Lior Handelsman, SolarEdge Technologies: Page 2 of 2
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SP: In 2015, SolarEdge launched its StorEdge solution for US energy storage projects. Is the storage market meeting your projections and expectations?
LH: First of all, the storage market is highly regional. Secondly, it is not significant compared to activity in the standard grid-tied market in the US. Is it according to our projections? Pretty much. Last year at this conference, I told you that I didn’t think the storage market was going to be a game changer in terms of the number of systems we sell, and it’s not. In some markets, storage is more popular: in Europe and Australia, and in Hawaii in the US. In general, though, the storage market is currently not that big.
SP: Are SolarEdge’s solutions for commercial and industrial applications gaining traction in the US market?
LH: We are making great strides. According to some market analysis, we are already the number three commercial inverter player. We are gaining market share and growing. We are launching a new product at this show—a 100 kW inverter. We had a 33 kW inverter, and a lot of customers pressed us to come up with a bigger one. I asked them, “Why do you want a bigger inverter?” Installation becomes very hard. You need a forklift to get the inverter where you need it. Once it’s there, service is much more complicated. It’s not like a string inverter that you just swap out. You need skilled technicians to come and service the inverter. The answer they gave me was that the bigger inverters have a clear advantage in terms of wiring and ac balance of system. Instead of wiring 10 inverters, you wire three, and you therefore have less labor and lower costs related to ac balance of system, fewer ac labels to apply, and fewer ac combiner boxes to install and maintain. Our 100 kW inverter is basically three units, and they all come prewired. You hang them on the wall, you click them all together with connectors, and you have a 100 kW inverter. It gives you all the benefits of a large inverter without any of the disadvantages.
SP: What other product development efforts is SolarEdge focused on?
LH: We’ve been showcasing a new next-generation power optimizer product. It’s not coming out immediately, but it offers a sneak peek into the future. It’s 40% smaller, more power dense and more cost competitive. The power optimizer is slightly more efficient, and it has a nice new safety feature—it is capable of measuring the temperature of each of its four connectors, two inputs and two outputs. In general, electrical connections within the array are a weak point. If you have a faulty connection, the temperature rises, and that creates a fire hazard. The new power optimizer detects the heat, issues an alert and shuts down the overheated conductor. PV systems are very safe, but occasionally you have a faulty connector.
A PV system fire makes the headlines, and then people start limiting PV installations in all markets. We think that the industry should take responsibility and make PV systems as safe as possible. There are a lot of systems out there, and we see a lot of connectors that might be problematic. We want to take PV system safety one step further, so we developed this feature for our next-generation power optimizer. We can measure the temperature of the connectors because we redesigned the cable architecture so the connector is closer to the power optimizer. In standard systems, if there is an issue somewhere down the line, you have to trust that there will be a significant enough arc so that the arc-fault mechanism will detect it. But we all know that arc-fault detection is not perfect, and we really feel that implementing these additional safety features into PV systems is important. Whether it’s mandatory or not, it’s good for the industry.
We are continuing down the same product development line with the EV charger and with more solutions for home energy management. For the residential space, we’re continuing to emphasize PV as an energy management system. In commercial, we are gradually taking market share with more products and solutions for commercial rooftops. We’ve also had a lot of successes in small-scale utility ground mounts. That is probably the next market we will start to more actively address.