RE+ was actually insane. The Solar Power World editors are no strangers to the tradeshow scene; we hit the ground running each show to find the hottest products and latest trends. But even we were overwhelmed in the sea of 27,000 attendees — 27,000!! — and finished each day absolutely spent. My shoes filled with blood! But I do it to stay on top of all the U.S. manufacturing rumors and see how batteries are becoming even more synonymous with the solar industry.
No longer the “Wild West,” I did hear many times that the U.S. solar and storage (and even the EV) industry is entering a “gold rush” scenario now with favorable legislation and tax credits included in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — which is apparently pronounced “Ira,” by the way. But that rush to enter the market will demand more standardization in the industry’s products. The U.S. renewable energy industry has a desperate need for a trained workforce to meet these climate goals we’ve set. It’ll be even more difficult to install all these solar panels when contractors have to learn different techniques for different brands of the same product.
That’s my biggest takeaway from RE+: Everything is getting bigger, whether it’s residential energy storage systems or solar panels themselves — and there’s no consistency. No longer can we just call solar panels 60-cell or 72-cell versions. Depending on wafer size and whether the cells are half-cut or use other technology advances, solar panel sizes are all over the place. Seeing large-wafer solar panels in-person, and next to previous “traditionally sized” modules, it’s jarring. I know I’m not the typical solar installer, but why can’t a 5-ft., 2-in. person place panels on a sloped roof? It looks absolutely impossible right now with these big modules.
Even though I can’t get my arms around them, that doesn’t make the advancements in solar panel and battery designs any less remarkable. Just think how much has changed since the last Solar Power International in 2019! I’m happy to present some of my notable findings at the 2022 show here. I hope you were following along with me on Twitter all week.
A few pictures of big ole modules. The biggest modules are for utility-scale installations, but even the shorter and wider modules for the DG market are not uniform in size across all brands.
First Solar didn’t have a booth, but its modules were on display in its tracking partners’. The new Series 7 module, which should start coming out of its Ohio plants in the first half of 2023, uses dual steel back rails for easier placement on trackers. Using steel and no aluminum should help with taking advantage of domestic steel production. The 540-W modules are 25% faster to install than its Series 6 design, according to First Solar testing. All new First Solar factories being built (Ohio and a future one in the Southeast) will be entirely dedicated to this new module.
SunPower and First Solar announced earlier this year that they were working on a tandem thin-film/crystalline-silicon solar module for the residential market. A CdTe thin-film layer will sit atop a layer of crystalline-silicon cells to capture more of the sun’s energy. First Solar will make the module, and SunPower will be the exclusive provider of the product to residential installers. SunPower said that agreements have been signed between the …….