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First ‘plug and play’ rooftop solar system installed in US

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PV Magazine

The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems (CSE) has completed the first public installation and interconnection of its new residential rooftop Plug and Play PV System.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initative, the Plug and Play System is described by Fraunhofer CSE as “a holistic approach to residential PV that will dramatically help reduce the total installed costs of solar electricity by 2020, from $4.00 per Watt installed to $1.50/Watt.”

The Fraunhofer CSE applied research and development laboratory said it sought to develop “a system design that addresses all aspects of the solar purchasing and installation process” by incorporating “innovative technologies with a PV system architecture that simplifies interconnection, permitting and inspection.”

“What is particularly unique about this project is that it doesn’t just stop at technology development but is a comprehensive approach, including integration with the utilities and jurisdictions,” said Christian Hoepfner, center director of Fraunhofer CSE and principal investigator on the Plug and Play PV project. “Fraunhofer CSE and its partners are particularly well-positioned to tackle this challenge because of our integrated expertise across solar PV, building, and grid technologies. As an applied R&D organization, our focus is on getting technologies — especially those that will impact society and drive clean energy adoption — into the hands of consumers.”Fraunhofer_CSE_Plug_and_Play_PV_System_Fraunhofer_US_Inc_55df590730

According to Fraunhofer CSE, the Plug and Play system is centered on ease of use and installation to encourage people to adopt solar. “Once commercially available, homeowners will be able to go to their local building supply stores, purchase the PV systems, and install them in less than 10 hours — as easily as installing a washer/dryer combination.”

Fraunhofer CSE has worked closely with a number of commercialization partners and other stakeholders, including the City of Boston, local Massachusetts jurisdictions (including the towns of Dartmouth and Falmouth), and New England utilities like Northeast Utilities, National Grid and Green Mountain Power.

Penni Conner, Senior VP and Chief Customer Officer at Northeast Utilities, said the program was “incredibly important because it not only addresses installation barriers, but also simplifies the interconnection process. These systems make solar adoption a less complicated and time-consuming process for our customers and easier for us to bring new solar onto our systems. Our customers are going to have easier access to solar, helping us support a more sustainable energy future.”

As part of its recent Plug and Play Demo Day, Fraunhofer CSE demonstrated the full-scale installation and commissioning of a PV system in one hour. The project’s next focus will be on the demonstration of a commercial-ready system in 2015.

Fraunhofer CSE, a subsidiary of Fraunhofer USA, is affiliated with the German Fraunhofer Gesellschaft research and development institute.

This article was originally published by PV Magazine. Reproduced with permission  

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  • Geoff Bragg – SEIA

    I hope it includes a harness, anchor point, a manual describing how to safely identify the 3 electricity supply Submain, Consumer & Service main cables, determine their Cross Sectional Area, calculate the appropriate voltage rise on each of them, and submit an application to connect with the utility successfully. Otherwise a great idea!

    • I hear your skepticism, Geoff, and acknowledge your expertise. However, if PlugnPlay Solar PV can truly be made workable, it would be a total game-changer and probably double or triple the speed and penetration of take up of Solar PV into the domestic market. Do you think they will eventually succeed? Or are you saying its a pipe dream – like DIY plumbing (no pun intended)?

      • Chris Fraser

        We’ll need CEC Accredited people. Otherwise there’s a downside similar to the rushed insulation program.

      • Geoff Bragg – SEIA

        Hi Gus,
        They may well succeed, and it would be good in terms of emissions reductions.
        They may need to consider limiting exports to grid, either by default to ensure no voltage rise can occur on site, or a dynamic mechanism to deliver inductive reactive power as the voltage on site rises. This can be done now with existing inverters, but it would be a shame to lose generation through export limiting, or true power through the creation of reactive power, just to be sure a plug & play system can be installed without volttage rise issues.
        Installations on a distribution board submain will still need assessment to ensure the conductors are large enough for the PV capacity.
        Another solution is reduce system sizes to a small capacity- say < 2kWp.
        It will be interesting to see how these issues are addressed, ideally prior to rollout.

  • riotcat

    If it takes you 10 hours to install a washing machine, you’re being overpaid.