DuPont just filed a patent-infringement lawsuit accusing SolarWorld, the German-based solar module manufacturer, of selling PV cells using a conductive paste that DuPont claims it invented, according to a Bloomberg article. DuPont, quoted by Bloomberg, said the patent issued in April covers a paste composition with improved electrical performance made by Heraeus and provided to SolarWorld’s U.S. unit, according to the complaint. DuPont alleges that "Heraeus and SolarWorld infringe DuPont U.S. Patent No. 8,158,504 B2, by manufacturing, selling and/or using Heraeus front-side silver pastes," according to a DuPont release.
Ben Santarris, spokesperson for SolarWorld, had no immediate comment in response to inquiries from Greentech Media.
DuPont is a member of the Global Solar Council, a lobbying organization "whose aim is to expand the global deployment of solar energy in a sustainable and cost-competitive way," according to its website. That doesn't put DuPont squarely against the SolarWorld/CASM trade complaint, but doesn't make the company an ally, either. The case is E.I. DuPont De Nemours & Co. v. Heraeus Materials Technology LLC, 12cv1104 and was filed in federal court in Portland, Oregon.
SMA's SunnyBoy 240 microinverter is finally making it out into the field in what we've described as the solar industry’s most reluctant new product introduction. Ion Solar, an installer in Tulsa, Oklahoma has been chosen to demo the new microinverter from the world's PV inverter market share leader.
The SMA microinverter was introduced at Solar Power International in Dallas last year and is not designed for more than a 2-kilowatt system. SMA, by far the market share leader in the $6.9 billion photovoltaic inverter market, acquired microinverter IP from OKE Services in 2009.
Jurgen Krehnke, President and General Manager of SMA America, told Greentech Media last year, “The SMA microinverter can easily scale above 2 kilowatts. However, we believe microinverters are not cost effective above this limit. Microinverters are excellent for difficult roof orientations, starter systems, and small applications, but once you get above 2 kilowatts, microinverters are not cost-competitive with leading string inverters and the performance gains, as shown by independent testing, don’t warrant the extra expenditure required for large systems." Krehnke adds, "We are very excited about the future launch of the product. It will feature multiple features that are new to the microinverter market and it will offer significant advantages for installers. We don’t see the microinverter as a one-size-fits-all solution, which is why others perceive a lack of enthusiasm. For SMA, it expands our extensive product portfolio, which provides integrators with the ability to optimize every project, from small residential to utility scale."
This would seem to fly in the face of the success of Enphase and its shipments of 1.8 million microinverters -- which has surely cut into SMA's market share. Enphase's microinverters are used in many installations larger than 2 kilowatts.
We've covered the potential benefits of distributed electronics at length in our solar coverage at Greentech Media. There are potential energy harvest gains, potential improvements in design flexibility, and potential reliability gains.
Lastly, something less than positive is afoot at Amonix. Spokespeople at the firm have been less than communicative, as have customers, Cogentrix and NextEra. But here are some observations:
The Amonix booth at SNEC in Shanghai was not populated.
We've heard from a vendor who is having difficulty collecting on money that Amonix owes them.
We've noticed a large number of senior Amonix employees showing up at other companies, including:
- Paul Russell, former SVP of engineering at Amonix (and still listed on the Amonix website), is now at Array Power, the solar distributed electronics firm.
- Geoffrey S. Kinsey, previously Senior Director of R&D at Amonix is now at The Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems as the Director of its Photovoltaic Technologies Group.
Amonix laid off 76 employees last month.
We've also heard unconfirmed reports that disturbing numbers of the Amonix 7700 trackers at the Alamosa and Hatch installations are stowed and not operating due to quality issues in manufacturing. The Alamosa CPV site is funded by a $90 million DOE loan guarantee to developer Cogentrix.
Amonix has raised approximately $140 million in venture capital from Kleiner Perkins, Adams Street Partners, Angeleno Group, New Silk Route, PCG Clean Energy & Technology Fund, Vedanta Capital, Westly Group, and MissionPoint Capital Partners with the intention of scaling big and fast. That approach does not appear to be working in an era of very-low-cost flat-panel photovoltaics.
Sources close to the company indicate that the firm is seeking to close on more VC funding.