Solar Power International 2015 Brings The Sexy Back To PV Solar

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Earlier this month, I attended Solar Power International (SPI) 2015 for CleanTechnica, and I’m now bringing the big themes here for your reading pleasure.

For PV Solar geeks like me, new glass laminated modules add a bit of aesthetic appeal to the space while new module-integrated electronics that Trina Solar and Tigo Energy were flaunting, combined with new module-integrated mounts from Pegasus Solar, will help to cut installation times. Let’s jump in for a deeper look….

Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Glass Laminated PV Modules

These are cool new PV solar modules on the market and bring new mounting options while enabling creative new architectural applications for PV panels. Glass laminated modules are made by taking two pieces of glass and sandwiching the PV cells and wiring between them. Then, the outside edge and key intersections (like the wiring connection point) between the two pieces of glass are sealed, resulting in a module that is much thinner with a higher shipment density* and my favorite — they look dead sexy!

Lumos Solar
Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Not having a frame on the module brings the added benefit of not having the extra metal that used to require additional grounding during installation, while at the same time eliminating the extra electromagnetic interference that metal frames would generate. Finally, mounting laminated glass modules poses a unique challenge AND an opportunity at the same time: eliminating the frame means you don’t have a dedicated piece of the module to mount to while at the same time trimming a bit of the width off the modules.

*While these modules physically take up less vertical space on a shipping pallet, they still max out the weight limits/pallet so do not (yet) allow for increased shipping densities.

Many module manufacturers were featuring glass laminated modules this year including Trina Solar, BYD, SolarWorld, and Lumos Solar.

lumos overhead
Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Lumos Solar was showing off its glass laminated modules mounted overhead. Their modules feature an integrated mounting system and display the partial shade effect they provide.

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Innovative Racking Solutions

With the shift towards laminated glass modules, manufacturers have developed several slick new mounting systems that elegantly connect the edges of their modules together, which can then be attached to a single roof/ground mount – without the need for expensive, bulky, time-consuming rails!  Simplifying module hardware design is good for the manufacturer, good for the installer, and ultimately, good for your pocketbook. Look for more innovation in this space as laminated glass modules continue to evolve and manufacturers explore new, faster mounting solutions.

Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Pegasus Solar was showing off another approach to simplified racking with its “LightSpeed Mount,” where they simply install small mounting “ears” to each corner of the module (see pic on the right) which then mounts directly to a roof mount. These can currently be installed on the module after purchase but Pegasus is also partnering with module manufacturers to install them directly at the assembly plant — again driving down non-value added costs while also cutting installation time (and money!).

Module-Integrated Electronics

In the last year, there has been a shift in the industry from microinverters for each module to DC optimizers on each module, which are then paired with a single inverter for the system. Service providers like Sunrun have shifted from a largely Enphase microinverter-based operation to greater partnership with SolarEdge and its DC optimizer + central inverter technology. (Note, however, that Sunrun is still fully engaged with Enphase.) At SPI 2015, DC optimizers have been taken to the next level in a partnership between Trina Solar and Tigo Energy where they actually integrate the DC optimizer into the back of the module. This results in one less connection point for installers to make (from the PV module to the DC optimizer) and cuts installation times. The picture below shows the fully integrated module: 

Image credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

Check out some more of the pictures from the show below and look for more-focused articles from the show over the next few days.

All images credit: Kyle Field | CleanTechnica

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Kyle Field

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. As an activist investor, Kyle owns long term holdings in Tesla, Lightning eMotors, Arcimoto, and SolarEdge.

Kyle Field has 1659 posts and counting. See all posts by Kyle Field