Akeena Solar to Sell Panels at Lowe’s

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Akeena stock soaring to the highest level in almost five months

News this morning that Akeena Solar will sell its Andalay AC solar panels at Lowe’s home improvement stores in California sent Akeena stock soaring to the highest level in almost five months. Akeena rose 48 cents, or 48 percent, to $1.47 a share as of 12:25 pm EST.

As described in a previous GetSolar post (see link above), Andalay panels are unique in that they each come with micro-inverter, which inverts DC power to AC power near the source of production — that is, on the solar panel, or module, itself. In a conventional solar PV installation, the inverter is centralized. Generally speaking, DC power from the solar array flows from the panels, is converted to AC power at the inverter, and then flows into the building’s wiring. Akeena’s Andalay panels flips this conventional approach on its head, promising faster and easier installation, and potentially higher efficiency. Plus, they look pretty cool, too (see link above).

Nevertheless, I remain somewhat wary of all those micro-inverters. What happens if one falters? Does the entire system go down? Is power output affected? Presumably, a technician would have to come to the site and check each panel, one by one, to isolate and replace the faulty micro-inverter. So while upfront installation costs may be lower, I wonder what the operation and maintenance costs of these panels will be compared to a conventional PV setup.

In the end, perhaps I’d be wise to defer to the folks at Popular Mechanics, who earlier this year awarded Akeena’sinnovative new panels with a Breakthrough Product Award.

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