Solar Power International 2017 Preview

Vendor and Equipment Highlights

Produced by Solar Energy Trade Shows, Solar Power International (SPI) is a collaboration between the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and the Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA). The producers predict that this year’s event will attract roughly 700 vendors and service providers and over 18,000 industry professionals, which would represent the fourth straight year of steady growth. As the solar industry has gone mainstream, trade show attendance has generally diminished, whether due to skinny margins, tight schedules or changing paradigms. But the nonprofits behind SPI have managed to reverse these trends.

Not only is there a projected year-over-year increase in attendance, SPI 2017 attendees will find more technologies and services represented on the expo floor than ever before. The event will offer dedicated pavilions or halls for energy storage, hydrogen fuel cells, a smart energy microgrid demo, software, asset management, C&I solutions, start-ups and poster presentations. Away from the expo floor, attendees can choose from general sessions, educational sessions, concurrent sessions, a new technical symposium and many networking events.

Because 4 days is never enough time to take everything in at SPI—and some people will be too busy to make the trip to Las Vegas—this article highlights 15 expo participants that provide products or services for distributed energy or large-scale power plant applications. Some of their offerings are available now or were announced in June at Intersolar North America; others will debut at SPI 2017. Each of these exhibitors represents a current trend in the industry, such as scaling and streamlining O&M services, the transition to 1,500 Vdc string inverter–based PV power plants, or the increasing emphasis on solar-plus-storage solutions. The uncertainty and market distortion created by the solar trade case also has important implications for industry stakeholders.

Distributed Energy Applications

FRONIUS USA • Booth 3943

Portage, Indiana–based Fronius USA offers string inverters for residential and commercial applications, as well as rapid shutdown solutions, online monitoring tools and smart meters. In August 2017, the company launched the second generation of its Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box. The new and improved product features a low-profile design and a NEMA 4X enclosure, allowing installers to mount it underneath modules, as well as installer-friendly features such as MC 4 connections and a generous wiring space with spring-loaded terminals. The new Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box is available in two versions, the Duo and the Quattro, which can control up to two or four PV source circuits, respectively. Both versions are 600 Vdc–rated and compatible with all Fronius SnapINverters (except the Symo 15.0-3 208). Fronius USA is already shipping the Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and will begin shipping the Quattro in November. At SPI 2017, the company will introduce the Fronius Smart Solution, a next-generation PV system platform that combines cell string– optimized modules with the company’s ecosystem of inverters, rapid shutdown boxes, and an optional smart meter and online monitoring portal.
Fronius USA / 877.376.6487 / fronius-usa.com

LG ELECTRONICS USA • Booth 3026

In addition to selling home appliances, consumer electronics and mobile phones, LG Electronics USA offers a range of high-efficiency solar modules. In July, the company launched the LG NeON R, a 60-cell, rear-contact PV module for residential applications. Eliminating electrodes from the front of the module’s N-type monocrystalline cells not only results in a seamless appearance, but also maximizes light absorption for optimal performance. The flagship model in the NeON R series has a module-level efficiency of 21.1% and is rated at 365 watts. All NeON R modules have 30 backside busbars, weigh less than 41 pounds, come in a 67-by-40-by-1.57-inch package, and are rated for use in 1,000 Vdc systems. At SPI 2017, the company will also be showing the LG NeON ACe, a 330 W–rated, 60-cell PV module with an embedded Enphase microinverter. The LG NeON ACe ships with the microinverter mounting bracket in a collapsed position, permitting optimal shipping density; once on the rooftop, installers lift up the mount to connect the trunk cable, which elevates the microinverter off the back of the module by 15 mm to allow sufficient airflow for cooling. LG Electronics’ North American product lineup offers a unique combination of features—from innovative technology and high performance to superior aesthetics and simplified logistics—that make it a compelling premium offering.
LG Electronics USA / 855.854.7652 / lgsolarusa.com

MAXIM INTEGRATED • Multiple booths

US-based Maxim Integrated is a publicly traded company that designs and manufactures integrated circuits for automotive, industrial, health care, mobile consumer and cloud data center markets. Leveraging its power semiconductor technology, Maxim has developed a microchip suitable for module integration that performs cell string–level dc optimization. Designed as a direct replacement for bypass diodes, Maxim’s cell string optimizers perform MPP tracking at the submodule level deep inside the junction box. Eliminating the binary (on-off) response associated with bypass diodes improves shade tolerance and energy harvest, as each cell string contributes its maximum power without interfering with the production of others. In addition to avoiding performance loss due to mismatch, degradation, soiling or shading, cell string optimization also enables design flexibility. Installers can accommodate multiple orientations, partial shading and up to 20% asymmetry in string lengths. At SPI 2017, the company’s module partners—ET Solar Group (Booth 4245), Hanwha Q Cells (Booth 3937), Jinko Solar (Booth 3965) and Trina Solar (Booth 3309) will display Maxim’s cell string–optimizer technology. To learn more about modeling the benefits of cell string–optimized array design, check out the Aurora software platform by Aurora Solar (Booth 1381).
Maxim Integrated / 888.629.4642 / maximintegrated.com/solar

MERCEDES-BENZ ENERGY • Booth 1309

The global automotive manufacturer Mercedes-Benz is a division of the German company Daimler AG, best known for its luxury vehicles. It is also one of several global automotive manufacturers that are driving energy storage technology advancements for both vehicular and stationary applications. In May 2017, Mercedes-Benz Energy released its home energy storage system in California via a collaboration with Vivint Solar. The Mercedes-Benz Energy Storage Home is a modular platform that is scalable in 2.5 kWh increments and can integrate as many as eight battery modules for a maximum storage capacity of 20 kWh. Customers can use the platform to provide backup power or to store and dispatch solar-generated energy to take advantage of time-of-use rates. Each 2.5 kWh battery unit weighs 70 pounds, has a 9.8-by-11.4-inch footprint, stands 31.9 inches tall with the base and top installed, and carries a 10-year manufacturer’s warranty guaranteeing greater than 80% capacity in year 10. SPI 2017 attendees can learn more about Daimler’s plans to offer the Mercedes-Benz Energy Storage Home in  markets outside California and to expand its network of distribution partners.
Mercedes-Benz Energy / mercedes-benz-energy.com

PIKA ENERGY • Booth 2014

Founded in 2010 by MIT-educated engineers, Pika Energy manufactures high-efficiency bidirectional inverters, power converters and substring optimizers. The company designs all its products around a proprietary 380 V smart dc bus, the REbus DC Nanogrid, which allows power transmission, control and data acquisition all on the same wires. In June, Pika Energy announced a partnership with Panasonic Eco Solutions North America for a dc-coupled solar-plus-storage solution. The Pika Energy Island is a complete solar-ready nanogrid platform that consists of a bidirectional inverter and the company’s new smart battery solution. The Harbor Smart Battery integrates Panasonic’s lithium-ion battery technology into a slim, floor-standing, wall-secured enclosure that is 65 inches high by 22.5 inches wide by 8.7 inches deep and can provide 10 kWh or 15 kWh of storage capacity. The smart battery is directly compatible with the Pika Islanding Inverter, a 7.6 kW transformerless nanogrid inverter with an integrated automatic transfer switch. Since the unit outputs 120/240 Vac, it can run large residential loads without requiring an external autotransformer. The Pika Energy Island is suitable for residential backup power, self-supply and time-of-use applications.
Pika Energy / 207.887.9105 / pika-energy.com

QUICK MOUNT PV • Booth 3339

Since 2006, Quick Mount PV has produced innovative, high-quality waterproof mounting systems for pitched roof solar applications that permit installations consistent with roofing industry best practices. The company’s most recent release, the L-Mount Series, is an integrated L-foot and flashing that incorporates the company’s patented Elevated Water Seal Technology. Designed with value in mind, the L-Mount Series does not require any shingle cutting, allowing a simple and fast single-bolt installation on existing composition shingle or asphalt shingle roofs. The platform is available in aluminum mill or black finish, features a 9-by-11-inch aluminum flashing and comes in a single- or double-slot L-foot option. For maximum versatility, installers can rotate the L-foot 360° to accommodate any rail or racking system or array orientation. The company also offers waterproof attachment systems for other types of pitched roofs, as well as in-person and online installation trainings.
Quick Mount PV / 925.478.8269 / quickmountpv.com

SOLAREDGE Technologies • Booth 3741

Thanks in large part to its strong position in the US residential market, SolarEdge achieved the third highest global revenues among PV inverter suppliers in 2016. Roughly one-third of US residential installations deploy the company’s dc optimizers and single-phase string inverters. At Intersolar North America, SolarEdge continued its tradition of innovation, unveiling the world’s first inverter-integrated electric vehicle charger. The SolarEdge HD-Wave inverter with EV charger is both a 7.6 kW high-efficiency, transformerless PV inverter and a Level 2 EV charger. Integrating these functionalities into a single unit provides some interesting benefits. First, a combination device conserves wall space and, more important, saves space in the main distribution panel, potentially eliminating the need for a costly service upgrade. Second, the device can use solar power to boost its EV charging capabilities from the grid. When pulling exclusively from the grid, the SolarEdge EV charger is rated for 7.6 kW (32 A at 240 Vac); with the solar boost mode, the charger is rated for 9.6 kW (40 A at 240 Vac), making it the most powerful Level 2 EV charger on the market. The inverter-integrated EV charger is fully compatible with SolarEdge’s monitoring platform. Customers can use a mobile phone app to schedule charging to take advantage of time-of-use rates or track PV production, EV charging and grid consumption. A built-in revenue meter is available as an option. SolarEdge also offers StorEdge, a residential solar-plus-storage platform, as well as an expanding suite of solutions for commercial applications.
SolarEdge Technologies / 510.498.3200 / solaredge.us

SOLARIA • Booth 1048

Founded in the early 2000s, Solaria is perhaps best known as the launching point for NEXTracker’s innovative tracker design. In response to the then-high price of silicon, Solaria designed its first series of modules as low-concentration devices for utility-scale power plants, which required a robust and cost-effective tracking system. When silicon prices declined dramatically, the company spun out NEXTracker and went back to the drawing board with its module designs. In 2016, Solaria released a suite of high-efficiency modules for rooftop and architectural applications. The PowerView, for example, is a series of customized architectural solutions for vertical and horizontal building facades that includes both insulated and uninsulated BIPV glass products. The company has designed its high-efficiency PowerXT modules for residential rooftops and commercial applications. The product design uses a patented cell-cutting process in combination with a ribbonless interconnection process that removes visual gaps between cells for improved aesthetics, and it connects substrings in parallel for improved shade tolerance. Solaria’s basic value proposition is that it can create reasonably high-performance modules (18.7%–19.3% efficient) at an affordable price by using standard crystalline silicon cells and advanced manufacturing processes. While US module manufacturing has suffered in recent years, the pending trade case has created uncertainty in the market that companies such as Solaria may be able to capitalize on.
Solaria / 510.270.2500 / solaria.com

SOLAR-LOG • Booth 2413

Monitoring more than 266,000 PV plants in over 106 countries, Solar-Log is a leading provider of inverter-agnostic residential and commercial PV monitoring solutions. At Intersolar North America, the company released its most sophisticated PV monitoring platform to date, the Solar-Log WEB Enerest. To accommodate the needs of different customer groups, the new portal is available in three service levels (M, L and XL) and price classes. The M version is a basic portal for end users who wish to monitor PV yield and energy consumption or compare the output of individual inverters. The more full-featured L version accommodates the needs of technically adept single-plant owners. The XL version is an advanced portal that allows installers and service providers to monitor an entire fleet of systems centrally. This premium version provides users with near–real time plant visualization tools and error messages. Operators can remotely configure Solar-Log devices, customize customer-facing portals and data access, log errors and assign them to specific team members. The platform integrates yield forecasting and compares expected to actual energy harvest to quickly identify underperforming plants. As the solar industry scales, remote monitoring platforms such as Solar-Log can enable project developers and O&M providers to identify and mitigate performance problems before customers are even aware of them.
Solar-Log / 203.702.7189 / solar-log-america.com

SOLATRIM • Booth 568

Based in Northern California, SolaTrim designed its eponyomous pest abatement barrier to protect and trim out rooftop PV arrays. The product comes in 48-inch lengths of diamond-stamped aluminum panels that are 0.025 inches thick and stiffened every 6 inches to prevent bending or warping. This design allows for air exchanges under the array but keeps out birds, rodents and debris. For aesthetic purposes, the company finishes the front side with a black polyester coating, which closely matches black or dark bronze module frames. After dry-fitting the SolaTrim, installers use tin snips to cut the pieces to fit, and then peel the cover off a high-strength foam-core adhesive strip and press the product firmly in place around the perimeter of the array. The peel-and-stick installation process is popular with rooftop crews. The manufacturer recently realized that it could also further reduce on-site labor by offering SolaTrim in two widths to accommodate different roofs and racks. Integrators can now choose between the original product, the ST-001 with a width of 6.75 inches, and the new ST-055 with a width of 5.5 inches. By offering two SolaTrim profiles, the company increases the number of applications where installers can apply the protective barrier without needing to trim its width.
SolaTrim / 916.292.8699 / solatrim.com

Large-Scale Applications

DELTA • Booth 2135

Established in 1971, Delta Group is a global leader in power and thermal management solutions that has core competencies in power electronics, automation and infrastructure. After playing a largely behind-the-scenes role in the US solar market as an OEM for other inverter vendors, Delta introduced its own North American residential and commercial inverter portfolio in 2016. At SPI 2017, Delta is expanding its commercial platform with the introduction of the company’s first high-voltage 3-phase string inverter. Delta’s commercial series M125U PV inverter is compatible with 1,500 Vdc plant designs, has a CEC-rated efficiency of 98.5% and offers dc arc-fault protection. The M125U’s all-in-one design includes string fuses, surge protection devices, and dc and ac switches. Its string monitoring function can record real-time performance values for up to 20 strings and display these via the communications interface. For durability, Delta opted for an electrolytic capacitor-free design and a NEMA 4 X enclosure. Installers can mount the M125U vertically or horizontally. With the addition of the 1,500 Vdc–rated M125U, Delta’s 3-phase commercial inverter M Series will include seven models ranging in capacity from 24 kW to 125 kW. The company also offers energy storage solutions for commercial and industrial applications.
Delta / 510.668.5100 / delta-americas.com

EATON • Booth 3175

A global leader in power distribution and circuit protection, Eaton offers a wide variety of products and services for commercial- and utility-scale solar or storage applications. The company’s ac and dc electrical BOS solutions include circuit breaker– and fuse-based ac collection systems for 3-phase string inverter–based PV designs, high-efficiency Cooper Power series transformers with overcurrent protection devices, dc combiners and recombiners, dc wire harnesses, dc and ac switchboards, and power meters. To deploy 1,500 Vdc PV power plants, project designers and EPCs need access to appropriately rated dc BOS components. To address these changing industry needs, Eaton recently introduced a new Bussmann series of fuseholders for high-voltage solar installations. Eaton designed its CHPV15L85 1,500 Vdc–rated DIN rail-mounting fuseholder with worker safety in mind. Even when open, the fuseholder covers live parts to prevent technicians from accidentally contacting them. In addition to providing electrical BOS solutions, the company also offers plant control systems and engineering services for solar, energy storage and microgrid applications.
Eaton / 855.386.7657 / eaton.com/solar

HT INSTRUMENTS • Booth 451

HT Instruments is an Italian manufacturer of multifunction electrical test equipment that offers a suite of specialty tools for solar applications. The company’s most recent release, the I-V500w, the industry’s first 1,500 Vdc–rated I-V curve tester, addresses an area of need within the utility sector. HT designed the I-V500w, rated for 15 A at 1,000 Vdc or 10 A at 1,500 Vdc, for measuring I-V curves on individual modules or source circuits. The internal memory can store data for up to 30 reference modules and 249 I-V curve traces. Technicians can expedite testing in combiner boxes by using the new KITKELVIN auto-sequence function. An onboard screen allows single-person operation, and Wi-Fi connectivity permits wireless connections to mobile devices. The free HTAnalysis app not only allows users to manage the onboard module database from a cell phone or tablet, but also provides troubleshooting assistance and enables data storage on the HTCloud. After collecting I-V curve traces in the field, commissioning agents and O&M providers can use HT’s TopView software to download these data from the cloud and generate reports for project stakeholders.
HT Instruments / 719.421.9323 / ht-instruments.us

HUAWEI TECHNOLOGIES USA • Booth 3921

Founded in 1987 and headquartered in Shenzhen, China, Huawei Technologies is not only the largest telecommunications equipment manufacturer in the world, but also the top global PV inverter supplier in terms of megawatts of shipments. The company has devoted significant R&D resources to utility-scale PV power plant optimization. This process involved a line item–by–line item assessment of project construction costs and considered up-front design costs, as well as system performance and O&M expenses over time. After evaluating project deployment holistically, Huawei introduced the FusionSolar Smart PV Solution, a string inverter–based platform for large-scale solar farms. Central to this plant architecture is Huawei’s new 45 kW, 1,500 Vdc string inverter, the SUN2000-45KTL-US-HV. One of Huawei’s product design goals was to push inverter capacity as high as possible within a passively cooled NEMA 4X–rated enclosure. Eliminating the need for cooling fans reduces not only material and O&M costs but also the reliability issues and dust associated with outside air exchanges. Huawei also eliminated the need for dc fuses and combiners by providing four separate MPPT channels, each with two string inputs. Huawei believes this granular system architecture, in addition to facilitating design flexibility and optimal energy harvest, provides significant O&M benefits. For example, the platform supports remote string level I-V curve tracing, which has the potential to automate essential commissioning and maintenance activities. Furthermore, in the event of an inverter failure, a local service technician can easily swap out inverter compartments while leaving the ac connections in place. The platform allows for dc-to-ac ratios as high as 1.5:1 in any environment and higher ratios under engineering supervision. It uses powerline communication technology to send inverter data over the ac power infrastructure to a proprietary or third-party data acquisition system. Huawei is so confident in the scalability of its high-voltage string inverter–based PV plant architecture that it has eliminated central inverters from its product portfolio.
Huawei Technologies USA / 214.919.6000 / huawei.com/solar

MEASURE • Booth 701

Washington, DC–based Measure provides drone-facilitated services to enterprise customers in the telecommunications, live media, energy and construction industries. In June, the company announced the addition of aerial solar plant inspection to its services portfolio. The cornerstone of these solar services is temperature-specific thermal orthomosaic imagery, which Measure collects based on preconfigured flight plans. Data engineers then process these data to identify module performance problems based on specific thermal signatures. Measure can also use drones to conduct site or shade analyses, detect misaligned trackers, inform vegetation management activities or scan inverter temperature. As the solar industry goes mainstream, projects are increasing in frequency and scale, which creates opportunities for working smarter rather than harder. Aerial surveys have the potential to improve operational efficiencies and minimize exposure to electrical hazards.
Measure / 202.973.3502 / measure.com

Article Discussion

Related Articles