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Canadian Solar Inc – From Icy Paths to Solar Panels
Mar17

Canadian Solar Inc – From Icy Paths to Solar Panels

Foreward: As a leading retailer for solar products and kits, we’re proud to provide access to the industry’s top manufacturers. But with so many companies, there’s of course, the subtle, but key distinctions between companies, their products, and the people who make them. By shining light on these differences and sharing their stories, we’re aiming to provide a more clear picture to help in your decision making. Canadian Solar Inc., at a Glance Canadian Solar Inc. is one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world. Their story combines global reach and world class financing, expressed through the hard work and humble beginnings of founder and CEO, Dr. Shawn Qu. They maintain their space as leaders in the industry by driving product innovation and in-house R&D; and in 13 years since their founding, they have elevated themselves as a leading company in the solar industry. From Icy Walkways to Sun-Powered Panels Canadian Solar Inc. was founded in 2001 by Dr. Shawn Qu. Qu. As a serial academic/entrepreneur, he received his Bachelor of Science in applied physics from China’s most prestigious school, Tsinghua University. He later graduated with a Masters of Science in physics from the University of Manitoba and went onward to receive his Ph.D in material sciences from the University of Toronto. In an insightful 2010 interview, Dr. Qu recalls the “cold, cold, Winnpeg winter,” as he walked from class to class on icy campus walkways. His story sets an interesting backdrop: The basic beginnings of what would ultimately become the world’s leading solar company. Before founding Canadian Solar Inc., Dr. Qu worked at Ontario Power Generation as a research scientist, then moved into product engineering, business development, and strategy at Automation Tooling Systems, Inc. Here, he was led into the solar industry with Photowatt International S.A. Eventually, he returned to his alma mater Tsinghua University as a visiting professor in 2011. He currently runs Canadian Solar Inc. as CEO and chairman of CSI’s board of directors –  alongside an esteemed lineup of accomplished professionals in corporate finance, law, and nanotechnologies. Leading the Industry Dr. Qu’s multi-discipline background reflects itself within the company’s products and services. They provide a huge range of solar applications (cells, modules, wafers, ingots, panels, etc.) across different verticals and scales (from consumer level to huge solar farm contracts). Their operations are spread across 13 countries worldwide and in more recent news, they were announced as the Nasdaq’s second-best performer with a 687% surge by Q4 of 2013 (hovering around $30/share). As of 2014, their value has grown (once again) by an astounding ~25% to an average of $40 a share with market value...

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What are Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?
Oct11

What are Building-Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV)?

Some homeowners are turned off by how solar panels affect the appearances of their homes. Building-integrated photovoltaics – basically solar panels incorporated into the construction of new buildings – can eliminate the negative visual impact of traditional solar panels; improve appearance and boost resale value. The installed capacity of building-integrated photovoltaics is expected to boom over the next couple of years. A report by Pike Research, projects that the capacity will grow from 400 MW in 2012 to 2.25 GW in 2017[1] – roughly a five-fold increase worldwide. There are many different categories of BIPV today. Here are the most common ones: Thin-film solar panels integrated with a flexible polymer roofing membrane. Flexible thin-film solar panels integrated into roof shingles/tiles. Thin-film or crystalline-based solar panels mounted on the façade of a building. Semi-transparent solar panels that replace windows and skylights. Solar roof tilesImage credit: US Tile. The SOLÉ Solar Power Tile. Believe it or not, these roof tiles are actually covered in thin-film photovoltaic material. Read our in-depth article Which Solar Panel Type is Best? Mono-, Polycrystalline or Thin Film? to find out which of the various solar panel technologies is best in your situation. Generally, BIPV systems are less efficient and more expensive compared to traditional solar panels. However, if you want to seamlessly integrate solar panels with your home, and have the extra money that is required, building-integrated photovoltaics can be a great solution. Get in touch with our expert advisors at One Block Off the Grid to find out more. Are you eligible for extra incentives? In some places, additional incentives are available for BIPV-systems in addition to the standard feed-in tariff/net metering, rebates and grants. Search DSIRE (Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency) to see which incentives apply where you live. Although implementing building-integrated photovoltaics in the construction phase of a home makes more sense from a cost perspective, these systems can also be retrofitted into existing buildings. 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 Informative....

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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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