The Fraunhofer Institute for Sustainable Energy Systems (ISE) has developed a plug-and-play self-configuring PV system which can enable significant reductions in the time needed to install a complete PV system.
The first public demonstration of the Fraunhofer ISE system was conducted in Massachusetts (USA) and completed in one hour, certification and permits included. The Fraunhofer plug-and-play system reduces installation times by:
- Utilising frameless lightweight solar modules, allowing for increased mobility on-site as well as reduced transport costs;
- Providing quick-connect plug-and-play connections to simplify the interconnection process and reduce the need for manual wiring.; and
- Integrating an electronic system to automatically fault-check and certify the installation once it is complete, eliminating the need for specialists to personally inspect the PV system.
The only electrical connection in the system which requires a licensed electrician is the point where the PV system connects to the electric meter on the property – a standard electric car charging adapter is used as the interface between the two.
The frameless modules are glued directly on to shingled roofing and specified to withstand a wind load of up to 110mph. However, there are concerns arising from the possibility of increased heating issues as the plug-and-play modules are in direct contact with the roof and are without an airflow path underneath the panel. And in many cases, the tilt angle of the roof is likely to be non-optimal and thus the plug-and-play system will produce less energy than what is available.
Currently, the cost of solar in the USA is disproportionately high compared to our current levels of $1.50/watt. Approximate figures for installation costs in the USA are in the order of US$3-4 per watt, with ‘soft costs’ such as permitting, administration fees and installation accounting for approximately 50% of the total system price.
At the moment, installation of the Fraunhofer ISE plug-and-play systems are best done through licensed professionals who are trained and equipped to use safety equipment during installation. However, the system is designed to be so simple to operate that, in future, homeowners and property managers may be able to install a complete Fraunhofer ISE plug-and-play system on their own, with the exception of the electricity meter connection.
Fortunately, we don’t have to deal with the excessively high PV system pricing as the US does. Regardless, innovations like Fraunhofer ISE’s innovative plug-and-play system can still contribute to further reductions in PV system costs across Australia. Any development which improves and simplifies the installation process should be considered as important for the development of applied solar PV as record breaking efficiencies.
Top Image Credit: MIT Technology Review
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