Advanced by Design
Just like all other solar systems, the exact amount of power produced each year depends on the weather conditions in the area in which it is installed. According to the output expectancy map to the left, it shows the amount of power you can expect to get out of the 2.5kW array.
First, the smartflower tracks the sun from dawn to dusk, ensuring that its solar panels are always at a 90-degree angle to the sun, optimizing the radiation it receives, unlike most other solar setups. Smartflower does this through a GPS tracking device aligned to the specific longitude and latitude of the site where it is installed. This precise tracking can increase productivity by as much as 40%.
Second, the smartflower’s unique design allows for natural cooling of its solar panels. Rather than positioning the panels close to a roof or the ground, the smartflower’s panels are elevated and naturally cooled by the air that passes behind each of its panels throughout the day. This natural cooling can increase each panel’s productivity by as much as 10%, depending on the region in which the smartflower is installed.
Third, the smartflower automatically self-cleans its panels every morning and every evening. Each of the panels cleans the panel beneath it each time the smartflower opens or closes, using the long brush on its outer under edge. This allows the smartflower to avoid loss in production that typically occurs with other solar PV devices, which naturally become dirty over time. This automatic cleaning feature improves productivity by another 1-2%.
The best measurement of productivity is the kilowatt hour, usually shown as kWh. A smartflower typically produces anywhere from from3,800 to over 6,200 kWh per year, depending on where it is located. Particularly sunny climates, like Arizona desert cities, will produce at the top of the range. More temperate climates with fewer sunny days like in the Midwest or Northeast will most likely produce in the lower half of that range.
In the United States and Canada, most homes consume more electricity in a year than can be produced by one smartflower or the typical rooftop system. And certainly the same is true for most American and Canadian businesses. For most homes and businesses, which are already connected to the grid, a solar system serves to reduce, not eliminate, the customer’s reliance on the grid.
For those customers who are focused on entirely meeting meet their electricity requirements from a renewable source they control, the best approach is to use several smartflowers or to pair smartflowers with other renewable energy generators, like a wind turbine, geothermal, or even rooftop or ground-mounted solar panels.
One smartflower may, however, provide more than enough energy to power a cabin, cottage or tiny house. One smartflower may also provide enough electricity to power a remote agricultural watering station, a highway rest stop, an electric bike re-charger, or a myriad of other uses that do not have heavy energy needs. For all of these customers, their limited energy requirements can be fully satisfied by the smartflower.
At the moment, energy production is determined by reviewing the information provided by the control box inside the smartflower. Within the next few months, all smartflowers will be upgraded to allow for remote monitoring. That means, using a smartphone/tablet, the owner and/or the dealer may determine the energy production and whether there are any problems from virtually anywhere in the world.
Installation requires a SmartFlower certified technician. The smartflower is already fully assembled before it reaches the installation location and, thus, is very simple to install. However, placement of the smartflower requires a crane or large forklift, and connection to the building’s distribution requires a licensed electrician. Additionally, to ensure proper setup of the smartflower, it is very important that the initial operational programming be performed by a certified technician. For the warranties to apply we do require that a certified technician handle the installation.
There is no general rule on what, if any, permit or other approval may be needed for installation, as the applicable governmental requirements vary from location to location and site to site.
For most jurisdictions in the United States, it is likely that some form of permit will be required and setback requirements satisfied. Unless the customer wishes to do it themselves, the authorized smartflower re-seller will research and obtain any necessary permitting for your location.
Heavy wind conditions: In heavy wind conditions, the smartflower is designed to protect itself before there is a problem. If winds reach 29 mph, the smartflower panels automatically move into horizontal position (Safety Position 1) to allow the wind to pass over and under them but the smartflower remains open to continue producing energy. If the winds reach 39 mph or higher the panels automatically fold up and down into secure position (Safety Position 2). So long as the smartflower has been properly installed, it should remain secure in its closed position, even in hurricane force winds.
Hail: The smartflower has been tested under significant hail conditions and easily passed the test.
Heavy Snow: The smartflower’s tracking movement over the course of the day and its self-cleaning function give it the special advantage of automatically removing snow before it builds up. If there is very heavy snow that builds up during the night while the smartflower is closed, it may be necessary to remove the snow in front of the closed unit before the panels begin to open in the morning.
Extreme Temperatures: The smartflower has been tested to confirm full operation at temperatures as hot as 104 degrees Fahrenheit and as cold as -4 degrees Fahrenheit. At extreme temperatures outside of that wide range, the smartflower may have some diminished operation but should not be permanently harmed.
The area needed for effective operation will be determined by your installer. They will perform a site assessment that includes a shading analysis, which is key to determining whether nearby trees or buildings might cast shade on the smartflower at some point during the day. Since each site is different, there is no definitive answer, but of course the more unblocked or un-shaded access to the sunlight, the better. At a minimum, for installation and safety, the smartflower must have a clear area of 16 feet around it.
Maintenance is required every two years—this is mandatory to preserve the warranty from SmartFlower North America (SFNA). It typically involves no more than lubrication of certain moving parts, checking to ensure all connections are secure, and upgrading the system software as necessary. The maintenance should be performed by a certified technician.
We are in the process of determining the right inverter and battery combination for the North American market. As a result, we have not yet determined the battery capacity that will be available. Our current plan is to have the smartflower plus ready for sale no later than late fall 2018.
At a high level, energy from the sun is collected by the solar panels on your roof and converted into electricity. This electricity from the panels, which are made up of photovoltaic cells, is in “direct current” (DC) form, which needs to be converted into “alternating current” (AC) electricity that you currently use in your home. This AC/DC conversion is made by a component called an inverter, which is included with your system. The inverter then channels the usable electricity into your existing power meter, and it can then be used to power your home. When your system generates energy in excess of your home’s needs, that extra power is sent back into the grid (a process called “net metering”) which in turn lowers the cost of your utility bill. Clean energy + savings!
Since the amount of power your solar system generates is a direct result of sunlight, it will produce slightly less energy when the weather is cloudy and will not produce any energy at night. Your home will continue to be connected to your local utility grid, so that you can automatically begin to draw power from the grid whenever you need it. You won’t experience any power interruptions; the switch between solar system power and the utility grid happens seamlessly, with nothing to do on your end.