On the Floor at RE+: $12/module recycling, Tesla Powerwall III specs, EV vegetation management, and more


At the RE+ conference in Las Vegas, Swap Robotics showcased its electric, solar-powered vegetation mower. Rather than selling the mowers, the company rents them with their trained site clearing crews. Among their current projects is a 2,000-acre site managed by their traveling six-person team. It takes onsite technicians about five minutes to swap batteries, allowing the mower to run nearly 24/7. 

While the team addresses specific areas the robot might miss, the majority of vegetation is accessible due to the mower’s agile deck. The clever design extends the deck several feet to the left, so that it can reach beneath the solar racking where the main body cannot fit.

Company representatives at the booth mentioned that since its inception, Swap Robotics has secured $9 million in vegetation management contracts. They anticipate a potential for a $50 billion annual market in vegetation trimming by 2040.

The SnakeTray, an elevated wiring system, eliminates the need for trenching. Its open air and spread-out design result in better cooling, so there’s no need to reduce the power capacity of the cables. The company also claims this design can lead to an up to 8% increase in electricity generation.

After connecting with Tor “Solar Fred” Valenza, he guided pv magazine USA to Maxeon’s booth to showcase their stunning all-black residential solar module. However, two features stood out, apart from the module itself. The first feature was the company’s 40 year solar module warranty, which not only covers the module but also the labor costs for its replacement, should any issues arise.

This remarkable warranty can be attributed to a second striking feature, shown in the above image: the “Interdigitated Back Contact” of the company’s solar cells. The backside of these solar cells contain an intricate, highly durable copper layer that collects electricity with exceptional efficiency and longevity.

Tor also briefed pv magazine USA on the company’s newly launched solar module with a 24.7% efficiency rating. This positions it alongside the soon-to-be-released 25% product from 3Sun and Aiko Solar’s 24% efficiency 620-watt module, both leaders in solar module efficiency.

In other news, Tesla has unveiled its Powerwall III, set to hit the market next summer. The unit will be DC-coupled with Tesla’s solar inverter, utilizing the inverter for grid connectivity. The combined solar and battery inverter can deliver up to 11.5 kWac of power. To expand the DC capacity, these batteries can be physically stacked. The alignment involves positioning a new unit in front of an existing one, anchored at a single attachment point, highlighted in red in the accompanying image. The inverter accommodates a solar module DC-to-inverter AC ratio of at least 1.7:1.

A particularly enlightening discussion on the exhibit floor featured Nick Gotsev and Moises Aguirre from Ontility. Rather than discussing solar module sales, the duo highlighted the company’s dedication to module reuse and recycling. Informing pv magazine USA, Gotsev detailed their innovative module recycling approach that costs approximately $12 per unit, with an additional transportation cost of $3 per module (when efficiently filling a shipping container).

Ontility prides itself on both recycling and recertifying older modules for resale. Gotsev and Aguirre highlighted a significant market demand from O&M teams and asset owners seeking replacements for damaged modules in older projects, especially when the sizes differ from current market offerings. Aguirre added that most reused modules still produce over 90% of their original rated output.

pv magazine USA will share more insights from attendees at the RE+ event in the upcoming weeks. Until the next RE+, here’s a wish: may your pallets be delivered free of damaged modules. If, however, there’s a mishap, consider transforming them into artwork or reach out to Ontility for recycling solutions.

All images (except for Grand Prix) taken by John Fitzgerald Weaver for pv magazine USA.

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