Solar PV technology trends from the 2020 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

Solar PV technology trends from the 2020 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

As part of our 2020 Solar PV Inverter Buyer’s Guide, we asked manufacturers to tell us one trend emerging in the marketplace solar installers should be considering. Here is what they had to say.

SolarEdge EV charger/solar inverter

SolarEdge offers the only EV charger/solar inverter on the market.

Residential

Inverters as a strategic hub
Lior Handelsman, VP of Marketing & Product Strategy and Founder of SolarEdge:

“The PV inverter has taken on a much wider and strategic role within the residential PV system, becoming responsible for many other functions that occur behind the meter other than solar production. These include managing energy storage, communications, monitoring, safety, providing backup power, controlling home appliances, and even charging EVs. The result is synchronized energy usage in the home, which can reduce electricity bills and carbon footprints. In essence, the inverter is becoming the new energy manager in the home.”

The CPS Promise:
With easy access to real, knowledgeable people, stocked parts, 24-hour RMA turnaround, and exceptional diagnostic hardware, CPS America is committed to full life-cycle service and support. Learn more here.

Modern topology means high frequency
Brad Berwald, Product Manager, MorningStar:

“We’re finally seeing more modern topologies, such as high-frequency designs, take the spotlight in battery-based systems. They have long been the norm among grid-tie-only string inverters, but now are making their way into inverters that also have significant surge and grid-forming (or standalone off-grid) capabilities. More than ever, customers are looking for their inverter to provide whole-home power management, power optimization and backup features. Users are looking for more functionality then spinning their meter backward. This is creating new opportunities in the market for a variety of benefits including grid-independent operation.

“Also, while generating personal power to achieve independence has always been of great value to customers, if total control over energy consumption is the goal, managing the load side intelligently will also become key. Power intelligently preserved is often more economic then the power you pay to generate. We expect to see more inverters offering smart load management capabilities in the form of auxiliary control options, circuit and load shedding, home automation/control platform integration, and load scheduling to enable even more value.”

Pairing more with storage
Marc Inniss, Technical Sales Advisor for Fronius USA:

“One positive trend happening in the residential inverter space is the emphasis on storage for residential backup. With all the instability of the utilities in certain regions the need for backup power is increasing exponentially lending to hybrid inverter technology being in high demand. This will hopefully normalize solar as an alternative source of energy to utility/grid power simultaneously increasing education about the technology across the board.”

Frank O’Young, AVP of Green Energy for Darfon:

“Traditionally, a grid-tied residential inverter only has a single purpose, which is to converter DC power from solar panels into AC power that electrical appliances can use. The AC power cannot be stored at home, so any excess will need to be fed to the utility grid. Conversely an off-grid inverter allows the solar power to be stored in a battery array, and then converted to AC power when needed. A new trend is to combine the functions of a grid-tied inverter and an off-grid inverter into a single package, usually called a PV hybrid inverter or PV storage inverter. This new generation of hybrid inverters have a wider scope of applications compared to the traditional grid-tied inverters and are both useful for homeowners and the utility companies. However, hybrid inverters require a more complicated architecture and only the more advance power electronics companies can design hybrid inverters.”

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Paul Dailey, Product development and marketing, Outback Power:

“As an industry, we’re seeing increased attachment rates for batteries with PV systems and a lot more options are popping out of the woodwork. It will be important to look at the battery performance as well as the inverter in each case since they really do need to be designed as a system now.”

Grid communications
Terence Parker, senior applications engineer, Solis:

“Advanced inverter communications on the grid and the advent of Virtual Power Plants, i.e. mini-grids based on distributed generators (DG), is leading to a more stable and secure national grid. It’s important not to forget the release of CA Rule 21 and its effect on the US grid as a whole. CA Rule 21 was a painful endeavor for California but as we can see with in the IEEE-1547 2018 edition, it worked out all of the pain points ahead of time and continues too. This will bring our nations grid up to standards and prepare it for the future.”

Commercial

CPS separable wireboxes

Commercial inverter manufacturers like CPS America are easing installation and O&M with separable wireboxes.

Connectivity virtues
Jason Higginson, AP systems:

“One positive trend is the adoption of cellular connectivity to increase monitoring up-time and reduce expensive truck-rolls because. With connectivity, most issues can be troubleshot and resolved remotely without rolling a truck. This would apply to residential too.”

Lior Handelsman, VP of Marketing & Product Strategy and Founder of SolarEdge:

“In the past, the commercial market was more focused on CAPEX (upfront costs) and largely overlooked OPEX (operating costs) during system planning. This is because the industry did not have sufficient field experience to accurately calculate OPEX or understand its long-term impact on performance. Now the industry has better insight into how to properly account for issues such as downtime from module-level mismatch, PID, and more, when evaluating the impact of CAPEX and OPEX on lifetime ROI. There is now a better understanding of the importance of OPEX and its impact on system lifetime performance and so these factors are now being considered as part of the inverter selection process.”

The CPS Promise:
With easy access to real, knowledgeable people, stocked parts, 24-hour RMA turnaround, and exceptional diagnostic hardware, CPS America is committed to full life-cycle service and support. Learn more here.

Utility-scale

Bulky systems, no more
Matt Marx, Strategic Marketing Manager at SMA:

“Utility-scale inverters have achieved a greater level of integration than ever before. The days of bulky, cumbersome pad-mounted solutions are over. A new generation of fully integrated utility power conversion systems are giving integrators a more cost-effective option that reduces transportation needs, logistical complexity and labor time while maintaining investment profitability for system owners.”

Modularity
Terence Parker, senior applications engineer, Solis:

“Community Solar is trending, giving people the ability to choose Solar without having to invest in equipment and the installation on their own home. We are also seeing a trend toward modularity in large PV systems. Central inverters (e.g. 4 MW) were common in the utility-scale space, however, multiple, smaller, highly reliable PV string inverters are demonstrating reduced Operation and Maintenance (O&M) schedules/costs and with a modular design, there is a reduced risk of catastrophic cash flow interruptions, make a PV string inverter architecture a more predictable asset with slightly better performance.”

March is Inverter and eBOS Month here at Solar Builder, sponsored by CPS America. Check out all of our inverter news and insights right here.

— Solar Builder magazine

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