2017 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide

CPS AmericaThe 2018 version is now available to download for FREE here.

CPS America

CPS America (Chint Power Systems) entered the United States in 2012 and has shipped 1 GW of UL-certified 3-phase string inverters to North America. Its 14- to 60-kW product line earned No. 1 market share in the United States in the DG segment, according to GTM Research.

What’s New?

In 2017, CPS America is excited about its 50-60 kW three-phase string platform, which includes all the great features customers love about its 23-36 kW models packaged efficiently in roughly the same form factor. This platform is optimized for large ground-mount projects based on top cost/performance in 3-MWac building blocks and also appropriate for rooftops because the units can lay horizontal for easy, low-cost mounting adjacent to PV arrays.

The 50-kW model is great for regions that need perfect multiples (100 kW, 1 MW, 2 MW, etc.) The 60 kW is optimal for keeping installed cost per watt well under $0.10/watt and both have advanced utility controls. These units have 98.5 percent CEC efficiency, 0-90 degree mounting flexibility (flat to vertical), 15 string inputs, 3 MPPTs, integrated and separable wire-box for easy installation and service. CPS America

Advice to Buyers

“The inverter business is challenging, and inverters have needs,” says Ed Heacox, GM, sales and marketing, CPS America. “Don’t be a victim of idealistic inverter offerings; make sure your supplier has deep service and support resources and a bias toward action to support you. CPS views life-cycle services as integral to the product we sell — applications engineering, commissioning/startup support, tech-support on the phone and in-field service. Customers should have a first name basis and personal cell phone connection with their inverter sales and service team. Service solutions and company culture to support customers are just as important as the product specifications.”


SMA AmericaSMA America

SMA America is the U.S. subsidiary of SMA Solar Technology AG, headquartered in Niestetal near Kassel, Germany. The U.S. subsidiary is located in Rocklin, Calif.

SMA offers comprehensive PV system solutions for all module types and plant sizes including residential systems, large-scale plants, grid-connected, off-grid and hybrid systems. The company manufactures a range of string inverters, central inverters and battery inverters. SMA also offers system technology for various battery technologies and comprehensive services and O&M of large-scale PV plants.

SMA recently reached a huge milestone, achieving 10 GW of installed inverter capacity in North America. The company has more than 50 GW total, worldwide.

What’s New?

SMA has some major initiatives set for 2017. First, its Sunny Boy-US series has been upgraded and is equipped with the latest technology and safety features. The next stage for the Sunny Boy-US is the unveiling of SMA’s new Power+ solution for optimizing residential systems. Paired with the Sunny Boy-US, Power+ is SMA’s MLPE solution. It can be applied selectively for faster installation, reduced service risk and a simple, flexible and cost-effective design. Selectively deploying Power+ will result in greater energy production and will maximize roof usage, providing high ROI and improved performance.

Also, SMA’s new Sunny Tripower CORE1 will be available for shipping in Q2. Building on SMA’s Sunny Tripower product line, the versatile 50-kW CORE1 is aimed at commercial rooftop solar — what SMA is calling “the world’s first standing PV inverter for commercial rooftops, carports and ground-mount solar projects.” SMA America

Advice to Buyers

“The best advice we can give to buyers is to do their research and look past the spec sheet. It is important to understand how the inverter, inverter supplier and service organization affect your risk,” says Brad Dore, director of marketing at SMA. “Any company can craft a slick data sheet that looks nice and sounds impressive, but performance varies significantly between inverters due to installation costs, O&M considerations, and the financial risk associated with some suppliers. Buyers need to be savvy.”



Eaton is over a century old and has been involved in electrical systems since the AC grid was first invented, launching utility-scale solar and storage inverters several years ago.

What’s new?

The focus is higher power and higher voltage inverters. Eaton continues to provide liquid-cooled technology to help reduce component stress and enhance equipment life. Eaton recently launched a 2.5-MW storage inverter. This high power unit is designed to support larger storage projects (10 MW and greater). In addition, Eaton’s unique topology allows for operation at higher voltages with half the number of components as other inverters.Eaton

Advice to Buyers

“With increasing pricing pressure, we have seen an increase in the application of unreliable design principles used in solar inverters,” says Chris Thompson, grid power business unit manager. “We encourage customers to be discerning in their selection to prevent near-term financial impact on their projects.”



This complete guide is from our March/April Inverter Issue. Subscribe for free today in print or digital (or both!)

YaskawaYaskawa – Solectria Solar

Yaskawa – Solectria Solar, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Yaskawa America, is currently the No. 1 commercial inverter supplier in the United States according to GTM Research. Its product line is also one of the broadest in the industry and includes inverters from 3.8 to 750 kW, string combiners and web-based monitoring for all size solar systems from residential to utility scale. Parent company Yaskawa Electric Corp. is a $4 billion global leader in motor drives and factory automation solutions and has been in business for more than 100 years.

Over the past 11 years, Yaskawa – Solectria Solar has grown steadily in the United States, with its cumulative installations of PV inverters exceeding 3 GW in 2016. Based in Lawrence, Mass., Solectria continues to focus on high performance, reliability and bankability.

What’s New?

Yaskawa – Solectria Solar made a splash in 2016 with the debut of its PVI 50TL and PVI 60TL inverters, adding to its three-phase, 1,000 Vdc, transformerless string inverter line. The PVI 50TL and PVI 60TL inverters provide design flexibility, wide MPPT voltage range, 1.5 DC/AC ratio, -30°C to +60°C operating temperature range and remote diagnostics/firmware upgrades. They come with an integrated, detachable wiring box with H4 connector option, 0-90° mounting configuration and NEC 2014 compliance with integrated arc fault and rapid shutdown.Yaskawa – Solectria Solar

Advice to Buyers

“Don’t just invest in your inverter — invest in the inverter company and its people,” says Danielle Kershner, channel sales representative. “Choosing the right inverter company is essential, as the solar industry matures and customers look for more and more technical support from manufacturers. From early stages of PV system design, to interconnection agreements with utilities, installation support and ongoing operations and maintenance, you rely on an inverter manufacturer that supports you throughout the project development cycle. Invest in an inverter company that has a strong balance sheet and can support ongoing code changes and industry standards to maximize solar energy production and your return on investment.”



KacoKACO New Energy

KACO new energy is a fast-growing inverter company with a robust portfolio of inverters for residential, commercial and utility-scale applications. KACO has been in business for more than 100 years, and has been manufacturing inverters in San Antonio, Texas, since 2013.

What’s New?

KACO is now shipping an updated version of its residential MLPE solution, the blueplanet Ultraverter, to an expanded distribution network.

The Ultraverter is packaged with only three separate SKUs, while similar competitor products often require larger numbers of different sizes and components, a common cause of unfavorably high inventory levels for solar installers and distributors.

Eliminating the need for costly proprietary BOS components, KACO’s Ultraverter is customized for compatibility with user-friendly and cost-effective components, a decision executed specifically based on distributor and installer feedback regarding opportunities to reduce BOS and installation costs. The Ultraverter is backed by a 25-year warranty. KACO New Energy

Advice to Buyers

“Working with your manufacturer’s sales rep should feel like working with a solar project consultant. If the customer experience feels like he or she is just trying to get a PO out of you and not offering any sustainable solutions or valuable services; it’s time to switch vendors,” says Naveed Hasan, head of marketing, Americas KACO new energy.



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