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Published on September 20th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan

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Plug & Play Solar Power Systems Growing In Use In US, Thanks To SolarPod

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September 20th, 2013 by Zachary Shahan
 
Large_Commercial

If you’re a long-time reader of CleanTechnica, you might recognize the name SolarPod*. SolarPods are modular, plug & play solar power systems developed by Mouli Engineering. I think we first wrote about SolarPod back in April 2012, and then followed up on the technology briefly in May 2012 when SolarPods were shown to be performing well in the field, and again in November 2012 when a house using the plug & play solar power systems won a design award. We recently caught up with Mouli Engineering to see how things are going and whether or not more people have been using its SolarPods. Also, before delving into that, the first section below catches new readers up on this not-often-discussed solar power option.

Bastrop_TX_Photo

What Is SolarPod? Why SolarPod?

To start with, I’ll note a few reasons why SolarPod came about in the first place. Mouli Vaidyanathan came up with the idea of SolarPod when he was conducting “legacy type” solar panel installations. In his opinion, “custom design was too expensive and took too much time.” The solar industry needed something easier, more inexpensive, and more adaptable. Of course, all while sticking to high environmental and safety standards.

“SolarPodTM as a company believes in protecting our environment, bringing earth friendly products, highest safety and quality and careful engineering for simple affordable end installation,” Mouli notes.

Am_Inst_Arch_Award_2012

This tiny solar house won an American Institute of Architecture Honor Award. Plug & play SolarPod solar panels are on the roof.


Mouli says that SolarPod is the first company in the US to offer a modular construction solar system product using solar PV panels. I believe he is right. If you haven’t noticed, we don’t really have much news about such solar power systems. And Mouli isn’t just offering SolarPod on the web. He has actually formed relationships with large retail chains in several states that are offering the product, with the plug & play solar power system meeting and exceeding various safety codes and quality standards.

Menards, a large home improvement retail store in the US, and Northern Tool, another such home improvement retail store, are two of the retail chains now carrying the SolarPodTM.

Two of the keys to SolarPod, again, are very simple assembly and simple connection to the electricity grid. This allows for IKEA-like homeowner installation and lower prices. Even for commercial projects, on-site installation time can be greatly reduced because all of the components are prefabricated, making on-site assembly again much quicker.  The company even has an easy energy calculator built to help owners calculate the number of SolarPods needed based on their energy usage and ge0-location – www.mysolarpod.com/solarpodsneeded.  The company really has taken solar to a higher level of simplicity.

Of course, safety is important with an electrical device or electricity producer. Mouli notes that the SolarPod has very little chance for fire thanks to the direct current voltage being very low (less than 50V). And SolarPod installations even survived Hurricane Sandy.

The smart tilt capability designed into the SolarPod gives another degree of freedom to the user to seasonally adjust the SolarPod to maximize solar energy production for their geo-location.

The price of SolarPod retails at $2,750 through $3,500 ($2.85 to $3.50/W) for a ~1kWDC system (price based on volume) which beats average US solar prices by a wide margin, but especially residential and commercial prices. Here is a chart from SEIA and GTM Research regarding average solar power prices for comparison:

solar-power-prices

Anyway, you can learn much more about SolarPod details on its website – www.mysolarpod.com – so I recommend that you just head over there for this level of detail.

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This SolarPod installation survived Hurricane Sandy.

Plug & Play Solar Power Systems Sell!

When we have written about plug & play solar panel systems in the past, people have gotten pretty excited. I don’t think I had to write everything above for you to see the value in plug & play solar. It’s rather obvious that an IKEA of solar power would be very attractive and useful to many people.

Sure enough, SolarPods have now been installed in nearly 10 US states and over 20 US utility company territories, from Pennsylvania to California. Additionally, the US Army has used SolarPods at one of its facilities. Furthermore, Mouli has received a lot of interest from residents of other countries. I imagine it won’t be too long until he expands into some of those places.

Are you a fan of this technology? Have issues with it? Chime in with your own thoughts in the comments below!

*This post was supported by SolarPod. Nonetheless, we do not publish BS (well, we try not to), and I think it’s clear that we genuinely think this technology is worth some attention, given that we covered it at least three times prior to this post.

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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy since 2009. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the founder and director of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



  • JonathanRCole

    You cannot accurately determine the cost of solar using the cost of installation per peak watt. This is a mistake people make at their peril. The important cost is the total cost of electricity, which includes costs of maintenance, repair, replacements over the life of the system. The problem I see with Solar Pod is that although it understands the benefits to be gained by integrating all components in a semi pre-fab way, it is also important to choose the right components that match electrical capacity and give the best bang for the buck (lowest cost of electricity) by using the highest quality components with lowest lifetime costs. This also means choosing the best manufacturers with the best warranties and service and batteries with the longest life per kWh stored. These types of components have a higher initial cost but result in much lower cost of electricity over the life of the system. Sometimes cheap upfront costs result in expensive total costs when operating costs are a part of the calculation. If you have a solar panel that has a 25 year warranty (assuming the company is still in business for that period) but you have to replace the inverter every 7-10 years and the batteries and charge controller and the batteries every 5 years or so , it ends up being cheaper to buy more expensive better quality components at the outset. Learn more about solar at http://lightontheearth.blogspot.com/

  • Mandee

    You’re absolutely right! I got one from https://www.altestore.com/store/Solar-Panels/c541/ and it has really helped, and I’m thinking about upgrading.

  • Peter

    I wonder if there is a true plug & play solar system that is self contained and portable. I would like to see a big cooler box containing the batteries and all the necessary inverters, extension wires, etc and a hinged lid where you can align to the sun’s position. These can be docked in series if more power is needed or used alone if you just heed to power small appliances. In the event of a diaster, you can bring this box and set it up to power your emergency communications devices like laptops and phones or set up in a series to provide electrical power for emergency medical uses.

    • Bob_Wallace

      If you want a portable system it would be fairly easy to rig one up. A panel and battery. Don’t bother with a charge controller, just a backpath eliminating diode. Don’t oversize the panel for the size of the battery.
      A small inverter would let you get to 120 vac.

  • Bob Monie

    Can you tell us more about the tiny rust-colored house that uses the plug and play system and won the architecture award? Where is it and who designed it? How many square feet and what is the cost? Such designs could transform cities and suburbs into far more sustainable and affordable dwellings.

    Bob Monie, New Orleans, LA

    • Mouli SolarPod

      Please send me an email. I am not sure if I can give his contacts here but am sure if you send an email to me, I can give it to you. These homes are exquisitely designed for comfort and living with a theme “Less is More” quoting the architect. The architects are truly transformed living and energy use. Please check “Edge Home” and “Essential House” in the internet.

  • Kyle Field

    Here in California, USA, I installed my first 5 panels via a local solar installer and paid 3.35/w installed after rebates in October 2011. I installed the next 7 panels basically myself, with a local installer helping with the final install for $1.37/watt in July 2013. When comparing options with local installers in 2013, they were still quoting $4+/watt which I was not satisfied with…which drove me to purchase and install myself. These look like a reasonably priced alternative to folks who want to move forward with solar by themselves without having to engage a higher priced installer (plus engineering, electrical, etc).

    If I were financially invested in the success of solar pods, I would be hiring a marketing manager (or replacing the existing one) as it looks like they have a great product but need to bring their website, videos, sizing calculator, etc up to current standards. Just my 2 cents :)

    • Mouli SolarPod

      Thanks Kyle. Your words of encouragement resonates very well.

      We have invested more on product development than on website development. We hope to create the SolarPod movement through this “Smart and simple” approach.

      We will make our website better, user friendly and FUN so all peoples can enjoy the Sun. Thanks man for your great advise that shows you care. And thanks for being a solar enthusiast. Best.

  • Ivor O’Connor

    I’m having a bit of trouble understanding these prices. They look more like 2008 pricing even though they say 2013…

    • http://zacharyshahan.com/ Zachary Shahan

      For SolarPod or US as a whole?
      If you’re referring to US as a whole, perhaps you’re thinking about Germany’s solar power prices. ;)

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