Top 10 PV Tech product reviews of 2013

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The complete lack of capital spending up and down the PV industry supply chain in 2013 had a significant impact on the number of new product introductions. Notable was the continued reduction in new product announcements at key industry events throughout the year.

Although Intersolar Europe and Solar Power International in America have historically been the most popular times to launch new products, both experienced a significant drop in new products released. Indeed, SNEC in China and EU PVSEC in France this year were also markedly down on previous years, both of which favour new product launches for manufacturing equipment.

The lack of enthusiasm from equipment suppliers to launch new products permeated the way products were actually launched. This in general manifested itself in the form of minimalist information and lack of promotion.

A general trend was stumbling over new products almost by accident on company websites when PV Tech was collating product reviews for print editions of Photovoltaics International.

Therefore, compared to 2012, product reviews posted online at PV Tech were down around 35%. However, a number of products lacking adequate information did get news coverage instead.

Once again, using Google Analytics we have compiled the Top 10 most popular new products launched in 2013, based on page views. It is perhaps worth noting as we have in the past that product reviews can typically have a much longer ‘shelf life’ than a typical news story. This manifests itself in having an initial peak of page views in the timeframe the review was posted online but then can continue to have spikes of interest for more than a year and in some circumstances can receive sufficient page view numbers to be listed in the following year’s Top 10 rankings.

This means it is almost impossible to gauge what products proved to be the most interesting to readers until we undertake the data crunching at the end of each year.

Therefore it was surprising to see several products in the rankings this year, notably the one that came out on top.

The tenth most popular new product was SMA Solar’s ‘Cluster Controller’, designed for the monitoring and control of decentralised PV power plants using string inverters up to 1MW capacity.

It should be noted that SMA has consistently been a manufacturer that takes the time and effort to provide more than sufficient product information when products are launched and is a good example to others.

Ranked in ninth position was a team effort from Meyer Burger and LayTec that announced the first fully integrated EVA cross-linking metrology solution that eliminated the need for destructive off-line testing.

In eighth position was Hanwha Q CELLS ‘Q.PRO-G3’ series PV module that marked the first new product under its new ownership and benefited from PV Tech stumbling across it at a UK-based exhibition, Ecobuild. Not only did we receive sufficient information to review we had the opportunity with video camera in hand to undertake an interview with Thomas Raadts, head of marketing and product management at the company.

Following the PV module theme, the launch of First Solar’s 'Series 3' CdTe thin-film module proved popular and was ranked seventh and was the only thin-film product of any description that made the cut. The Series 3 Black is marked the milestone for the thin-film leader in having conversion efficiencies of 13%.

At number six in the rankings was one the surprises. Sol Voltaics’ gallium arsenide nanomaterial, which claimed to be low-cost ink process for solar cells, garnered significant interest from readers.

Covered in May, 2013 the start-up has not been active in revealing much else about itself other than giving a presentation at EU PVSEC on its technology. Sol Voltaics had said previously that it anticipated producing functional solar cells with gallium arsenide nanowires for demonstration by the end of 2013, yet a quick check of their website did not confirm that claim.

Moving on to number five in the rankings we find Enecsys’ second generation microinverter. This proved to be another surprise listing as the dominant player is Enphase and have been regularly in the news all year as microinverter technology becomes more popular. In contrast, Enecsys has been relatively quite in 2013.

That said, Enecsys’ new iteration was designed to handle higher output modules and was scalable to 300W AC that continued to enable its use with high-performance modules typically used in residential rooftop installations.

A further leap in page views was garnered by SoLayTec's 'InPassion' ALD system launch at EU PVSEC in 2012. We posted the review online in January 2013 and it proved to follow the pattern of having consistent page views throughout the year and was ranked fourth most popular new product. This was possibly helped by consistent PR on the technology’s capabilities, shared-out by its partners such as RENA and imec.

In third place was an AC module launched by Canadian Solar. The company had first launched an AC module at SPI in 2012 and the second generation version was launched in January 2013 employing higher performing modules. AC modules have garnered a lot of attention in the US market but less penetration elsewhere.

Just ahead of Canadian Solar in second place was Trina Solar with its 60-cell PDG5 frameless module, designed for harsh environmental conditions and came with PID-free attributes for commercial and utility-scale applications. Announced in February 2013 the product achieved a large number of page views and went on to receive the new International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 61730-2 standard certification with Class A Fire Safety from TUV Rheinland, the first manufacturer in Asia to have gained such accreditation.

The most popular new product in 2013 and by a wide margin to the others in this list, was Meyer Burger’s ‘SmartWire Connection Technology’. Compatible with all crystalline silicon cell technologies such as selective emitters, PERC and Heterojunction (HJT) cells in both p- and n-type silicon, the SWCT product offering was said to be able to produce 30 fine copper, generating up to 2,000 contact points per cell that provided a 5% power output gain over best-in-class three busbar technology, while importantly reducing production costs at the same time.

The company had made a series of next generation technology announcements over the last two-years but its SWCT product proved to be of the greatest interest from PV Tech’s readers this year.

With PV manufacturers expected to enter a period of capacity expansions and next-generation technology buys Meyer Burger has already garnered new tool orders in recent months and expects improved business conditions in 2014.

Top 10 PV Tech reviewed new products in 2014 are as follows:

1. Meyer Burger offers fine-line copper wires connect for 5% higher power output of solar cells
2. Trina Solar to offer its first dual rated frameless module for harsh conditions
3. Canadian Solar offers high-performance AC module for faster ROI
4. SoLayTec's 'InPassion' ALD system offers superior Al2O3 deposition in mass production
5. Enecsys’ second gen microinverter claims 33% improvement in maximum power output
6. Sol Voltaics’ gallium arsenide nanomaterial to be low-cost ink process for solar cells
7. First Solar’s 'Series 3' CdTe thin-film module platform offers harsh environment capability
8. Hanwha Q CELLS’ ‘Q.PRO-G3’ series module comes in a lighter and slimmer design
9. Meyer Burger and LayTec team on first fully integrated EVA cross-linking metrology solution
10. SMA’s ‘Cluster Controller’ can monitor 75 string inverters

Meyer Burger's SmartWire Connection Technology, the most-read product review of 2013.
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