Sunday, February 20, 2011

Plug in PV

Clarian is planning to come out with PV modules that can literally be plugged into the wall to make your own  grid-tied PV system.

The system consists of one or more 200 watt PV panels, each with a micro grid-tie inverter.  Each system also has a SmartBox for monitoring the system. 
The first 200 watt PV panel/micro inverters plugs into an regular wall plug.  Additional 200 watt panels panels plug into the first panel daisy chain style.    The SmartBox plugs into an AC outlet and (apparently) allows you monitor the system.

You can add several of the 200 watt panels -- each one is 60 by 40 inches.

They also have a 1000 watt unit with a "6 to 8 hour" installation time -- perhaps this needs a connection to the breaker panel, but I could not tell.

This looks like a very nice solution for people who want to get started a PV system without having to hire an installer -- it lets you start for less than $1000, and add to it from time to time.  The projected prices they show are competitive, and the unit is said to qualify for the federal 30% tax credit program.
They expect to have the units "in stores in 2011".

The micro inverter has all the usual safety features for not powering the grid when the grid is down to protect line workers.

The system also provides for monitoring your system from the web, again  similar to the Enphase systems.

While it seems like a very nice development, I do wonder about a few things:
  • Will local utilities buy into the system -- normally, the utility would have to install a net meter to insure that you actually get credit for power you generate during times when you send power out to the grid.
  • Basically the PV panel connects to the wall outlet via what amounts to an extension cord -- it seems like this might limit mounting possibilities and perhaps not look as neat as some might like (or not).
  • PV panels are large and catch a lot of wind -- they need to be mounted carefully, and I could see people being a little too casual about this and losing expensive panels.
  • I could also see people spending a couple thousand on this to save 60 KWH a month when the same $2000 spent on conservation and efficiency projects would save 500 KWH a month.
It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

The link to their website is:

Thanks to Gordon for sending in the note on this gadget!

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