The Solar Power International conference is in two weeks, and one of the themes of the show looks like it will be photovoltaic balance of systems (BoS). The startups funded in the last few years looking to make a performance and cost impact in the solar electronics field are coming to market in a big way, and the leaders in microinverters (Enphase) and DC optimizers (SolarEdge) are going to see a bit more competition from now on.
Updated October 4, 9pm PT
Companies eIQ Energy and KACO New Energy will arm solar designers with a system-level solution for array wiring, from the module to the grid using pre-tested, pre-configured packages to enable easier design and inventory for arrays of 100 kilowatts to 300 kilowatts. Parallel Solar from eIQ uses DC power management technology in their DC-to-DC converter module, to allow connection of solar panels in parallel rather than in series. This architecture allows the connection of a large number of panels on a single cable run, reducing up-front solar array costs and providing more design flexibility, while boosting lifetime energy harvest with distributed MPPT.
Expect to hear the term 'AC Module' (ACM) a lot more, as well.
Here's a roundup of some of the recent announcements in this sector:
Enecsys will be demonstrating their microinverter at Solar Power International. Like microinverter company SolarBridge, Enecsys claims that their use of thin film capacitors instead of electrolytics allows them to provide 25-year product lifetimes. Microinverter supplier Enphase uses electrolytic capacitors. Other microinverter startups include Sparq Systems and Direct Grid.
Tigo Energy is working with Schott Solar. Tigo's DC-DC solar panel electronics can provide up to a 20 percent increase in solar system production. Schott Solar and other European solar manufacturers are going to need to differentiate themselves from the low-cost Chinese modules, and adding some intelligence to the panel with the Tigo product might be one way to do it.
National Semiconductor's power optimizer chipset will be shown at SPI working with products from Gesolar, Huber+Suhner, Onamba (the largest junction box manufacturer in Japan), and at Shoals Technologies Group.
Azuray Technologies is coming out of stealth. Funded by NEA ($13 million) and based in Portland, Oregon, Azuray builds Maximum Power Point Tracking DC-to-DC converter electronics that, like other solutions of this type, can provide up to 25 percent greater energy harvest from underperforming solar panels. The product also includes power-line communications and safety shut-off features. More details on Azuray will be coming soon.
GreenRay Solar's AC Module recently completed UL certification.
SunSil, based in Denmark, is building solar AC modules with a very unique architecture. The firm actually uses dynamic microcell controllers within the solar panel itself and performs Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) on the cells within the module itself. More on this company's product in a few days in Greentech Media's solar channel and SPI coverage.