Astralux: Solar Hero

You don’tbecome a solar installer/integrator to make millions of dollars orheadlines, you do it because you’re passionate about solar and want tochange the world a little bit, one roof at a time.  Boulder,Colo.-based Astralux is an example of a this type of solar hero. 

"It’s all about financials, solar is a commodity now," said JesseMalcomb, VP of Biz Dev at Astralux. "Out-of-pocket costs are the realbarrier and getting the that cost down is key." Interestingly, whileCalifornia’s SolarCity is working on leasing and imaginative financingfor residential applications – PPAs are illegal in Colorado forinstallations smaller than 10 kilowatts.

Colorado doesn’t have the world’s greatest solar resources, but thestate’s utilities do offer some of the nation’s highest solar rebates.Xcel Energy offers a $3.50 per watt rebate and Black Hills Energyoffers the "nation’s highest rebate" – $4.50 per watt, according toMalcomb. Colorado utility Xcel, despite its attractive rebate price, isnot that friendly to solar – the firm recently tried to institute aninterconnection fee for solar installations (see Ucilia Wang’s article here). That effort was withdrawn due to public outcry, according to Malcomb.

While we’re talking price per watt, the pre-rebate price to installsolar has dropped significantly according to Malcomb – from about "$8/Win 2008 to $6.50/W this year." This makes life difficult for installersand panel manufacturers as the margins start getting tight – but it’sgood news for consumers.

Astralux actually has its’ roots in the science of solar. Its CEO Dr.Randolph (Rande) Treece, has a background in PV materials, as well assputtering and CVD systems for the deposition of thin-film PV. Despitethese advanced materials roots, almost all of the panels the firminstalls are crystalline silicon-based in order to maximize energyharvest from the available roof space.

It’s always interesting to hear from installers about new productsand Astralux’ Malcolm had some positive things to say aboutmicroinverters.  "We’ve seen a huge increase in interest inmicroinverters," he said, adding, "Microinverters really help ininstallations with variable slopes, multiple orientations, and mixedstring size."  He also noted that he has seen microinverter costs comedown, and he raved about the monitoring capabilities and ease of set-upwith microinverters. He specifically cited Enphase microinverters (see The Coming Disruption in the Inverter Market).

Greentech Media spends a lot of time covering the big guns in solar– Suntech, Sanyo, SunPower, etc. as well as the larger residentialinstallers like Akeena Solar and Solar City – but it’s the little guyslike Astralux who are the foot soldiers of the solar revolution.

Astralux has installed a little over 1-megawatt of solar since 2008. This video shows off some of the company’s fine workmanship.

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