Top 10 Solar Trends in 2021 - Canadian Edition

Dan Hunter

March 4, 2021

The article, 10 Solar and Storage Trends for 2021 written by Barry Cinnamon a veteran installer from California, was posted in GreenTech Media (GTM) in January '21. Link to the full article is available at the bottom of this page.  

Solr Solvr thought it would be worthwhile to interpret the impact on Canadians, based on our marketplace and our unique weather patterns. Looking forward to California is helpful, but it needs a "so what" for us. The top solar and storage trend edited and commented on are as follows:  

1.  All roof orientations are fair game for solar. Module efficiency has increased to over 20 percent in the last 20 years, while price has reduced by 10x. It now makes economic sense to install modules on all unshaded roof orientations. The days of ignoring northerly sloped rooftops are gone.

  • Implications for Canadians:  Given Canadian insolation (the amount of solar radiation received in summer and winter), it makes sense to "go bigger" than your electricity draw may need currently, especially if battery storage is a consideration. While installing modules in temporarily shaded areas (shading during some peak sun hours throughout the day) may make sense, we would not recommend placing on due-north slopes quite yet - the economic payout in Northern climates is still too low.

2.  Buildings will be designed to be carbon-negative. Higher module efficiencies mean that buildings can be designed to become carbon-negative, generating more energy than they consume, driving rooftop solar further in 2021.

  • Implications for Canadians:  Ummm, let's focus on getting more homes carbon neutral up here in the north, shall we? I'd take that!

3.  Skill levels for solar and storage contractors will increase. The additional features and configuration options of an integrated solar and storage system require higher skill levels to implement. Conventional electrical and roofing training is only a stepping stone for solar and storage installers.

  • Implications for Canadians: Well, the author Mr. Cinnamon is an installation company, so we'll leave it at that... At Solr Solvr, through experience and know-how, we believe solar installation is imminently trainable for licensed electricians and handymen to become effective installers for your home solar system. While devices become more "smart" so does their integration between components - And their instructions and DIY videos are more prevalent and much simpler to understand than in the past.  

4.  The module-level power electronics duopoly will continue. Inverters from SolarEdge (power optimizers) and Enphase (microinverters) are the standard on over 75% of rooftop installations (ATS note:  In CA/USA), with Patent protection and other barriers to entry for competing products.

  • Implications for Canadians:  This does not reflect the global landscape, where there are many competing module level power systems available, without the USD price tag and shipping cost from manufacturing facilities in CA.  

5.  Customer service and warranties are key battery system selection criteria. The 10-year warranties attached to most energy storage system batteries are only as good as the company that backs these warranties. Savvy consumers will shop for systems from manufacturers with a track record of supporting their products.

  • Implications for Canadians: We agree, check online reviews and consult with your solar companies for their experience and feedback - this is a no-brainer! We want to provide the latest innovations in storage, that is market-proven.

6.  UL 9540/A requirements will stall new energy storage product releases. Well-intentioned safety standards, meant to prevent batteries from going into thermal runaway, are reducing availability of new battery innovations from manufacturers, leaving the interpretation of test results up to individual jurisdictions. For example, dual battery systems of 20 kilowatt-hours or more are effectively prohibited in many California cities.

  • Implications for Canadians:  We're going to have to understand the implication of this for Canadian permitting code. In the mean time there are plenty of battery storage solutions to Canadian homeowners that satisfy code compliance, so you can rest easy and leave the 'bleeding edge' to Silicon Valley.

7.  Rooftop solar systems should be oversized. New electric appliances will require higher electrical draws. Since building electricity consumption will inevitably go up, oversizing the solar system is a wise design decision for most customers.

  • Implications for Canadians: Yep, see #1 above.

8.  EV chargers will be common options for new solar and battery installations.   New inverter power systems will come with a dedicated connection for an Electric Vehicle charger, simplifying the wiring, permitting and controls, thus significantly reducing costs.

  • Implications for Canadians: The EV wave is just starting in Canada with a lot of new, affordable EV's introduced in the 2020 model year - EV's make up around 4% of auto sales. So you still have time, but it is a consideration for your solar plan.   With a draw of about 3.5kWH per year - homeowners need to plan for this in their design or be ready to scale up to accommodate the switch to a shiny new EV in years to come - if you're plugging in your car, you don't want to be pulling that electricity from the grid, when you can source it from your solar system.

9.  The home of the future will have two batteries in every garage. One battery will be in the EV, and one will be a stationary battery attached to the wall. Continued cost declines for solar-connected stationary batteries will outpace auto manufacturers' appetite for vehicle-to-grid systems.

  • Implications for Canadians:  Solar considerers like yourself will convert to EVs quicker than the Canadian Mosaic. It makes good sense to have two battery systems, both for home back up and use, coupled with quick charging of EVs.    

10.  Whole-home battery backup will remain expensive. Backing up a whole house during a blackout requires multiple batteries and inverters — an expensive proposition compared to just backing up essential loads. New “smart” load-shedding electrical panels are becoming available as are standalone load-shedding controllers, integrated into your inverter system.

  • Implications for Canadians:  Gone are the days of creating a pony-panel for essential loads. A better solution is new 'smart electric panel' technology that allows you to load shed and load switch (via an app on your phone) is key. We like the Lumin system, which will be CSA approved for Canada in 2021. And it reduces your overall storage needs as well.

Bonus Wrap-Up:  US Credits help make solar more affordable, while industry incumbents act as barriers.  The Federal Investment Tax Credit was extended by 2 years and favorable political winds, we can expect another good year for solar and storage in the U.S. However,  this is pitted against two factors that continue to limit the market penetration:  

i) Hostile utilities (and their lobby power) toward solar and storage, resulting in unfavorable self-generation electric rates and complicated interconnection requirements.

ii) The second is increasingly burdensome soft costs, many of which are related to equipment standards and building codes.

  • Implications for Canadians:  First, I'm jealous...  We've got to push for all levels of Canadian governments to provide direct incentives like the US for solar installs (vs tax/carbon credits etc). Secondly, by keeping all solar generation 'behind the meter' which is available with technology today, there is no need to deal with your current utility for solar installation - thus solar plus battery becomes an alternative to combat these negative headwinds that a net-metering relationship would require. Do not disregard the soft costs that net metering requires.

After reviewing this edited version of the top trends impacting solar and storage in 2021, I hope that you agree that it does require some interpretation for the Canadian consumer. While California remains a positive source for new industry developments, not all information is relevant for us up here in the Great White North.  

At Solr Solvr we are very excited about the prospects of a fresh new year in 2021. Our goal, as always, is to provide you with simple solar, that you control.  Stay well and stay healthy, wishing you a prosperous new year ahead!  

For the full article in GTM, please click here