It’s More Than Just the Panels

By June 21, 2018 May 21st, 2019 No Comments

The race is on to reduce costs in solar and push the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) closer to grid parity with more “traditional” sources of power. In other words, money talks and solar needs to speak the same financial language as fossil fuels. We don’t get to 100% clean energy for all if renewables can’t compete when it comes to homeowners’ pocketbooks.

Customers and industry folks alike often focus on panels as the most visible and critical part of a solar installation, but many other components can make or break the cost – and durability – of home solar. Let’s take a closer look at two components of the solar hardware cost stack: inverters and mounting/racking.

Rock the AC/DC

Inverters are the technology that takes the power generated in solar panels and turns it into a usable form for the home. Inverter selection has significant impact on lifetime system costs, given how critical inverters are for long-term planning and performance.

The biggest efficiency, and cost saving, innovations in inverters have been two-fold in recent years: “module-level monitoring” and microinverters.

Solar is an asset, and module-level monitoring is smart asset management. The ability to remotely monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot a system’s health at the individual module level means issues can be identified in real-time and quickly resolved.

Similarly, microinverters offer reporting and performance at the module level since they are installed on each panel. This type of granular control ensures more of the sun’s energy is efficiently harvested. The cost of microinverters has dropped even as their warranty lengths have increased, making them a compelling choice for trustworthy, high-producing, long-lasting home solar systems.

Manufacturers of central inverters are also participating in module-level electronics advancements. DC power optimizers offered by major players like SolarEdge also feature module-level power monitoring, but without adding an inverter to every module. Innovations in inverter technology continue to drive down LCOE for added value.

A strong foundation

The importance of rooftop mounting and racking cannot be overstated, from both a structural integrity and a cost standpoint. This hardware has huge promises to deliver on: it has to secure the modules to the roof for decades, optimize the angle for gathering sunlight, withstand heavy wind loads, and persevere against severe heat and cold, all without damaging the homeowner’s roof. As prices get more competitive, innovation is necessary to reduce costs for equipment as well as installation time. A fully integrated mounting and racking system can be the key to a fast, cost-effective rooftop solar installation.

A great example of cost-sensitive innovation in mounting and racking we’ve found recently is the QRail System by Quick Mount PV. Given its streamlined and durable design, swift and simple installation, and compatibility with all standard L-foot roof attachment systems, it drives faster, smarter, stronger solar projects.

LCOE and me

As module prices continue to drop, the balance of system (BOS) portion has grown into an important consideration in the cost of a solar PV system. Learning how to make smart decisions about all of the critical components – not just the panels – is the next level of consideration for a successful and financially attractive solar project. These gains lead to more modern systems with higher efficiency and lower cost, making home solar even more accessible as the world transitions to clean energy.