In an experiment to sort out the differences between manufacturers' claims of individual component performance and the real-life delivery of installed photovoltaic collector arrays, one California electrical contractor has built a test facility on top of its headquarters. Mimicking a Silicon Valley-style wine tasting, the goal is to test multiple vendors' solar products.
"We are testing different components in side-by-side analysis, [which] can be compared to computer models," says Saurabh Samdani, the project development engineer at Cupertino Electric Inc., San Jose, Calif., who came up with the models. "The individual components will perform a certain way in a lab, and they'll perform a certain way in their individual cut sheet. But when you assemble them in real life, the results are always different. That's why we're doing it."