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Solar Energy Trends and Predictions

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Summer is nearing an end and fall is just around the corner, we move towards the end of 2017. Solar in general has seen a great shift with new high-efficiency, high-watt modules taking the industry by storm, new inverter technologies, and efficient battery storage options. There are some clues as to where solar is headed into 2018 and we predict that many of these trends will continue well over the next five years. Here are a few of our thoughts regarding trends that have strong potential to be ongoing.

High-wattage panels are popular not only because of their high efficiency rating, but their relatively low cost in both module pricing and in the overall scheme of your system. Higher watt modules mean less panels which means less racking, microinverters (should that be your inverter of choice), optimizers for strings, less man hours for installation and so on. We predict that this will continue to be the case.

In less than five years we have seen the market shift from 195-260-watt modules to an average of 285-345 watt modules. Modules that are less than 285 watts are sometimes hard to come by, with the exception of some 270-275-watt modules from Canadian Solar. Modules under 270 are outdated and very hard to come by. This is frustrating to homeowners who bought these lower watt modules because they cannot use the same modules that they used on their main system to expand or switch out a low performing panel.

To plan for the future, we recommend sticking towards the higher watt modules available because they are far more likely to be available if you plan on expanding over the next five years. Again, solar panel manufacturers are consistently raising the bar higher when it comes to efficiency and watt hours. However, the high demand of these modules may keep them around for a long period of time.

Inverters and microinverters likewise have become more efficient. There was a period of time where the growth of the panel wattage was not matched by the inverters and microinverters available. Oftentimes home and business owners would need to settle on purchasing more power than they needed at a higher cost in order to maintain a balanced system. However, in the last year alone we have seen manufactures such as SolarEdge and Enphase Energy raise the bar for their respective inverters.

SolarEdge’s HD Wave is lighter weight and far more efficient than their previous inverters. To read more about this series, you can read through our HD Wave technology blog. The final inverter in the series is set to come out at the beginning of September 2017 and we hope to see more inverters from this line in 2018. Enphase Energy’s IQ series has been configured to handle up to 400 watts of input power in the IQ6 and up to 500 watts of power in the IQ6PLUS. The added power and technology has finally corresponded with solar panel technology and makes sizing your energy system more streamlined with additional add on options much more predominate. As long as solar panel and inverter manufacturers continue to keep up with one another we fully expect to see both technologies grow.

Finally, battery storage has taken huge strides with the LG Chem. Battery backup systems are large, expensive to keep and sometimes a pain to maintain. The LG Chem takes out the maintenance work and offers homeowners with a compact and easy to programmable battery backup system. Keep in mind that in order to hold the manufacturer warranty an installer who has passed their test must install the battery system. Hopefully, they will lift this stipulation in the future as more installers pass the test and it becomes an industry standard like being NABCEP certified. Options such as Tesla battery are still hard to come by and projections on battery systems are seemingly on hold. However, like solar panel and inverter technology the respective companies will need time to grow with the new technology however they are starting off at a good foundation.

To take advantage of solar trends that we believe will continue to last into the future we recommend browsing through what is currently on the market. Popular brands will continue to produce the same line if they see that they are popular and it is more likely that you will have that brand and panel in the future if you stick to what lines are popular as they will continue be enhanced. Perhaps more importantly they will work together to continue to improve your renewable energy system. There are of course other steps that have been taken, such as IronRidge’s UFO series which is fully grounded and easier to install. But the highlighted points have by far been the most significant and will hopefully continue to set the standard for solar into the future.

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