James Worden, Solectria Renewables and Andrew Worden, Barron Partners and GameChange Racking

Perspectives on Equipment Development, Manufacturing and Deployment

While there are a few notable instances of brothers working in the solar industry, it is uncommon. James and Andrew Worden are two such brothers. They operate distinct companies and apply their product development, manufacturing and business expertise to specific solar product classes and market segments.

In 1989, James Worden and his wife, Anita, cofounded Solectria Corporation, a developer and manufacturer of electric and hybrid vehicle components. They sold the business in 2005 and launched Solectria Renewables, shifting their focus to the design and production of PV inverters. Today, Solectria Renewables offers an extensive inverter product line, as well as performance monitoring and BOS components. James holds a BS in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and serves as Solectria’s CEO.

Andrew Worden is the CEO and founder of GameChange Racking. He is also the chairman, CEO and majority investor of Barron Partners, a global cleantech investment firm, and the CEO of Soltas Energy, an EPC that develops and finances commercial and utility-scale PV projects (this company is in the final stages of being sold). Andrew graduated from Harvard University with a BA in physical sciences and studied engineering at MIT. He also studied finance and marketing at the MIT Sloan School of Management.

James Worden, Solectria Renewables

SP: Since its founding in 2005, Solectria Renewables has continually expanded its inverter product family. What is the chronology of the company’s inverter model introductions?

JW: Our first product was a 10 kW 3-phase commercial inverter that was originally UL listed in 2004 while we were still in the electric vehicle business. This inverter grew to become the PVI 10–15KW product line that is still sold today. The second introduction was our residential line, which started with 1.8 kW and 2.5 kW products and gradually grew to include models up to 7.5 kW. We introduced our PVI 50–100KW product family in 2005. Through the years we have continually upgraded each of these lines with new technologies, features and options. Our goal is to develop highly integrated inverter systems, increase system reliability, and reduce the total installed cost and labor at PV jobsites. Solectria inverter features include standard ac and dc disconnects, ac service entry ratings, and RS-485 and Ethernet communications. We have added fully integrated factory-built and tested options, many suggested by our customers, such as stainless steel enclosures, air filters, string combiners and subcombiners or recombiners. We introduced the first solar subcombiners that utilize circuit breakers, eliminating the need for external dc disconnects, aswell as subarray monitoring, revenue-grade monitoring and even options for different disconnect orientations. In 2010, we launched our Smart Grid Inverter (SGI) line of 225 kW–500 kW inverters with the highest level of grid integration in the industry for this size inverter. In 2011, we brought our Megawatt Solar Stations to market. Last year, we introduced a new line of 3-phase transformerless string inverters ranging from 14 kW to 28 kW. This year we are rolling out a completely new line of transformerless 3.8 kW–7.6 kW residential inverters and 500 kW– 750 kW 1,000 Vdc utility-scale inverters with external transformers.

SP: Are there technical advantages to integrating Solectria’s monitoring products and BOS equipment with Solectria inverter systems?

JW: Historically, we offered products closely related to the inverter because we could design and build a cost-competitive product. In 2007, we introduced SolrenView web-based monitoring, and in 2008 we introduced string combiners. However, our inverters were always agnostic to monitoring and combiner solutions. Going forward, that is changing a bit, as more controls and monitoring are being requested and required in the combiner box, such as arc-fault detection, string monitoring and rapid shutdown. An integrated, complete solution has more synergy.


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