Trending in solar electronics: MLPE suppliers shifting toward integrated systems

Increased PV installation is driving the rapid growth of module-level power electronics (MLPE), according to global research and consulting organization Frost & Sullivan.

“Renewable energy targets and regulations are set to play a major role in the development of the MLPE market as countries move toward more efficient and sustainable power generation,” said Manoj Shankar, energy and environment research analyst for Frost & Sullivan.

The United States is the top market for microinverters and power optimizers, according to the annual IHS Technology PV Microinverter and Power Optimizer report.

There’s a lot of pressure on MLPE manufacturers to reduce costs and make smart business decisions to stay competitive.

IHS Markit reported that suppliers are shifting their business models toward integrating with other products for smart and AC modules, rather than selling stand-alone models.

“Purchasing one unit is more attractive for customers than purchasing multiple parts and installing them one by one, and the market is adapting to that demand,” said Cormac Gilligan, research manager at IHS Markit.

The market for smart and AC modules will grow from less than 200 MW in 2015 to over 4 GW in 2020 as integrated products become favored in the global market, IHS predicts.

Dropping prices to bring MLPEs on par with traditional inverters will obviously further spur MLPE adoption.

Though MLPEs like microinverters and power optimizers have traditionally been used iIHS invertersn residential applications, installers are choosing MLPEs for larger projects. Frost & Sullivan expects megawatt-level MLPE installations to increase from 3.3 GW in 2016 to 10.7 GW in 2021.

MLPEs inherently meet NEC requirements for rapid shutdown. These standards, along with advancing smart home technology, are also expected to encourage MLPE growth.

“Policies and standards will be a significant driver of MLPE adoption and associated module-integrated solutions over the next five years, particularly in the United States,” said Camron Barati, solar analyst at IHS Markit. “The 2017 update to the United States National Electric Code will standardize safety requirement applications in state markets. This will ultimately incentivize the use of microinverters and power optimizers for rooftop applications. Technology giants such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Huawei, AT&T and Comcast also provide solutions for the smart home market and, therefore, opportunities for MLPE suppliers to engage with wider audiences.”



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