GTM Research predicts the integrated smart and AC module market will reach 1 GW by 2020, likely led by Enphase’s efforts. The microinverter manufacturer recently increased its support for AC modules rather than just stand-alone inverters. Enphase’s new IQ line of microinverters were specially designed for AC modules and the company is racking up the panel partnerships.
Announced last year in time for the annual tradeshow rush, Enphase partnered with both LG and JinkoSolar for advanced AC modules. Panasonic will have its own Enphase-supported AC module in May, and Solaria will release one in June.
Enphase’s AC module push has become so significant that the company is seeking an exemption from the 30% solar panel tariffs. The company believes its AC modules, which attach the microinverters on solar panels assembled outside of the United States, are distinguishable against traditional imported crystalline silicon products warranting the tariffs. No final decisions on any tariff exemptions have been made.
But Enphase isn’t the only company increasing the adoption of AC modules. SunPower has its own AC module within its SunPower Equinox residential system available through its dealer network. In addition to the AC module, the Equinox system has mounting, monitoring and one warranty. These AC modules have found success as part of a full system only sold by SunPower dealers—a network that is constantly growing.
The SunPower playbook is attractive to Enphase. JD Dillion, vice president of product management and pricing at Enphase Energy, said the company wants to eventually link together the AC modules, monitoring and other accessories into one system for residential customers.
“We’re going to be upward compatible from here on out,” Dillion said. “Our ultimate goal is to be almost a solar appliance on the roof for an energy-independent world. An inverter, a panel, the software, the energy management system and the battery—that’s a cohesive, self-sustaining system.”
Installers have already caught on to the benefits of AC modules. San Diego Solar Install now exclusively installs AC modules because they “[are] simpler, improve safety and are fast and easy to install.”
“AC modules are the next obvious step in solar energy,” said Bruce Bosworth, owner of San Diego Solar Install in a press release. “The installation savings start when the modules arrive, with less unpacking and fewer attachment parts to pay for or forget. At the customer site, using AC modules means fewer trips up and down the ladder, and fewer components to install.”