There are many property owners who hesitate in installing solar because of how the panels will look on their roof, or because they worry about possibly damaging their roof during installation. Sunflare, a California-based manufacturing company, creates innovative products that help overcome these obstacles.
Sunflare has been in the business of photovoltaic (PV) design and manufacturing since 2009. The company is headquartered in the U.S., but also has offices in Sweden and China.
Sunflare offers a variety of PV products – from parking retrofit systems to semi-rigid products for large-scale ground mount installations. But perhaps their most popular product is their flexible solar panels that are designed for rooftop installations. These panels stick to roofs without any mounting hardware or roof penetration. The technology has an industrial-strength glue that will secure it to a variety of roofing materials, including rubber membrane and metal.
Sunflare is also branching out into the residential solar shingle market as well. They’re currently working on developing a new line that will be similar to other building integrated photovoltaics (BIPV) options, such as Tesla’s solar tiles or the POWERHOUSE solar shingles. These solar shingles will not be adhesive, but will be applied using traditional roofing methods. Sunflare expects to release their solar shingle technology to the market sometime in 2020 – just in time for the beginning of California’s new construction solar mandate.
Sunflare makes their flexible solar panels from copper gallium indium diselenide (CIGS). They’re not the only manufacturer that makes flexible CIGS solar products, but what makes them unique is their manufacturing process. Their cells, the SUN2 technology, are produced individually. As opposed to other mass-produced options, this process enables Sunflare to ensure the production of high-quality cells. With this process, they boast of a 98 percent cell yield, helping to limit material waste as a result.
Another unique characteristic of Sunflare’s flexible solar panels is that each of their solar cells has its own bypass diode. Bypass diodes are wires within solar modules used to send electrical currents around the cells. They are critical for preventing production losses due to shade; without bypass diodes, a single shaded PV cell will affect the production of the entire panel module. While traditional solar panels typically have bypass diodes, they usually only have a few per panel module because the cells are connected in series. Adding a bypass diode to each individual cell helps to optimize the production at the cell level, limiting the impact of shading on the production of a Sunflare solar panel.
Sunflare’s adhesive solar panels are certainly appealing, but how do you know if it’s right for you? Here are some factors to consider when comparing Sunflare’s adhesive option to traditional solar panels:
Sunflare’s Flex 60 solar panels are low profile, making for a seamless, more integrated appearance when compared to traditional panels. They are only 1.7 millimeters (mm) thick – in comparison, traditional solar panels are typically at least 30 mm thick.
The Flex 60 is all-black in color and frameless. Many traditional solar panel manufacturers (including Solaria, Trina, and Canadian Solar) also offer black, frameless solar panel options.
Available pricing information on the cost of Sunflare’s equipment is limited. Given that this is a new technology with more limited production and that CIGS panels have cost more to manufacture than crystalline silicon panels historically, the prices for Sunflare’s products are likely to be higher than traditional modules. That being said, one of the most compelling selling points of installing Sunflare’s panels is not the cost of the equipment itself, but rather the low costs associated with the installation time and labor.
Why might installation costs be so low? For one, Sunflare’s panels weigh less than typical solar panels. Their modules weigh approximately 11 pounds, and crystalline silicon panels are typically heavier, weighing closer to 40 pounds. Lightweight panels allow for an easier installation process because installers aren’t carrying as much weight up to your roof.
Additionally, because racking isn’t needed with Sunflare’s product, installers don’t need to drill holes in your roof, allowing for a less labor-intense installation. The easier the labor, the quicker the install times, and the lower the cost of the installation itself.
The Flex 60 modules range from 170 watts (W) to 180 W in power capacity, with efficiencies of up to 11%.
How does this match up to traditional panels? The Flex 60 has a much smaller power output capacity than traditional solar panels; most panels have a power rating ranging from 250 W to 365 W, but there are options available closer to 400 W. As far as efficiencies go, the Flex 60 module’s efficiency is lower than most traditional solar panels. Efficiencies of most solar panel modules range from 15 to 17%, while more premium products have efficiencies ranging from 18 to 23%.
This means that, given the same amount of sun, a traditional solar panel will produce more electricity than Sunflare’s Flex 60. If you own a large commercial building with a lot of roof space, you may be able to generate the same amount of power as a traditional solar panel system if you install more modules.
Sunflare’s products feature both a product warranty and a linear performance warranty, similar to what most panel manufacturers offer. Their product warranty, which protects buyers against defective products, lasts for 25 years for commercial installations. This is in line with the product warranty offering of more premium panel manufacturers, such as SunPower, Panasonic, and LG.
Sunflare’s performance warranty protects against unreasonable degradation of their technology and is in line with the industry standard that many competing panel manufacturers offer. It stipulates that the output of their panels will not decrease by more than 10 percent by year 10, and no more than 80 percent by year 25.
Sunflare’s panels aren’t perfect for all types of solar installations. For one, if you have limited amounts of roof space and are aiming to offset your entire electricity bill with solar power, you’ll maximize your electricity savings by installing higher-efficiency, silicon solar panels that will produce more electricity.
However, Sunflare’s Flex 60 are a suitable option for certain types of installations where traditional panels are not. For example, if you have a large commercial property with a heavy roof that cannot handle the additional weight of a traditional solar panel installation without reroofing or restructuring, then Sunflare’s lightweight panel is a good option to consider. Their adhesive panels are also a good choice for installing on curved surfaces, trailers, manufactured homes, or off-grid applications that cannot support the weight and fixed shape of traditional solar panels.
Whether you’re considering Sunflare’s solar panels, BIPV, or traditional panel options, comparing multiple offers can help you ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. By joining the EnergySage Marketplace, you can obtain multiple quotes for traditional rooftop PV systems to compare with other solar technologies you may be interested in. If you want a low-profile system or black-on-black panels, simply note it in your account so installers can quote according to your preferences.
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