- A new solar plug-and-play installation process using glue to attach modules could reduce the time and costs of rooftop solar installation from days to hours. It could also reduce the time and complexities of permitting by allowing electronic distribution of required data to local jurisdictions and utilities via the Internet.
- The new process could cut average installation and permit-related expenses of rooftop solar installation from $22,000 to $7,500, according to Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems Director Christian Hoepfner.
- National Grid Products Manager Fouad Dagher said he was impressed by the first real-world demonstration. Lower cost of solar panels could have big impact on utilities like National Grid, already trying to devise strategies to price rooftop solar and deal with higher penetrations of distributed resources.
The Fraunhofer system eliminates potential shortcomings associated with solar installation by securely fixing lightweight, flexible solar panels encased in durable plastics to shingled roofs with adhesives that can withstand harsh weather and 110 mile-per-hour winds, the MIT Technology Review reports.
The system’s newly developed VoltServer electrical system shuts down if wires are exposed and connects to the grid with a simple, heavy-duty plug.
The electrical system is simply plugged into the home’s meter and automatically performs self-testing more rigorous than human inspectors to ensure safety and transmit data via the web to the local utility.
The automated permitting system was pre-approved by local authorities for the demonstration but commercialization will require new standards for solar and pre-installed high voltage home electrical outlets similar to those for other major appliances. At present, installation requires an electrician.
In partnership with Royal Adhesives and Sealants, Fraunhofer is still testing the adhesive against varying weather and roof conditions.
The Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is also focused on reducing the soft costs of solar through breakthroughs like this plug-and-play concept. It’s goal is to bring the installed cost of solar down from its current $2.73 per watt to $1 per watt.