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What is Plug & Play PV Solar?

     There are as many definitions for Plug & Play PV Solar as there are companies attempting to develop it. For that reason let’s select the definition given by Fraunhofer USA. They received a DOE – SunShot Initiative grant award of $11.7 million from the US Government to develop Plug & Play PV Solar, so I’ll adopt their definition as the official one. Click on the lower left hand box on our homepage for a link to their website and more info.
    ” Plug & Play PhotoVoltaic System” –  The deployment of plug and play solar photovoltaic ( PV ) systems that can be purchased, installed and connected by homeowners without the need to engage outside consultants or contractors”.  The ultimate aim is to develop a range of pre-configured systems that can be installed and commissioned by a homeowner within one day – all without the need for significant permitting, inspection and interconnection processes. By removing these sources of  “soft” cost, residential solar PV systems will be more cost competitive and attractive to homeowners, accelerating US solar adoption and production.”
     “Project Objectives” – Develop a complete plug and play PV system, including all the technological components necessary for simple installation.
1.  Develop and demonstrate self reporting capabilities that allow the system to communicate with inspection services and utilities.
2.  Develop a lightweight rooftop mounting system that requires zero or few roof penetrations.
3.  Develop capabilities and protocols for automatic system configuration, performance monitoring and detection and automatic utility reporting and grid interconnection.
4.  Demonstrate field installation, commissioning and interconnect of a plug and play system on a residential rooftop.
5.  Achieve an overall system design, methodology and aesthetic that is appealing to residential installers.”
     Technology Features 
1.   “Lightweight Solar Modules.”
      Our answer  – Our aluminum 100 Watt panel with micro-inverter is less than 16.5 lb or about 495 lb for a 3 kW array. Approximately 1/5 th the weight of current PV array systems. Far less weight than installing a second roof. Structural Engineering Reports are no longer needed.
2.  “Self – Sealing Roof Mounts.”
     Our answer – All of our solar panel roof mounting penetrations are concealed by the subsequent panel ( there are no exposed roof flashings ) and made watertight. The top panel is flashed using National Roofing Contractor Association ( NRCA ) approved roof flashing techniques. Our array system is Guaranteed Not to Leak when properly installed.
3.  “Distributed Power Conversion for Safe and Simple Wiring on the Outside of the Building.”
     Our answer – For safe and simple wiring on the outside of the building we use micro-inverters, not the typical string inverter as is commonly used today.  Micro-Inverters have so simplified the solar design process that the National Electrical Code ( NEC ) requirements pertaining to DC array circuits do not apply to these AC modules, as these circuits and conductors are considered internal wiring. This also eliminates the danger of working with or even having 600 Volt DC electricity on your roof. More safety for installers and fire fighters should that need arise. Fire fighters know to check for electrical hazards when responding to a fire. An AC CutOff Switch is located near the electric meter and electrical entry point at  your building. By throwing that switch the built in anti-islanding feature of the micro-inverter is activated, shutting down all power to and from the PV System.
4.  “Self – Testing System Components.”
     Our answer – Each Micro-Inverter reports its performance to a Communications Gateway via the AC wiring and your internet router. You now have a  data sampling every 60 seconds for Real-Time Performance Monitoring and Rapid Detection of Operational Failure.
5. ” A Communications Protocol – that allows the installed system to easily obtain the necessary permissions needed to connect to the utility grid.”
     Our answer – The self-reporting capabilities of the modules are in place. This last requirement is not an operation we can solve. This last function, we believe lies on the Utilities side of the Interconnection Equation. With the introduction of SmartMeters throughout the country and with their ability to communicate wirelessly with the utility for billing purposes, I don’t believe this will be to far from being resolved.