Tigo and the Third Dimension of Solar Improvement

Pessimists in this space like to point toward diagrams showing the base efficiency of solar panels, both silicon and thin film, isn’t rising at a Moore’s Law rate.

But there are other ways to generate improvement in efficiency. You can do a better job of pointing them toward the resource, one reason few panels sit flat. You can make sure the electricity they create isn’t wasted in the form of heat, going from DC to AC and back again.

The third dimension is software.

Tigo Energy is among the companies working in this area. They work in the area of array management. There are several different ways to go here, either with inverters on each panel or better central inverters.

Rather than just get involved in an argument, Tigo is selling hardware and software that engages in active management of arrays, tracking the performance of panels, dealing with disruptions. The company claims it can increase system performance 20%, without your even having to get out on the roof with a washcloth.

Tigo has just picked up another $10 million in capital and a CFO from the telecomm industry to keep this going.

Tigo is just another reminder of how wide and deep this business is getting. Many outsiders think of it as just panels and installers and finance companies. But there’s a host of supporting technologies – converters and software and the rest – that represent growth and efficiency.

I often compare solar to the minicomputer industry of the early 1970s, not that I’m old enough to have worked in it. But solar installations, even home systems, remain a considered capital purchase. There are also a lot of different subsystems that make the base technology more valuable, and a lot of different places to get into the channel, all of which goose efficiency or make solar energy easier for homes and businesses to buy.

Software is just one way to go.



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Dana Blankenhorn has covered business and technology since 1978. He covered the Houston oil boom of the 1970s, began making his living online in 1985, and launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of e-commerce, in 1994. He has written for a host of off-line and online publications including The Chicago Tribune, Advertising Age, and ZDNet. He has covered PCs, networks, telecommunications, cable technology, Internet commerce, the Internet of Things, Open Source and Health IT, He began covering alternative energy at his personal blog, Danablankenhorn.com, in 2007.

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