PETALUMA – The march of solar technology toward less expensive, more efficient systems echoes the development of computer technology, with the same semiconductor core.
Now that photovoltaic panels are plentiful – if not lower in cost – researchers are turning their attention to the energy conversion components of the system. North Bay installers like REC Solar in Petaluma will soon begin rolling out Tigo Maximizer Systems, a recent advance and enhancement to inverter technology.
Los Gatos-based Tigo Energy has patented a DC power optimizing system that can up the output of a solar array by as much as 20 percent.
According to Tigo development partner REC Solar, the technology, used along with centralized inverters, has all the benefits of micro inverters with the advantages of increased reliability, safety of installation and operation and improved efficiency.
Micro-inverter technology requires units on every single panel of a solar system, said Chris Masys, director of regional sales for REC Solar.
The performance benefits associated with allowing each panel to operate independently have been offset with concern over the positioning of sensitive power conversion electronics in the very hot environment of a rooftop.
The Tigo system offered by REC Solar allows for each panel to operate at a point where it can provide the most power without being affected by the potential shading or soiling of the other panels in the system.
“Since Tigo is not a micro-inverter but rather a power optimizer, we can utilize the proven reliability and efficiency of a centralized inverter,” he said.
Tigo puts a module-maximizing unit on each panel to boost power production, but the actual inversion from DC to AC power takes place in a separate unit which can be installed in a cool, protected location.
Installing inverters on roofs exposes workers to the danger of very high voltage of about 400 volts, and the inversion process itself can spark fires, said Mr. Masys.
The nearby control modules integrate with most leading inverters, and they’re suitable for retrofits as well as new systems.
Improved safety means Tigo can be used in higher voltage systems, up to 1,000 volts, he said.
“REC has installed more solar systems than any other system integrator in the nation,” said Angiolo Laviziano, CEO of the San Luis Obispo-based company.
“We’re constantly evaluating new technologies that will benefit our customers. Tigo Energy’s maximizer system is a very interesting product that we will introduce to our early adopter customers who are interested in cutting-edge technology.”
According to Mr. Masys, the technology is already being integrated with REC Solar systems and will be available to North Bay customers within a couple of months.
“This technology offers the best experience available, in our opinion,” he said.