An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 2
Continued from “An Overview of the Photovoltaic Industry part 1″ Click here
Lean engineering principles focused much of these competitive market efforts of doing more, with less. Four examples come to mind:
- Silicon wafer thicknesses (used within PV modules) are only 25% of what they were in the 1990’s.
- A PV module now vs. 2008 (with the same physical dimensions) can produce 25% or more power.
- PV module array mounting systems use significantly less aluminum than 10 years ago.
- PV module mounts now feature integral bonding between metal components for safety.
Finally, at the end of 2016, the nationwide 30% federal income tax incentive will be reduced to only 10% for businesses and eliminated altogether for residential systems. This will immediately reduce the size of the possible customer base and will reduce the affordability of PV systems with the US. Many feel the industry should and will stand on its own, without 3rdparty incentives, but none the less, the market will “feel” a bump in the road that reflects the longer return on investments for these systems.
Many large national solar installation businesses have been set-up in states where electric power is not cheap and who have incentives programs of some type for PV.
Mass produced/ mass installed PV systems are being installed in many states.
- These “kit type systems” function – but on what level?
- Has any real skill been utilized to make the best possible system?
- What is the best type of inverter to be utilized? – Different inverters have different strengths and weaknesses.
- What is the best type of PV module to be used? – PV modules are not generic.
- What type of mounting structure is optimal for a particular roof type? What additional dead load capacity exists for your existing roof? What structural anchors and WATERPROOFING methods are required for your type roof?
- What roof areas should be utilized for module placement – that compliments a building’s solar access orientation?
- Does the module mount physical placement account for ambient shade producing objects at different times of day or at different times of years, etc.? Or has the open exposed roof areas just had modules slapped on them.
- Will the company that provided installation services still be around in two years or 5 years down the road?
Meanwhile traditional monopoly type public electric Utilities are experiencing competition for the first time for their own customer base, by their own customer base. They are now, albeit with some discomfort, aware that things are changing in their business model. In fact, many electric utilities have “seen the light” and are now in full scale efforts to bring all of the benefits of this clean, quiet, fuel-less, sustainable, low maintenance technology “behind their fence”. In the past, residential customers received the benefits directly by fixing the costs of their electricity or some portion, while avoiding electric bills, and while receiving the benefits of any incentives. Utilities are recognizing that their regulated utility business model – that has been road they have travelled on for 70 years is changing direction, and as they do not have direct total control of the course of the changing business model, they must adapt – but to what?