The State of the Industry

Have you ever heard of the “blessing:” may you live in interesting times?

as the parent of a 6-year old, I feel this

The past few months have certainly been “interesting” for the solar PV industry. In this post, we share some of the good, the bad, and the “we’ll just have to wait and see!”

LG to Cease Solar Module Manufacturing

Ooof. This one hurt.

On February 23, LG announced that they will wind down production of solar modules, citing “increasing materials and logistics costs,” “severe supply constraints,” and “a very challenging business environment.”

LG panels were our favorite premium panel – they hit the sweet spot between performance and value, with a generous production warranty and stateside support.

According to EnergySage’s Solar Marketplace Intel Report, published earlier this month, noted that LG modules comprised the 4th largest market share of systems installed in 2021 (after Panasonic, REC and Silfab (which overtook LG to tie with REC for 2nd largest share), and QCells). So, we are not the only installers mourning the loss of those sweet black backsheet bifacial beauties.

Moving forward, Sungineer Solar has decided to recommend REC modules as our premium option, while continuing to offer QCells as our standard option.

But where there’s chaos, there’s opportunity. Hanwha Solar, the makers of Q.Cells, just announced ambitious plans to expand domestic manufacturing capacity for polysilicon, a major component of solar modules. In a statement, they said this move would “help American businesses secure the raw material critical to the solar supply chain as global competition over clean energy sources intensifies in the coming years” [was that a dig at LG?!]. They have ambitions to “rebuild the full US solar supply chain.”

We say: awesome!

Supply Chain Woes ➡ 💲

2020 was the year of health and safety concerns.

2021 was the year of “I may need to sell my firstborn (the aforementioned six-year old) to find batteries” – but for other system components, we didn’t experience drastic price shifts or availability constraints.

2022 so far, in an image:

And when it is,

In one example, our cost for the posts that support ground-mounted arrays has increased 73% in less than 6 months (!).

To manage this chaos, we’ve adjusted our process in 2 ways:

  1. During our initial conversations, we are emphasizing that the products quoted may need to change by the time we install. We always try to find an equivalent product at a similar price, and we make no substitutions without a signed change order.
  2. We are accelerating the design & permitting process (as much as we can) to get materials on order and delivered as soon as possible.

Enphase Sunlight Backup

It’s not all dark news, though. At the end of 2021, Enphase announced a revolutionary new product: residential microinverters with the ability to create a microgrid, providing limited backup power when the grid is down, directly from the solar and without the need for energy storage (batteries).

Why is this so exciting?

In a typical grid-tied solar PV installation, the inverter (which converts the DC power generated by the modules into AC power that can be used by your house and sold back to the grid) relies on a signal from the grid to function. During a brown or blackout, the signal stops, and the inverter stops producing power – an important safety design to protect lineworkers from electrocution. Even if you have solar on your roof, you will not have power during a grid outage.

Until now. 😊

Enphase’s Sunlight Backup system uses IQ8 microinverters to isolate the solar PV system from the grid during an outage (that is, create a “microgrid”). As long as the sun is shining and the modules are producing power, intelligent controllers switch on limited loads, allowing you to maintain power to critical appliances, like your well pump or refrigerator. It’s limited power for folks who don’t need much, but don’t want to be entirely reliant on the grid all of the time.

If you’re interested in learning more, I recommend checking out Enphase’s Sunlight Backup for homeowners guide.

Living in interesting times, indeed!