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SolarCity's New Toys: Web Monitoring 2.0 & Slick Panel Mounts

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Residential solar installer SolarCity is looking to differentiate itself from the herd of other installers serving homeowners in the West with its SolarGuard 2.0, an upgrade to its online monitoring service, and Canopy, a new panel mounting system. The Foster City, Calif.-based startup showed off the two new features at the Solar Power International Conference in San Diego on Wednesday.

SolarCity will roll out SolarGuard 2.0, an upgrade to its web-based monitoring service that allows customers to check energy production as well as local weather, carbon offsets and pollution reduction, later this fall. The beefed-up service includes demand monitoring, which overlays your panels’ energy generation on your home’s energy consumption. The revamped webware even starts working before your panels are on your roof by allowing users to track the progress of their installation online with updates starting with the initial site audit through permitting and installation to interconnection with the utility, providing some much needed transparency to the consumer.

The company’s new, proprietary mounting system, called the Canopy Mounting System, is designed to lower an installation’s physical profile and help it blend into the roof but from the press photo it looks like all the other installations we’ve seen. The use of quick-latch mechanisms should decrease the number of holes punched in the roof and speed up installation time and cut costs, SolarCity hopes. Canopy is already available to customers in California, Arizona and Oregon.

Will these upgrades be enough to lure customers to who might have otherwise gone with a competitor? Maybe. The Canopy system seems to be an evolution of solar mounting hardware rather than a revolution, and makes the same claims as Akeena’s own proprietary mounting system, Andalay system. Meanwhile, Fat Spaniel, a startup focused exclusively on web monitoring, already has a web portal that does much of what SolarGuard does. While we’re excited to see the competition heating up among the solar installers, we don’t yet have a clear best in class.

Image courtesy of SolarCity.