Last week, the EnergySage team attended Solar Power International (SPI), the industry’s leading solar conference. There were countless innovative products showcased this year – from new high-tech solar panels, to smart home gadgets, to impressive energy storage systems. SPI presents a great opportunity to learn more about new products, as well as gain insights into larger industry trends. Here are just a few product trends we observed this year in Salt Lake City:
#1. Panel manufacturers are branching into storage
Solar-plus-storage systems are becoming increasingly popular, especially in markets that experience time-of-use rates or energy storage incentives. Several major panel manufacturers took SPI as an opportunity to announce new storage technologies to their product lines, enabling solar shoppers to purchase both solar panels and battery technologies under one brand.
Panasonic, who partnered with Pika for its Harbor Smart Battery systems, is releasing its own storage system: the Panasonic EverVolt. This energy storage system can be both AC and DC coupled, making it a viable solution for both new and retrofit solar installations. There are three separate sizes, ranging from 5.7 kilowatt-hours (kWh) to 17.1 kWh of usable energy. The largest of the models, the EverVolt Plus, comes with an average backup capability of nine hours.
Similarly, SunPower, a manufacturer well recognized for its high-efficiency solar panels and bumper-to-bumper warranty offerings, showcased its new storage offering: SunPower Equinox Storage. This new system, intended for pairing with new and existing SunPower Equinox installations, has up to 12 kWh of storage capacity. The Equinox Storage system comes with a 10-year warranty. SunPower plans to start taking pre-orders at the beginning of November.
Importantly, SunPower and Panasonic are not the first solar panel manufacturers to expand into energy storage; LG’s RESU 10H has been on the market for years. As batteries become increasingly cost-competitive and popular among solar owners, we’ll likely witness even more manufacturers offering storage solutions as an addition to their solar panel products.
#2. Solar panel tech continues to advance
Manufacturers are constantly investing in research and development, and those investments are clear on display at SPI. Many panel manufacturers had their latest and greatest exhibited this year in Salt Lake City, showing off new bifacial models, half-cut solar cells, and high-efficiency smart modules.
Each year, the panels displayed at SPI come in higher wattages and higher efficiencies, leading to greater power output capabilities. A decade ago, you would have been hard-pressed to find cost-competitive solar panels above 300 watts. Nowadays, more and more manufacturers’ core product lines are above 320 watts, with some technologies even coming it at 400 watts or more.
It’s not just the efficiency and power output of these panels that are increasing; many manufacturers are placing greater importance on the aesthetics of their products, offering new, all-black or low-profile panel lines for customers concerned with the appearance of the technology on their properties. One of the many impressive panels showed off at SPI was LG’s NeON R Prime: ranging from 350 watts to 370 watts (W), each panel in this series has an efficiency of over 20 percent. For those interested in smart modules, LG is also coming out with their NeON R ACe line, fully integrated with LG-branded microinverters.
REC’s Alpha series was another star of the show: panels in this series range from 355 W to 380 W, with efficiencies between 20.6 to 21.7 percent. Impressively, these panels come with a warranty that guarantees 92 percent of its nameplate power output at year 25, which is one of the top performance warranties currently available in the industry.
As solar panel technology continues to advance, many manufacturers are now promising longer and stronger warranties for their newest products, attesting to their confidence in their technology and its performance.
#3. Smart home energy management systems are rising in popularity
Solar, storage, and home energy management make the perfect family: an increasing number of companies attending SPI are designing and releasing new products that allow homeowners to easily track and monitor their energy consumption, customize how and when they want to use energy, and automate home processes.
The Span panel is one of the newest technologies we’re most excited about. This product, originating from a Tesla Powerwall alum, is a smart electric panel. Unlike traditional electric panels, Span allows you to monitor and manage your electricity consumption from your smartphone or tablet. You can use the app to see where and when you’re consuming the most energy and adjust your habits accordingly. Span is also storage compatible, allowing you to manage your battery for backup or rate arbitrage reasons. Using the app, you can control which appliances are most important to keep running during power outages and switch back and forth between cycling your battery and drawing electricity from the grid.
SolarEdge is just one of many solar equipment manufacturers expanding more broadly into the smart home sphere. This year at SPI, the leading inverter company was showing off its new electric hot water heaters, smart power outlets, and EV chargers. The company, which acquired the battery manufacturing company Kokam last year, will also be launching its own storage solution sometime in the next year, the StorEdge battery. All SolarEdge technologies–inverters, water heaters, EV chargers, and more–are connected through one simple app, allowing both comprehensive and simplified management of your home’s energy system.
Learn more about emerging solar technologies
The industry is constantly innovating, and we left Salt Lake City excited about what’s to come. If you’re interested in hearing more about SPI, take a look at our article about the top takeaways from the conference. If you’re new to solar and want to start your research with the basics, you can learn more about how solar panels work, the components of a solar panel system, the financial benefits of solar, and more with our educational solar content.