The missing link
[About something, that money* has not yet discovered]
A number of self-replicating spider like robots are let loose on a Russian island, equipped with the capacity to improve every new generation, so scientists can study their progressive evolution. The raw materials they need to reproduce are buried all around the island, so they also need some skills to find whatever they need.
Soon there are developing fractions, small and nimble ones, that shed all unnecessary loads including their bulky batteries, and the heavy 'all tools on board' survival kings equipped for any arising situation.
As the materials run out, the machines start to go after each other and soon an epic fight for survival breaks out. The big fat kings of survival are soon being slaughtered by the much nimbler smallies, but when the night sets in the roles are gruesomely reversed. There is no place for hiding...
This is quite an old sci-fi story which I, many many years ago, once read as a kid.
Looking at today's solar market, the situation is quite similar to this, and this drive towards the extremes at both ends becomes most apparent, when one looks at inverters.
What they basically do is, to convert the generated electricity from direct current [DC] into net compatible alternating current [AC], and the label on them in Watt, tells you how much power they can chew.
There are "150W-300W - - - - - - - - - - - - - -1,500W-2,000W-3,000W-5,000W" and so on, with a hole chunk missing, and it is getting worse!** It looks as if the 'monster' installations are taking over.
So, if you are thinking big, there are plenty of 'ready meal' solutions. Just, hire a competitive company, squeeze them for better prizes, sign you feed in contract, and let's get on with it!
While for the energy guerrilla, proclaiming the energy revolution, there is the latest "plug & play" craze.
They opt for a small scale solution, also readymade and with all components included, that only needs an ordinary plug to hook up to the grid, and although the concept works very well, it is hardly the stuff for a full scale energy revolution.
To bring about a true SoLar millennium, something much bigger will have to change.
When everybody has a right to create and consume their own energy (within certain limits), whiles still connected to the grid, we will be quite a gigantic step further.***
This drive towards small and flexible photovoltaic installations, independent from feed in contracts, largely depends on finding the right political and technical solutions, but on today's solar market it is impossible to find even the right size of inverter.
The significance of this becomes somewhat clear, when one knows a few things about inverters.
Put some panels in one place and you can hook them all up nicely, given that they are all of the same model and make and pointing in exactly the same direction. If you want to put some here and some over there, or they are of different specifications, things can become quite complicated.
The reason is; that like in the proverbial chain example, the strength of the entire system is defined by its weakest link, and to sort out the length and configurations of these chains called strings, is the back-bone for the engineering of any larger scale photovoltaic installation.
A single link chain looks like the ideal solution, and this is in fact the beauty of the "plug&play" installations. Each panel gets its own inverter, so one is entirely free of any of the above.
Any odd panel can join the club, point in its own direction and can be put on or be removed. Total freedom, but at an expensive cost, considering that each inverter comes at its own, not unsubstantial, cost,**** let alone the accumulating clutter...
Put three panels together and mount them on a frame, or four or five even, whatever you just have, and connect them to a single inexpensive inverter, that is a much more practical thing, and if you want to balance the three electrical phases in your house, you create such a small set up for each one of them.
To fit three frames with three 250Wp panels would be a perfect solution and requires a small 750W inverter for each. This will yield 2,250Wp in total, nicely distributed between all the three electrical phases, and be super flexible at the same time.
Here some real electricity is already being generated, while the entire system is still following the simple logic of plug&play. (https://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.solenium-technology.com%2F200000059-e8072e9fa3%2FSoLar%2520Plug-Play.pdf)
Put a 1 US $ price on every Wp, for each solar panel and another 350 on every inverter you need, and in no time altogether you can tell which one is the best way to go!
But the key to an effective installation still remains to look out for these elusive inverters, big/small enough to match up with the numbers of your panels and of course certified for your local grid, and whilst there are hundreds of panels out there for each and any application, finding the right inverter can turn out to be rather tricky.
As the situation is going to change however, more and more people will start to use this kind of installation. The moving panel (as in moving house with its owner) will become more and more of the norm. Leftover panels of odd specs and sizes, purchased somewhere on the go, or handed down by other people will be widely spread and common place.
And giving the fact that even the politicians are finally moving (as mentioned in a previous blog), one can only advise all these companies out there building inverters, "to also get moving!"
The story from the beginning unfortunately has not such a good ending, and from what I remember, it is the big fat survival machines that win in the end, but then, this is only science fiction...
The only company that SoLenium-technology is aware of going anywhere near this approach at the moment, are Mastervolt who are soon going to release a 700W model, which is good, but only meant for the installation indoors.
SoLenium-technology is dedicated to such solutions, and either you are interested, or you really want to get going, our best advice is as always to contact us directly and keep to "read on!"
* industry and investors
** SMA has stopped making small inverters up to 3000W all together and other big names like Fronius or, KACO have not much or nothing to offer.
*** as outlined in the previous blogs https://soleniumtechnology.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/the-emperors-undisclosed-strategy/ and https://soleniumtechnology.wordpress.com/2013/11/20/tasting-from-the-forbidden-fruit/
**** Steca is one of the few companies to produce these