The beginning of the industry trend toward 1,500-VDC inverters increased the buzz at Intersolar 2015 in San Francisco this July. Several companies touted mid-way narrow-range inverters that combine with the best of the wide 1,000-VDC components to yield more power than their competitors.
The inverter exhibition space was crowded with at least three dozen companies showing off their latest innovations targeting cost reduction, increased performance, and faster installation times.
Here are a few of the most eye-catching products. The companies are listed in alphabetical order.
New products from ABB include a family of rapid shutdown devices, a new Wi-Fi logger card, and a new revenue-grade meter.
All of these products are compatible with ABB’s solar inverters and can boost the efficiency of a PV system, according to Christopher Lawson, global director of marketing communications at the company’s Phoenix Power-One Renewable Energy Solutions location.
The rapid-shutdown device was one of many products at the show that achieve compliance with section 690.12 of the NEC 2014 standard.
The company also showed off its new VSN300 Wi-Fi Logger Card for PV system management, monitoring and control. The card includes an advanced expansion board designed for ABB’s UNO and TRIO string inverter product lines. Two of its advantages are ease of installation and cost efficiency, the company said.
Touting what it called the industry’s “first true three-phase microinverter,” APS showed off its APS YC1000. This microinverter handles 277 V/480 V grid voltages with 900 W of maximum output.
Up to 11 of these microinverters can be linked in a single 15-amp circuit, supporting 44 modules of either 60- or 72-cell layout, according to Jason Higginson, the company’s senior director for marketing.
The company also showed off its new iOS smartphone-based Energy Monitoring and Analysis (EMA) app that allows APS microinverter system owners to track solar array performance in real time. This allows system owners to perform day, month, year and lifetime analyses of the array. The app calculates energy savings based on price per kWh. It also calculates environmental savings in terms of gallons of gasoline, trees, and carbon emissions.
To boost inverter power, this company, based in Durham, N.C., has created “the industry’s first 900-V metal-oxide semiconductor field-effect transistor (MOSFET) platform,” staff said at the show.
The new platform is optimized for high-frequency power electronics applications for inverters, electric vehicle charging systems, and three-phase industrial power.
Cree’s new MOSFET boosts inverter power. Credit: Cree.
Earlier this year, Cree announced a high 99.1-percent efficient 50-kW inverter made with its MOSFETs and diodes, which staff said is “one-fifth the average size and weight of today’s silicon-based inverter units.”
While the new MOSFETs are more expensive, both the inductor and capacitor size can be reduced, staff said, so a unit-cost savings of close to 15 percent can be achieved.
Continental Control Systems
The company promoted a new firmware version of its Modbus Revenue energy meter at the show. It updates every 200 milliseconds.
This Option Fast Power update supports revenue-grade meters to match feed-in limit requirements by utilities that may curtail AC power fed into the grid, according to Cynthia Boyd, the director of sales for the Boulder-based company.
“The fact that we’ve been getting inquiries about faster response times from our power meters may partly be driven by the anticipation of recent developments where PV plants and producers are evolving into an asset for grid operators,” Boyd said.
The Rancho Cordoba, Calif.-based company CyboEnergy displayed its On/Off Grid CyboInverter mini-inverter. This mini-inverter melds the functions of both central inverters and microinverters.
Operating in either an on-grid or off-grid mode, the unit has four input channels that can connect to four 300-W DC sources including solar panels, wind generators, hydro-generators or batteries, producing 1150 W of AC peak power.
Each channel has its own control and maximum power point tracking (MPPT) to optimize power production. The product is patented and UL-1741 certified, the company said.
While he announced no new products at the show, Enphase’s Greg Wolfson, director of storage products, offered Renewable Energy World an embargoed description of its new strategic supply relationship with SunRun for its home solar installation business.
“While AEE Solar and Sunrun’s network of certified partners have long sold and installed Enphase systems, this agreement marks the first time that Enphase will provide its module-level power electronics systems to Sunrun’s direct installation services business,” Wolfson said.
“Enphase will continue to work with Sunrun across its multi-channel platform, strengthening its relationship with Sunrun’s wholesale distribution business, AEE Solar, and collaborating on operational efficiency-focused product development with SnapNrack, Sunrun’s solar photovoltaic racking and mounting systems group,” Wolfson said.
At some point in the near future, the company is expected to address the commercial energy-storage market — the range from 10 kWh to 100 kWh — with a plug-and-play system including its inverters.
The Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box was also on display. It offers a solution for all single-phase Fronius SnapINverters from 1.5 kW to 15 kW, according to Richard Baldinger, the group leader for solar energy marketing and sales support for the Portage, Ind.-based company. Directly connected to the inverter through the same DC conduit as the DC homeruns, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of boxes that are needed.
Fronius also showed off its new Eco inverter from its SnapINverter series. This product was designed for use in the 25.0 kW and 27.0 kW power categories in large-scale solar plants.
Baldinger also said Fronius inverters will be used in the Tesla Powerwall under the companies’ new strategic agreement.
Ginlong Technologies presented what Susanna Huang, the general manager of the Dublin, Ohio company, called the industry’s “first four-MPPT 30-kW and 36-kW three-phase inverter.”
The new 70-pound inverter is UL 1741 certified, CEC-listed and DNV GL-tested. The inverter also features 98.2-percent peak efficiency in an “ultra-wide” input voltage range of 200 V to 800 V.
Ginlong also recently announced a strategic supply agreement with AEE Solar.
The Austin-based company showed its new grid-resilient 125-kW bi-directional power conversion system, scalable to over a megawatt for large-scale applications.
The new system includes the company’s patented Power Packet Switching Architecture (PPSA). This chip-based conversion system precludes traditional wound metal cores in inverters, reducing the size and weight of conventional power conversion systems by one-quarter to one-eighth, said Bill Alexander, CTO of the company.
The PPSA technology was refined through a variety of grants including a SunShot award.
KACO announced its blueplanet 1500 TL3 with Ampt Mode at the show. This product is a 1,500-kVA transformer-less solar inverter with protection class IP 54/NEMA 3R for outdoor use, said Ben Castillo, a technical sales and marketing lead for the Rocklin, Calif.-based company.
The inverter is also available as part of a 3,000-kVA integrated power station. When used in combination with Ampt String Optimizers, the blueplanet 1500 TL3 achieves a 50-percent increase in rated output power, lowering the specific cost of a system inverter solution by 33 percent, the company said.
“With the MPPT on each string, the blueplanet 1500 TL3 inverters operate with a higher and narrower input voltage range. This optimized input range allows each inverter to deliver 50 percent more power, increasing the rated output power and lowering the inverter cost per watt,” staff said.
Outback Power Technologies
Outback’s star at the show was its new preassembled 4 kW or 8 kW FLEXpower Radian that staff said “allows installers to complete faster, high-quality installations at larger voltages when needed, since the main balance-of-system components ship connected in place.”
The new units are compatible with the company’s GridZero technology and Advanced Battery Charging in a plug-and-play format.
Schneider touted its new Conext Core XC ES inverter line of central inverters designed for advanced battery-based energy storage applications. This line has been designed to be integrated into the company’s ES Box, a medium-voltage power conversion substation ranging from 500 kW to 2 MW. The new line is also compatible with the Conext Control SCADA-based monitoring and control system. Schneider also showed off its new Conext Insight, a remote monitoring and asset management platform for decentralized grid-tie and battery-based systems.
StorEdge was the new product announced by SolarEdge at the show. It is an all-in-one solution that uses a single DC-optimized inverter to manage and monitor both solar generation and energy storage.
The StorEdge inverter was recently announced to fully support the Tesla Powerwall for electric vehicles.
The new inverter includes rapid shutdown capability and includes a full monitoring solution that can display power production, home consumption, and battery status in a single view. StorEdge is expected to be available by the end of 2015.
The company also launched its SE14.4K and SE33.3K three-phase inverters, meant to minimize the number of required inverters in an array and have integrated safety, monitoring and communication features.
Designed to operate with two SolarEdge commercial power optimizers, the P600 and P700, the new inverters can allow up to 2.5 times longer strings than traditional inverters do.
Microinverter-maker Sparq Systems announced that it has licensed a portfolio of GE-applied and granted patents. It has partnered with GE Global Research on the construction of a next-generation microinverter system and AC module solution.
More than a microinverter bolted to the module frame, the anticipated solution will replace a standard junction box and comply with new grid requirements by delivering adjustable reactive power and performing other grid-stabilizing function requirements.
“The microinverter and AC module that GE Global Research is designing with Sparq can change the way solar is deployed around the world by improving grid stability and resilience,” said John Vogel, vice president of technology development at GE Ventures.
Kingston, Ontario-based Sparq Systems now produces the Q1000 four-port microinverter with a 1,000-W footprint and a monitoring system scalable to fleet management.
Tabuchi Electric Company of America
Finally, a newcomer to Intersolar North America was Tabuchi, which demonstrated its plug-and-play EneTelus Intelligent Battery System (EIBS).
This is a grid-friendly inverter and storage system, said Daniel Hill, director of sales and marketing in North America for the San Jose-based company.
The EIBS features a three-MPPT 5.5kW bidirectional inverter, an automatic transfer switch, and a battery management system for the Panasonic-supplied 10-kWh lithium-ion battery pack.
“Rather than creating a patchwork of batteries and inverters, we’ve optimized our technology to include everything in one system. Our all-in-one solutions make it much simpler for solar installers to sell and install storage, marking a critical step in reducing intermittency and powering the solar revolution,” said Harumi McClure, the company’s general manager.