While not completely back to “before COVID” times, this past year has felt like a return to normal solar installation activity. Projects are still going ahead, now with extra focus on product improvements that lend toward more remote accessibility and less downtime. There’s also more attention being paid to energy storage for power independence, accelerating a market already on the edge of mainstream acceptance.
There were a lot of new product announcements made quietly in 2021, for lack of the fanfare often associated with launching new products at tradeshows and conferences. Solar Power World editors kept track of everything and picked our favorite new products for the U.S. market from the past year. We are excited and eager to see products in-person at tradeshows in 2022, and here’s a collection of what we’ll be quick to check out.
These are just a few of our favorites, so be sure to visit our online database for an even more extensive list of the top products of 2021.
Ground-mounted solar goes low-profile
As seen in Aerocompact’s CompactGround
Ground-mounted solar arrays have traditionally used a racking structure that elevates solar modules several feet or higher from the ground. It’s a tried-and-tested method for installing solar, but for a number of reasons — like zoning regulations, material costs or even neighbors who disapprove of seeing solar — customers might decide they’d prefer racking with a lower profile. If the roof is out of the question, there are smaller solar racking options for the ground that are similar to those found on flat rooftop systems.
Austrian solar structure manufacturer Aerocompact developed CompactGround, a low-profile racking solution. At its highest, CompactGround has a 40-cm gap between the panel and the ground. That condensed footprint and lower profile also brings the benefit of reduced wind exposure. In the midst of supply chain issues for the industry, Aerocompact is offering a racking solution with lower shipping and material costs. The company claims up to 1 MW of CompactGround racking can fit in a single truckload.
The system can be installed in south-facing or east-west orientation. It’s secured to the ground using either ballast blocks or ground screws and doesn’t require heavy machinery for installation. CompactGround’s flexible footing allows it to adapt to uneven ground surfaces. Aerocompact designed CompactGround to be quickly deployed, using only three primary components that make it ideal for temporary installation scenarios. It works for kilowatt-sized and larger-scale buildouts, promising higher output in the same footprint of a traditional solar ground-mount project.
Microinverter advancements allow solar to provide daytime backup without battery
As seen in Enphase’s IQ8
Solar customers often think installing a rooftop system alone is enough to provide backup power if the grid goes down. Usually, that’s not true without a battery paired to the system. But thanks to a microinverter breakthrough, solar projects without batteries can in fact provide backup power if the grid goes down — in the daytime, at least.
“For the first time you’re able to use all the solar that you’re making, which, frankly, is what most people think solar power does already,” said Robert Pierce, senior director of product communications and content at Enphase.
Enphase’s hotly anticipated IQ8 microinverter began shipping in December 2020. The inverter uses chip technology to island homes during daytime outages, though they must be paired with an Enphase System Controller to execute that function.</…….