What’s New in Residential Solar Energy?

Reader Contribution by Sarah Hancock
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Solar energy is a vast energy resource that can be used for a variety of purposes, including electrical power, heating and cooling, fuel production, water heating, industrial process heat, transportation, and cooking. The cost of having a solar power system installed on your home has dropped dramatically over the last several years. As a result, more than 1 million homes are currently being powered energy from the sun.

In today’s rapidly growing solar industry, there are thousands of residential solar energy companies (some of the largest and most well-known being Sungevity, Sunrun, SolarCity, and Vivint Solar) that provide hundreds of different panel models and designs to homeowners. An increasing number of premium technology brands, such as LG and Panasonic, have entered the residential solar market, resulting in the development of a variety of new and improved solar technologies.

Here’s what you can expect to see in the near future:

Double-Sided Solar Panels

Formally known as bi-facial solar panels, double-sided solar panels will become an attractive product option in residential solar. Double-sided panels are impressive because they can harness sunlight through both surfaces of the panel. Essentially, these panels can capture light as it reflects off of the roof or ground surface below the panel.

Because the majority of roofs in the residential market are black, solar installers will typically paint a white border around the solar panel system before installation to maximize light reflection. In the case of a ground mount solar system, the light will naturally reflect off the ground, especially in snowy areas during the winter.

Frameless Solar Panels

A major factor in the critique of the look of a solar energy system on a home is the solar panel frame, which many homeowners find to be the least attractive part of a PV panel. To solve that problem, major panel manufacturers such as SolarWorld, Canadian Solar, and Trina are beginning to produce more aesthetically-pleasing frameless solar modules.

The main roadblock for frameless solar panels is the lack of suitable mounting equipment that can work without a frame. As a result, solar manufacturers are producing specialized mountings to work with the frameless panels.

Clear Solar Panels

Many frameless solar panel designs are entirely enclosed in one material, typically glass. Glass solar panels use the same silicon cell technology and materials of a standard panel, but rather than being mounted on an opaque backing material, the cells are sandwiched between two glass casings.

Glass solar panels are an innovation in multiple ways because, in addition to being more visually attractive, glass panels are more durable than typical silicon cell panels, and are known to be significantly more resistant to fire hazard and less prone to erosion.

Solar Panels with Inverters

One of the biggest new innovations in the solar industry is the concept of solar panels with small inverters already in place on the back of the panels.

For solar installers, inverter installation and connection can add significant time to a typical rooftop installation. To address this issue and increase installation efficiency, inverter manufacturers are making inverters easily attachable to the back of the panels. This innovation will also reduce installation costs.

A proponent of renewable energy and green living, Sarah Hancock enjoys writing about sustainability and manages the solar blog on BestCompany.comYou can also find her work on Twitter.

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