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According to the Solar Energy Industry Association, the residential market solar market grew by 67% last year. This is great news, but we know from speaking with our readers that the industry is also getting very competitive. We also know that margins can sometimes be an issue and companies are looking for ways to decrease direct costs and overhead. Many industry experts, like Joseph McCabe at Alternative Energy Stocks, at first considered micro-inverters to be for lazy designers, but they are beginning to be viewed as an improvement to centralized inverters saving time in the sales, design and installation process while providing for superior output and reliability. Enphase is a product that has received a lot of business in the past two years, so I decided to have a conversation with Bill Rossi, the Chief Marketing Officer at Enphase, to see how their product could help HeatSpring alumni and readers with their installations.
Q – What’s the story of the product? What’s its history? How was it developed?
A – It’s a typical Silicon Valley story. Enphase was founded in 2006 by two entrepreneurs, MartinFornageandRaghuBelur. They both came from the telecom industry, so they applied the principles they learned in telecom–power electronics and software–and applied them to the solar industry. They came up with the idea to create one inverter per panel, and the micro-inverter was born.
Enhpase didn’t come of the lab, the founders are not academics, and they weren’t from the solar industry. It was a standard entrepreneur story–two engineers looking for an opportunity. Martin was planning on having solar installed on his roof and didn’t understand why solar was designed the way it was or why it had the limitations it did.
Q – Why does Enphase have higher output?
A – We like to use the Christmas light analogy. The output increase fundamentally has to do with the fact that we’re doing the conversation on a per-panel basis. With centralized string inverters, the panels are connected in series in a string, while the Enphase inverters are all connected in parallel. With centralized string inverters, if any one of the panels in a series is not operating up to specification due to shading, mismatch, or dust and debris, the output from the whole array is decreased. However, with Enphase inverters, only the panel being impacted affect the performance (insert image from website).