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Consumer Technology new solar power module with microinverter could be used on almost any roof

Published on August 22nd, 2011 | by Tina Casey


New “Plug ‘n’ Play” Solar Module Fits Almost Any Roof

August 22nd, 2011 by  

new solar power module with microinverter could be used on almost any roofA 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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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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  • Vandammes

    Nothing “New!!!!” about microinverters. Cut the marketing hype, and give us some specs and prices.

  • Anumakonda Jagadeesh

    Good improvement in Solar Module which will enhance usage of solar power.

    Dr.A.Jagadeesh Nellore(AP),India
    Wind Energy Expert
    E-mail: anumakonda.jagadeesh@gmail.com

  • Obama’s initiatives have mostly resulted in huge losses of taxpayer monies – as the case of Evergreen Solar, which left the US for Asia, and affordable (non-union) wages, despite being highly mechanized. As is also the case for his “weatherization program,” now admitted to be a complete failure, although Obama, as usual, takes no responsibility for the failure – he blames homeowners for not spending thousands to buy the crap he’s offering. Nor did our brainless Fearless leader have anything to do with microinverters, which have been around for more than 4 years, compliments of Enphase, the leader. Nor are microinverters cheaper than central inverters. They costs roughly 30% more and are NEVER used by large commercial solar projects. Microinverters do make installation far easier and have transformed the residential market, reducing labor costs more than anything else. Obama had no program for reducing costs, only for using taxpayer money to subsidize others. That is NOT cost reduction nor increased efficiency.

    • Anonymous

      8 years of Bush put is in a massive economic recession (or depression). digging the country out with completely stubborn, non-helpful Tea Partiers trying to block your every move (quite successfully) is damn near impossible

    • Tina Casey

      Kent: Thank you for your comment, but please re-read my article. The SunShot program is an Obama Administration initiative specifically focused on bringing down the cost of solar energy, not only by supporting research into more efficient technologies but also supporting more efficient, low-cost means of manufacturing and installing solar systems.

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