Yesterday marked the official kickoff of our five-year, $11.7M research effort into “plug-and-play” solar systems for the US residential market. Funded by the Department of Energy’s SunShot Initiative, this project will explore technologies and approaches that reduce the so-called “soft” costs of residential solar PV. It’s a timely mission: while manufacturing improvements and a host of other factors have helped drive down the cost of solar modules, soft costs — unavoidable non-hardware costs like permitting, inspection, and interconnection — have remained almost unchanged, and now make up the bulk of the costs for residential PV in the United States.
We’re hoping to achieve several things with this project, most notably:
- Developing a complete, easy-to-install plug-and-play system
- Developing self-reporting capabilities that allow that system to communicate with electrical code officials and utilities
- Developing a lightweight mounting system that requires minimal roof penetrations
- Developing capabilities and protocols for automatic system configuration, performance monitoring, and automatic utility reporting and grid interconnection
- Demonstrating the system with residential rooftop deployments
- Achieving a system design, methodology, and aesthetic that appeals to residential installers
To help us meet these goals, we’re not only drawing in all three of our research groups — solar, buildings, and smart grid — but also assembling a multidisciplinary team of partners that includes equipment manufacturers, utilities, local governments, universities, and research institutions.
Many of these partners were on hand for our kick-off meeting, which gave team members an opportunity to meet and discuss their research interests and expertise. In addition to representatives from the US Department of Energy and Sandia National Laboratories, we were joined by:
- Schletter, Inc.
- Vermont Law School
- Center for Environmental Innovation in Roofing
- Tigo Energy
- Petra Solar
- Tufts University
- 3L Power
- National Grid
- The Cities of Boston and Worcester
- Green Mountain Power
We’re tremendously excited to be working with partners of this caliber, and definitely look forward to talking more about plug-and-play solar in the months ahead.