Akeena and Enphase teaming up

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http://akeena.net/cm/Press%20Release/Feb0209.html

I am intrigued by this joint venture and called Akeena today to find out how far off they are from installing these units. They say 4-6 months, which could really mean anything. Since we have minor shade issues, the microinverters are intriguing, and both companies are local. They are proposing to combine the Andalay panel system with the Enphase inverters, which then would directly deliver AC power. Supposedly the inverters carry a 15 year warranty and they offer wireless MPPT tracking so that you can track the performance of each panel and inverter. Akeena claims that the bundled system will reduce installation/wiring and racking costs. Is anyone familar with the Andalay panels or with Akeena?

Comments

  • Solar Guppy
    Solar Guppy Solar Expert Posts: 1,989 ✭✭✭
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    There is no saving in wiring costs, instead of DC wiring to every panel, you have AC wiring to every panel. You also I believe would have over current issues on the AC side as you can't just put all the inverter/panels on a single breaker, so you will have seperate AC runs to the panel/inverters
  • Lefty Wright
    Lefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    I Googled Andalay panels and found nothing about "micro inverters".

    The specs on the panels look pretty normal except they don't say if the output is DC or AC. If it's AC, what do you do with 30 - 40VAC?

    The panels are not for sale to the public. They are available only for installation by the contractor so do it yourselfers are shut out.

    Maybe the installation is quicker. You can't tell from the company's hype.
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    From this article about the panels:
    This year, Akeena kicked solar installation up a notch by moving past the panel and upgrading the rest of the racking and wiring. The system now comes with a prefabricated combiner box, which is what combines the wires from the inverter downstream with the wires from the panels upstream. This might seem small, but in the field techs create the combiner box and MC wire runs from lots of different pieces. If there is a problem with the system, this is often one of the first places to check.

    Another upgrade is a height adjustable racking, which means its versatile for flat roofs or s-tiles roofs, and also allows more air flow underneath which is important for optimal performance. In California, the state rebates are also partially determined by distance between roof surface and panel, thus the ability to adjust height will help to maximize customer rebate.

    The Andalay panels also include small clips which can secure all of the loose wires. Typically installers use zip ties (plastic ties) to secure just about everything on the system. Integrated clips means a less likely chance that those zip ties eventually warp under sun exposure and break.

    Why Are Integrated Panels Important?
    Not having an integerated grounding system means that copper wire must be run and touch each panel throughout the entire system. With the price of copper rising, this is a huge burden (not to mention a weak point for thieves who remove the copper and recycle it for quick cash. Note: These systems are very dangerous and we don't recommend you try this as it could be fatal).

    The Andalay panel also reduced parts by 70% and reduced the chance for something going wrong due to human error during construction. When you're up on a roof and its pushing 120 degrees F, and you've got a million things on your mind, and a two hour drive home, there is a high probability that you might forget something.

    Downsides of streamlined systems
    Streamlined systems look really nice to customers because they are one giant block and look very sleek. The downside comes in maintenance. If something goes wrong in the middle of the system, it involves removing half the panels to test and fix it because everything is attached to everything else.

    Also, some cities and counties are still leery about allowing integrated or grounding on just one point on the system. Before purchasing this system, check and make sure that you will still be able to pass inspection.
    Read the last two paragraphs closely... As far as I understand--both are serious issues with installation/maintenance and code.

    Not that they have made a bad system... It is just that errors/broken panels happen and, usually, NRTL regulations do not allow mounting and grounding to be performed by the same bolt (fear that while unbolting a "part", the safety ground is removed--without knowledge--and a shock hazard is present--hence the requirement that a separate ground wire connection is required--you may be able to work this out with your inspector though).

    Otherwise, it does sound like they have recently made some other improvements to the system (such as raising the panels farther off the roof for better cooling--would also seem to be a requirement for improved Enphase micro-inverter cooling too).

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Lefty Wright
    Lefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    If one panel is removed the ground circuit is open. It sounds like a code violation. But if they are installing them that way in San Francisco it must be OK.

    When I have done jobs in SF the inspectors were usually pretty sharp. Or at least pretty picky.

    The Akeena site says the standoffs set the panels at the "optimum" angle of 10 degrees. That hardly sounds right for 38 degrees north.

    Their system may be able to save a man hour or two in installation labor. But at what cost in material?
  • BB.
    BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 33,479 admin
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    San Francisco is well known for its "flexible" building, permitting, and planning rule$.

    Even the head of the building inspection department got "in trouble"...

    -Bill

    PS: Should add that was on her own remodel--got red tagged after being turned in (as I recall) by a well connected developer that was ticked off neighborhood opposition to his planned new chain store...
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • Lefty Wright
    Lefty Wright Solar Expert Posts: 111 ✭✭
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    Re: Akeena and Enphase teaming up

    A San Francisco scandal - I'm shocked!

    Although I've worked for a lot of SF contractors most of my work was in the East Bay. It's at least 10 years since I've worked in the City.

    It seems things have changed.

    The office secretary of one of the contractors I worked for was married to the chief electrical inspector. I don't know if that helped or not.

    But one of my jobs was hooking up motors on a conveyor system. The feeders were stubbed up out of the concrete slab. Because of the vibration I used liquid tite to connect the feeders to the conveyor.

    The inspector must have been new because he told me that he didn't think liquid tite was an approved raceway. I just ignored him and the job passed the final. I don't know if he took my word or if his boss strightened him out.

    What can you say about a city who's version of the code limits the number of conductors in a 1/2" conduit to 2? No matter the size.

    Unless they changed the code that makes it nearly impossible to use 1/2" conduit in San Francisco.