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Are solar panels tested for hail?
Aug01

Are solar panels tested for hail?

Are solar panels tested for hail, golf balls, or other kinds of impact? If solar panels are broken by some kind of impact, is this damage covered by the solar panel manufacturer’s warranty? If you’re about to drop thousands of dollars on a solar system that’s supposed to last a few decades, you obviously want to be confident that you’re not investing in equipment that could be ruined by one day of extreme weather.  It’s a valid concern. The ambiguity regarding hail resistance and impact testing for solar panels can be frustrating, so I spoke with a claims representative from a major solar panel manufacturer to get some clarification. The short answer is that there’s probably no manufacturer’s warranty that will cover this kind of damage, but any high-quality solar panel will have tempered glass that’s designed to take a beating and tested accordingly. If you’re worried about protecting your investment from this kind of damage, make sure that you pull a permit for the system and consult your property insurance provider.  There should be no problem getting the coverage you need if you go by the books. Back to the question about manufacturer’s warranty-  even though you likely won’t find a manufacturer’s warranty that covers hail damage, any reputable brand will test their solar panels to obtain industry-recognized quality certifications. In North America, these tests are a 5 ft·lbs impact of a 2 inch diameter ball of 1.18 lbs that’s dropped at a distance of 51 inches- no parts of the solar panel can be damaged to acquire this label.  If the solar panel has undergone this standardized testing successfully, you will see something like this in the specifications sheet. Quality Certifications from the Sharp ND-240QCJ specification sheet Because solar panel manufacturers usually sell to markets outside of the United States, modules are often subject to additional testing standards such as Europe’s “IEC.” Quality Certifications from Canadian Solar CS6P-240P specification sheet The European quality certificate specifically for hail is IEC 61215, which is circled in the image above.  Solar panels with this label were shot with frozen ice balls at varying sizes and speeds from an air gun. The most substantial of this IEC impact testing comes at 39.5 m/sec from a 203 gram ice ball.  The solar module must perform at a maximum of 5% degradation with no visible damage. If you live in an area that’s prone to hail storms, you should get solar panels that have been tested for impact and talk with your homeowner’s insurance company about your coverage options. That being said, if your system is going to experience hail that would dwarf...

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All-New Enphase M250 Microinverter!
Jul09

All-New Enphase M250 Microinverter!

Enphase Energy, the world’s leader in solar microinverter technology, used Intersolar North America 2013 as a platform to launch their latest generation microinverter:  Enphase M250 The company’s first generation microinverter, the Enphase M175 is considered to be the world’s first commercially successful microinverter. The M175 was followed by the Enphase M190 microinverter, which has built-in trunk cables and is compatible with both 60 and 72-cell solar modules. Unlike the first two generations, the Enphase M215 microinverter featured a single mounting bracket and an improved cabling system, allowing up to 17 microinverters per branch circuit instead of 15 with the Enphase M190. The Enphase M215 is a lightweight microinverter designed for 60-cell solar modules. Enphase M215 has a maximum output of 215W AC – with a 96.5% CEC efficiency rating. It also features a single-bolt bracket for dramatically simplified installation, which has been passed on to the 4th Generation Enphase microinverter, the M250.  What’s different about the Enphase M250? Though its design appears to be nearly identical to the Enphase M215, the Enphase M250 microinverter is rated at 250W AC, meaning it’s compatible with solar panels up to 300W. But the key improvement to this model is that the M250 DC circuit already meets grounding requirements (NEC 690.35) because it’s isolated and insulated from the ground.  This improvement means that when you’re installing a Enphase M250s, you won’t need additional Grounding Electrode Conductor (GEC) in between each microinverter (copper). This not only simplifies installation, but enhances safety while saving material and labor costs. The Enphase M250 microinverter comes with comes with the industry standard 25-year warranty.  The Enphase M250 is rated at 96.5% CEC efficiency- the highest efficiency for microinverters available.  Like the M215, it’s also NEMA 6 rated for severe temperatures and humidity. When using Enphase microinverters (and an Envoy communications gateway), you can monitor the production of your system remotely with a web-based software called Enlighten.  The newest Envoy can handle up to 500 microinverters – or 100kW. Enphase now offers Enlighten in two versions of the software: Enlighten Manager for solar professionals to maintain the systems they’ve installed, and MyEnlighten for system owners to monitor the output of their systems. We’re excited to get some of these microinverters on some roofs. Check out the specification sheet for the Enphase M250!...

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Enphase Energy to Release 4th Generation System
Jul02

Enphase Energy to Release 4th Generation System

Enphase Energy, Inc. (NASDAQ: ENPH) is keeping some big news under wrap until Intersolar North America 2013 on Tuesday, July 9, 2013. Enphase has gained significant traction in the last half-decade since their first generation products were introduced back in 2008.  Enphase Energy, now a publicly traded company, was really the first to bring microinverter technology to the mainstream.  Enphase still dominates the solar microinverter market right now with their 3rd generation model, the Enphase M215.   The release of their 4th generation Enphase System is a now a highly anticipated announcement. The unveiling of the 4th Generation Enphase System will take place in San Francisco at Intersolar, a world-renowned event that brings together businesses to showcase new technologies in the solar industry. At this time, Enphase’s statement about the coming presentation is intentionally vague, so not surprisingly, we’re curious about what they’re bringing to the table.  GoGreenSolar.com CEO, Deep Patel, will be attending the Enphase’s “Exclusive 2-hour sneak peek training session” at the Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco, California on July 9th. To register for the event, email pr@enphaseenergy.com or reserve your spot here: http://info.enphase.com/Intersolar2013. The introduction of Enphase’s 4th generation system will also be streamed live for investors on the company website (http://investor.enphase.com/events.cfm) Also- we’ll give you an update as soon as we have the specifications the 4th generation system!  Talk with you soon.   Anyone heard anything else yet? ______ Tom Jackson...

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New Software Models Solar Power Output and Increase Grid Stability
Oct30

New Software Models Solar Power Output and Increase Grid Stability

Solar power is notorious for being one of the most fluctuating sources of renewable energy. Predicting how much solar energy will be available just for the next couple of hours is hard. However, having the ability to do so has several benefits, the major one being better stability on the power grid – including data centers, as well as every other appliance that relies on it. A small team of engineers at the University of California in San Diego has now released software that is capable of easily modeling fluctuations in solar radiation caused by weather changes. The software only needs input from one sensor, called a pyranometer, and data from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration models to work. In other words, the software will be able to foresee fluctuations at low costs. The software is based on the solar variability law that was developed by graduate student Matthew Lave at the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego. The code is already in high demand for the development in solar power plants – especially those that operate under requirements set by the Puerto Rico Power Electric Power Authority – new utility-scale power plants has to commit to limiting changes in power output to 10 percent per minute. This is potentially a problem for solar power plants where fluctuations might be significantly higher – a change in output of more than 70% in per second is possible. Having the ability to predict solar radiation and the output of our solar panels will give us enough time to do something about incoming fluctuations and smoothen out rapid changes. It will be interesting to see how successful the software will be in making solar power less of a fluctuating source. The capacity of renewable energy on the grid is increasing every single day. It is clear that something needs to be done about stability, as our old base-load energy sources are becoming more and more obsolete. _________________ Guest Post by Mathias Aarre Maehlum. Mathias is doing a Masters in Energy and Environmental Engineering. In his spare time he writes about solar power and other sources of renewable energy at his blog Energy...

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30-Year-Old Solar Panel Meets Original Specs
Oct23

30-Year-Old Solar Panel Meets Original Specs

Martin Halloway, a green building designer, had been living without electricity for five years before he purchased his first solar panel in 1980.  This exact module, an Arco Solar 16-2000, 33-watt solar panel, was manufactured in 1979 and continues to produce power today. Image Credits: www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/  A couple of years ago, Halloway decided to bring the solar panel down from his roof after 30 years and test it out.  It was an unusually crisp, clear day of about 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Halloway’s solar panel was designed for a 12-Volt battery (Max. Voltage of 16VDC), so he tested the module by connecting it directly to 12-Volt loads.   Halloway’s first test was connecting a 35 Watt, 12 Volt incandescent light bulb.  The light bulb lit up, passing test number one.  Halloway says that his Fluke multimeter showed the voltage of the module at 14.93 Volts with a full load of 2.015 amps. Next, Halloway connected the Arco Solar Panel to a 4.5 amp, 12 Volt blower. The blower drew a full 2.5 amps from the thirty-year-old module, which is actually higher than the module’s factory specifications. When Halloway called up the manufacturer to share the exciting news, they were surprised but explained how this was probably due to the cool weather during this test. The cooler temperature must have made for a 10% increase in performance. Warranties generally cover a solar module for up to 25 years at 80% nominal output.  To be considered effective by most manufacturers, a solar panel has to operate at least 80% of its rated peak output. So even when some older modules may not reach that 80% mark of the rated peak output, they can continue to produce smaller amounts of energy for years after their warranties are up.  This Arco solar panel, however, far outlived its warranty and is certainly working well into its old age. With the improvements to solar panels since 1979, how long into the future will some of today’s solar panels be functional?...

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New World Record Efficiency for Solar Cells
Oct15

New World Record Efficiency for Solar Cells

Thanks to researchers at EPFL`s Institute of Microengineering in Neuchatel, Switzerland, a new world record efficiency of 21.4% has been set for solar cells. This feat was done with HIT solar cells (heterojunction with intrinsic thin layer), and is by far the highest conversion efficiency ever achieved with the substrates that were used. Image credit: EPFL PV-lab These types of solar cells basically combine the best of monocrystalline and amorphous silicon. The team has applied a tiny film of amorphous silicon, not more than one hundredth of a micron thick, onto traditional monocrystalline wafers. This increases the effectiveness of the sensors, which ultimately boosts electrical output. The research was recently presented by professor Cristoph Ballif, director of the Photovoltaics Laboratory (PV-lab), at the European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition in Frankfurt, Germany. The theory behind solar cells based on heterojunction technology has been around for quite some time now. The main work of the Swiss research team has been to optimize the interface between the different silicon types. They have come up with a process that uses p-doped silicon, which is the most common and cheapest type of crystalline silicon. By adding an ultrathin layer of amorphous silicon, the conversion efficiency of monocrystalline silicon has been pushed from 18-19% alone, to 21.4% with the hybrid solar cell. The process has been validated Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (ISE) in Germany. The research paper is set to be published by the IEEE Journal of Photovoltaics. Although the technology is still years away from being ready for the market, the innovation marks an important leap forward in the solar industry. Meyer Burger, one of the companies involved in the development of the process, has begun the work of commercialization machines that are capable of assemble the heterojunction sensors. “Within three to five years, we expect to reach a production cost of $100 per square meter of sensors” estimates Stefaan De Wolf, one of the researchers at PV-lab. I`m curious to see if this innovation is just as exciting a couple of years down the line, and if it will actually help bring the cost of solar panels down.   _________________ Guest Post by Mathias Aarre Maehlum.  Mathias is doing a Masters in Energy and Environmental Engineering. In his spare time he writes about solar power and other sources of renewable energy at his blog Energy...

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