Inside Tech: How new platform from TrinaSolar delivers module-level flexibility

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Flexibility will forever be a goal in the solar industry because there is no perfect site. As you’ll notice throughout the mounting guide this year, flexibility is a big trend in mounting systems, but there is usually still a rigidity baked into the PV architecture itself. Panels are tied together on strings, and choosing one approach to system architecture might solve one issue while creating another, or maybe it solves everything but is more expensive than originally planned.

A new system from TrinaSolar — Trinaflex — was designed to add in some system flexibility by mixing and matching module-level technology at individual modules while not needing to upgrade an entire array or string. Now, the module technology deployed in the Trinaflex is nothing new. The platform uses the Trinasmart and Trinaswitch modules that have been available in the market. The innovation here is the ability to mix and match. Flexibility. This is why Jing Tian, Trina’s head of global marketing, called it a “solution platform.”

So, to understand this solution, let’s talk about the Trinaswitch and the Trinasmart.

The biggest key to Trinaswitch smart modules is safety. It is constantly monitoring PV module parameters and checking for issues such as overvoltage or overtemperature, and will enter PV-Safe mode if a safety hazard is detected and reported to the Cloud Connect. From there, single modules or the entire system can be shut off at the module level. Trinasmart is Trina’s high-performance module that has optimization and a capped maximum voltage that allows for longer strings from Tigo Energy built in. It quickly finds the exact optimal operating point of each module and prevents shading issues from diminishing the output of other modules.

The secret sauce for these solutions is in the junction box. This junction box is a removable, plug-and-play item that leads to the flexibility afforded by the Trinaflex platform. (Also, these module junction boxes are color coded to make it easier to work with on site.)

“For a customer who, if they have one type of inventory and want to switch, they can buy the cover plate separately to switch out the electronics,” Tian says. “If they want to go from the Trinaswitch to Trinasmart or vice versa, that’s an option.”

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Certain customers will find the real value in the selective deployment of both the module-level optimization and module-level shutdown. Typically, if a module needs to be optimized for shade mitigation, then the entire string needs to be optimized — an either/or proposition that also usually requires additional components throughout the system.

Flexibility is also helpful because of today’s tight deadlines. Consider how long permitting can take. It helps to avoid any issues once you get on site, like seeing that the roof is not quite as was permitted.

But with more options comes more decisions. What is the right mix for a certain roof and customer? TrinaSolar has integrated these options into Aurora Solar’s design tool, which can give a customer the bill of materials and an understanding of what modules they need in various scenarios.

“We’re only optimized where the module needs to be optimized,” Tian says. “So, the cost to optimize is reduced if you don’t need the entire string to be optimized.”

Chris Crowell is managing editor of Solar Builder.