This year the Solar Power International Innovations (SPI) was held in Anaheim, California. I Mikhail Ivanchikov attend on behalf of Dandelion Renewables. It was nice to experience the lovely weather for a week, leaving Edmonton covered in snow for a sunny and warm California. The show and information there was so valuable and intense that I had limited time to spend outside of the show floor. Below, I would like to share some of the most significant innovations this show brought up.
- Bifacial solar panels are taking a larger share of the market. With our Northern location, bi-facial modules have higher albedo from snow and started delivering higher ROE on many fixed tilt or single-axis tracker ground-mounted projects. Even manufacturers that were conservative about bifacial panels, like Q Cells, are expecting now to add bifacial module options to their product line in 2019.
- Split-cell panels allow increasing the module efficiency, suit well for sites with shading effects and seem to be well accepted in the industry. Trying and testing these panels is on our to-do list for Dandelion Renewables and we already have some split-cell modules ordered.
The demise of Schletter Inc created opportunities for us to revisit the huge solar racking market offering. Last season we were bringing and trying a number of racking innovations to identify our own preferences.
- For the pitched roof, the SPI demonstrated great options for wire management and a couple promising rail-less racking systems.
- For ballasted racking, I was happy to see that not all the manufacturers switched to galvanized steel materials, in order to keep the costs down. Many still offer full aluminum racking components, which we believe will last much longer on the roof than even the best-galvanized product. The entire industries preference is now landscape module orientation and it was almost impossible to find a good ballasted racking product for portrait modules orientation.
- For fixed-tilt ground-mounted racking, the choices are overwhelming. Innovations include: racking design for a smaller amount of driven piles; pre-assembled array of modules, racking that allows using shorter driven piles.
- For single axis trackers, innovations include drive mechanisms and structural designs that allow the 2V layout of the modules to be rated for high wind and high snow locations, compressed air operated trackers, quite aggressive allowances on the North to South slopes. For our Northern climate, the questions of the power back-up and for the cold rating of the drive were the key.
- Dynapower came up with the DC-DC converters that enable to harvest solar energy from utility-scale projects, that otherwise would have been lost in inverter clipping. One downside is that this product is available for central inverters, whereas in our designs we prefer to work with string inverters.
- Seamless integration of inverters with battery banks and energy storage, in general, took a large share of the SPI show floor. We found good battery-based inverters for both single and three-phase applications that have much better round-trip efficiencies compared to our first hybrid inverters installations.
I was able to take away many things from the show last week, and am happy to say that Dandelion Renewables will continue to provide you with the best and most up to date resources for you and your solar systems.
~ Mikhail Ivanchikov, president.