Essentially, we're giving the solar panel a brain; the patented HEMOS chipset can be fitted in a typical junction of any solar panel. With it you can communicate directly with the panel and execute commands at the module level.
Brian Go | LETO Solar
What is HEMOS technology?
HEMOS is an individual solar module communication technology. Essentially, we’re giving the solar panel a brain; the patented HEMOS chipset can be fitted in a typical junction of any solar panel. With it you can communicate directly with the panel and execute commands at the module level. Initial functions include remote on/off capability, emergency shut-down, detailed data monitoring, and anti-theft protection.
How will these functions contribute to the solar industry?
HEMOS technology will change the way we look at solar leasing, data collection, and safety of solar panels. We want to see solar power become a true consumer good, available for everyone, safe, and economically viable.
In what way will HEMOS make solar more accessible?
Solar power needs to be available to so many more people, but it’s not quite an easily accessible consumer good just yet. For one, it’s still fairly expensive for your average homeowner. One thing that has really helped to bridge that gap is the success of leasing companies, especially in the US. They make it affordable and easy to implement. The barrier of course, as with any leasing program, is credit. You must have good to great credit to qualify for a solar lease. One of the main reasons for this is that solar leasing companies don’t have the ability to do much when faced with customer default – solar panels don’t come with an off switch. If a customer doesn’t pay, the solar panels continue to generate power while the leasing company is losing money. The only way to mitigate this risk is by offering leasing programs only to people with good credit.
It can then be argued that the people who can really use lower energy bills are those that need a little bit more help than customers with a 700+ credit score – the value of those savings would be a lot higher to a potential customer on the lower end of the income/credit spectrum. Average solar savings on an energy bill is about 15% or $15 for every $100; those savings are of much more value to people with lower incomes. To give these people access, solar leasing companies need a better way to mitigate the risk associated with a lower credit score.
HEMOS gives solar leasing companies the opportunity to do just that. It can help turn solar into a true consumer good available to a much wider audience.
What can it do for safety?
Solar panels may come with their own set of UL standards, but the panels themselves are like mini power plants with no off switch. The biggest risk associated with this is in the event of a fire – firefighters risk their lives with a high probability of electric shock when handled incorrectly. There’s so much uncertainty introduced into an emergency situation – where every second counts – yet there are no measures in place to give firefighters any sort of advantage. HEMOS is able to address this in 2 ways: first, the self-monitoring system can evaluate the atmospheric temperature around the panel and can be programmed to shut off when temperatures reach a dangerous level – like in the event of a fire. Second, firefighters can be equipped with an actual remote kill switch that will shut off any module within a 50 meter radius. This immediately removes much of the uncertainty and hesitation in crucial moments.
How is data collection useful?
A HEMOS equipped solar panel is constantly monitoring its own status and is able to provide an incredibly granular set of data directly from the module. Voltage, amperage, wattage, and temperature readings as often as daily, hourly, minute-by-minute, and even every second if desired. This can have important implications on a wide level. Once you reach commercial and utility scale operations, it becomes crucial to your investment that every module is performing at an optimal level and that you are continuing to get maximum returns.
Imagine also if we were able to have the detailed production statistics on thousands upon thousands of modules – how powerful and useful that data might be for the future of the solar industry. We hope intuitive thinking such as this will provide a spark for more innovative thinking in solar technology.
All important question: what will it cost?
We’re well aware of the cost concerns in the solar industry, especially on the manufacturing side! We’re confident that given the capabilities of HEMOS technology, it will be very cost effective to implement – our target is a few cents per watt, or less than 1% of installation costs. Being as though we’re trying to improve accessibility and safety, it is very important that the technology make economic sense.
Recent developments in solar panel technology have been more focused on peripherals and not on the solar panels themselves. Witness the success of micro-inverters, optimizers, mounting systems, etc. – they have all tried to make solar panel installation more convenient and less expensive, to varying degrees of success.
We hope to bring innovation in the way people look at solar panels specifically. Right now they are singular in their purpose: sunlight equals electricity.
We’ve given the solar panel a brain. Now we just need to “teach” it how to act, and we’ve started by putting in an off switch. That in itself opens up several new possibilities as discussed – payment defaults, fire safety – but it can also be programmed to function in other ways as well. Anti-theft protection for example, can be programmed by having panels communicate with one another. “If you get separated from the group, shut down!” We can see how useful such commands can be, and we can’t wait to see what happens once the technology is in the hands of the people in this industry.
Think of where the automobile industry today wouldn’t be without proper financing. Where would it be without seat belts and airbags? Cars these days are safer, smarter, and more accessible than ever. They are equipped with kill switches of their own, onboard computers that provide diagnosis every second, and continue to innovate in ways beyond “more horsepower” or “go faster”. Solar panels have stayed roughly the same for over 20 years. Our hope is to help make solar power truly accessible to the average consumer and to bring sincere innovation to change what solar power can really do.
Leto Solar is a Research and Development company that was founded in 2008 with the intention of introducing innovative new ideas into the US solar market. The company took root during the massive growth phase of solar manufacturing, helping smaller factories become successful with a “Virtual Vertical Integration” model of supply and demand. At a time when major manufacturers were becoming increasingly vertically integrated, Leto Solar sought to level the playing ground by reducing overhead maintenance costs and helping smaller firms partner up to source raw materials in a more efficient manner. The system saw the company become one of the world’s largest suppliers of raw materials at the time.
It was during this time that the company noticed the large discrepancy in solar panel manufacturing – namely the lack thereof in the United States. The diminishing manufacturing industry in the US became a primary concern as Leto Solar sought to bring high quality American made product back to American shores. As anti-dumping and countervailing pressure on the international trade of modules increased, the company introduced the “Cloud Manufacturing” factory model whereby the competitive manufacturing advantage of the Far East was leveraged to bring part of the solar panel creation process back into the US. Leto Solar helped establish several micro-factories throughout the country.
The company’s philosophy has always been one of marrying innovation and market needs to find creative solutions for the improvement of the solar industry. The company has since then moved on to more diverse Research and Development opportunities, this time with HEMOS technology, having observed another opportunity for some critical thinking in solar power.
The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag
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