A new fully assembled, plug-and-play modular rooftop solar power system was introduced at the Intersolar North America trade show last month, and it could be a low cost solar power solution for home owners and businesses that want to dip a toe into the clean energy pool. The new photovolaic system, called AC Unison, does not require a separate inverter, which would typically add a significant expense to the cost of a rooftop solar array. In that regard the new solar product fits in neatly with President Obama’s SunShot initiative, launched earlier this year, which aims to make solar power as cheap as fossil fuels not only by increasing solar cell efficiency, but also by lowering production and installation costs.
Low Cost Solar Power and Microinverters
The power that solar cells generate is in direct current (DC) form, and in order to be used in a building it must first be converted to alternating current (AC), through a device called an inverter. In conventional rooftop solar installations, groups of panels are connected to one main inverter, which can cost thousands. More recently, manufacturers have started to offer solar panels with built-in inverters called microinverters. In terms of getting more households and businesses to start transitioning to solar energy, microinverters make it economical for hesitant buyers to start with a single panel or module. That enables the buyer to get more comfortable with solar technology, before committing to a larger investment. Microinverters can also make the solar system more efficient, by reducing the energy waste that typically occurs when power is conducted from a solar panel to a separate inverter.
The AC Unison Microinverter System
In addition to providing consumers with a budget-conscious way to ease into the distributed solar power market, the AC Unison product comes with a number of other enticements. The microinverter (manufactured by SolarBridge Pantheon) is designed to match the 25-year warranty that AU Optronics offers with the module, and the North American distributor is solar industry veteran SunWize Technologies. Perhaps most importantly, the new system has the potential to make more efficient use of rooftops that are partially shaded, where it would be uneconomical to install large solar arrays with a central inverter.
Solar Power for Everyone
Lowering the purchase cost of solar technology is one way to get more low cost clean energy generators into more hands. Neighborhood group discounts are another alternative, as are solar power purchase agreements. The SunShot initiative is also focusing considerable resources on utility-scale technologies and grid improvements. Solar power is already approaching price parity with some fossil fuels in some areas, so it’s only a matter of time before more consumers get their hands on clean energy, one way or another.
Image: Sun on roof by axel rouvin on flickr.com.
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