Solar Builder

SEP-OCT 2017

Solar Builder focuses on the installation/construction of solar PV systems. We cover the latest PV technology (modules, mounting, inverters, storage, BOS) and equip installers/contractors with tips and tools to make informed purchasing decisions.

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26 S E P T E M B E R / O C TO B E R 2 0 1 7 Forward Labs uses a proprietary five-layer construc- tion. A robust glass panel sits atop an optical layer, which cloaks the underlying black monocrystalline solar cells and enables eight possible color choices. These top layers are embedded over a galvanized metal form-factor that appears nearly identical to the non- solar portions of the roof. "The colors of solar roofing products have always been muted or limited in choice for the sake of energy production," says Reid Anthony, former CEO and president of precision optics company Kowa American. "Forward's embedded optics have overcome these chal- lenges, giving homeowners the freedom to have a solar roof in some of the most desired colors, without increasing the cost or sacrificing energy production. It's a game-changer for both consumers and the solar industry." The solar roof not only weighs the same as a com- posite shingle roof, its sleek design also vents cool air under the solar cell layer, keeping operating tempera- tures down while maximizing cell efficiency. "Although most of the technology has been devel- oped in-house, we're proud to have developed Forward's panels with high-quality materials from LG, Valspar and other Fortune 500 companies," says Taylor. "This will enable Forward to quickly establish a strong network of key supply chain partners." TWEAKS ON THE TRADITIONAL Current technology still offers a ton of potential, especially with tweaks to traditional panel architecture. Here are four recent developments. 1. Maxim Technology, which we initially reported on to start the year in our Innovations Issue, is gain- ing momentum with its module optimization technol- ogy — a chip that is installed directly into the PV module instead of a diode. The installer can simply wire this system with a string inverter as they normal- ly might and achieve full optimization, MPPT and rapid shutdown compliance. The Maxim technology, over time, could change the value of high-efficiency modules too. Certain mono PERC modules, for example, are prone to hotspots, which can counteract their added efficiency value. Incorporating cell-level optimization would remove that issue. 2. The two leading thin-film solar manufacturers, First Solar and Solar Frontier, represent a combined manufacturing capacity of 4 GW. While they do not pose a short-term challenge to crystalline silicon play- ers' market dominance, ongoing innovations will ensure thin-film remains a significant player, according to Lux Research. Of the two, First Solar is far bigger, with expertise in utility-scale systems and a new large-format module design that will help maintain its GW-scale presence in utility-scale systems, as deployment grows in emerging markets. Solar Frontier has gradually diversified its business away from its home market of Japan and is making steps toward a rooftop BIPV product. First Solar's further growth hinges on plant-wide adop- tion of its Series 6 module and achieving systems costs below $1 per watt. Solar Frontier's future rests on its abili- ty to move its success in the lab to commercial production, and a partnership with a storage provider to integrate a lithium-ion battery option with its residential systems. 3. In the add-on category there is PLANT PV's new Silver-on-Aluminum paste. The goal here is providing a 1 percent increase in relative power output for c-Si solar cells via easy implementation with no added investment cost for cell producers. Silver-on-Aluminum paste provides cell manufacturers with the ability to print the paste directly onto dried aluminum film, allowing them to cover the entire back of the wafer with aluminum paste and obtain the beneficial passiv- ation of a continuous aluminum back-surface field. "For 20 years the industry has had to accept an effi- ciency loss from printing silver bus bars directly onto solar cells," stated Craig Peters, CEO of PLANT PV. "Our Silver-on-Aluminum paste has been developed to directly address this problem and enable cell producers to eliminate these unnecessary efficiency losses in all conventional solar cells today." 4. Incremental efficiency improvements continue from the traditional sources as well. Panasonic Corp. achieved a new leading output temperature coeffi- cient for mass-produced silicon photovoltaic mod- ules, at -0.258 percent /°C. This improves on the previous temperature coefficient by 0.032 points at the mass production level, highlighting the positive temperature characteristics of heterojunction solar cells and further improving Panasonic's unique het- erojunction technology. Panasonic HIT modules, which boast an improved output temperature coefficient, will nearly halve the decline in the conversion efficiency, significantly increasing performance in high temperature settings. Chris Crowell is managing editor of Solar Builder.

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