Monitoring, Solar

Ampt optimizes PV modules with junction box suppliers’ help

Ampt announced partnerships with Amphenol, Huber+Suhner, Multi-Contact, and Shoals Technologies Group to bring the company’s DC/DC PV-module-level optimizers to the global solar photovoltaics market. Levent Gun, president and CEO, discusses the company’s business strategy, as well as takeaways from Solar Power International.

November 8, 2011 — During last month?s Solar Power International in Dallas, TX, Ampt announced partnerships with Amphenol, Huber+Suhner, Multi-Contact, and Shoals Technologies Group to bring the company’s DC/DC PV-module-level optimizers to the global solar photovoltaics market. After the conference, Levent Gun, president and CEO, discussed the significance of the announcement with respect to the company?s business strategy, as well as takeaways from the conference. Additionally, Gun commented on two major topics of discussion at SPI: the Solyndra bankruptcy and the SolarWorld et al trade action against China.

Providing a little background on Ampt?s technology, Gun told ElectroIQ.com that its maximum power point tracking (MPPT) functionality captures the mismatch losses between modules and strings because it moves the control circuits from the array level to the module level, effectively removing negative correlations between modules in a string. ?A poor performing part of the system is no longer a drag on the whole system?s performance,? said Gun. The result is that system integrators can use fewer balance of systems (BoS) components such as DC cables, combiner boxes, inverters, and any associated labor with these components. ?On a per Watt basis, expect these BoS costs to come down up to 50% or more,? Gun said.

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The partnership with junction box suppliers came about because Ampt decided not to try to become a next-generation junction box manufacturer.  Rather, it decided to work with existing suppliers, which already know how to sell to module makers. ?The module companies like this because they are used to buying from these partners [junction box suppliers] we announced — so it makes this relationship between Ampt, junction box companies, and the module makers a win-win-win relationship.?   

While attending SPI, Gun observed many products in which electronics are on the modules. ?There is definitely a recognition that the additional harvest and visibility through sensors embedded on the modules help the LCOE, for at least rooftops that have shade and soiling,? said Gun. ?Today, use of these electronics is a trade-off between cost and increased energy output — a choice between higher energy and higher cost, which limits the application to only a small percentage of the market where there is shade and soiling. So by my count, optimizers are used on only about 1% of new PV plants this year because of that limitation.? He further observed that his company?s technology has removed that trade-off. ?Our technology can be deployed even for a perfect system in which there is no shade or soiling because it will reduce the cost of deployment. We?ll still get higher efficiency from a perfect system.?

Also read: Design the grid to be DC at Research @ Intel Day

Addressing the topics of Solyndra and the China trade action, Gun observed that cost is everything. ?Many module companies are operating at thin margins and there is no room to add cost even to justify the most innovative technologies,? said Gun. ?This reinforces our position that we need to add value without adding cost for the new technologies to be adopted. The message of reducing deployment costs, reducing operating costs, and increasing revenue or energy harvested really resonates with customers and partners, whether system integrators, inverter companies, or module makers.  The end result is a significantly higher ROI, which makes more projects more able to be financed, and that will create a healthy dynamic for the industry.?

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