An investment analyst calls SolarTown, inquiring about trends in the solar panel market for 2011, particularly the supply of modules. It reminds me of the study I heard about in business school that if you ask 100 of the leading economists whether interest rates will rise or fall, 42% will get it right. You can pay a lot of money for analyst reports, but with the solar energy market expanding rapidly and incentives seemingly changing day to day, it is hard to predict supplies. That has been a challenge for us, especially last year, but we think that we did well by our customers to secure modules at good prices.
Archive for March, 2011
We should say right up front that we generally have a bias in favor of microinverters. Most of the solar energy systems that we sell at SolarTown are sold with microinverters rather than central inverters. We have explained in our learning article explaining inverters and micro inverters why generally we favor microinverters in the residential solar market. Our recommendation, however, may be tempered by our recent experience dealing with customer care of the leading microinverter manufacturer, Enphase. Microinverters have quickly garnered acceptance especially for solar installations on homes. Although we expect some major competition starting this year, Enphase is undoubtedly the leader of this fast expanding market, and as of this writing, is the only microinverter we carry at SolarTown. We may have not been as sensitive to the reliability issue of microinverters, or particularly the Enphase microinverter, until one of the Enphase parts failed on one of our customer’s installations. The part that failed was the Enphase Envoy, which is, according to Enphase, the “communications gateway” for the solar energy system. It basically monitors the performance of the system.
For those who want to move more quickly with renewable energy and energy efficiency, the prospect of a nuclear energy disaster spells a clear path to a renewable energy clean solution. Solar farms and solar panels on homes are not going to spell disaster in the event of an earthquake in California. But the calculus for renewable energy just got a lot more complicated as the tradeoffs that Obama can offer have now significantly narrowed.
The warming weather will make for an excellent time to take advantage of the additional solar projects coming live in 2011. In addition to your standard solar energy systems, we now see solar installed in different devices and hardware bringing the technology to a wider audience. You ask, “What other devices?” Well we can begin with the Toyota Prius’ solar powered ventilation system, which is the most widely accepted motor vehicle incorporating solar on the roof (silicon cells), helps cool and maintain the car and look but more importantly maximizing energy efficiency.