There’s a novelty on the solar panel front today. Westinghouse Solar, a company that designs and manufactures solar power systems, announced the release of a new line of fully integrated, plug-and-play solar panels. The company says the new line will make rooftop installations faster and easier.
The line is called Instant Connect and it builds upon Westinghouse previous innovations, such as the first solar panel to integrate racking directly into the solar panel itself (2007), and the industry’s first UL-approved AC solar panel (2009). Instant Connect eliminates panel-to-panel wiring for both residential AC systems and commercial DC systems.
It also features UL-approved electrical connectors that are integrated directly into the sides of each solar panel, allowing the solar panels to automatically plug together when they are mounted on the roof. The frames of the solar panels and splices used to connect the solar panels together provide precision alignment of the electrical connectors, completely eliminating the need to manually wire panels or struggle with custom cabling on the roof.
With a standard rooftop solar panel system, hundreds of individual parts must be sourced, carried to the roof and manually assembled. Some of these parts include long sections of aluminum or steel racking, clips to attach the panels to the racks, electrical conduit to isolate the high voltage DC wires, inverters, disconnects, heavy-duty copper grounding wire and lugs, wiring clips, zip ties and a wide array of nuts and bolts to hold everything together. Imagine doing that on a sloped roof under the baking sun and you can see the benefits of forgoing this part of the installation job.
Another advantage is that HVAC contractors and skilled DIY enthusiasts can install an Instant Connect system themselves. They can even start small and add panels to form a larger system.
“Fundamentally, the problem is that manufacturers never considered a rooftop solar installation as a complete system. Instead, multiple manufacturers have historically supplied their own components to installers who, until now, have had no other choice but to assemble all of these parts themselves,” Westinghouse said in its press statement.
“There continues to be tremendous pressure to reduce the fully-installed costs of rooftop solar,” said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Westinghouse Solar. “Manufacturers of solar panels are bending over backwards to squeeze an extra 0.1% efficiency out of their panels, or to reduce their costs by $0.01/watt. But now that high quality solar panels are selling for less than $1/watt, the biggest remaining cost savings opportunity is on the installation itself.”
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.