By Chris Kemper, chairman, founder and CEO, Palmetto
Today’s residential solar panel systems are high-tech devices that can be controlled from a smartphone. While this level of control for a home sound system or a sleep tracking device can be a ‘nice to have,’ monitoring a solar panel system can save hundreds of dollars a year in energy costs.
Saving customers money by transitioning to renewable energy sources is my passion — I started Palmetto to pursue technological solutions to climate change and democratize access to clean energy. The way I see it, if residential solar power is less expensive, more homeowners can install it. That is the key energy pivot that needs to occur. We can then take control of our energy system from the hands of the big utilities that continue to burn fossil fuels and charge high electricity rates. And, in doing so, we help consumers keep the cost of solar power down. Next, it is the responsibility of solar power industry leaders to help customers make sure that installed panels are operating at peak performance.
Just as car insurance and extended car warranties are great options for keeping a car protected and running well, allowing for maximum fuel economy, reliability and saving money on car repairs, solar panel monitoring functions in a similar fashion, all controlled on a single platform. Many monitoring systems are available, though most are linked to solar panel systems through specific installers. We created Palmetto Protect to provide people the option of support regardless of who their solar provider is.
With solar panels now powering over 4% of households in the United States and the demand for electricity steadily increasing, customers need a plan to keep their panels in the best condition. Live energy monitoring brings visibility to solar panels’ productivity and, as it works, provides key data about energy production, consumption, savings and systems functionality, providing comprehensive energy recommendations over time. Professional guidance helps homeowners use energy in the most efficient way possible and integrate the right smart devices and new technologies when it makes sense. And this all saves money on electricity bills.
Some tweaks and checks can be expected to optimize solar functionality and keep panels working their best in the first three years. At any point, 10 to 20% of residential solar panel systems have an active inverter alert. If issues are missed and remain unresolved, the power generation ability or even the lifespan of the system could be impacted. Remote monitoring and updates can be an affordable way to ensure that issues are identified and resolved before solar production is affected.
Cleaning can help prevent or mitigate issues due to smog, dust, dirt, pollen, leaves, bird droppings or sand, depending on the environment. Weather-related issues can include damage from water, lightning, hail, sun and wind, besides additional washing encouraged to mitigate the impact of wildfires. Particularly over the first few years of operation, as seasons pass and solar panels are exposed to weather changes, solar panel system issues are most likely to show up. Solar monitoring platforms let customers get any issues investigated by professionals before they turn into larger problems.
Solar panels can usually be expected to have a lifespan of roughly 25 years, and regular service checks help identify any issues with functionality or efficiency early. Unresolved solar panel system problems hurt the credibility of the solar industry, impacting manufacturers, sellers, and installers. Monitoring systems present an opportunity for the industry as it continues to grow.
Combining monitoring with support options can help ensure solar customers achieve the goals that primarily motivated them to go solar: savings, energy independence, reliability and sustainability.
Chris Kemper is the chairman, founder and CEO of Palmetto, a vertically integrated technology platform providing solar to U.S. homeowners. He has a master’s degree in environmental planning & policy and founded Palmetto after policy and finance work around clean technologies with Compagnie Financiere Tradition, the World Bank and the United Nations.