When solar industry professionals see a new product, they approach it with both hope and skepticism: a lot of good (and not-so-good) ideas have come and gone in the industry’s fairly short life. Some have changed how solar is done—think of how Folsom Labs’ Helioscope software has redefined how solar is designed—while others have not stood the test of time—dare we mention Solyndra? For the team at Lumeta, that means that we expected a lot of questions during the three days of Solar Power International (SPI) in Las Vegas this month, and relished the chance to gather as much feedback from potential customers as possible.
Attracting around 20,000 members of the industry, SPI 2017 coincided with the unveiling of Lumeta Lynx, our redesigned solar module that comes in 60-cell and 72-cell formats. In our lounge, we not only had a module but also had a timelapse video of an installation. Both drew crowds and prompted many conversations. Here are three things we learned:
- Speed sells. Solar contractors understand that labor—particularly labor on the roof—costs and if a solution enables crews to get on and off the roof faster, it’s going to improve a solar business’ bottom line. The timelapse showed 3.6kW (12 module) array installed in 32 minutes, including measuring and prepping the roof, connecting, installing a rapid shutdown box, and running the homerun, that is, everything except the inverter installation, panel work. and interconnection. That’s fast, without rushing, and the interest in the install time resulted in booth visitors watching, bringing back colleagues top watch again, and one team of contractors even going to fetch their distributor.
- No one loves holes in the roof. You know your crew rarely creates a roof leak, but homeowners tend to blame every future leak on the solar they had installed. Eliminating roof penetrations is attractive from efficiency, safety, and liability perspectives—regardless of whether the risk is real or perceived. And of course, eliminating racking appeals to many installers who love the idea of handling fewer parts, saving time spent finding rafters, and never grounding an array again.
- Looks count. Yes, efficiency and simplicity are important, but great aesthetics count too. For visitors who had never seen our product before, the low-profile black-on-black monocrystalline modules checked off all the boxes. For those who had seen our earlier generation smaller-format prototypes developed for the SunShot award, the wire tray with an integrated junction box that’s now tucked beneath the wire tray cover provided looks that they know will work well for the pickiest of homeowners. The new look is in part due to the great feedback we received from contractors we talked to at Intersolar, and it’s a testament to the Lumeta product and engineering teams that the feedback gathered in July was turned around and on display by September.
Overall, SPI is like all tradeshows: an amazing opportunity to hear from as many solar developers and contractors as we can in a concentrated time. Thank you to everyone who came by and shared their questions, feedback, and ideas. Your input makes our product better.