Published on April 6th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan
New Solar Panel Kit Aims to Make Solar More Accessible For Homeowners (Interview)
This is a special guest post from our friend Kriss Bergethon of Solar Sphere. Enjoy!
We love finding cool new solar products, and this new solar panel kit from SpinRay Energy is definitely a cool one. It’s a new system that simply plugs into the wall and provides power for your home. We interviewed Jim Greene, founder of SpinRay Energy, to learn more about this exciting new development.
Briefly describe the Deckpower120, please.
The DeckPower 120 was developed to be a “plug and play” grid compatible solar appliance for the “do-it-yourselfer.” Not only did we want to make it as simple as plugging into a 110-volt receptacle, we wanted to make it easy enough for an average homeowner to install. In researching, we found that most homes and apartments built in the last 20 years have a deck and, in most cases, an outdoor 110-volt receptacle. Since most decks also have three sides, it increases the chance that one side of the deck is facing the sun. We designed a deck mount that allows you to simply hang the solar panel off of the deck railing.
What inspired you to create this?
During our research of the solar market for home use, we found that the complexity of installing solar kept many people away from the technology. We decided to make it simple, easy, and affordable.
When did you first build a prototype?
We built the first prototype over a year ago. The advancements in the micro-inverter technology have allowed us to develop the DeckPower 120. Over the past year, we have made many changes and improvements to the design to make it as safe and easy as possible.
What is your background?
SpinRay Energy is owned by myself and a partner. This is our second “Green” business. We started an industrial water recycling business 15 years ago. My partner also owns a machine shop which allows us to design and build our mounting systems. I am an international business development consultant. I became interested in solar energy while managing a factory in the hometown of SunTech. I got to see the growth of SunTech and other solar panel companies in the area during the past 10 years.
When did you start manufacturing the Deckpower 120?
Even though we have been manufacturing prototypes for a year, we just started marketing the product in March of this year.
How exactly does it work?
We use a 240-watt, mono-crystalline solar panel which is attached to a 120-volt, AC micro-inverter. The outlet of the micro-inverter is simply plugged into a 110-volt receptacle.
How do you install the Deckpower 120?
You open the shipping box and assemble the deck mounting bracket. You attach the bracket to the solar panel, which already has the micro-inverter attached. You determine which side of the deck has the most southern exposure and hang the assembly facing outward from the deck railing. The bracket can be adjusted for the proper angle to the sun, depending on the time of year. You then plug the micro-inverter outlet into the nearest 110-volt receptacle.
How does it work with net metering? Will this system actually push power back through the grid?
In most cases, you will not produce more power than the entire home is using. You can string up to 5 DeckPower appliances together and in that case you can produce up to 1100 watts. At this level, you could be sending power out to the grid and should contact your local power utility. Because the appliance is grid compatible, it will shut off when the power company’s grid goes down, to protect line workers.
Do customers need utility approval before installation? What about building permits?
Due to the extreme differences in the various local utilities and building codes, this is not easy to answer. The appliance is considered a temporary device, so in many cases does not require building permits. Because this is defined as an appliance, we have also been told that it does not require inspection by local electrical inspectors. We do supply the user with a set of installation instructions and give recommendations to meet NEC requirements.
How much does the base unit cost? Product options?
The list price on the DeckPower 120 appliance is $1,099. It includes the solar panel, micro-inverter, mounting bracket and the power cords. Additional DeckPower appliances can be strung together for more power.
How can people find out more?
The DeckPower 120 Solar Appliance can be found online at www.spinrayenergy.com.
Any additional comments?
We do not see the DeckPower appliances replacing typical solar systems. But we believe it can be the first step into solar technology for someone interested in solar power and who has a desire to be “green.”
Kriss Bergethon is a writer and solar expert from Colorado, visit his site at solar panel kits.