SPI 2011: More microelectronics comes out of the shade

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Other than module mountings nuts and bolts, microinverters and power inverters are one of the smallest components that could be used in a PV system installation. However, the market for these microelectronics-dependent little marvels experienced 500% growth in 2010, according to a recent IMS Research report and they continue to punch above their weight. 
 
The US residential market was an early adopter and continues to be the major market. Not surprisingly then that Solar Power International (SPI) in Dallas, Texas, is the key launch pad for new entrants and the latest innovations in this hot sector. 

Azuray Technologies

A relatively new entrant came out of the shade with new products – just before SPI – in the form of Azuray Technologies. In Booth 1455 Azuray is showcasing its DC-DC power optimizer and AC160 solar module performance monitor.

The two new products provide a shading solution that monitors and optimizes an entire solar array. The neat aspect is that installers can decide on whether shade compensation is required by using the AP260 power optimizer or whether module performance monitoring is all that is needed by selecting the AC160.

“Both products communicate with the ACM300 (communications gateway) to provide a full complement of optimization, safety, and monitoring features,” noted Gil Miller, Azuray’s VP of business development. “This gives our customers the same level of extreme reliability and energy harvest in a smarter, more cost-effective solution.”

Azuray claims that its AP260 and AC160 use automotive-grade components, which are rated to 85°C, and are designed to handle 25 years of operation in the harsh temperature environments where extreme thermal cycling is common. The products are said to be compatible with all major solar inverters and solar modules. As others in the field, Azuray claims improved solar energy harvesting of up to 25%.

Enphase Energy

Market leader Enphase Energy, due in part to its first-mover advantage, is celebrating in Dallas – the shipment of its millionth microinverter, a significant milestone for the company. Those liking to get their hands dirty can try installing microinverters for themselves on a life-sized demonstration array.

A market not originally envisioned for these products was the utility market but claimed reliability issues of central inverters have opened a window of opportunity for the technology in this market.

Using the show as another demonstration opportunity, visitors going to the company's Booth 2009 can see a preview of Enlighten 3.0, Enphase’s new monitoring and analysis features for large PV installations. However, the editor’s pick at PV-Tech would be to visit the booth around 3 p.m on Wednesday, October 19th as they are hosting an Ice Cream Party. We are not sure why, although it could be to prove the ruggedness of their products should you accidently drop a scoop of the creamy stuff on the demonstration models!

Enecsys

Flying the microinverter flag for the UK in Dallas is Cambridge-based Enecsys. Enecsys will be demonstrating at Booth 511 how microinverters outperform string inverters for service life, reliability and energy harvest.

One of the key features of Enecsys’ product offering is that they do not employ electrolytic capacitors, seen by some as the most life-limiting component. According to Enecsys, their microinverters deliver full performance from -40ºC to +85ºC ambient temperature and operate at up to 96% efficiency and also come with a 20-year warranty.

Also being showcased are the company's Duo models, available in 360W and 480W versions, which support fully distributed MPPT of two connected solar modules and convert their DC output to AC power. Enecsys Duo microinverters are claimed to make the capital cost of microinverter-based solar PV installations comparable to those based on string inverters.

ArrayPower

ArrayPower made the wise decision to officially launch its new Sequence Inverter technology before SPI, rather than during the event. Targeting the commercial-scale installion market and module manufacturers to have the product fully integrated during the module production process, ArrayPower claims that the Sequence Inverter also eliminates the use of liquid capacitors and therefore extends the systems lifetime to over 25 years. Importantly, Sequenced Inverter-equipped modules are claimed to improve the overall system performance by pulsing and sequencing power across the entire array to create three-phase commercial grade AC power.

“The countless hours of research and development we’ve dedicated to our Sequenced Inverter technology now enable ArrayPower to optimize the cost, safety and performance of solar systems through a ‘plug-and-play’ AC module,” said Wendy Arienzo, CEO of ArrayPower. “With our solution, solar manufacturers can produce an efficient, highly durable AC module that is economically attractive for commercial installations.”

ArrayPower said it would provide an official overview of its sequenced inverter technology at SPI.

Upsolar 

Though early days, for integrated microinverters there would seem to be a trend under way. Upsolar at Booth 2127 will be displaying its AC Module (ACM), featuring Enphase microinverter technology. Combined with a mounting and grounding system from Zep Solar, Upsolar claims that its ACM enables a significant reduction in both the balance of systems costs and installation time.

Thinking ahead and matching lifetime requirements, the Upsolar ACM and Enphase microinverter are being offered with 25-year warranties on their respective technologies.

Canadian Solar

Major module manufacturer Canadian Solar is also getting into the act, launching its Intelligrated Power module series at SPI. At Booth 2516, you should be able to get a sneak look at the new product, dubbed CommercialAC, which is the first three-phase grid-ready AC solar module and inverter combination designed specifically for commercial installations, according to Canadian Solar.

The module manufacturer said it has developed a new hot spot suppression technology that eliminates diodes, making their offering more reliable and durable than standard microinverters. These are also backed up with 25-year warranties. The Intelligrated Power CommercialAC modules will be available in early 2012.

SolarBridge Technologies

Continuing with the ACM theme and module-integrated microinverters, SolarBridge Technologies had already launched its frame-attached version of its ‘Pantheon’ microinverter at Intersolar North America in July. The company has teamed with several module manufacturers so it wouldn’t be a surprise if more converts were announced around show time. The frame-attached Pantheon microinverter should be on display at SolarBridge’s Booth 4316 at SPI.

More to come?

Although we didn’t get to talking about the likes of Tigo Energy, National Semiconductor, Direct Grid, SolarEdge or eIQ here, that doesn’t mean there won't be more announcements for the growing number of microinverter and DC-DC optimizer players during the show.

According to IMS Research, 45% of microinverters and 40% of power optimizers will be shipped in combination with a module in 2015, so there is much more to come from this segment of the PV market.

Update 1. 

AU Optronics

Billed as its flagship product for the US market, AU Optronics is launching its AC Unison solar PV solution at Solar Power International 2011. Partnering with microinverter companies, SolarBridge and SunWize, AUO is offering an AC Unison module with an integrated microinverter as well as a monitoring system, which reports real-time power performance on a module level. 

“We are pleased to announce that one-stop shopping has been made possible with the AC Unison system, AUO’s first complete solar solution,” commented James Chen, Vice President of AUO Solar Business Group. “Solar installers in the U.S. can now buy the AC Unison System from their Distributors and enjoy its integrated simplicity, cost effectiveness, quality, and performance, all in one package.”
 
AC Unison modules are said to employ parallel wiring that avoids high DC voltage.  The monitoring system includes the AUO Data Logger. Via the AUO Solar Web Portal, customers get instant access to current and historical power output information in statistical or graphical formats.  
 
AUO’s GreenTriplex PM250M00, series of modules is employed with the AC Unison package and now has a power output of up to 270Wp with 16.5% module efficiency.
 
AUO is also showcasing at booth 4500 in Hall D, its soon-to-be-released EcoDuo PM290P00 module, which is specially designed for large-scale utility applications. These modules will have power output of 290Wp and can be mounted in portrait or landscape orientation, according to the company.

 

 

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