Used EV batteries for large scale solar energy storage
MIT scientists have suggested used electric vehicle batteries could offer a more viable business case than purpose-built systems for the storage of grid scale solar power in California. Such ‘second life’ EV batteries, may cost only 60% of their original purchase price to deploy and can be effectively aggregated for industrial scale storage even if they have declined to 80% of their original capacity.
The U.S.-based researchers claimed even devices which have declined to 80% of their original capacity could offer a better investment prospect for solar-plus-storage projects in California than purpose-built, utility scale batteries, not least because such ‘second life’ EV batteries could cost as little as 60% of their purchase price.
MIT research co-author Ian Mathews conceded technical hurdles remained to the deployment of used EV batteries on a large scale, such as aggregating batteries from different manufacturers and screening which devices could be reused. However, Mathews insisted used EV batteries still offered a persuasive enough business case to justify the cost of recovering them, screening performance and redeploying them.
The researchers used a semi-empirical model – including some ‘pre-cooked’ calculations – to estimate battery degradation, and concluded operating such aggregated storage devices at 15-65% of full charge would extend their second life. “This finding challenges some earlier assumptions that running the batteries at maximum capacity initially would provide the most value,” the scientists stated.
Mathews said the feasibility of second-life EV battery storage would depend on the regulatory and rate-setting regimes under which they would operate. “For example, some local rules allow the cost of storage systems to be included in the overall cost of a new renewable energy supply, for rate-setting purposes, and others do not,” he said.
The academic added, longer-term pilot studies are needed to assess the potential of such systems.
The MIT researcher noted control algorithms may be adapted during projects to lengthen the feasible lifetime of such facilities. “We think this could be a great application for machine-learning methods,” said Mathews, “trying to figure out the kind of intelligent methods and predictive analytics that adjust those control policies over the life of the project.”
The successful reuse of electric vehicle batteries for grid scale storage would also require buy-in from EV manufacturers, energy storage businesses, solar project developers and power electronics specialists, added Mathews.
The MIT research project was backed by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research program as well as the Quantum Sustainable Solar Technologies engineering research center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, and the Singapore National Research Foundation, through the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.
The solar panel will be part of the half-cut-cell series recently launched by the Japanese manufacturer and the company claims it is ideal for rooftop PV projects with aesthetic requirements. The 19.0%-efficient product has a power output of 320 W.
Japanese electronics brand Sharp has launched a black, half-cut-cell, PERC, monocrystalline solar panel with a power output of 320 W.
The manufacturer said the product was intended for residential and commercial projects with aesthetic requirements
The NU-JC320B module is made of 120 half-cells measuring each 1,684 by 1,002 by 40mm. The product has power tolerance of up to 5% according to its manufacturer, with Sharp claiming the panel has a yield up to 3% higher than similar standard panels featuring full-cell architecture.
A multiple junction box design means each half of the module can function independently and the three junction boxes are each equipped with a single bypass diode in a system which is said to transfer less heat to cells, improving durability and performance.
The IEC61215 and IEC61730-certified panel features MC4 connectors made by Swiss company Stäubli and an anti-reflective front-glass coating from Canadian firm DSM. The coating, according to Sharp, reflects 1.2% less light than rival solutions.
Sharp said its module for “style-conscious commercial customers and homeowners” offers 19.0% efficiency and comes with a 25-year, linear power output guarantee and a 15-year product guarantee.
The Japanese manufacturer in January launched a PERC, monocrystalline module series featuring half-cut cells. That range followed three PERC mono products with a claimed 19.1% efficiency in April 2018. Two years ago, Sharp achieved 25.09% conversion efficiency in a cell featuring heterojunction and back-contact technology, as certified by the Japan Electrical Safety and Environment Technology Laboratories.
In a recent conversation with pv magazine Roland Valckenborg, business developer and project manager at the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO), has described the results of a multi-year testing program for colored BIPV modules. Just a few years ago, it it was thought that power yield could be up to 50% lower than conventional panels, but tests have shown a difference of just 10%. Valckenborg says that losses can vary depending on the color of a panel.
According to Roland Valckenborg, the manager of the project, colored modules are still more expensive than traditional PV modules, but consumer interest is increasing. “People want to have a choice between different models, just as with cars,” he told pv magazine.
Valckenborg said the performance of colored BIPV modules has been underestimated. “It was such a pleasant surprise to find out in our research that the textured modules have no performance loss when compared to a normal reference module,” he claimed. “So the small losses due to the extra layer of textured glass are offset by the gain of capturing a bit more yield during low angles of incidence.”
When the first tests started in 2017, it was still believed that colored panels would reduce yield by 40% to 50%. “We demonstrated in 2018 that it is just 11% for grey modules,” Valckenborg stated.
When asked how much color affects light reflection, Valckenborg said a minimal reduction must be taken into account. “When we want a colored PV panel, we have to accept that not all the visible solar spectrum will be transmitted to the cell, but part of it will be reflected or absorbed,” he stated. In conventional, uncolored PV panels, all layers on top of the solar cells – the front glass and the encapsulant – must be optimized to be as transparent as possible, in order to allow light to be transmitted and reach the solar cells.
There are currently two main approaches to coloring PV panels: a technique consisting of pigment-based coloration, and a structural coloration method. The first technique refers to the application of dyes and pigments that mainly absorb and partially reflect specific parts of the spectrum. This is the case, for instance, with colored dots printed on the front PV glass or on colored encapsulant.
Structural coloration is obtained through the interaction of the light itself with nano-structured surfaces or multi-layer thin-film coatings. Interference filters deposited on glass exploit the interference effect to selectively reflect only a narrow portion of the visible spectrum.
The way a color is obtained, and how it affects the performance of a PV panel, therefore strongly depends on the specific technology used and the optical phenomena taking place.
“Ideally, a colored PV panel should be able to reflect only a narrow band of the visible spectrum and transmit all the rest,” Valckenborg explained. “In this way we will perceive the module with the color corresponding to that specific reflected wavelength, while the rest of the sunlight spectrum can be effectively used for power generation”
In order to avoid additional losses, the colored layer (glass or encapsulant or extra layer) should be non-absorptive, he noted.
The performance losses of colored PV are mainly due to the lower amount of photons that are transmitted to the solar cells, which in turn leads to lower current and reduced power production. Power losses for colored PV products now available on the market range from approximately 10% to 40%. Losses also strongly depend on the specific color, because each color is characterized by a specific reflection spectrum, according to Valckenborg.
“Pigment-based colors always absorb part of the spectrum. In this respect, paintings which can be considered better than others are those characterized by low absorption,” he claimed.
In terms of higher performance, interference coating is currently the best option. Filters can be made with completely non-absorptive materials, and their reflection peak can be tuned to be as narrow as possible.
“Drawbacks of this technology are more related to price and other aspects, such as the angular dependency of the color,” Valckenborg explained. “In general, a compromise must always be found between electrical performance, cost and aesthetic quality.”
One reason colored modules are still significantly more expensive than conventional panels is because the building industry is actually quite conservative, and for good reason, according to Valckenborg. As a facade element, BIPV colored modules must comply with strict safety requirements and be strong enough to avoid failures of any kind. “Because if something fails then the costs of repair can be huge,” he explained.
Colored modules are considered ideal for facade applications. “First, because facades are much more visible than roofs,” Valckenborg said. “Secondly, because the euro/m2 for a facade is already significantly higher than for a pitched roof. So the relative added cost of color is much lower for the facade application.”
Valckenborg noted that BIPV panels on pitched roofs are still a niche market.
“In the Netherlands we start to see more infrastructure integrated PV (IIPV), which includes all applications into noise barriers, dikes, and roads. Because these applications are visible, they might become colored one day,” he concluded.
Harvesting atmospheric water to cool down PV panels
Scientists from Saudi Arabia have proposed a new PV panel cooling technique which employs an atmospheric water harvester. The device uses waste heat from the PV panel to collect atmospheric water at night and then releases it during the day to cool down the module. The researchers claim the device may also be improved to produce liquid water, which could be used for the cleaning of the modules.
Scientists from Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah University of Science and Technology have developed a cooling solution for photovoltaic panels that uses a sorption-based atmospheric water harvester (AWH).
The device, which can be placed on the back of commercials PV panels, collects atmospheric water during the evening and at night. The collected water is then vaporized and released during the day using waste heat from the PV panel as energy source. The evaporation of the water in turn takes away a significant portion of heat from the panel itself and lower its temperature.
This new solution, according to the researchers, can be applied to both small-scale PV installations and big solar parks.
“Our results show that the AWH can provide an average cooling power of 295 W m–2 when the solar cell is exposed to 1-Sun illumination, leading to a decrease in temperature of >10 °C and an increase in electricity generation of the solar cell of up to 15% relative to the solar cell without the AWH in laboratory conditions,” the research group stated. Outdoor field tests were conducted in the summer and winter in Saudi Arabia and showed that the power yield of the modules was increased by between 19% and 13%. The harvester consists of a substrate made of carbon nanotube (CNT)-embedded cross-linked polyacrylamide (PAM) and a water vapor sorbent made of calcium chloride.
The group explained that the AWH system can also be modified to produce clean water by integrating the hydrogel cooling layer within a water condensation chamber with an enlarged heat dissipation surface area. “In one experiment, an aluminum condensation chamber was attached right beneath the AWH cooling layer (dimensions 5 × 5 × 0.5 cm3), which led to a stable surface temperature of the panel of ~50 °C during the test,” it stated. Through this condensation chamber, the device may also be extended to produce liquid water, which may be used for the cleaning of the modules or simply as potable water.
The scientists added the device may be further improved by enhancing water vapour sorption–desorption kinetics, which would in turn increase its harvesting capacity and reduce material corrosion.
U.S.-based Toledo Solar is trying to distinguish itself from First Solar’s cadmium telluride dominance by operating in the residential and commercial segments, which have long been unkind to the technology.
American manufacturing of thin-film cadmium telluride (CdTe) solar panels has been the sole domain of First Solar for the last decade — but now, an Ohio-based competitor has joined the fray.
Enter Toledo Solar. Formed via a $30 million initiative led by the Atlas Venture Group, the company has set up its flagship manufacturing facility in the old Willard & Kelsey Solar Group building in Perrysburg, Ohio. Willard & Kelsey was another CdTe aspirant that fell, in part, due to First Solar’s dominance.
The facility features an annual manufacturing capacity of 100 MW and employs 25 people, with plans for the workforce to reach 70 by year’s end. The company also shares that, due to demand projections, Toledo Solar will reach an annual manufacturing output of 850 MW by 2026.
Carving a niche
And while the company posts a gaudy claim that it already has “over $800 million in purchase orders for solar panels, power converters and energy storage systems,” those orders are likely not going to become a wedge in First Solar’s market.
Unlike First Solar, Toledo Solar will be operating not in the utility-scale solar space, but rather in the residential and commercial markets.
“We recognize the void in the non-utility solar markets that have been underserved by silicon solar panels. ‘Cad-Tel’ is clearly a better option. We are excited to lead this investment in Toledo and continue to push ‘Cad-Tel’ solar technology forward,” said Aaron Bates, chairman of Atlas Venture.
The lofty claim that “‘Cad-Tel’ is clearly a better option,” is one that will be tested immediately. Toledo Solar says that the company’s panels offer 16.5% efficiency, coming in at a size of 60 x 120 cm. The panels, dubbed ‘Tier 1,’ are assumed to produce 115 W. This size, efficiency and power rating puts the panels in line with First Solar’s series 4.
“Toledo Solar has excellent technology,” said Professor Michael Heben, director of the University of Toledo’s Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization. “First Solar is the domestic leader in utility-scale solar, and Toledo Solar can fill that same role for non-utility installations.”
Toledo University, along with the Ohio Federal Research Network, were chosen to evaluate the equipment and technology at the location in Perrysburg, Ohio.
“The degree of differentiation is likely very small and to a large degree necessitated by the intellectual property space First Solar has made off-limits to competitors,” thin-film expert Markus Beck told pv magazine.
He said that the back contact could have some level of differentiation, as could the module architecture, albeit to a lesser extent.
On April 9, 2020, A+ Solar Solutions finished the installation of a 9020 Wp solar array with 22 LG410N2W-V5 High-Efficiency NeON® 2 modules and 22 Enphase IQ7+ inverters.
A+ Solar Solutions installed 14 LG410N2W-V5 High-Efficiency NeON® 2 modules in portrait position on the southwest-facing roof of the kitchen and 8 LG410N2W-V5 High-Efficiency NeON® 2 modules in landscape position on the southwest-facing roof of the garage.
All 22 modules are connected to the grid via 22 Enphase IQ7+ microinverters and can be monitored via Enphase Enlighten on a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
Enphase provides an industry-leading 25-year warranty on its IQ7+ microinverters.
LG provides a 25-year product warranty on their LG410N2W-V5 High-Efficiency NeON® 2 modules as well as a 25-year production warranty. Where the average solar panel degenerates roughly 20% in 25 years, the LG410N2W-V5 High-Efficiency NeON® 2 modules only degenerate 9.9%.
Four days after receiving the ballast for the 22,120 Wp solar array, A+ Solar Solutions finished the mechanical part of our customers 56-panel solar array.
The 56 panels Hanwha QCells Q.PEAK L-G5.2 395W solar panels are mounted on 56 EcoFoot 2+ frames and fixed on position by 630 ballast blocks.
Apart from the 12-year product warranty, Hanwha QCells guarantees the Q.PEAK L-G5.2 395W solar panels will produce no less than 85.0% of their nameplate power output after 25 years.
The 22,120 Wp solar array is connected to the grid by 28 YC600Y microinverters from APsystems. The YC600Y fro APsystems is a single-phase, smart grid-compliant microinverter, that serves two solar modules with dual, independent MPPT.
Because solar arrays last for 30-35 years and require hardly any maintenance – cleaning the solar panels once or twice a year is preferred – investing in a solar array is a very safe investment. It will make you untouchable for all the hikes in electricity rates to come and will provide free, clean energy for 30-35 years.
SkyBox Hybrid Inverter AC Coupling update from OutBack Power leverages existing solar arrays to provide backup and energy management
Faced with extreme weather events and unexpected and planned power outages, flexible energy storage solutions provide solar array owners with backup power from batteries when the lights go out. Recently, OutBack Power™ released an AC coupling firmware update to its SkyBox™ hybrid inverter. AC coupling is ideal when users have an existing solar PV system and want to add batteries for backup and time-of-use energy management.
“The SkyBox hybrid inverter is a fantastic solution for owners of grid-tied PV systems,” said OutBack Power™ trained installer Jason Rutland, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at United Electric and Solar in Camarillo, California. “SkyBox does not require much of the existing grid-tied system be replaced compared to what is required with a DC-coupled solution. That is one reason why I believe we are going to see more demand for the SkyBox AC Coupling function as we experience more outages in our region.”
Public Safety Power Shutoffs last year left millions of California residents in the dark, with little or no notice. While many households and businesses expected their solar panels to power their buildings when the grid was down, they now understand the reality that they need a capable backup battery system to supply power during these shutoffs in order to realize the full potential of their solar power system. By adding a SkyBox™ hybrid inverter and energy storage to an existing grid-tied PV system, owners can keep their arrays and even enlarge them, meet new code requirements, and power their buildings with clean energy.
Since last year, new solar customers in California have been put on Time-of-Use rates with peaks in the evening when solar production is declining. In addition, new National Electric Code (NEC) requirements took effect in California and other regions in 2017. Notably, new rapid shutdown requirements are now being enforced, raising the cost of replacing an existing inverter and/or PV array.
OutBack Power’s SkyBox™ hybrid inverter with AC coupling provides the solution to both problems. Once the SkyBox™ hybrid inverter and batteries are installed, an icon appears on the SkyBox screen whenever a new firmware version is ready for installation. The user can simply press the icon and follow the simple on-screen instructions to install the firmware. A true hybrid energy system, SkyBox™ hybrid inverter provides both reliable energy back-up in the face of utility shutdowns and helps customers navigate new pricing structures and electrical codes with their existing arrays intact. Simply, SkyBox addresses a need in the market for energy flexibility.
“Today, many customers expect more control over how they use their power. This is essential in the event of unexpected power shutoffs, or rate-changes,” said Paul Dailey, Director of Product & Market Strategy for OutBack Power™ “By providing an easy AC coupling solution for systems up to 7.6 kW, we are giving users more control of their systems, more energy savings, and more protection in the face of shutoffs.”
OutBack Power™ updates its SkyBox hybrid inverter firmware regularly to introduce new features. Past firmware upgrades include stacking, to allow two SkyBox™ hybrid inverters to be used in the same system, drop-down battery presets for streamlined installation and external current measurement which enables energy management for the whole home. This last feature eliminates external charge controllers and communication boxes, significantly cutting solar and energy storage installation time and cost. For more information on the SkyBox™ hybrid inverter, visit http://www.outbackpower.com/products/item/skybox.
About OutBack Power Technologies, Inc.
For over 18 years, OutBack Power Technologies, Inc. has been the recognized leader in the design and manufacture of battery-based renewable energy systems. With the regulatory and incentive landscape changing almost daily, consumers are rapidly moving away from simple grid-tied systems and towards intelligent, battery-based designs that blend energy independence with smart home technology that is good for the budget and the environment.
Now part of EnerSys, OutBack Power Technologies, Inc. is backed by the resources and expertise of the global leader in stored energy solutions. Whether the application is village micro-grids in Africa, rural electrification projects in Latin America, remote off-grid cabins in Alaska, or a suburban home in California, OutBack Power Technologies, Inc. has set the bar for delivering advanced renewable energy power conversion electronics and energy storage. For more information, visit www.outbackpower.com.
EnerSys, the global leader in stored energy solutions for industrial applications, manufactures and distributes reserve power and motive power batteries, battery chargers, power equipment, battery accessories and outdoor equipment enclosure solutions to customers worldwide. Motive power batteries and chargers are utilized in electric forklift trucks and other commercial electric-powered vehicles. Reserve power batteries are used in the telecommunication and utility industries, uninterruptible power supplies, and numerous applications requiring stored energy solutions including medical, aerospace and defence systems. EnerSys provides highly integrated power solutions and services to broadband, telecom, renewable and industrial customers. Outdoor equipment enclosure products are utilized in the telecommunication, cable, utility and transportation industries, and by government and defence customers. The company also provides aftermarket and customer support services to its customers from over 100 countries through its sales and manufacturing locations around the world. For more information about EnerSys and its full line of products, systems and support, visit www.enersys.com.
Ossiaco has built the one Home Solar Inverter to rule them all
Ossiaco has developed a new inverter that it believes will truly revolutionize the worlds of residential energy management, solar, and EV charging in one fell swoop. As a privately-owned and funded company, Ossiaco has been flying under the radar for some time now, but we spoke to the leadership team and it is clear the team is perched at the edge of the cliff, ready to take the plunge into the market at scale.
Ossiaco’s CEO Marc-André Forget told me about the new residential DC charger the company has developed and how the company was primed to make a big move into the market. Then he dropped the price. At US$5,000, the charger is far from affordable on the surface, but he just smiled and kept going. If the team at Ossiaco can deliver on the full potential of the technology it is working with, the new device has the potential to be a complete game-changer in the world of distributed energy resources (DER), delivering unparalleled value to homeowners.
The Best of All Worlds
Ossiaco started with the seemingly simple mission of enabling life without compromises. They are technologists, passionate about the potential of renewables and saw an opportunity in the host of challenges associated with integrating renewables into the home and the grid pose. Adding solar should not mean having to manually adjust the time you plug your vehicle in to charge to utilize the solar being generated. People should be able to plug it in when it’s convenient and let the software do the heavy lifting. They envisioned faster charging at home for those looking for the ability to rapidly refill their vehicles.
The hardware evolved as they explored the natural synergies between the various technologies in the residential new energy space. Imagine it like working with a bunch of new sets of LEGOs. Ossiaco’s team took the dozen or so technologies found in a fully loaded renewable households as the LEGO building blocks including inverters, rapid shutdown devices, EV chargers, and broke them down into their constituent components.
From there, they tossed them into a room with some of their best engineering talent and after enough blood, sweat, and tears, the Ossiaco dcbel was born and brings together what they see as the best of all worlds. The magic of Ossiaco’s $5,000 residential DC EV charger is that it isn’t just an EV charger. It leverages what is otherwise a simple inverter and leverages it as the heart of the home energy system.
The Ultimate Home EV Charger
First and foremost, dcbel is a dual nozzle, bi-directional DC EV charger. That’s a mouthful, so let’s unpack it. It comes with two EV charging nozzles that can crank power into the car. One is a DC charging nozzle (either CHAdeMO or CCS) that can add up to 60 miles of range per hour. The second is more of a standard level 2 EV charger, but the fact that this single device already performs two functions for a new energy household is a great start. In our home, just this functionality alone would replace the two level 2 EV chargers.
The DC charger allows for bi-directional charging, meaning compatible vehicles can gulp down power from the home into the battery, then push it back into the home if needed. Vehicle-to-grid and vehicle-to-building tech isn’t being leveraged by many automakers or utilities yet, but it’s great to have a device that has an eye to the future rather than both feet planted firmly in the inflexible past.
Sunshine? Sure, I’ll Take It
The humble dcbel charger Marc-André told me about is also able to convert the DC generated by a rooftop solar system into the AC power most homes run off of. That alone is not exceedingly special, but remember, this thing started out as an EV charger. Eliminating the inverter or inverters required for a solar system and consolidating the functionality into what we’ll call an EV charger is more than just cleaning up the installation, though it does that as well.
More importantly, it eliminates the need to install one or two more devices in the home. In our brand spanking new, high tech, state of the art Tesla Solarglass Roof installation, the functionality included in dcbel (so far) would take us from 4 devices on the wall down to 2 and that’s saying nothing of the wiring, junction boxes, circuit breakers, and fuses in between.
The improvements translate to savings at the bottom line and a faster installation. That’s meaningful to both the solar installer and the homeowner, who can both enjoy closing the deal and getting the system up and running even faster.
A Resilient Home
After being routed by wildfires over the last few years, California utilities implemented Public Safety Power Shutoffs that can cut grid power anywhere from a handful of hours up to a couple of months at a time. That instability in and of itself creates perhaps the strongest case possible for adding solar and energy storage to a home.
dcbel was built to improve the integration of renewables into the home and to maximize the benefits a homeowner is able to realize as a result. A key component of the renewable home of the future is energy storage and the team at Ossiaco see the massive battery in EVs and built the bi-directional dcbel to tap into that power.
When the grid is humming along nicely, rooftop solar generation flows into the home, into the EV, and to the grid without a second thought. But, in the unlikely even the grid goes down, dcbel is able to tap into the power stored in the EV’s battery to power the home. If the grid outage extends beyond the capacity of the EV battery, homeowners can drive to an EV charger to top up, extending the ability to run without grid power.
Store It, Use It, Send It
The efficiencies of consolidating so many appliances into a single appliance that does it all is huge and that would be worth a new product by itself, but Ossiaco didn’t stop there. Everything they built into dcbel up to this point in the article already exists. They took dcbel a few steps further with true intelligent home energy management with the capability to tap into an existing energy storage system.
The system can also optimize the DC power and funnel it directly into an EV battery. Enabling the optimal flow of current to the destination that makes the most sense at the time is one of the key achievements of Ossiaco’s new device. Eliminating unnecessary conversions from DC to AC and back to DC improves the overall efficiency of the home electrical system.
Ossiaco’s single device can replace the traditional solar inverter system and two home EV chargers with a single device that is then supercharged with Ossiaco’s home energy management software. That’s what the world of residential new energy systems needs right now. We have all the components to let homeowners generate and store their own power, but the market is missing the product that sits at the center and transforms all of the players and their instruments into a beautiful orchestra.
A New Paradigm
At its core, Ossiaco is a tech company that melded together its mastery of inverters with an impressive array of algorithms in a single product that cleans up the home powered by renewables. The company was founded by a team of revolutionaries who saw the potential for uniting the worlds of EV charging, solar inverters, and energy storage into a single, intelligent smart home energy manager with experience working at multinational corporations who took the leap into the unknown seven years ago.
Together, they created a disruptive new product that takes a bold leap forward into the renewable, resilient future we all want, smoothing over the seams between them, streamlining the installation, and eliminating complexity in one fell swoop. It also saves homeowners a ton of cash along the way. It turns out that Marc-André was right when he said dcbel was an affordable EV charger at $5,000. If anything, he was downplaying what the team at Ossiaco has achieved.
Ossiaco’s dcbel is slated to launch in summer 2020 and with the price tag sitting at $5,000 for a 15.2kW solar inverter, bidirectional DC EV charger, AC charger, backup manager, and the intelligence that makes everything play nicely together. Given the significant improvements it brings to the world of renewables, EV charging, blackout prevention, and intelligent home energy management, I expect it to be in high demand.
New solar energy innovations are being unveiled at Intersolar 2020 in San Diego this week, including the California launch of a concrete solar shingle, a unique under-the-panel battery storage configuration, and a single-axis tracker that can accommodate a 10% grade on undulating sites. And one forward-looking company is now buying up broken solar panels in expectation of mining the components for recycling.
The parade of international technology at the ISNA2020 show continues to demonstrate that the solar industry is getting technologically smarter while it thankfully gets cheaper. This is particularly good for both residential and commercial solar installs since utility-scale solar seems to have bottomed out with low-ball, long-term power purchase agreements.
An Integrated Concrete Solar Shingle Comes to California
One standout new offering at the trade show is the Ergosun solar shingle, which looks much like a slate roof tile, but can gather both direct and low-light sun rays. The waterproof concrete base is lapped to be waterproof and is sturdy enough to withstand major snow loads, like those in Norway, where the company recently performed its first install, according to Bruce Wintemute, Solarmass Energy’s chief operations officer.
shingles generate 15 Watts per tile, which is a 60% gain in yield compared to a
standard silicon wafer solar panel taking up the same square footage of space,
the company claims. It features a patented two-piece junction box and comes in
The shingles are manufactured both in Canada and China for the US market and carry a warranty of 80% of peak power after 25 years. The Ergosun Integrated Solar Roof Tile was engineered in the UK and now generates power on homes in Canada, the United Kingdom, Sweden, South Africa, and Jamaica.
Energy Unveils Under-The-Panel Battery Storage
Startup Yotta Energy unveiled its SolarLeaf, a battery storage system located under a traditional solar panel, a modular Direct Current-based storage solution with smart passive thermal regulation to protect the batteries from high heat. The battery chemistry is based on the lithium-iron-phosphate solution that has extremely low chances of fire risk, and does not contain cobalt or magnesium that is present in other battery chemistries, notes Sean Walters, the director of business development for the company.
SolarLeaf includes a built-in DC optimizer with wireless monitoring to manage
both solar power generation and energy storage. The DC coupling means that no
energy loss takes place as in systems where the DC current is converted to AC
for household use, and then reconverted to DC to charge batteries, which
involves an energy conversion efficiency loss of several percents in each stage.
Since the battery is located under the panel, rather than being housed in a
cabinet that might take up critical ground or wall space, it offers a unique
solution for applications like carports, where battery cages on the ground
could be bumper bait.
Sunflower Solar Tracker Rides the Hills
Another innovation at the show is the addition of a ballast-mounted version of the Sunflower single axis tracker from RBI Solar, which can be installed on an undulating 10% grade. The tracker was launched just one year ago, but garnered 500 megawatts of installation during 2019, says Kevin Ward, the marketing manager of the company.
The precast concrete ballast version of the Sunflower permits installation over landfills, culturally sensitive sites, and other locations where ground penetration is either not desirable, or not permitted. The linkage of the patented gearbox for the tracker is positioned such that weight is carried by the post, rather than on the gear, which helps prevent the wind-induced torque that is referred to as “galloping” in the industry.
advantage of the steep slope climbing capability of the tracker is that ground
preparation costs are largely eliminated, opening up the geographic market for
the technology to locations that previously would not have been considered
suitable for a tracker system. The centralized tracker system accommodates up
to 120 modules per row.
Harvests Dead Solar Panels
A little-known fact in the solar industry is that the metallic and chemical components of solar panels would be considered hazardous, if the public were exposed to the compounds, points out Dwight Clark, the chief compliance officer for WeRecycleSolar, which is actively buying decommissioned solar panels at the show.
“About half of the state environmental agencies would classify solar panels as hazardous waste,” Clark says. “So we have developed a process to separate out the 98% of the components by weight and to provide them to the international market for commodities,” he says. WeRecycleSolar has just completed Phase One of its process testing, and hopes to begin commercial operation within four months. The limiting factor will be having enough panels on hand — or about 100 tons — to justify the recovery line, he says. One solar panel weighs roughly 50 pounds. The company has found a way to recover all the standard components of a solar panel except the plastic back sheet