The last year was a busy one for Solar Power World and the solar industry in general. We came off a record-setting 2016 with more than 14 GW installed and a federal investment tax credit still in our back pocket. Then Suniva and SolarWorld filed a petition to bring tariffs to foreign-made solar panels, and the U.S. solar industry was at war again. We’re still waiting for the final outcome on those tariffs, but in the meantime we wanted to look back at the positives that shaped 2017. Here are the Top 10 most popular stories we featured this year. Don’t forget to subscribe to our free weekly enewsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest U.S. solar industry news.
10. 8 Native American tribes going solar
We talked to many solar installers this year and started hearing a theme: more Native American tribes were going solar. Editor Kelsey Misbrener pulled together a roundup of eight recent solar installations among Native American communities in the United States. We heard about many more tribal projects across our social media channels, and we’re sure to see more announcements in the coming years.
9. Small-scale EPC replaces 17,920 panels at two-year-old solar farm
Readers were enthralled by our story on a Texas solar installer having to replace all 17,920 solar panels at a 2-MW solar farm outside of San Antonio after a baseball-sized hail storm brought power down. Many panels had multiple points of impact while others appeared to escape crack-free. All panels were replaced though, in case microfractures had invisibly spread.
8. Is it possible to install solar on a sloped roof without drilling holes?
It’s always been assumed that a solar array on a sloped roof will need penetrations to keep it attached. But two mounting companies now have non-penetrating options. They use the roof’s peak to evenly spread an array’s weight across both sides of a roof. This “seesaw” effect keeps the array vacuumed to the roof, and no holes in the roof are needed to keep everything down.
7. What causes solar panel degradation?
NREL explained to us that solar panels degrade naturally over time, but many outside forces can contribute to a panel’s possible failure. Tips for avoiding that failure included more careful installation techniques, avoiding cheaply manufactured modules and using the latest inverter models on the market.
6. The PV junction box: An overlooked, yet important part of a solar panel
Who knew such an overlooked component of a solar panel would be so popular amongst readers? Junction boxes usually come pre-installed on the backside of the module, but their role is becoming more important than ever, especially now with “smart” technologies and new panel arrangements.
5. What are the different types of ground-mount solar racking systems? and What are the different types of solar mounting systems for roofs?
Both of these mounting-related stories had a big presence on our most-read stories of the year. It seems that there is still a lot of learning to be done in the solar industry, and people want to know the basics.
4. What is the life expectancy of a solar array?
With each component of a solar array comes a different warranty length. And while warranties aren’t a perfect gauge to measure a system’s life expectancy, they’re at least a start. Bottom line: Consistent O&M can ensure a system lasts for more than 25 years.
3. U.S. solar panel manufacturing is not dead
The last year brought a lot of uncertainty to the solar panel market, especially after two U.S. panel manufacturers petitioned for tariffs on foreign-made solar panels. But not all U.S. manufacturers were struggling. Here we talked to just a handful of U.S. panel companies about their near-future plans.
2. Solar Power World releases the 2017 Top Solar Contractors list
We love our Top Solar Contractors list, and so do our readers! The U.S. solar market installed more than 14,700 MW of solar in 2016, and our 2017 list celebrated all of those installations. Fun fact: 451 of the 500 listees stated they were involved in the commercial market in 2016.
1. Sungevity files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
And finally, our most read (and most commented by a landslide) story from the last year was Sungevity’s bankruptcy announcement. It’s unfortunate to hear when a major solar installer exits the market and more unfortunate still to hear about customers being left at a disadvantage. Luckily though, it seems customers used our story to get in contact with other customers to start the steps of sorting out their system issues. How the industry recovers from this bankruptcy specifically will set the tone for increased public acceptance of solar.