably will take some people losing some money to learn along the way.

    Out of curiosity TruthSeeker, (and this isn’t an attack at all, just curious) what would you suggest would be a better alternative, since you do know a lot about the topic.

    Thanks!

    Jonathan

    http://www.GreenJoyment.com

  • TruthSeeker

    I will let Mr. Borenstein speak for himself (see the original paper, the critique, and his response at

    http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/borenste/PVwork.html ). If you read carefully, you will see that he is talking exactly about rooftop installations like Magco’s, not about large ground-mounted PV farms.

    You have misread the paragraph in the article addressing CO2 emissions and coal-fired plants (see the details on page 25 of his orginal paper). Mr. Borenstein actually says that since the permit prices per ton of greenhouse gases are $20-$100, PV’s costs still DO NOT justify the benefits vs coal-fired plants – they might only if and when the greenhouse prices ever get to $300.

    Thin-film (and Unisolar’s triple-junction a-Si, in particular) is just one of the many PV solar variants – mono-crystalline (high efficiency), poly-crystalline (the bulk of the market today), thin-film CdTe (the lowest cost), thin-film a-Si (the easiest to produce from scratch). It all comes down to all-in system cost per KWHs generated over the warranted life of the system. It should be noted that Unisolar’s laminates lag the rest of the industry in terms of that metrics. Degradation over 1% a year (based on the NREL data) vs typical 0.5% for crystalline, combined with the short warranted life of 20 years vs 25 years for crystalline, means that Unisolar laminates glued to a flat roof generate about 20% less KWHs over the warranted life of the system than tilted crystalline and about 30% less than tilted thin film (either CdTe or a-Si).

    At about $8 per Watt, the Magco system has little chance of paying off, as the payback period far exceeds the warranty (and we haven’t even accounted for the need of inverter replacement, as inverters are typically warranted for 10 years only). That’s what Mr. Borenstein was essentially talking about. Those $215,000 might have been used for more productive purposes.

  • TruthSeeker

    I will let Mr. Borenstein speak for himself (see the original paper, the critique, and his response at

    http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/borenste/PVwork.html ). If you read carefully, you will see that he is talking exactly about rooftop installations like Magco’s, not about large ground-mounted PV farms.

    You have misread the paragraph in the article addressing CO2 emissions and coal-fired plants (see the details on page 25 of his orginal paper). Mr. Borenstein actually says that since the permit prices per ton of greenhouse gases are $20-$100, PV’s costs still DO NOT justify the benefits vs coal-fired plants – they might only if and when the greenhouse prices ever get to $300.

    Thin-film (and Unisolar’s triple-junction a-Si, in particular) is just one of the many PV solar variants – mono-crystalline (high efficiency), poly-crystalline (the bulk of the market today), thin-film CdTe (the lowest cost), thin-film a-Si (the easiest to produce from scratch). It all comes down to all-in system cost per KWHs generated over the warranted life of the system. It should be noted that Unisolar’s laminates lag the rest of the industry in terms of that metrics. Degradation over 1% a year (based on the NREL data) vs typical 0.5% for crystalline, combined with the short warranted life of 20 years vs 25 years for crystalline, means that Unisolar laminates glued to a flat roof generate about 20% less KWHs over the warranted life of the system than tilted crystalline and about 30% less than tilted thin film (either CdTe or a-Si).

    At about $8 per Watt, the Magco system has little chance of paying off, as the payback period far exceeds the warranty (and we haven’t even accounted for the need of inverter replacement, as inverters are typically warranted for 10 years only). That’s what Mr. Borenstein was essentially talking about. Those $215,000 might have been used for more productive purposes.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    @ John Benjes: glad to renew your faith in humanity. = )

    @ TruthSeeker: I applaud your research and investigation into the issue, but I’d like to pick apart your conclusion based on Mr. Borenstein’s paper. According to the article, Mr. Borenstein looked at PV solar (not thin-film), and his conclusion was that the reason PV solar’s value was comparatively low was due to outdated infrastructure which is not currently designed to make best use of decentralized power generation.

    This is not and has not been news for quite a while. I’ve written on the topic by covering a debate hosted by “The Economist” in which both sides agreed that our current outdated infrastructure is probably the greatest hindrance to renewable energy dispersal today.

    Mr. Borenstein concludes that if CO2 emissions are included in calculations of value, PV panels are still better than coal-fired plants. As such, they still make a better investment for consumers, if even on a small scale.

    Nevertheless, there has been increasing investment in utility-scale solar plants, predominantly in solar-thermal technologies, which require simple materials like steel, compared to PV solar cells. Large scale solar facilities increase the value of solar energy production and provide a more centralized power grid model, which our current infrastructure can best take advantage of.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    @ John Benjes: glad to renew your faith in humanity. = )

    @ TruthSeeker: I applaud your research and investigation into the issue, but I’d like to pick apart your conclusion based on Mr. Borenstein’s paper. According to the article, Mr. Borenstein looked at PV solar (not thin-film), and his conclusion was that the reason PV solar’s value was comparatively low was due to outdated infrastructure which is not currently designed to make best use of decentralized power generation.

    This is not and has not been news for quite a while. I’ve written on the topic by covering a debate hosted by “The Economist” in which both sides agreed that our current outdated infrastructure is probably the greatest hindrance to renewable energy dispersal today.

    Mr. Borenstein concludes that if CO2 emissions are included in calculations of value, PV panels are still better than coal-fired plants. As such, they still make a better investment for consumers, if even on a small scale.

    Nevertheless, there has been increasing investment in utility-scale solar plants, predominantly in solar-thermal technologies, which require simple materials like steel, compared to PV solar cells. Large scale solar facilities increase the value of solar energy production and provide a more centralized power grid model, which our current infrastructure can best take advantage of.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    @ John Benjes: glad to renew your faith in humanity. = )

    @ TruthSeeker: I applaud your research and investigation into the issue, but I’d like to pick apart your conclusion based on Mr. Borenstein’s paper. According to the article, Mr. Borenstein looked at PV solar (not thin-film), and his conclusion was that the reason PV solar’s value was comparatively low was due to outdated infrastructure which is not currently designed to make best use of decentralized power generation.

    This is not and has not been news for quite a while. I’ve written on the topic by covering a debate hosted by “The Economist” in which both sides agreed that our current outdated infrastructure is probably the greatest hindrance to renewable energy dispersal today.

    Mr. Borenstein concludes that if CO2 emissions are included in calculations of value, PV panels are still better than coal-fired plants. As such, they still make a better investment for consumers, if even on a small scale.

    Nevertheless, there has been increasing investment in utility-scale solar plants, predominantly in solar-thermal technologies, which require simple materials like steel, compared to PV solar cells. Large scale solar facilities increase the value of solar energy production and provide a more centralized power grid model, which our current infrastructure can best take advantage of.

  • TruthSeeker

    To John Benjes:

    Unfortunately, careful cost-benefit analysis has indicated that the current solar technology at the current prices actually wastes productive resources, even after considering greenhouse gas reductions:

    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/537915/

    It should be noted that it takes between one and three years for Unisolar laminates to recoup the energy used to produce them. Steel is about 20% of the costs to produce Unisolar laminates, and the steel industry now accounts for four percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions (double what cars and light trucks contribute).

  • TruthSeeker

    To John Benjes:

    Unfortunately, careful cost-benefit analysis has indicated that the current solar technology at the current prices actually wastes productive resources, even after considering greenhouse gas reductions:

    http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/537915/

    It should be noted that it takes between one and three years for Unisolar laminates to recoup the energy used to produce them. Steel is about 20% of the costs to produce Unisolar laminates, and the steel industry now accounts for four percent of global man-made greenhouse gas emissions (double what cars and light trucks contribute).

  • John Benjes

    i applaud Magco’s efforts, renewable engry is the future and our survival, you should all so mention the amount of CO2 and biproducts not being released into the air we breath. It is not only a renewable source of energy it helps renew my faith in a better future.

  • John Benjes

    i applaud Magco’s efforts, renewable engry is the future and our survival, you should all so mention the amount of CO2 and biproducts not being released into the air we breath. It is not only a renewable source of energy it helps renew my faith in a better future.

  • TruthSeeker

    Unfortunately, Unisolar is indeed misleading their customers about the degradation of the panels.

    For example, Unisolar is committing research fraud in its Technical Report (http://www.uni-solar.com/uploadedFiles/AA53606-02Technical%20Report120706small.pdf), specifically, on page 8. The chart there (showing 0.74% degradation) comes from the October 2003 NREL (www.nrel.gov) study of dual-junction panels (a product that Unisolar stopped manufacturing years ago), not the triple-junction laminates Unisolar has been selling since 1997.

    NREL has been studying the long-term degradation of Unisolar’s triple-junction laminates since 1998. For the description of the study and a sample interim report, see pages 43-48 in the above referenced Technical Report. The NREL study shows accelerating and excessive degradation, particularly after the 8th year. Average annual linear degradation went from 0.99% after 6 years to 1.14% after 7 years to 1.22% after 8 years and 2 months (that latest data point has not been disclosed by Unisolar, but can be found in a NREL presentation at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/review_meeting/pdfs/exp_5_osterwald_nrel.pdf on page 9). Unisolar has declined to disclose the most recent (June 2008) results.

    Unisolar’s warranty implies less than 1% annual linear degradation (as it is a 20-year warranty for 80% rated power), so the NREL study indicates a likely violation of Unisolar’s warranty.

  • TruthSeeker

    Unfortunately, Unisolar is indeed misleading their customers about the degradation of the panels.

    For example, Unisolar is committing research fraud in its Technical Report (http://www.uni-solar.com/uploadedFiles/AA53606-02Technical%20Report120706small.pdf), specifically, on page 8. The chart there (showing 0.74% degradation) comes from the October 2003 NREL (www.nrel.gov) study of dual-junction panels (a product that Unisolar stopped manufacturing years ago), not the triple-junction laminates Unisolar has been selling since 1997.

    NREL has been studying the long-term degradation of Unisolar’s triple-junction laminates since 1998. For the description of the study and a sample interim report, see pages 43-48 in the above referenced Technical Report. The NREL study shows accelerating and excessive degradation, particularly after the 8th year. Average annual linear degradation went from 0.99% after 6 years to 1.14% after 7 years to 1.22% after 8 years and 2 months (that latest data point has not been disclosed by Unisolar, but can be found in a NREL presentation at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/review_meeting/pdfs/exp_5_osterwald_nrel.pdf on page 9). Unisolar has declined to disclose the most recent (June 2008) results.

    Unisolar’s warranty implies less than 1% annual linear degradation (as it is a 20-year warranty for 80% rated power), so the NREL study indicates a likely violation of Unisolar’s warranty.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Truth:

    You’ve got a good point there, especially about the inevitable aging of the panels. I received that figure directly from Magco’s projections. Since the system is not yet a year old, and they’re still learning about solar technologies in real-world applications, I suspect their actual results will be closer to your projections in the long run.

    As for an efficiency degradation of 1%/year, I’m pretty sure that Unisolar’s data sheets from their tests and lab results suggested a less dramatic decrease in efficiency. If I recall correctly (and I haven’t studied those sheets for a month or two), they experience degradation of .05% – .08%/ year. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    You can take the manufacturer’s word as you like it; I know plenty of internet-goers out there would be cynical about it. But I’m inclined to trust them within a reasonable margin. The last thing a solar manufacturer needs is litigation for false advertising.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Truth:

    You’ve got a good point there, especially about the inevitable aging of the panels. I received that figure directly from Magco’s projections. Since the system is not yet a year old, and they’re still learning about solar technologies in real-world applications, I suspect their actual results will be closer to your projections in the long run.

    As for an efficiency degradation of 1%/year, I’m pretty sure that Unisolar’s data sheets from their tests and lab results suggested a less dramatic decrease in efficiency. If I recall correctly (and I haven’t studied those sheets for a month or two), they experience degradation of .05% – .08%/ year. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    You can take the manufacturer’s word as you like it; I know plenty of internet-goers out there would be cynical about it. But I’m inclined to trust them within a reasonable margin. The last thing a solar manufacturer needs is litigation for false advertising.

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    Truth:

    You’ve got a good point there, especially about the inevitable aging of the panels. I received that figure directly from Magco’s projections. Since the system is not yet a year old, and they’re still learning about solar technologies in real-world applications, I suspect their actual results will be closer to your projections in the long run.

    As for an efficiency degradation of 1%/year, I’m pretty sure that Unisolar’s data sheets from their tests and lab results suggested a less dramatic decrease in efficiency. If I recall correctly (and I haven’t studied those sheets for a month or two), they experience degradation of .05% – .08%/ year. Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    You can take the manufacturer’s word as you like it; I know plenty of internet-goers out there would be cynical about it. But I’m inclined to trust them within a reasonable margin. The last thing a solar manufacturer needs is litigation for false advertising.

  • TruthSeeker

    How can Magco expect to produce US$9,000 worth of electricity each year from the 27KW worth of panels?

    Based on the real-time data, the system has been generating on average 132KWH a day since activated in early June – this is the peak-producing summer period – so for the year, the most Magco can expect to generate is 50,000 KWHs (and this will come down every year, as the thin film they are using degrades more than 1% a year, based on NREL data).

    Magco must be paying about 12c per Kwh (see http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html )

    Thus, Magco could optimistically generate 50000 * 12c = US$6,000

    Not $9,000!

  • TruthSeeker

    How can Magco expect to produce US$9,000 worth of electricity each year from the 27KW worth of panels?

    Based on the real-time data, the system has been generating on average 132KWH a day since activated in early June – this is the peak-producing summer period – so for the year, the most Magco can expect to generate is 50,000 KWHs (and this will come down every year, as the thin film they are using degrades more than 1% a year, based on NREL data).

    Magco must be paying about 12c per Kwh (see http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html )

    Thus, Magco could optimistically generate 50000 * 12c = US$6,000

    Not $9,000!

  • TruthSeeker

    How can Magco expect to produce US$9,000 worth of electricity each year from the 27KW worth of panels?

    Based on the real-time data, the system has been generating on average 132KWH a day since activated in early June – this is the peak-producing summer period – so for the year, the most Magco can expect to generate is 50,000 KWHs (and this will come down every year, as the thin film they are using degrades more than 1% a year, based on NREL data).

    Magco must be paying about 12c per Kwh (see http://www.eia.doe.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table5_6_a.html )

    Thus, Magco could optimistically generate 50000 * 12c = US$6,000

    Not $9,000!

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    MySchizoBody: I’d say that silicon solar would probably be best in a really sunny place, like the middle east. The reason is simply that the negative effects of heat are really minor. It doesn’t knock much off your total efficiency.

    But naturally I’m not an expert. If you’re still concerned, ask a solar representative in your area. He’ll probably be really confused because it’s really not a big deal.

    The only solar technology I’ve heard of that uses cooling systems is “extreme solar photovoltaics”, which basically put a silicon solar panel under a magnifying glass. The temperature under there is comparable to the surface of the sun, and can easily melt the panel. That’s the kind of heat you need to worry about!

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    MySchizoBody: I’d say that silicon solar would probably be best in a really sunny place, like the middle east. The reason is simply that the negative effects of heat are really minor. It doesn’t knock much off your total efficiency.

    But naturally I’m not an expert. If you’re still concerned, ask a solar representative in your area. He’ll probably be really confused because it’s really not a big deal.

    The only solar technology I’ve heard of that uses cooling systems is “extreme solar photovoltaics”, which basically put a silicon solar panel under a magnifying glass. The temperature under there is comparable to the surface of the sun, and can easily melt the panel. That’s the kind of heat you need to worry about!

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    MySchizoBody: I’d say that silicon solar would probably be best in a really sunny place, like the middle east. The reason is simply that the negative effects of heat are really minor. It doesn’t knock much off your total efficiency.

    But naturally I’m not an expert. If you’re still concerned, ask a solar representative in your area. He’ll probably be really confused because it’s really not a big deal.

    The only solar technology I’ve heard of that uses cooling systems is “extreme solar photovoltaics”, which basically put a silicon solar panel under a magnifying glass. The temperature under there is comparable to the surface of the sun, and can easily melt the panel. That’s the kind of heat you need to worry about!

  • http://cleantechnica.com Michelle Bennett

    MySchizoBody: I’d say that silicon solar would probably be best in a really sunny place, like the middle east. The reason is simply that the negative effects of heat are really minor. It doesn’t knock much off your total efficiency.

    But naturally I’m not an expert. If you’re still concerned, ask a solar representative in your area. He’ll probably be really confused because it’s really not a big deal.

    The only solar technology I’ve heard of that uses cooling systems is “extreme solar photovoltaics”, which basically put a silicon solar panel under a magnifying glass. The temperature under there is comparable to the surface of the sun, and can easily melt the panel. That’s the kind of heat you need to worry about!

  • MySchizoBuddy

    so for middle east. with lot of direct sunlight BUT lot of heat as well. Will the heat benefit in thin films offset direct sunlight benefit of Silicon solar

  • MySchizoBuddy

    so for middle east. with lot of direct sunlight BUT lot of heat as well. Will the heat benefit in thin films offset direct sunlight benefit of Silicon solar

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