Solar Module Firms Aim to Differentiate Products at Japan PV Expo 2012March 06, 2012
by Chihheng Liang & Jackie Chang
The homogeneity is high among solar modules. Except power generated, warranty and certifications, it has been hard to differentiate one solar module from the exterior. In Japan PV Expo 2012, many firms try to differentiate solar modules by adding power optimizers, increasing total power generated, and adopting microinverters.
Power optimizer was first introduced to the market in 2010, but the industry has been questioning its ability to increase power generated. Nevertheless, with the effort from power optimizer makers such as US-based Tigo Energy and Israel-based SolarEdge to promote the product and to provide guarantee for electricity monitoring and protection during power outages, the products have been slowly adopted by solar modules.
Tigo Energy showcased the latest generation of power optimizers that have two units of modules connected to a maximum power point tracking (MPPT) optimizer to reduce costs. One module then communicates with the other module through control box to allow the software to ensure optimization of power. China-based firms such as Trina Solar, Hanwha SolarOne, GCL, Germany-based Upsolar, Luxor Solar, and Taiwan-based DelSolar are customers of Tigo Energy’s products. The 250-260W high-efficiency monocrystalline solar module showcased by DelSolar adopts Tigo Energy’s solution to increase average power generation by 4.7-7.6%.
SolarEdge’s MPPT modules can optimize power independently. The product is also paired up with simple inverters to reduce the cost. SolarEdge’s customers include Germany-based Solon and Taiwan-based Ritek Solar. SolarEdge noted that under normal conditions, the optimizer will increase 2-3% of power generated.
BenQ Solar introduced AC Unison module attached to microinverters. This product has a monitor system that was self-produced by BenQ Solar.
The industry leading firms in the microinverter market have been US-based Enphase and SolarBridge. There is a newcomer from Taiwan - iEnergy. iEnergy’s microinverter receives electricity from the junction box of solar modules. iEnergy has introduced two types of products for small residential type and medium- and large-size commercial solar PV systems.
There were many solar modules with specialties being showcased in Japan PV Expo 2012. Japan-based solar module firm S Power introduced solar modules that can prevent damage from salt. These solar modules are used in Northeastern areas of Japan where solar modules are mostly placed by the coast. S Power also plans to introduce solar modules that can be used in snowy areas in Northeastern Japan.
Fujipream showcased light-weight solar module that only weighs 8.2kg. The module is made up by 48 high-efficiency monocrystalline solar cells.
Sharp showcased a series of solar modules called Blacksolar which has conversion efficiency up to 19%.