String Inverters Single-Phase Solutions for the North American Market (2011): Page 2 of 10
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Advanced Energy. Headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado, Advanced Energy (AE) was founded in 1981. The publicly traded company (NASDAQ: AEIS) reported revenues of $459.4M for the 2010 fiscal year. AE currently has more than 1,600 employees working across a relatively diverse product and services portfolio that, as of January 2011, comprises two primary business units: AE Thin Films and AE Renewables. AE Thin Films develops and manufactures power conversion and control systems for technology markets that include semiconductor, solar, glass and flat-panel displays. AE Renewables develops and manufactures utility- and commercial-scale central inverters, as well as a full line of string inverters for small commercial and residential markets.
AE’s line of Solaron central inverters has been a leading brand in the utility and large commercial application space since the introduction of the Solaron 333 kW central inverter in 2007. With the acquisition of PV Powered in May 2010, AE added several central inverters to its product portfolio, as well as nine string inverter models. PV Powered was founded in 2003 and is located in Bend, Oregon. AE’s line of PV Powered string inverters is manufactured at the Oregon plant to supply the US market. In addition, the company shipped its first units from an Ontario manufacturing partner, Celestica, in December 2010, to serve the Ontario feed-in tariff (FIT) market.
AE’s Corporate Fact Sheet for the Second Quarter 2011 reported that the company achieved a 22% US solar inverter market share for the first 9 months of 2010 with its Solaron and PV Powered inverter models combined. PV inverters represent 23% of the company’s overall revenue, and the company projects its inverter manufacturing capacity (including string commercial and utility-scale products) to reach approximately 2 GW annually by the end of 2011. While AE does not publicly share manufacturing capacity by market segment, in the press release announcing the acquisition of PV Powered, the company projected the sales of PV Powered inverters would contribute $40–$50M to AE’s 2010 revenue, with $30–$35M from sales in the commercial market and $10–15M from the residential market.
Casey Miller, AE’s director of string inverters and site solutions, comments on the ongoing improvements in reliability of the PV Powered line of inverters. “PV Powered string inverters have been on the market in the US since 2003,” Miller says. “The product has undergone three design revisions, all focused on reliability and installability improvements based on real-word, under-the-sun performance.” He notes that the company has a clear focus on product design details that make the equipment installer-friendly. According to Miller: “We do the little things right to make installation easy. UL 98 listed dc/ac disconnect, ample wire bending and working space, and plug-and-play monitoring save time and money on the job site.”
In addition, Miller highlighted the company’s focus on advances in system monitoring: “We believe that system owners should take an active role in understanding how their system is performing. Adhering to this philosophy, we offer a very low-cost data monitoring card that, through MyPVPower.com, allows system owners to monitor their inverter anywhere in the world. MyPVPower.com is a service that is totally free for the life of the inverter and is simple, intuitive and easy to use, yet includes powerful features such as data export and reporting for incentive programs. The optional PVM1010 data monitoring card is installed internally to the inverter and does not require additional external enclosures or power outlets.”
AE’s PV Powered string inverter line includes 2 kW to 5.2 kW units with model-specific output voltage options of 208 Vac and 240 Vac. The inverters are passively cooled and include an integrated dc/ac disconnect listed to the UL 98 standard. The inverters feature a split-chassis design with the disconnect housed within an NEC-compliant raceway that facilitates manufacturer-approved, flush side-by-side mounting of multiple inverters.
Delta Energy Systems. While Delta’s string inverter products are new to the North American market, the company itself is well established. Delta was founded in 1971 and is a $6.6B company with 80,000 employees worldwide. It is also the number one manufacturer of switch-mode power supplies globally. Delta is one example of a power systems technology corporation that has recently directed its sights on the North American solar marketplace. In 2002, Delta acquired the advanced power supply division of the Swiss group ASCOM Energy Systems ( formerly FRAKO, a German power supply manufacturer founded in 1928). The division was renamed Delta Energy Systems. A subsidiary of the global Delta family, Delta Energy Systems manufactures power supply products for computer, telecommunication, medical and industrial industries, as well as products for PV applications.