Smartflower Photo voltaic
Within the residential
trade, one firm has charted a special path. It is producing photo voltaic electrical energy, not with rooftop panels or a standard floor mounted rack, however with photo voltaic powered sunflowers.
Smartflower Photo voltaic provides what it calls “sculptural” photo voltaic: an array of panels that unfurls within the morning, tracks the solar throughout the sky and folds up at night time. It seems to be like a big, mechanical flower. Smartflower turns photo voltaic into a press release in addition to a dialog piece and does each with a fairly easy set up course of. However whereas some clients might choose Smartflower’s look, it comes at a premium.
It is the value that makes Smartflower a less-than-perfect match for residential purposes. (The corporate sells principally to company purchasers, the place eye-catching photo voltaic arrays promote sustainability commitments.) Finally, you may get the identical output from rooftop panels for much less cash. That is unlucky as a result of Smartflower is a hanging and stylish little bit of high quality tools that comes with storage choices and warranties which might be first rate, although not the strongest within the subject. However since worth drives quite a lot of photo voltaic purchases, Smartflower will get a decrease rating.
Photo voltaic is a tough class to assessment. Due to the trade’s nature and the price of panels, this assessment does not depend on hands-on testing. Whereas I researched as totally as was possible, this assessment ought to solely be one a part of your individual analysis. It’s best to get a number of quotes, together with from native installers, earlier than signing any contract.
What do I get from Smartflower?
Smartflower is a big mechanical flower with photo voltaic panels for petals. The panels function with twin axis monitoring, which implies they comply with the solar to at all times face it at an excellent 90 levels. It has a peak capability of two.5 kilowatts, however as a result of they will at all times instantly face the solar, in accordance with CEO Jim Gordon, Smartflowers produce about 40% extra electrical energy than equally sized rooftop photo voltaic arrays. Smartflower’s web site says one system will produce 4,000 to six,500 kWh per 12 months, relying on climate and site.
Smartflower’s photo voltaic installations are floor mounted: The panels, inverter and elective battery are a part of one freestanding construction that’s delivered totally assembled. Set up is about as near plug-and-play as any main photo voltaic set up can declare. One Smartflower stands about 16 ft tall when its 12 photo voltaic petals are totally unfurled. The inverter is housed inside the pedestal (the “stem” of the Smartflower) and comes from both Fronius or Sunny Boy. The inverter can have an effectivity ranking of 96.5%, stated Gordon. That is close to the very best performing inverters available on the market.
Smartflower additionally provides a Smartflower Plus, which incorporates power storage in SimpliPhi batteries: The three lithium-ion batteries maintain 11.4 kilowatts of power.
Smartflowers will open and shut mechanically to begin and finish every day, and they’ll shut within the occasion of excessive winds as measured by a wind meter the corporate installs about 10 ft from the photo voltaic array. At sustained gusts of 30 mph, Smartflower will lay horizontal however open; at 40 mph, the array will shut up and stow itself till it is secure to open once more. At any time when a Smartflower closes, it is usually cleaned through small, panel-safe brushes connected to its again that sweep the panel’s floor. You possibly can monitor the entire system by means of a smartphone app that means that you can view your power manufacturing and open and shut the system manually.
Smartflower is roofed by just a few warranties. The system is assured to supply at 80% of its rated manufacturing on the finish of 25 years. That is so long as main panel producer warranties, however the assured manufacturing is lower than some. The inverter is roofed by a 10-year guarantee, which is near different inverter warranties. The complete system is roofed by a two-year system guarantee, which takes care of upkeep.
You additionally get a press release piece on your residence. One criticism of photo voltaic panels (which I do not actually purchase) is that they are ugly. Smartflower is something however. Whereas I have never seen one in individual, images and movies of the installations may be actually hanging.
Is Smartflower Photo voltaic deal?
Buying a Smartflower is sure to be costlier than roof or floor mounted panels. In response to Gordon, most of Smartflower’s purchasers are industrial clients. In these instances, a big, hanging photo voltaic sculpture makes a visual assertion about an organization’s dedication to sustainability. Firms have been prepared to pay a premium for the messaging.
Gordon did not share a Smartflower’s worth, saying they differ from set up to set up, however talked about the fee was round $30,000 in a 2019 phase on the present This Previous Home. Whereas Smartflower does not simply examine to a rooftop photo voltaic set up, in case your motivation is to get solar energy for the most affordable potential worth, Smartflower is not your finest wager. With a worth of $30,000 and manufacturing close to 4.5 kilowatts, Smartflower prices over $6.50 per watt. That is nicely over the nationwide common for rooftop photo voltaic, which the power analysts at Wooden Mackenzie stated was $3.28 in 2021. (Different sources report decrease numbers.) EnergySage reported common set up prices by state ranged from $2.33 per watt in Arizona to $3.43 in Washington, DC.
While you buy a Smartflower, like different photo voltaic installations, you will be eligible to obtain the federal photo voltaic tax credit score.
Gordon agrees that Smartflower is not the most affordable choice on the market, however argues that worth per watt does not precisely replicate all the advantages of the system’s dual-axis monitoring. As a result of the system can shift to face the morning and the night solar, Smartflower is more likely to produce extra power at these instances of day in comparison with fastened arrays oriented south. This might be a bonus as extra utilities add time-of-use pricing that raises costs within the early night. Smartflower could possibly offset extra of the excessive price power than different photo voltaic choices. The extent of this benefit will rely upon the fastened array a Smartflower is changing, however fastened rooftop arrays will probably proceed to be the cheaper choice, even with Smartflower’s monitoring.
For some clients, there’s extra peace of thoughts that they will set up photo voltaic with out messing with their roof, Gordon stated. Whereas photo voltaic installers sometimes assure set up will not trigger leaks for plenty of years, a floor mount may be a sexy choice to householders who need to go photo voltaic earlier than changing their roof. Photo voltaic panels may be eliminated and reinstalled for roof repairs, however normally at a price.
Finally, individuals select Smartflower for its look and to generate electrical energy whereas making a press release about sustainability. Smartflower can add to the look of a house with out altering the looks of the particular construction, Gordon stated.
Does Smartflower function in my state? How do I order?
If you’d like Smartflower, you’ll be able to nearly definitely get it the place you’re: The corporate operates throughout america and installs Smartflowers all over the world.
Individuals fascinated about Smartflower can inquire on-line or with a cellphone name. The corporate then gives a digital presentation to reply product questions. As a result of there is not any have to verify on the standard of the roof, Smartflower may be sited remotely utilizing
Earth. (It wants a couple of 16-foot dice of free house to completely unfurl and monitor the solar.) The corporate then gives a written quote and, if the client accepts, a Smartflower is shipped to them.
Set up takes a median of half a day although many take much less, Gordon stated. Installers dig a trench and lay wires and conduit from the home to the Smartflower’s location. The Smartflower is anchored to the bottom with 4 giant screws, although in some instances it is put in on a beforehand poured cement basis. As a result of a Smartflower is just bolted to the bottom, it could simply be unbolted and moved to different areas. (It weighs 1,700 kilos, so “simply” is relative right here.)
As a result of Smartflower set up requires the identical abilities as putting in widespread tools like a generator, discovering certified installers throughout such a large geographical space is just not tough, Gordon stated. Smartflower trains and certifies all its installers.
Is Smartflower the only option?
When you’re on the lookout for photo voltaic on your residence, Smartflower will work finest for individuals who love the distinctive look or need to make a visual assertion about their power use. Whereas Smartflower is undeniably cool trying, for most householders rooftop panels or a floor mounted, fastened array goes to make extra sense from a strictly monetary perspective. It is probably twice as costly per watt than the common rooftop array.
Its warranties are sturdy, although not as sturdy as some rooftop panels and installers (this is not an important comparability anyway). The tools that makes up a Smartflower, whereas not probably the most extensively used within the trade, does the job nicely. When you love the look and have extra cash to spend although, you will not be capable to get Smartflower from every other firm.
It is price noting that whereas this text is totally researched, it does not depend on any empirical testing I’ve executed myself. It should not function a alternative for getting a number of quotes from native and nationwide installers to search out the photo voltaic resolution that most closely fits your wants and your property.