Innovation on the way for C&I solar design

One of the bigger themes that emerged at RE+ in Anaheim is the renewed focus on the commercial and industrial (C&I) PV space, especially via module level power electronics (MLPE). Here’s just a taste of all the new products and integrations announced at the show.

MLPE re-tooling for C&I rooftops

Microinverter manufacturer APsystems is making another push into the C&I space with the QT2 series. This four-module, three-phase microinverter product offers higher power output than the previous generation product — 1,800W (480V) and 1,728W (208V) in the U.S. (99.5% MPPT efficiency) – which is a must as module power keeps on rising. In fact, the QT2 is ideal for use with four high-capacity commercial PV modules from 450W to 600W+, enabled with Reactive Power Control (RPC) and UL 1741 SA (CA Rule 21).

“The QT2 series represents a significant breakthrough in solar panel current and power, power density, conversion capability,” said APsystems CTO Yuhao Luo. “This powerful capability combined with intelligent firmware, built-in rapid shutdown compliance, and fast installation makes this a truly unique product in the marketplace.”

The fact that microinverters are low voltage and inherently compliant with NEC 690.12 Rapid Shutdown requirements also makes this compelling. The company also notes 20% fewer components for increased reliability and improved enclosure design and topology for better cooling at high temperatures versus the previous generation.

Yotta Energy is also sold on the APsystems QT2, which is the integrated supplier for the new Yotta DPI-208 and DPI-480. These Dual Power Inverters can integrate directly with Yotta’s module-level SolarLEAF Energy Storage Technology. But perhaps even bigger news out of Yotta is a line of commercial EV chargers, including a solar-powered EV Charging Station that can be deployed in less than 48 hours and deliver up to 510 miles of solar-powered charging daily and is grid optional. All three products will be commercially available in Q1 2023.

Likewise, Tigo Energy is stepping up its efforts to meet the needs of C&I installers. The recent debut of Tigo’s TS4-A-2F 25A and corresponding rapid shutdown device will work for solar modules rated up to 700W (and a maximum input voltage of 80V per module), including bifacial modules. Both products feature compatibility with Pure Signal technology in Tigo RSS Transmitters and pair with an industry-leading list of third-party solar inverters.

SolarEdge Technologies launched the S-Series, a new range of smart power optimizers for C&I PV applications across North America that adds in SolarEdge Sense Connect technology. This detects temperature increase at the connector level to prevent potential electric arcs by shutting down power flow before an arc can occur. The S-Series Power Optimizer is also designed for higher power modules and bifacial modules, which due to the rear-side module mismatch can suffer from even greater potential power loss.

Oh hey, remember tenKsolar? It was a Minn.-based module company that wired its cells and modules in parallel to eliminate module-to-module mismatch, shading issues, etc., while adding layers of redundancy and allowing for low voltage designs with high power density. The company ran into issues with the microinverter it sourced and a big-time investor that had the wrong vision for the company and technology.

Well, Greg Cox of Alabama-based Global RAIS is ready to revive the concept. Cox was once a tenK customer who believed in the technology and didn’t want to see it go to waste. He has lined up investors with a better vision for what this technology can do, and he thinks he has kicked the reliability issues tenK 1.0 originally ran into by teaming with NEP. Keep watch on the site for more on this.

Bifacial opportunity approaches

Hi-Mo 5

As reported last week, LONGi will begin producing a smaller scale version of its 72-cell, utility-scale Hi-MO 5 module for residential and commercial applications in the U.S. market. The new 54-cell version (weighing in at under 50 lbs) is based on the M10 182-mm-monocrystaline wafer and will be available in early 2023, first as a monofacial module and then as a bifacial module – the latter being a bigger deal than I initially thought.

Aaron Thurlow, head of distributed generation for LONGi North America indicated to us, bifacial modules just might be the future in both C&I and residential segments in the future.

For one thing, price is becoming less of a factor between monofacial and bi (which will only continue). Second, the extra glass of the bifacial modules makes them physically more reliable (as evidenced by LONGi’s 30-year bifacial warranty). At that point, the extra oomph from backside capture is just a nice bonus. We’ll be exploring this topic more down the road, but the main thing to know now is that M10 wafer size and LONGi’s R&D is making this potential bifacial push possible.

Streamlined designs and quoting

The latest slick trend here is financiers integrating directly within design platforms. For example, Aurora Solar announced key integrations at RE+. Dividend, Mosaic, and Sungage Financial can now provide solar installers and their homeowner customers with simple, accessible funding to go solar.

On the C&I energy storage side though, Energy Toolbase added another financier, Luminia, that can offer PPAs and Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) loan financing for commercial solar, energy storage, and energy efficiency projects right from the platform. Luminia connects C&I property owners with a broad range of financing solutions via its proprietary technology platform to enable the deployment of solar, energy storage, EV charging stations, and other energy efficiency upgrades without any upfront payment.

Scaling up a bit more to microgrids, Xendee released a new multi-node feature that enables users to create interconnected microgrid networks from a constellation of smaller DERs that can support up to 25 technology types.

“Xendee’s new multi-node feature gives engineers the tools to design large scale or interconnected microgrids using the same tools as a normal project,” says Michael Stadler, CTO, and co-founder of Xendee. “We are moving past simple energy and economic modeling to allow the design of entire networks of microgrids. These networks can consider cable length, transformer requirements, power flow, and the losses due to distribution between the nodes.”

Xendee has bigger plans to connect these simplified designs with a microgrid controller as well, so that all of that planning better translates to results in the field.

Mounting and racking made easier

Aerocompact

Austrian PV racking expert AEROCOMPACT launched a rail-based mounting system – CompactFLAT SN 2 – for all common module sizes, including large-area solar modules up to 2.384 m x 1.303 m. The system is an optimized version of its predecessor, CompactFLAT SN, and is equally suitable for mounting framed PV modules on concrete, bitumen, foil and gravel roofs. AEROCOMPACT designed it for solar installations facing south or east/west with a tilt angle of 10°. The system’s rail cross connectors can also be used as ballast supports. Since they can be continuously adjusted to the module length, pre-assembly is quick and easy even without modules.

“More variants of the SN 2 will follow at the end of the year so that we can meet all customer requirements with one system,” says AEROCOMPACT product manager Irene Zemanek.

For 15 years, PanelClaw has led the flat roof PV market. One reason for that is its in-house design and project management tool. Well, at RE+, PanelClaw made that available for all to use.

The clawOS software is a cloud-based structural design platform with the power and sophistication to handle virtually any project using the clawFR mounting system. It includes individual point loads, multi-azimuth layouts and multi-rooftop capabilities, AutoCAD and Helioscope integration, a native layout engine, and a sophisticated wind and seismic engine. The cloud-based software allows for anytime, anywhere access to construction sets and calculation packages, with the ability to assess layout change impacts from the job site.

FTC Solar Pioneer tracker

FTC Solar showed off its new one module in portrait (1P) Solar Tracker Solution, the Pioneer, which will greatly expand the number of jobs and sites they can deploy trackers in the DG space. Key to the Pioneer design is its hexagonal torque tube, which led to all sorts of smart tweaks, such as requiring only 11 piles per row and removing the need for through bolts to keep modules in place. Its time trials show modules can move from a pallet to hanged glass in 40 seconds.

We also caught wind of a Solar FlexRack ballasted tracker designed just for landfill solar projects.

There is much more from RE+ to extract from my brain in the coming days. Stay tuned.

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