PV Module Form Factor Evolution – Enter SolarClover

The standard PV panel design is essentially a 40+ year old packaging scheme, whether you are talking about crystalline technology or thin-film (glass on glass). It is a form factor that has served the industry well up to this point, but as my readers know, I believe it is keeping the pace of PV adoption from increasing further.  I have long been a proponent of new, lightweight, aesthetically pleasing, and easier-to-install PV modules.  While flexible thin-film has enabled some interesting products from a limited number of vendors, desirable economics and durability for these products is a long way off.

SolarClover solar energy

SolarClover – A New Paradigm for Solar Energy

Enter Armageddon Energy with their unique, well thought-out product, the SolarClover. Clover is a completely new form factor which packages high performance mono-crystalline PV cells on a hexagonal , extruded plastic-aluminum sandwich backing, with a unique polyamid front sheet. Heavy, costly glass and metal framing is eliminated and the resulting product is unbelievably light. The hexagonal modules are then placed on a simple metal tripod racking system which utilizes 3 quick bolts for assembly.  Each tripod has a micro inverter and holds about 450kW of rated output, takes less than 10 minutes to assemble and less than $100/kW to install. Industry average for residential solar installation is $300+/kW to install. Plug and play solar deployment has arrived.

SolarClover shipment packaging is IKEA style flat cardboard boxes – an entire 1kW AC system fits into a standard contractor van, in one truck roll.  And while it’s tempting to look at this product for the DIY market in an outlet like Home Depot, Armageddon is targeting professional tradesmen like roofers, plumbers and electricians to handle installations.  The company provides a clever and patented low cost tool for determining siting applicability – shading, roof orientation, etc. – called the Clover Analysis Tool (or CAT) which substantially lowers the challenges for experienced contractors already servicing the general residential market place but with limited solar energy experience.

SolarClover is centered on providing visually pleasing PV systems to the smaller size residential market where a standard 1kW to

SolarClover new look for PV

Quick Plug and Play Assembly – click to enlarge

2KW Clover system can add enormous cost reduction to electricity consumers with high utility rates, especially in places where peak demand charges are present. Pricing is currently just under $6/Wac with the expectation that scale-up of manufacturing and operations will reduce cost substantially.

Mark Goldman is the high energy founder of Armageddon who clearly has a strong product development and marketing capability and understanding of this market niche.  “We’re focused on the utility consumer who only needs a small PV system, and we wanted to provide those consumers with a system that can be easily installed by their current contractors and is a really elegant addition to the architecture of their home.  We look at the electric grid as a system we’re optimizing for the small residential consumer who will experience significantly lower electricity bills and a quick return on their solar investment.”

Interestingly, Solar Clover has real applicability in the military market in operational and forward deployed environments where simplicity, light weight, quick set up and break down, and high performance are key attributes.  More on this later.

Solar Clover is not without its technology and market challenges. They include things like solar cell packing density, snow loading durability and a small installation cost (difficult for installers who are used to commanding larger invoices).  These are engineering and marketing issues common in new technology commercialization and Mark has a solid roadmap to mitigate and overcome these challenges as volume increases and his technology partners innovate along with him.

This is exactly the kind of form factor innovation that the industry needs to significantly broaden the appeal of PV through lower cost, ease of installation and aesthetics. Early adopters, this is your product and who knows, maybe this is what I will put on my own roof during a planned renovation.

 

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