SMA & GE Announce PV Moves At Solar Power International Conference

October 19, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

SMA America Inc. (SMA) and General Electric (GE) were among the companies making major announcements at the 2008 Solar Power International Conference and Expo in San Diego, California. Acknowledging the growing size of these sectors of the PV market, SMA, the U.S. subsidiary of SMA Solar Technology AG introduced the Sunny Central 250U, a 250kW inverter designed to be the heart of a large-scale commercial PV system.

Described as the largest manufacturer of inverters in the world, SMA’s entrance into the higher-wattage commercial market is a significant development for the industry. Other companies featuring inverters in the 250 to 500kW range were Xantrex , Advanced Energy, PV Powered and Satcon.

GE Energy Financial Services, a unit of GE, announced that it had joined a group of investors providing nearly $21 million in venture capital to Soliant Energy of Monrovia, Calif. Soliant Energy is developing what it calls the most efficient and lowest cost rooftop concentration modules for commercial and industrial buildings, a market it estimates will reach $13.2 billion by 2010.

The rooftop concentration modules are expected to deliver the highest total energy yield when integrated into complete rooftop systems. Compatible with conventional racks and inverters, its modules leverage high efficiency solar cells and integrated two-axis tracking to maximize the total energy harvest. GE estimates that commercial and industrial buildings comprise 60% of the total roof area in the United States.

Additional conference participants offering inverters for residential, commercial and industrial use included Outback Power, Magnetek, Fronius, Sharp and Power-One. Discussions with representatives of these companies revealed that in addition to continued growth in all sectors ( residential, commercial and industrial) of PV over the next several years, there will be a move toward longer inverter warrantees, with some companies extending their them as long as 20 years.

The conference drew over 15,000 attendees and featured over 400 exhibitors. From a power electronics point of view, an especially interesting part of the show involved new product offerings by a number of inverter manufacturers. Given the growing commercial and industrial market, many of these products were in the higher-wattage categories.