SunPower takes different track with smart modules: special interest group to set standards

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A special interest group (SIG), lead by SunPower has been formed with the aim of setting the set protocols and standards needed within the solar industry to enable lower total system costs, an ongoing issue with respect to distributed power control systems (DPCS). SolarBridge Technologies and Tigo Energy have already joined the task force and the group are encouraging others to join.

“As a technology leader, SunPower is pleased to spearhead this much needed leadership, establishing a protocol that will help to drive down total system costs and ensure a level of universal compatibility,” said Jim Pape, SunPower president, residential and commercial business group. “We welcome our founding partners, SolarBridge and Tigo, and look forward to other companies joining this new industry cooperative.”

Microinverters and power optimizers are a rapidly emerging market, according to a recent report from IMS Research, the market is could reach US$1.5 billion in revenues over the next five years with device shipments growing 100% per year, totalling more than 16 million units.

However, no standards are in-place that help advanced electronics to be integrated into modules, adding development and implementation costs to modules. The new SIG also hopes to set protocols for plug and play criterion for mechanical connections and communications protocols between the solar panels and distributed control systems.

SunPower said that a compatibility roadmap and implementation plan that focuses on existing known issues would also be developed. These currently include cost and ease of field serviceability.

Major PV module competitor, Suntech has decided to take another track by establishing development and integration projects with several microinverter and energy harvesting firms, specifically to integrate these systems into its own modules. The reason for this may be to enter the market faster than its rivals in offering integrated smart modules.

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