Rewinding to the start of summer, we released a blog digging deep into the analysis of solar panel shading and the effective ways it can be mitigated. On the back of the technical flavour of this blog, I was contacted by Solar & Storage Live and invited to speak on a panel at the event.
The show brought together manufacturers, suppliers, installers, and councils as well as many other personnel from the industry, with over 4,000 attendees across the three day event. This provided a great opportunity to meet other members of the solar, storage, and electric vehicle industry as well as providing valuable insight into established and emerging technologies in the market.
Outlook for solar PV supplies in 2022
Like many construction industries in recent months, solar has seen an increase in component costs largely due to an uptake in demand following the easing of the pandemic, with supply lagging behind. After speaking to many panel manufacturers and suppliers, it was pretty unanimous that panel prices will continue to increase with a general expectation that up until the end of Q2 2022 there will be approximately a 10-15% increase in prices with some hope that they will either level off or drop in price in Q3.
It’s not only panel prices on the rise - many manufacturers also seem to be increasing the size of their modules. Panels in the commercial sector are moving towards slightly larger cells, meaning larger dimensions and a greater wattage. It won’t be uncommon in the future to regularly see a cost effective or value engineered option for a commercial installation utilising panels rated upwards of 450W. In the residential market it is much the same, with panels getting bigger and more powerful.
New products on the horizon
Many updates in the world of commercially available solar panels seem to surround improvements to existing panel ranges. However, there is potential for a new brand of panels to reach the UK market at the start of next year, once MCS certified. Meyer Burger are Swiss-developed panels, manufactured in Germany. They’re designed to be more sustainable, with zero lead in the panels and, by being fully manufactured in Europe (even down to the silicon mining), cut the amount of energy and transportation needed for production. In addition to the care during manufacturing, at the end of the panel’s useful life Meyer Burger takes back any of its panels and recycles materials such as glass, aluminium, plastics and silicon to be used as raw material in other manufacturing processes. The panels themselves are high performers with outputs up to 395W and boasting an impressive 30 year product and performance warranty on the ‘top of the range’ panel.
In addition to new modules entering the market, there are many small scale or residential battery storage systems to keep an eye out for. Q Cells has a new modular storage unit backed by Samsung technology, with a storage capacity of ~6.6kWh. SolarEdge has recently released its own battery storage system and is expected to announce its smart home energy devices, to maximise on site consumption of solar, a new communication platform for wireless connectivity between the inverter and system devices, and an additional bit of hardware to the battery storage system to allow backup functionality in the event of a power failure. Nilar, a Swedish battery manufacturer, is potentially looking to shake up the commercial battery market by reverting back to nickel rather than lithium. The company is in the process of developing a reoxygenation process to bring the batteries back to full usable capacity, roughly every 2,000 cycles. While they are likely to be a more expensive initial investment, the option to service the batteries every 2,000 cycles could potentially see a battery with great longevity and a lower overall lifetime cost, compared to replacing the unit. Though this is potentially an exciting alternative, it is very much a future technology.
Spirit’s panel discussion
As part of the event I was honoured to be invited to speak on the panel discussing ‘The Best PV Technologies for Residential Installations’. The panel was chaired by Viridian Solar’s Chief Technical Officer, Dr KT Tan, and I spoke alongside directors from Eco2Solar and Marley. It was an excellent opportunity to be a part of a panel that applied a holistic approach to discussing solar PV systems and all the enabling technologies from modules and roofing kits to batteries and power diverters.
The discussion explored the current state of the residential solar PV industry and also what steps need to be taken in the future, with a particular focus on new build properties. Given the low cost to install solar panels on a new build and the advantages that this would bring to the homeowner, encouraging developers to install a solar capacity beyond the minimum requirements seems a very logical step to help bring greater grid independence to more and more properties. On existing properties the focus ought to be very much on sizing a PV array suitably for a home’s usage, but also to look at ways to maximise the on site consumption of the solar generation, whether this be using smart home devices, power diverters, solar compatible EVCPs, or battery storage. Depending on the property’s electricity usage and homeowners’ lifestyle, none, one, or multiple of these technologies might be the most appropriate.
While there was much discussion into different avenues of residential solar, the consistent message was that given the increased uncertainty surrounding the grid and electricity prices, energy independence is a key driver for many homeowners, so solar PV on new build homes and maximising the onsite consumption of solar on both new and existing homes is very important.
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