The Next Big Thing in Solar: Solar Energy Monitoring Systems
Micro-inverters (and other parallel technology) were given lots ofattention because they can increase the efficiency of a system by up toas much as 10%-20%. Similarly, solar electricity systems that are hooked up to monitoring systems have a 10% energy production increase oversystems that are not hooked up to monitoring systems, according to WillShortt, CEO of Deck Monitoring.
PV solar panels last at least 25 years, where as inverters onlycome with an 8-10 year warranty. That means that sometime in the 8-10year range the inverter will die and the system will stop producingenergy. With a monitoring system in place the installer or homeownerwill know immediately that the system has been compromised. Otherwise it could be weeks or months before the homeowner looks at their energyusage statement from their utility company and realizes that their solar electricity system is not longer producing energy.
Monitoring systems currently cost around $1,000, which seems like a small price to pay for installers to be able to ensure that ahomeowner’s system is working properly. With a monitoring system inplace an installer could offer a “performance assurance”, and that maybe just the differentiator needed to close the deal.
All California installers are required to give a 10-year warranty,but this might compel them to give even longer warranties. Similarly, it may motivate installers to offer warranties in other states.
Combine a warranty with monitoring systems and I can see how asolar installer could proactively call a homeowner to say that they’regoing to drop by to clean the panels when they see the productivity drop rather than the other extreme of having a system fail for some reason,then have a furious customer calling because their $20,000 solar energysystem has not been producing electricity for the past month. I’d much prefer to read stories on yelp about how great an installer isbecause they called a customer to say there was a problem that they were going to come out to fix before the customer even knew there was anissue.
Thomas Dinkel, CEO of SunReports said that SunPower, SunRun, SolarCity, and Sungevity all offer monitoring with any systems they install,and therefore to be competitive with them other installers will likelystart offering monitoring as well.
The most compelling feature of monitoring systems is the ability to measure performance against what was promised and what is expected ofthe system. Not only is it fun to see, but it also serves as a greatindicator if something goes wrong with the system.
Lastly, when homeowners are able to view their solar energyproduction or energy usage in a clear, easy to view fashion, theyinevitably will adjust their behavior and start using less energy, which is a great positive side-effect.
So when you get a free solar energy quote from an installer, be sure to ask what they offer in the way of monitoring!
By David Belden
*Clean Power Finance recentlyhosted a webinar with SunReports and Deck Monitoring, which is where Ilearned much of what I just reported. However I’m sure there are othermonitoring solutions out there, and I’d be interested in hearing aboutthem too.
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