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Flagship residential solar panel from LG breaks 21% efficiency, goes all black

LG is pushing out their upgraded “Neon R” and “Neon AC” solar panels to the residential solar market in the USA. The Neon R peaks at 365W and 21.1% efficiency in a 60 cell format. The Neon AC – with an integrated Enphase Microinverter – peaks at 330W and a 19.3% efficiency.

Both panels are available immediately.

These panels are part of a new wave of monocrystalline products (PERC and n-type) that have pushed efficiency levels up considerably from the standard 15% polysilicon products of a few years ago – while keeping pricing respectable for homeowners.

The Neon R has two variants – the standard, higher efficiency, Neon R and the more aesthetically consistent Neon R Black. The standard R ranges from 355-365W per panel, while the R Black ranges from 345-355W – peaking at 10W less and 20.6% efficiency. The two panels are the same otherwise.

The ‘Black’ panel exchanges the white backsheet – see below in the two images – for a more aesthetically pleasing black backsheet. The physics of backsheet color means that prettier solar panels will cost you about 2.4% less wattage. You will also pay more for the Neon R Black versus the standard.

Compared to most any other ‘black’ solar panel that is sold for aesthetics, the Neon R has one extra step up – they’ve moved all of electrodes to the backside of the solar cell. This does two things – first, the panel hides all that highly reflective silver making for a more consistent dark panel, and secondly, it increases the total amount of silicon solar cell that gets directly hit by sunlight. That increases efficiency.

The second solar panel announced was the Neon2 AC. The main pitch here is that we have an Enphase inverter, coming from the factory, attached to the solar panel. Individual solar panel electronics – hardware mainly from SolarEdge and Enphase – drive a majority of residential solar power installations. Having the hardware attached from the factory just makes sense.

This AC panel does not have the pure black face of the Neon R panel, however, it does have an electrode technology – called Cello – giving it an efficiency bump. The electrodes are actually thin and round – taking up less space, and reflecting photons in a way that they can potentially be recaptured by the solar cells behind them.

Additionally, moving to many busbars – 12 and 30 – from the industry standards that are around 3-5 busbars, also increases effective panel efficiencies by lowering losses. Incremental efficiency increases outside of the solar cell itself, like the electrodes here, really excite me.

One interesting data point I heard in the presentation was that LG’s warranty also covered the labor associated with replacing solar panels if one goes bad – up to $350 per panel replacement.

Elektrek’s Take

I’m writing about these panels because they excite me. LG was the first product that came into the market with a high-efficiency solar panel – 19%+ that was under $1/W. Before that, the only company I would go to for high-efficiency was SunPower and their price was much more expensive. Now a days, in larger volumes, if you’re buying direct from the company you can get the commercial non-black LG panel like this for under 50¢/W – and that panel is closer to 21% efficiency (10% more efficient than the 19% model I first saw in the spring of 2016).

Of course, LG is no longer the only company that you can buy a 20% efficient panel from at a reasonable price. I do really wonder how much availability there is of this panel and any other 20%+ panels..

If you want the highest level efficiency because you have limited roof space, give your contractor an elbow and ask them what this product costs. It’s worth the conversation.

Considering residential solar? Understand Solar will connect you with local contractors. Tweet me to pick apart quote.

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