- SolarCity’s panel-mounting unit Zep Solar said a new system configuration made possible by the reduced price for modules, may increase the output of solar installations on flat-topped roofs by 20% to 50%.
- In Zep’s innovative configuration, 20% to 50% more modules would be oriented east-west instead of in the traditional southern orientation, and they would be placed closer together and facing one another at a tilt, “like opened butterfly wings.”
- The increase in the number of modules would add cost but an increased overall output coupled with the current low per-module rate and the higher return from utilities for peak demand period production obtained from the new orientation would more than compensate customers, according to Zep.
The drop in module prices from $3 per watt to $0.70 per watt in the last two years has stimulated innovative approaches in the solar industry.
That this innovation comes from Zep Solar, acquired by SolarCity last year, demonstrates one of the strengths of vertical integration, which major solar installation companies like SunPower and NRG Solar are moving toward.
The opportunity to capitalize on higher peak demand period rates has been a particular focus of solar industry thinking.
Arizona Public Service, in recently announcing it would provide rooftop solar to customers, also said it will orient the modules to the west to capture more peak demand period output.
In some locations, a shift to a west orientation may provide the needed afternoon peak demand period solar production whereas Zep's “butterfly wing” orientation may be more profitable where there are peak periods in both the morning and evening.