SMA Solar cancels charges to PV system monitoring service

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Leading inverter manufacturer, SMA Solar Technology has moved to offer PV operators and owners free access to its online monitoring platform with its latest range of Sunny Boy Inverters. 

The company is bundling its Webconnect technology as a standard feature in all of its current Sunny Boy inverters up to 6kW, which will allow access to the company’s Sunny Portal platform free of charge. 

The inverter manufacturer believes that its online energy management platform is beneficial to both consumers and installers. Owners of the solar system are able to monitor its yield as well as access historic data to build a fuller picture of their energy generation. While operators of solar arrays can monitor energy generation and help identify any potential incidents.

Falko Schmidt, product manager at SMA explained: “First, Sunny Places, the community portal for PV systems, offers homeowners the option of not only keeping an eye on their own PV system data, but also comparing it to that of other PV system operators. In addition, system monitoring with Sunny Portal, the world’s largest online portal for PV systems, offers infinite options for analysing data and visualising yields.”

However, a persistent bugbear for PV system owners has been the need to pay an annual fee to access data. 

Rival companies such as Enphase provide the service free with the use of its microinverter technology, which in the US has a dominant market share in the residential rooftop space. 

According to Sam Wilkinson, PV research manager at IHS, SMA Solar’s global market share was estimated to have fallen to just over 10% in the second quarter of 2014, almost half of the share that it had held one year previously and significantly lower than the 32% share that it had held in the second quarter of 2012.

“As a resulted of a dampened outlook in a number of core markets and the continuation of highly competitive pricing, IHS currently predicts a slight decline in global inverter revenues in 2014, to US$6.7 million, noted Wilkinson to PV Tech. “This is clearly placing many suppliers in an extremely challenging position.”
Stiff competition in the inverter sector has intensified in recent years as more companies enter the market, which has been compounded by huge pressure to reduce balance of systems (BOS) costs as PV module costs decline as a percentage of overall system costs. 

According to IHS, SMA’s closest rivals in the second quarter of  2014, Omron and ABB, are both within 3 percentage points of displacing the market leader on a global scale for the first time.

The following inverters will be offered with free online monitoring: 

Sunny Boy TL in power classes 3 to 6 kW
Sunny Boy TL Single Tracker in 2.5 and 3 kW versions
Sunny Boy 240 micro inverter
Sunny Boy Smart Energy with 3.6 and 5 kW
Sunny Boy devices in power classes 1.3 to 2.1 kW

SMA Solar UK will be demonstrating a broad range of products designed for all system sizes at this year’s Solar Energy UK (SEUK)in a few weeks. 

Additional reporting by Mark Osborne, senior news editor, PV Tech

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