Sep 26, 2016: At a time when everything seems to take the smart and connected route, solar industry is not far behind. Innovative solar products with smart sensors and software and much more will soon hit the market. But, will people buy them?
Technology of smart solar panel
A four-year-old startup, SunCulture Solar, headed by Christopher Estes, has developed smart solar panels, known as SolPads. One of the highlights is that the panel can be wirelessly linked to a smartphone app. This energy efficient product is expected to be sold in 2017 either as a standalone panel or as a rooftop system.
By integrating the batteries in the panels, the company claims that it can sell a home rooftop solar system for half the price of currently available in the market, which are a combo of solar panels and battery system.
The company is integrating computing intelligence and user experience design into the panel itself. This means that SolPads can even talk and respond to finger taps. The panel can interact with the user in a number of ways, like a series of colorful LEDs that can shine brightly when there is a power outage or during a programmed “party” mode.
There is also a method of tapping on the surface of the panel, which can prompt a voice response and information about how the panel is charging and how much battery energy is left. Estes has also created an app, a computing hub and smart plugs that help the user to run some home equipment on solar, and to track a home’s energy usage.
Another impressive feature of the SolPads is the use of solid-state batteries as the storage system. These types of batteries are safer, and provide more energy storage per volume. The mobile version of SolPad refers to the stand-alone panel that can be charged from an apartment balcony, and plug into an outdoor outlet.
Majority of the solar companies today are concerned about costs. Following the dramatic growth in solar panels sales, solar panels are now at their cheapest price in history.
However, with solar panels becoming cheaper and cheaper, and as the technology is gaining ground, some companies are coming up with high end solar panels with increased efficiency, and more tied to batteries. For instance, Elon Musk and his business partner Lyndon Rive, have plans to launch new types of solar products.
A SolPad mobile will probably cost between $1,000 and $2,000. On the other hand, the SolPad for home rooftops is estimated to cost just under $20,000.