Chat Extra: Georg Bettenhauser MLPE notes

Tom: Where is the market headed—and needs to head—for module-level power electronics integrated in modules to drive end-user adoption?

Georg:

  1. For historical context, I believe the idea for an “AC module” was first patented in the 1980s. Many attempts have been made over the years, but until very recently, none had successfully progressed past being an exhibit at a trade show and gone into volume production and broad market adoption. And most of them looked like “MacGyver had a very bad day in the workshop!” Think “duct tape, bailing wire & sheet rock screws!” We are just now beginning to see the first technically and economically viable integrated AC and DC-optimized PV modules coming to market.    
     
  2. Both the need for simplicity and cost reduction are the key drivers behind this trend and there is no doubt in my mind that within three years at the most, 100% of all PV modules aimed at the residential market segment will be “Smart” – either as DC-optimized modules or as AC modules.
     
  3. Particularly in the MLPE / inverter space, technology providers are increasingly differentiating their offerings—with hardware integrated both into the PV module, and as a stand-alone device—as well as with their SaaS-based software platforms that enable installers and end-customers to interact with their solar + storage systems.  
     
  4. The ongoing “battle royal” between microinverter and DC-optimized string inverter topologies is far from over and will, in large part, be decided by the ability of the protagonists to aggressively drive cost reductions while continuously improving functionality and utility for both installers and system owners.
     
  5. MLPE technology will give installers plenty of opportunities to differentiate themselves:
     
    • In the DC optimizer space, we are seeing offerings ranging from chip-based cell-string optimization within each solar module, to stand-alone DC optimizers paired with one, or multiple, PV modules and DC optimizers that are fully integrated into the junction box of a PV module and that, in some cases, can even be individually customized based on the application.
       
    • In the microinverter space, we are seeing a move towards integrated AC modules by multiple PV module vendors. We are also seeing external microinverters that serve two, or even four PV modules—leveraging the cost benefits of a 2/4-in-1. And most recently we have been teased by the concept of a globally deployable, "grid-independent" microinverter that would literally put the "micro" in “microgrid” at the most modular building-block-level—if it can be realized cost-effectively—will be a groundbreaking technological advancement opening up a vast array of new end-customer utility.

Georg: Exciting times are ahead for the industry!


Read the complete chat with Georg, here.