SMA acquires stake in Tigo Energy to boost MLPE offering
Each photovoltaic system is different. This is the reason why different inverter technologies have established themselves over the last few years. More than half of global demand is for large solar projects that are generally equipped with central inverters. On the other hand, medium and small-sized photovoltaic systems usually have string inverters. Particularly due to regulatory requirements in the USA relating to DC optimizers and AC-module inverters, an additional type of inverter technology has emerged over the last few years: module-level power electronics (MLPE).
This advanced technology is a big trend right now, and inverter company SMA wants in on the action. SMA Solar Technology AG is acquiring a 27 percent stake in Tigo Energy, Inc. in the context of a capital increase. SMA is also obtaining exclusive rights for worldwide sales of the smart module technology TS4 Retrofit.
The new TS4 product platform has various options that allow an increase in energy yield, the simplification of system planning and installation, fire safety, and cloud-based monitoring of system availability. The function options can be integrated easily into a solar module. Customer can thus adapt each individual solar module to their individual requirements. The strategic partnership with Tigo Energy gives SMA access to the fast growing market of module-level power electronics (MLPE) with an annual market volume estimated at approximately EUR 700 million. In addition, SMA will deploy the new solution for expanding its data-based business models.
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The Silicon-Valley-based Tigo Energy developed the patented TS4 smart module technology to increase the functionality of solar modules. For example, the chip-based solutions can augment partially shaded solar modules with an optimization function. As a result, the energy yield of the overall photovoltaic system can be increased on an economical basis. With previous solutions, all solar modules always had to be equipped with an optimizer regardless of whether this was even necessary. Not only existing but also new photovoltaic systems can be augmented with the TS4 product platform. The chip-based solution developed by Tigo Energy has the lowest number of components in the industry and offers a high level of reliability and efficiency for the solar module.
“SMA is the only manufacturer of inverters worldwide that has a complete product portfolio for all solar applications and regions. In order to upgrade its portfolio in the area of MLPE, SMA entered into a strategic partnership with Tigo Energy, Inc,” said Pierre-Pascal Urbon, CEO of SMA. “Around the world, over a billion solar modules have been installed that cannot be individually monitored. With this stake in Tigo Energy, we can for the first time give all solar modules intelligence—in both existing and new plants. For SMA, this information has great strategic relevance for data-based business models.”
The transaction envisages that SMA will acquire a 27 percentstake in Tigo Energy in the context of a $20 million capital increase. SMA receives a seat on the Tigo Energy Board of Directors and exclusive sales rights to the TS4 Retrofit product platform for 30 months. Both companies will cooperate in the areas of research, sales and service.
The SMA Managing Board anticipates that the transaction will impact positively from as early as the second half of 2016. For 2016, the SMA Managing Board estimates sales between EUR 950 million and EUR 1,050 million and a considerable upturn in profits to between EUR 80 million to EUR 120 million.
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