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21 August, 2010

For Lean Budgets, a Plug-and-Play Solar Array

For Lean Budgets, a Plug-and-Play Solar Array - Green Blog - NYTimes.com: "For eco-conscious homeowners who have considered a solar system for their rooftops but have found the cost and complexity daunting, Clarian Power thinks it has an idea.

The Seattle-based clean tech start-up is developing a “plug-and-play” solar appliance called the Sunfish that will generate clean solar electricity for the home. “You bring it home and plug it in, just like a refrigerator, and it will cost about the same,” said the company’s president, Chad Maglaque.

Today’s typical roof-mounted solar power systems start at $10,000 and go up from there depending on the amount of electricity generated and the home’s location. The bigger and more expensive systems can meet most of a house’s energy needs and even put electricity back on the utility grid, essentially turning the meter backwards.

A contractor usually installs the solar power system and turns it over to the homeowner in ready-to-use condition. An electrician will connect the system to the home’s electric panel through an inverter, a device that converts the DC power generated by the solar panels to the AC power used by lights and appliances.

Clarian is hoping to simplify this process through the use of its patented micro-inverter, which does not require a dedicated panel or circuit. In fact, they say that a handy homeowner can set up Sunfish in less than hour without the need for a contractor or electrician.
The company expects to retail a starter kit with one solar panel for $799. The system can handle up to five solar panels with the purchase of add-on kits, which would bring the retail price to $3,000 to $4,000.

Plug the Clarian micro-inverter, which they call the “power module,” into any electric socket in your house, typically an outdoor outlet. Connect up to five solar panels to the power module. The panels can be mounted anywhere on the house with the best sun exposure. Finally, plug in the kit’s circuit monitor into any outlet, and Sunfish will start feeding solar-generated power directly into the home’s electrical system..."

My Response: This looks very interesting, but keep in mind the 150kWh/month they say it will save you is for the 1kW system with 5 panels that will cost $2995-$3995 as opposed to the smaller unit with just one 200W panel at $599-$799. The manufacturers website says the smaller unit will produce 30kWh/month, which we all know actually depends on your area and how much sun you typically get (unless it's capped somehow, which, it better not be).

As for our uses, the manufacturers website has the following to offer:

Can the Sunfish provide backup power in the event of a power outage?
The Sunfish is not intended to provide backup power when there’s a power outage but can provide backup power in conjunction with a certified back-up power system since the safety features built into the Sunfish prevents it from generating power during a complete power outage.

Can the Sunfish be used to charge a battery banks for off-grid systems?
The Sunfish is not intended to charge battery banks for off-grid systems, but can be used to charge batteries or generate power in conjunction with a dedicated off-grid system.


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