Here's a quick roundup of some of the newer names in the already-overcrowded solar power conditioning market:
Startup Array Converter has generated some Silicon Valley buzz over the last few quarters with its name on the lips of many investors in the solar sector. The company has received funding from Trident Capital, Firelake Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Partech International. The chairman of the firm is Kevin Surace, the CEO of Serious Materials.
The CEO of the firm, Wendy Arienzo, writes: "Array Converter converts the DC output of a photovoltaic panel to turbine quality, three-phase AC using a simple yet disruptive topology. My vision is to make Array Converter the de facto choice for three-phase AC solar energy generation."
The firm talks about "inverterless-less solar power" and its job openings include a technical product line manager for its SCADA offering. The president of the firm, Kent Kernahan, has a 2008 patent granted for a pulse amplitude modulated current converter (PAMCC), which might be part of the secret sauce here.
SunSil is a Danish startup driving electronics deep into the solar module itself. The firm is doing maximum power point tracking (MPPT) at the cell level.
TenKsolar is also doing intra-module power conditioning in tandem with a reflector. The firm is UL and IEC certified and started shipments in late August with real revenue in September and a six-month backlog. The firm believes it has "cracked the code for a highly efficient, highly reliable, low cost, intelligent module."
The solar inverter market will be close to $5 billion in 2010 but microinverters represent just a few percentage points of that market.
Yet Paul Nahi, the CEO of Enphase was quoted in the WSJ as saying in an uncharacteristically hubristic moment, “I think that central inverters will be a small niche in the next four to five years. It’s clear that the movement toward a microinverter is a directional shift in the industry that cannot be stopped."
Things are going well at Enphase -- they are fresh off of funding and sales success. But I'll bet that central inverters are still dominant in terms of dollars in four to five years. Enphase is the overwhelming market leader in microinverters, having shipped more than 400,000 units since their founding. The leader in panel optimizers is SolarEdge with year-to-date units shipped of more than 100,000 units.
The field continues to attract new players:
Involar is the first grid-tied PV microinverter manufacturer in the Chinese and Asian market. It's worth considering the impact of a China-based player on Enphase's momentum.
ST Microelectronics announced a distributed MPPT chip in June. ST recently entered a joint venture with Sharp and Enel for production of innovative PV panels.
Sustainable Energy Technologies is a Canadian player with "extra low-voltage" inverters that enable massively parallel arrays targeting thin film installations.
Wipro, an India-based firm, just announced that it has developed a module optimizer, as well.