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Research Papers: Design for Manufacture and the Life Cycle

Examining the Influence of Solar Panel Installers on Design Innovation and Market Penetration

[+] Author and Article Information
Ekaterina Sinitskaya

Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Building 530, 440 Escondido Mall,
Stanford, CA 94305-3030
e-mail: katesini@stanford.edu

Kelley J. Gomez

Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Building 530, 440 Escondido Mall,
Stanford, CA 94305-3030
e-mail: kjgomez@stanford.edu

Qifang Bao

Mechanical Engineering,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: qfbao@mit.edu

Maria C. Yang

Mechanical Engineering,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
77 Massachusetts Avenue,
Cambridge, MA 02139
e-mail: mcyang@mit.edu

Erin F. MacDonald

Mechanical Engineering,
Stanford University,
Building 530, 440 Escondido Mall,
Stanford, CA 94305-3030
e-mail: erinmacd@stanford.edu

1Corresponding author.

Contributed by the Design for Manufacturing Committee of ASME for publication in the JOURNAL OF MECHANICAL DESIGN. Manuscript received April 9, 2018; final manuscript received December 16, 2018; published online January 11, 2019. Assoc. Editor: Harrison M. Kim.

J. Mech. Des 141(4), 041702 (Jan 11, 2019) (14 pages) Paper No: MD-18-1303; doi: 10.1115/1.4042343 History: Received April 09, 2018; Revised December 16, 2018

This work uses an agent-based model to examine how installers of photovoltaic (PV) panels influence panel design and the success of residential solar energy. It provides a novel approach to modeling intermediary stakeholder influence on product design, focusing on installer decisions instead of the typical foci of the final customer (homeowners) and the designer/manufacturer. Installers restrict homeowner choice to a subset of all panel options available, and, consequentially, determine medium-term market dynamics in terms of quantity and design specifications of panel installations. This model investigates installer profit-maximization strategies of exploring new panel designs offered by manufacturers (a risk-seeking strategy) versus exploiting market-tested technology (a risk-averse strategy). Manufacturer design decisions and homeowner purchase decisions are modeled. Realistic details provided from installer and homeowner interviews are included. For example, installers must estimate panel reliability instead of trusting manufacturer statistics, and homeowners make purchase decisions based in part on installer reputation. We find that installers pursue new and more-efficient panels over sticking-with market-tested technology under a variety of panel-reliability scenarios and two different state scenarios (California and Massachusetts). Results indicate that it does not matter if installers are predisposed to an exploration or exploitation strategy—both types choose to explore new panels that have higher efficiency.

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Figures

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Fig. 1

Major attributes of the model and agents' decision processes

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Fig. 2

Information available to manufactures, installers, and homeowners

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Fig. 3

Probability of homeowner accepting PV proposal, given rate of return (irr) and level of income

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Fig. 4

Probability of homeowner accepting PV proposal, given rate of return (irr) and different levels of parameters

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Fig. 5

Overall market behaviors in both CA and MA scenarios

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Fig. 6

CA scenario: three approaches to estimating panel reliability and the efficiency choices by installers

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Fig. 7

CA scenario: the changes of hit percent and price per watt (top panel), and accumulated percentage of installations (lower panel) over time

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Fig. 8

MA scenario: the changes of hit percent and price per watt (top panel), and accumulated percentage of installations (lower panel) over time

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Fig. 9

Factors that determine market outcomes in the presence of different decision processes by installers and homeowners

Tables

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