Electric Charging, Solar, Annapolis MD
Written by Lisa Walsh

Solar Systems with Integrated Electric Vehicle Chargers

….like Peas and Carrots

Solar Panel, Solar energy, Annapolis MDAs referenced in our accompanying EV Growth Blogs, the adoption of Electric Vehicles has skyrocketed in recent years. This is small wonder considering EV purchasers can look forward to a 30% federal tax credit on the upfront cost, reduction of fuel costs of at least 60% (according to this Nissan Leaf owner’s calculations), and State Grants/tax credits where applicable (Maryland, for example) and the negation of various oil changes and maintenance costs that accompany an internal combustion engine. For homeowners who have discovered the substantial energy savings by purchasing (not leasing!) a solar residential system, it’s a natural step to want to extend these savings to their current, or future, electrified vehicle.

Ahead of the curve on this natural progression is an innovative new product from inverter manufacturer SolarEdge. All solar systems have two major components 1. Solar panel arrays 2. Inverter(s) that convert incoming DC energy to appliance-ready AC energy. As the national leader in residential inverter supply, SolarEdge made a great move in developing an Inverter that has a built-in EV Charger with a 25’ charge connector. Net energy meter customers (NEM) or energy generating customers interconnected to Pepco are not eligible to apply for the R-PIV rate.

Electric Charging,Solar, Annapolis MD

Why not choose a separate EV Charger?

Four reasons:

  1. Cost. Upgrading to an inverter that has a built-in EV Car Charger comes at around a $1000 cost increase (assuming one inverter/car charger). However, this upgrade – as part of the solar installation – qualifies for the 30% federal tax credit, putting the material cost at around the same as a separate stand-alone EV Charger such as Clipper City. In addition, the integrated inverter has no additional labor or electrician charges – its all covered in the solar install.
  2. Warranty. Popular stand-alone Car Chargers such as Clipper City come with a 3- year warranty. Solar Edge’s integrated inverter has a 12-year warranty, with upgrades up to 25 years available.
  3. Design Elegance. Between service panels, routers, generators and other wall-mounted electronics – its nice to have a 2-in-1 solution and save some wall space. No additional wiring or conduits needed. Of course, the inverter does need to be placed within 25’ of where the EV will be parked nightly.
  4. All Pros no Cons. As with Stand-alone chargers, Solar Edge’s integrated solution allows for indoor/outdoor placement, comes with a 25’ connector and offers software that tracks your EV’s energy consumption that is accessible from desktop or phone, and can be controlled remotely.

Thinking Ahead

Due to the clear advantages, and seeming inevitability of rapid EV adoption by the majority of Americans by the Year 2030, we now ask all of our prospective solar shoppers two questions:

  1. “Do you plan to buy an Electric Vehicle in the not-so-distant future?”
  2. If so, “ What is your expected weekly/annual mileage?”

Mileage calculations inform how many solar panels we should add to the array in order to cover as much EV car use as possible (as roof space allows). Worth noting for our Washington DC/Montgomery County solar customers, PEPCO does require us to fill out an Electrical Usage Calculation Sheet if the solar system is sized over 120% larger than the past 12 months usage history. In those cases we simply submit the estimated kWh increase (as per expected mileage calculations) that the EV will add.

Home Solar Panel ,Solar Service
Written by Rick Peters

Peters’ Journey to Net Zero

Solar Service,Home Solar PanelsWhat Net Zero Meant for Us? Our Severna Park based, four-person family was looking to offset some of our home’s dirty energy, but we really did not have an expectation we could offset it all, but we had to start somewhere. We took our first step shortly after I joined the solar industry in 2008.

Low Hanging Fruit. In February 2009, we installed a 120-square foot solar water heating system to offset most of our water heating, and a small portion of our space heating for the first floor of our home. We saw big savings from this 3-panel system right away. Ever since, I enjoy the act of turning off the back-up water heating in April and leaving it off until almost October. For us, offsetting a dirty and expensive oil-fired boiler was the obvious low hanging fruit. We would later convert that remaining load to natural gas when the utility extended the pipeline to our home.

Solar Electric (PV) With the rest of the heat, A/C, and appliances all running off electric, it was time to look at the next opportunity. A few years later, when budget allowed, we decided to add a 5 kW solar PV system to our second story roof which faces SSE. My best determination was that we offset just over 40% of our electric load with that PV system. We were happy, but knew we’d want to find a way to get to NetZero eventually. , . I began to evaluate the remaining rooftops and consider what it would take to get us there. Solar panel efficiencies had improved a lot over the past several years so this reduced the remaining roof space we’d need to hit our goal

Phase 2 (PV). In the spring of 2016 we finished filling the balance of the south roof with some slightly higher wattage panels. As part of the same expansion, we added 24 relatively high efficiency panels to the E/W, low slope, rooftop of our one-story garage. We now had a total of 6.6 kW Equivalent of solar thermal and 13.8 kW of PV.

Not There Yet….We almost tripled our PV with the last upgrade and according to my calculations, this would get us to NetZero electricity. We’d know for sure by April, the annual true-up time frame for netmetering with BGE. When April 2017 came around, we were disappointed to come up a bit short (unfortunately, with a couple teenagers in the house, my usage predictions were a little off). Where do we go from here? I was not ready to put panels on the north roof, there had to be something available to us on the demand side.

Oops – More Low Hanging Fruit…One thing about Energy Efficiency, there’s always more opportunity. I had changed out many bulbs to LED over the prior several years, mostly through attrition, but I had not replaced any of the more than 2 dozen canister lights we had throughout the ceiling upstairs and down. Not only were these lights very inefficient, but the heat they generated in the summer was just adding to our air-conditioning load. We found the LED replacements on sale and replaced them all, as well as the remaining few incandescent lights in the house.

Commercial Solar Energy,Solar ServiceEureka. we have arrived!… In April of 2018 we received a $46 check from BGE for the annual overage from solar. With the kids heading off to college soon and a new refrigerator around the corner, I’m confident our checks from BGE will be getting bigger for the near future. At least until we purchase an electric car…

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service
Written by Lisa Walsh

Diagnosing and Preventing Critter Damage to Solar Panel Arrays

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels It’s no secret that hundreds of thousands of homes have installed roof mounted solar panels, with that number increasing with each passing day. The upward trend brings increasing problems that arise when tech meets nature. In an acorn shell we’re talking critters who nest, feed, chew and live their critter lives in and around solar panel installations.

Which Critters?

Any animal that can fit under your array poses a risk to a solar installation. Pigeons and other birds looking for a warm/safe place to build nests may do so under a solar array. This doesn’t usually cause any malfunction to the system. However, water build-up and bird waste may cause minor roof damage and may be more of a nuisance than anything.

Squirrels, mice and rats, on the other hand, can wreak havoc on a solar system. These members of the rodent-family have teeth that require filing down throughout the course of their lifetime. The wires, plastic connectors and small parts that run underneath the panels can be excellent teeth-filing equipment. We have seen squirrels chew the outer plastic covering of wires, as well as penetrate junction boxes on the back of panels and chew into the solar panel interiors. This type of damage will cause panels and even whole systems to cease power production.

Solar Service, Home Solar Panels ,Washington DC SolarWho’s at Risk?

Any solar system can be susceptible to critter damage. However, those most at risk are usually systems that are in wooded areas; particularly where tree branches extend close to the rooftops, allowing easy access for squirrels to make the jump from branch to solar system array. Although many homes and businesses fit this description, it’s also worth mentioning that for every critter complaint we’ve had – there are 20 or 30 more systems that have had NO issues with critters. However, it’s also worth mentioning that most of our customers are no more than 10 years into a 25 – 40-year solar system lifespan. Time will tell what the probability of critter-damage risk over a system’s lifetime will end up being.

Detecting and Diagnosing the Damage

Most solar system owners first become aware of a problem when their solar system does not seem to be producing as well as it used to. For homeowners with online monitoring, they may see that a string of panels – or individual panels (in the case of those systems outfitted with a microinverters or optimizers) are no longer registering power output. Others may hear scampering around on their roofs and may notice their utility bills creeping up. That’s when they call our service department. Our technicians need to remove and inspect each panel, as well as their connecting cables, suspected of damage. In most cases, we can remediate the wire damage onsite without engaging the solar panel manufacturer for a replacement panel. Whether this takes removal of every solar panel, or just a few – depends on the extent of the damage or ability to detect the extent of the damage.

Home Solar Panels,Solar Service, InstallationInstalling Critter Guard

There are a variety of anti-small-animal solutions out there for solar systems designed to create a barrier around the perimeter of the solar system. We usually choose the one most compatible with your solar system; depending on the type of racking initially installed. Most critter guards are made of some type of strong steel-mesh screen and they do not require drilling into the roof.

One of our more popular systems, the aptly named “Critter Guard” employs clips that attach to the bottom flange of the module frame and have hooks to snap the screen into place. The clips are painted steel and can be snapped to the appropriate length to accommodate height variations so there are no small spaces that accommodate a small animal. The mesh screen is vinyl-coated steel, rigid enough to keep out even the most industrious squirrel.

Residential Solar Panels ,Solar ServiceCritter Guard is now a standard option that we offer to our customers and we strongly encourage it when the structure has trees that are encroaching on the rooftop. While the tree branches may not be close enough today to make contact with the roof, over time, if not maintained, they can grow out to become that ideal path to an appealing new nesting site.

What are the costs involved?

The costs are always less if you can prevent the problem in the first place. Adding Critter Guard at the time of installation typically costs from $500 – $2000 depending on the size of your system; but of course this cost is integral to the solar system so most tax advisors would agree that the 30% tax credit would apply.

The costs for any rodent damage remediation will depend on the extent of the damage. Critter damage is not related to defects in installation covered under our standard Workmanship Warranty; neither will most solar panel/inverter manufacturers consider this damage a Material defect. Our service department charges Hourly-Time + Materials. These costs may range anywhere from $500 to $4000 for a mid-sized solar system including all remediation and installation of Critter guard to prevent further damage. We recommend inquiring with your home’s insurance agent to see if the costs can be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Written by Lisa Walsh

First Community Solar Project in Washington DC

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 10th 2017

 

Father/Daughter Team Up for DC’s First Community Solar Project

WASHINGTON DC:  January 10th, 2017.  DC Resident Rebecca Mann and her father Neal Mann are poised to be the FIRST two PEPCO customers to take advantage of Washington DC’s newly revised and adopted Community Renewable Energy Facilities of 2016 (CREF).  After a process lasting three years, the District has finally worked out all of the kinks that enable D.C. residents to benefit from solar, even if they can’t put panels on their own roof.  Community solar offers the benefit of solar to community members (subscribers) who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. This also gives renters an option to purchase solar power.

For the flagship project, Rebecca Mann is unable to install a solar power system due to limited roof space and shading constraints.  Located one mile away – her father, Neal Mann, is currently having a 16.24kW grid-tied solar power system installed.  This will generate enough power to offset a good portion of both his own, as well as his subscribing daughter’s, PEPCO utility bill —  at full retail price.

The project is currently under construction and is poised to be interconnected and officially net-metered by the end of January 2017.

Solar Energy Services, Inc. is one of the region’s longest running solar installation companies.  Founder Roger Perry has been in the solar energy industry for over 35 years.  His partner, Rick Peters, is a current Board member and past President of MDV-SEIA.  Locally owned and operated, SES installs both residential and commercial solar PV (electric), as well as solar thermal (hot water) systems in Washington DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Useful Links

PEPCO’s Green Power Connection and CREF

History of Washington DC’s Community Solar

For further information, contact:

Lisa Walsh 

Solar Energy Services, Inc. 

410-923-6090 X304

443-253-6941 Direct

Lwalsh@solarsaves.net

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

DC Property Owners: Big Hot Water load = Big Solar Incentives

Commercial Solar Service, Annapolis MD

A growing number of building owners, developers and condo associations in the District of Columbia have come to realize that their building happens to be located in the most solar-friendly city in the USA .  Solar contractors, investors and financing vehicles are falling over each other to get solar panels on District roofs and start generating  the lucrative solar renewable energy credits (SRECs).   Whether via Direct Purchase, or $0 solar leases – SRECs are undoubtedly the reason for the solar season in DC (more to follow on those below).

However, before you sign on the dotted line and fill your roof with a 25-year solar PV (electric) system, as offered by 9 out of 10 solar professionals, make sure that you’re not losing the opportunity to vastly increase your return on investment with a Solar Thermal System.

Solar Water Heating Feasibility

The pre-qualification for a Solar Thermal System involves three questions:

  1. Does your building have a substantial, daily (365 day) hot water need? (i.e. apartment building/condos, restaurant, laundry, brewery, health center)
  2. Does your building have a centralized water heating system (as opposed to individual units throughout the building)?
  3. Can the building accommodate additional storage tanks?

If you answered YES to these three questions you really (really) should first consider a Solar Water Heating system either before – or at a minimum – in tandem with, a solar PV system.  (Shopper Beware – unless your solar contact has experience with solar thermal – which many do not – you’re going to have to be prepared to shop further).

What is Solar Water Heating (or Solar Thermal)?

Other than using the sun for energy generation, Solar Water Heating Systems operate entirely differently from their electron-shaking PV counterparts.  These time-tested, technologically mature systems are mechanical in nature and relatively simple.

Moreover, a solar thermal panel is 60 – 70% efficient; whereas a solar PV (electric) panel is typically 17 – 24% efficient.  Therefore, solar thermal panels generate substantially more energy per square foot than PV panels,  monetizing many more SRECs.

Solar Service , Home Solar Panels, Solar Renewable Energy

 

Let’s Review SRECs…

SRECs (Solar Renewable Energy Credits) – along with the 30% Federal Tax Credit and 100% Year 1 depreciation– are what drive the tremendous economic benefits of solar in Washington DC; one of several jurisdictions that have enacted a Renewable Portfolio Standard requiring that a specific percentage of electricity consumed must come from solar.   Whether residential, commercial, or institutional, each time a solar system generates 1 Megawatt hour of energy – the solar system owner generates 1 SREC.  This SREC is then sold via aggregators to an SREC market where it is bought by competitive energy suppliers to allow them to meet their share of the compliance obligation, or else pay a legislated fine (Alternative Compliance Payment, or ACP) for every SREC they are short.  Washington DC currently generates the highest SREC values in the country, largely due to the fact that DC does not have the real estate to install large solar farms which can rapidly oversupply a market and drive down SREC prices.

How much are SRECs Worth?

Washington DC SRECs are currently trading at $395/SREC.  To provide a frame of reference, a 6000 sq ft rooftop in Washington DC outfitted with a 75kW solar PV (electric) system could generate around 90 SRECs/year (over $35,000/year).   Depending on variables such as system size, corporate tax rate and and project site attributes, this SREC income – combined with a 30% Federal Tax Credit and 100% Year 1 depreciation, typically result in IRR’s between 30% – 60% and a Simple payback of 3 – 5 years.    Assuming solar thermal is applicable, this same roof outfitted with a Solar Thermal System could fit a kWh equivalent of a 150kW+ system, generating 180 SRECs/year – and see an IRR of 50 – 80%, with a simple payback in the 1 – 2 year range.

Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels, Residential Solar PanelsMaintenance

Although Solar PV (electric) clients often opt for an O & M (operations and maintenance) contract through their solar installer, Solar PV Systems  have relatively minor maintenance needs; usually an annual inspection along with ongoing monitoring.    Solar thermal (water heating) requires a little more maintenance including a 3 – 5 yearly service which, at a minimum, includes a replacement of the propylene glycol/energy transfer fluid that can degrade with time.  Nonetheless, the impact of service costs on the overall IRR is relatively small and easily absorbed by the increased SREC income.

solar energy, Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels,
Written by Rick Peters

Press Release: Solar at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Press Statement
6-15-15

Solar Service, Home Solar Panels, Chesapeake MDCBF Merrill Center to Install 106 kW Solar System

(ANNAPOLIS, MD) The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Solar Energy Services, Inc. (SES) announced an agreement today for SES to design and build a 106 kW, grid-tied solar photovoltaic system at the Philip Merrill Environmental Center, CBF’s headquarters.

The Merrill Center rooftop solar system will include more than 370 solar panels from US manufacturer SolarWorld, as well as inverter systems from Solar Edge. The panels will be installed primarily on the available roof tops, but the design also calls for some unique solar shade structures to provide additional benefits to the facility and its occupants.

SES president Rick Peters shared that SES is pleased to participate in this marquee project. “I know personally that CBF has led the way on sustainable initiatives in our region for a very long time. It is an honor to be selected to construct this project, which will help advance CBF’s message and their environmental stewardship.”

The solar system is projected to produce more than 133 MWh of electricity annually, enough to power more than 10 average Maryland homes. This will significantly offset the facility’s consumption of traditional electricity.

“While we have had solar panels at the Merrill Center in the past, we are adding this new capacity because it is now more affordable as well as more efficient,” said CBF Vice President Mary Tod Winchester. “The new array will generate enough electricity to provide one third of the power for heating, cooling, and other needs of the more than 100 staff who work here. As a non-profit, we will not benefit from the many tax incentives available, but we encourage other individuals and businesses to closely examine the costs and benefits of adding solar generation.”

The project is expected to be completed before the end of this summer.

About Solar Energy Services, Inc.

Solar Energy Services, Inc. (solarsaves.net) designs, builds and services solar power systems for institutional, commercial, and residential customers. The firm was founded by 37 year solar industry veteran Roger Perry who has longstanding ties to the communities served by SES. Based in Millersville Maryland, the 21 person firm operates in Maryland, DC, and Virginia.

About Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Founded in 1967, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (www.cbf.org) is the largest independent conservation organization dedicated solely to saving the Bay. Serving as a watchdog, we fight for effective, science-based solutions to the pollution degrading the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams. Our motto, “Save the Bay,” is a regional rallying cry for pollution reduction throughout the Chesapeake’s six-state, 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to more than 17 million people and 3,000 species of plants and animals.With offices in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia and 15 field centers, CBF leads the way in restoring the Bay and its rivers and streams. Over the last four decades, we have created broad understanding of the Bay’s poor health, engaged public leaders in making commitments to restore the Chesapeake, and fought successfully to create a new approach to cleanup that features real accountability-the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint

Commercial Solar Energy ,Residential Solar Panels
Written by Lisa Walsh

The Ballasted Solar Attachment: Maryland and DC Solar Panels

Commercial Solar Energy, Residential Solar PanelsWays in which solar panel arrays can affix to a commercial building are as many and varied as the buildings they serve.  In this article, we’re focusing on one popular method of attachment – the Ballasted roof mounted system.

Many commercial solar prospects in and around the Maryland/Washington DC area have buildings with flat or low-sloped roofs.  These are generally defined as a roof with a 3:12 pitch or less.  For these applications, ballasted systems can offer a way of attaching solar arrays without any (or few) roof penetrations.   Many building-owners prefer this method of attachment as it negates the risk of leaking, particularly on flat roofs that may collect water.  With a ballasted system, the arrays are held down using the weight of the existing solar panel arrays, racking and – most importantly – concrete blocks.  These blocks are placed methodically throughout the system design to secure the arrays in place, resisting wind loads or other types of disturbance.

The addition of the ballast blocks to the solar system arrays adds additional weight to the roof.   As with any commercial solar project, this weight load is analyzed and approved by a licensed structural engineer as required by the permitting jurisdiction – with some differences in each locale.   Ballast racking manufacturers also specify the amount of blocks required throughout a design.  The number of blocks per panel typically varies throughout design due to array proximity to building edges, parapets, or other inconsistencies that can affect wind and snow loads.

Although ballasted systems have many advantages, as with any design, they have their disadvantages and are not compatible with every type of commercial building.   Let’s look at a generalized comparison scenario between a roof penetrated system and a Ballasted System:

Roof Penetrated System

Ballasted System

Labor Costs and CriteriaHIGH:  Penetrations require flashing and sealing techniques – sometimes requiring coordination with a roofer.LOW.   Labor skills required for installation are fairly straight-forward and require no roofer coordination.
Panel CountINCREASED:  Systems attached to roof substructure require less roof space for mounting.DECREASED:  Ballast-blocks require roof space and can limit the available space for solar panels
Roof LoadingDECREASED.  No concrete/ballast blockINCREASED:  Ballast blocks add weight to the roof
Design CriteriaFLEXIBLE:  Attached racking systems can usually negotiate hatches, HVAC equipmentLESS FLEXIBLE:  Because of the increased space required per panel – designs may be more rigid.  However most ballast racking does have reasonable flexibility.
Roof Pitch5 – 45 degreesGenerally less than 10 degrees

 

Multi-roofed commercial applications may have a variety of racking types for both sloped and pitched roofs. There are other options for flat roofs also, including attached and hybrid solutions that use a combination of both penetrated and non-penetrated techniques.

Home Solar Panels,Eastern Shore MD
Written by Rick Peters

Solar Energy Trends

Some Positive Trends:

Eastern Shore MD,Residential Solar PanelsThe Challenges:

Industry consolidation can be disruptive

Residential solar leasing is fast outpacing cash sales in many of the more developed states, like Maryland. It’s what many Americans want so it will continue to drive the market. It seems to work for more of America.   After all, we do like instant gratification and if I can save $10/month immediately, and feel good about it, where do I sign? While SES is typically strongly advocates for cash sales to our customers who are able, no one can argue the enormous impact and value that the various residential and commercial financing options have delivered. Getting solar access to the mainstream will be the most critical piece to advancing the development of distributed solar. It really has been transformational so far.

There’s other good news. System Pricing, though leveling off somewhat, has dropped dramatically in the past 5 years. While incentives decline as planned, the industry continues to drive down installation costs to maintain the impressive paybacks and internal rates of return.

Beneficiaries of solar price reductions include states like Maryland, who had the foresight to seed this industry over the last 6 years. Government and industry partnership in Maryland has built an economic environment that supports solar development and as a result, it is sustaining 2200 jobs while Maryland continues to meet its solar RPS goals. That’s right, our industry delivers over 2200 paychecks in Maryland. In fact, there is now a solar thermal equipment manufacturer in Baltimore. Much to be pleased about.

There’s also a darker side. Bankruptcies and consolidation of solar companies have carried the headlines quite a bit in the last year especially. While a natural part of the tech/business evolution cycle, consolidation and shake out are always disruptive, not only to industry members, but also to consumers of these solar energy products and services. As a result, all of the solar “investors” are asking lots more good questions – particularly about the longevity of the manufacturer and the installer. Popular questions, particularly in the solar PV panel world, are “Who will be here to support my warranty?” and “What is the design track record of these systems?”

The beneficiaries of these trends will be those with a proven commitment to the industry either through time or capital. It’s that commitment that gives customers confidence of future support if and when it is needed. Whether it’s an installer with 35 years experience or a manufacturer like SunPower that has 25 years in business, longevity is a key indicator of future availability to support the install base.

Residential Solar Panels, Solar Service ,Home Solar Panels
Written by Anonymous

SES Selected as Installer for Solarize Frederick County Initiative

Residential Solar Panels ,Solar Service ,Home Solar PanelsFREDERICK, MD: Today SES was informed by the Frederick County’s Solarize Committee that they were chosen to be the official Solar Water Heater installer for the Solarize Frederick County initiative.

The pilot program aims to increase installations of solar water heaters, as well as solar electric (PV), systems in Frederick County County.  The financial incentives include County grants and volume purchase agreements, in addition to pre-existing state and federal grants.  Astrum Solar were selected as the solar electric (PV) installer.

While funds last, all Frederick County residents are eligible to apply for the incentives that reduce the cost of a solar water heater (or solar electric PV system) by up to 85%.

Residential Solar Panels,Solar Energy
Written by Rick Peters

SES Embraces SunPower Partnership

Residential Solar PanelsMany of our prospective customers have been waiting to buy their panels in the hopes of significant advancement. “I want the technology to mature ” they say, “ and be state-of-the-art”. Well, the closest you can get to those standards with a production panel is with SunPower.

Ask around, do some Google searches. You’ll learn quickly that SunPower is considered the best with very little debate. In fact, it’s by far the best. This American born company launched out of the US university research system (the founder was a Stanford professor) has sustained a 23 year run to be acquired recently by a global energy company.

At Solar Energy Services we’re excited to report that we are now a SunPower certified dealer. We’ve always wanted to offer the very best PV product and now we can. SES is proud to tie our 35 year commitment to the industry to the world leader in solar panel manufacturing.

Many are aware that the cost efficiency of installed solar has improved dramatically in the last 5 years due to efficiencies gained through price competition, distribution improvements, development of installation techniques, and other process improvements. However, the physical efficiency of solar cells has advanced more slowly than most have hoped. The standard Chinese panel being installed by the majority of installers today (especially the large leasing firms) are in the 14-15% efficiency range. A few solar manufacturers have been able to stay notably ahead of the pack. SunPower remains out front with their standard 327 W panel (E20) at 20% efficieny. Sunpower’s new “X” (E21) is 21% efficient! That’s right, over 40% more efficient than the average panel out there. The X begins to ship in April 2013 – next month.

SunPower’s Maxeon cells are the industry leader in reliability and durability also. They’ve had only180 defects out of 7 million panels. That’s right, 1 in 39000! The Maxeon cell has redundancy in contacts, accommodating wear from thermal expansion. It has backside contacts that provide increases collection on the sunny side. They are highly durable with the best impact resistance ratings. They are backed by a solid company with great support and a bright future.

To recap, the physical efficiency of solar cells has been relatively stagnant, with the exception of a few leaders that have developed slow and steady progress. SunPower has led the way. The company has been around for over 23 years. They have the most durable solar cell in the industry and the highest performing. I must confess, the 3 year old solar PV system on my roof has panels made in China. If I were installing today, there is no doubt I’d choose SunPower…

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