A few months ago, I wrote an article that discussed how the big U.S. residential solar installers, solar leasing, and residential PPA companies were not entirely comfortable with the new breed of distributed electronics, be they microinverters or DC-to-DC approaches. Utility applications were not within reach of these technologies either.

Michael Schenck, the Manager of Advanced Power Conversion at First Solar, said, "Advanced technology doesn't play well with utilities," when asked about his firm's comfort with panel-level electronics like microinverters and DC-DC boost products. Schenck said that First Solar would need to see a lot more details and quantification before making the leap to distributed electronics. 

Danny Kennedy, founder of Sungevity, said, "String inverters and silicon modules do a very good job in most cases."

Matt Eggers, the VP of Operations at SunRun, focused on the soft costs of installation and noted that although they're "excited" about new Balance of System (BoS) hardware, they too have refrained from switching over to distributed electronics. Eggers said, "We're a PPA company and the warranties have to be there." Another SunRun spokesperson said that the firm's designs use "mostly string inverters with a small amount of microinverters." 

Jason Kaminsky, SPG Solar's Manager of Advanced Technologies, confirmed that his firm has not yet switched to these advanced technologies.

In fact, the hundreds of thousands of units shipped by Enphase, SolarEdge, or Tigo have gone through smaller installers in the long tail.

That is now officially starting to change.

I recently spoke with the Guy Sella and Lior Handlesman, founders and leaders at SolarEdge, and they informed me that SolarCity was starting to deploy their distributed MPPT technology after a long bout of testing.

Jonathan Bass of SolarCity confirmed this, saying, "Yes, we do a custom design for each project and we do use SolarEdge in some situations when we think it can deliver solid ROI for the customer, most often if we encounter scattered or sweeping shade or when there are multiple roof planes for a relatively small installation."

So, panel-level electronics are out of the closet and on the rooftop installations of one of the biggest installers in the country.

SolarEdge, with tens of millions of megawatts shipped in 2010, expects its business to triple in 2011.

Tags: balance of plant, balance of system, balance of systems, bos, distributed electronics, enphase, maximum power point tracking, mppt, solarcity, solaredge, sungevity, sunrun, tigo, tigo energy