You want to go solar. So you head to the store, buy some panels, slap them on your roof in 10 hours, then watch the savings roll in and the emissions decrease. Congratulations, you have changed the world in a day!
This is the macrocosmic view of Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy’s (CSE) promising new Plug and Play PV Systems, whose successful public installation and interconnection aptly unveiled in Boston pretty close to Thanksgiving. The microcosmic view really isn’t that much more technical: CSE’s system is a no-brainer solar job you can daisychain on your roof, plug into the utility meter and immediately solarize and save. During its demo, it took Fraunhofer a single hour to complete the installation and commissioning of its plug-and-play solar panels. Next up? A commercial-ready system demonstration in 2015.
“What is particularly unique about this project is that it doesn’t just stop at technology development but is a comprehensive approach, including integration with the utilities and jurisdictions,” CSE director and Plug and Play PV project principal Christian Hoepfner explained in a press release. “As an applied R&D organization, our focus is on getting technologies – especially those that will impact society and drive clean energy adoption – into the hands of consumers.”
That ticking sound you hear is nervous solar installers biting their nails and wondering what comes next. But this democratized solarization been a long time coming. Today, consumers can run to the hardware store, buy and install washers, dryers, stoves, refrigerators and many more appliances and gadgets in a matter of hours. So why not solar panels, especially when they can severely downsize customer carbon footprints, rather than expand them? It’s only a matter of time before solarization becomes just another everyday technological activity we engage in without a thought.
Speaking of nervous installers, what has kept this green dream at bay are the exorbitant soft costs of the solar sector, which is why Fraunhofer’s PPPV system, in barely an hour, haircuts the installation price tag from $4 a watt to $1.50 a watt. “At prices that low,” SolarEnergy ‘s Matt Wheeland calculated earlier this year, “everyone wins.”
That includes customers, utilities, manufacturers and installers, like U.S. leader SolarCity, which likely foresaw this industry evolution before buying panel maker Silevo earlier this year. Funded by the Department of Energy’s forward-thinking Sunshot Initiative, Fraunhofer’s PPPV won’t be the first to bring user-friendly solar power to the people. But it’s leading the charge to dramatically simplify the panel installation and grid interconnection process to more quickly solarize Earth, slash emissions and save money. Let’s give thanks.
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