When we attended Intersolar North America in San Francisco last month, our conversations with several companies yielded some noticeable trends and milestones in the residential and commercial power electronics space – predominantly the integration of microinverters and DC/DC devices into the module.
SolarBridge displayed its microinverter as part of an AC module solution, configured with modules from AUO, Hanwha SolarOne, and Kyocera. Other companies (like Sparq and Enecsys) offer similar thin-film capacitor-based microinverters, but SolarBridge is the only company whose primary strategy is to sell directly to module players for AC module configuration. The company said that it has received certification on full AC modules using its microinverter, as well as the standalone microinverter product. We noted that there were at least seven module manufacturers demonstrating AC modules – indicating they are gearing up to cut costs and complexity for the challenging U.S. residential market.
Another overall trend in evidence at the show was the movement of DC/DC power optimizer companies towards a fully-integrated junction box solution. Tigo displayed junction boxes that it “powers,” just as competing DC/DC player Ampt had its products displayed through several junction box OEMs at Intersolar Europe. Both firms used their solution with separate hardware to validate performance, but it is clear that junction box integration is the next step towards cost reduction with this system architecture. Going forward, junction box players will likely offer product lines featuring multiple options – i.e., “powered by Ampt” or “powered by Tigo” – though we could see exclusive partnerships down the road.
Much like in PV technologies, we do not anticipate a “winner-takes-all scenario,” but rather expect both microinverters and DC/DC devices will coexist and provide installers more tools with which to optimize power production from non-standard residential and commercial-scale systems.