SolarEdge’s HD-Wave inverter has broken the California Energy Commission’s record for inverter efficiency.
The inverter, which was announced in September 2015 but is only now seeing wide-scale rollout, tested at 99% weighted efficiency while the competition clocks in between 96-98%. Arguably more important than the efficiency record is the new technology in the inverter – an “electronics based conversion topology.” SolarEdge says that because of their distributed switching and digital processing of the sine wave, they’re able to more efficiently convert electricity from DC to AC. With this new infrastructure, SolarEdge says inverters can evolve beyond mechanics to the speed of electronics. Think of televisions moving from cathode tubes with big magnets to flat screen electronic machines.
The greater efficiency means using 1/16 the number of magnets and copper and cutting heat dissipation by half, allowing for a 2.5x smaller aluminum block for cooling. The size and weight – 17.7” x 14.6” x 6.8” and 25.3 pounds – make it half as big as comparable inverters and installable/replaceable by a single person instead of two.
Currently, inverters cost end users between $0.15-$0.35/W for hardware and $0.05-$0.15/W for installation, with the lowest prices available for only commercial and larger installation sizes. Adding more to the challenges of installation are the special delivery requirements for larger and heavier inverters, the necessity of more than one person for installations and the amount of time involved to put them in place. In contrast, smaller units arrive by mail and typically need only one person for installation.
If installation and hardware prices are halved on residential installations from $0.50/W to $0.25/W, it could signify an 8% drop in price on a residential installation that is currently averaging just below $3/W.
Personally, I’ve worked on commercial projects using similar technology, such as the HiQ 8kW inverters. The units are small, light, completely contained and can be swapped out by a technician. When replacing a failed unit, the new units reintegrate themselves into the wireless network automatically once connected.
SolarEdge’s technology earned a nod from Intersolar in 2016 in the photovoltaics category. One of SolarEdge’s cofounders, Lior Handelsman, went on record to say that had the technology come out a year earlier, it could have won Google’s small inverter prize.
At the time of the technology’s public release in 2015, SolarEdge and Tesla were closely working together on the development of StorEdge and Powerwall products.
Recent certifications meeting ‘UL 1741 Supplement A’ draft requirements would seem to apply to this hardware. As the Department of Energy continues its push to 100% daytime solar power concurrently with $1/W install costs, this hardware will help both goals. Combined with collaboration with IBM on the Internet of Things power grid, moving to electronics seems quite fitting.
SolarEdge’s biggest competition in the solar panel electronics market – Enphase – isn’t doing as hotly. The Petaluma, CA-based company announced on Jan. 30 an 18% workforce cut as part of a restructuring plan. The restructuring is the second within the last six months as the company cut 11% of its workforce in the fall. Enphase produces 80% of microinverters (SolarEdge uses optimizers on each solar panel and a single central inverter) used globally and executives said the recent cuts made way for profitability in the near-term.
Also, we’re expecting to see a Tesla Inverter in the coming months that will seamlessly integrate its Powerwall/Powerpack batteries and car charging infrastructure.