APsystems microinverters now on Sunnova’s approved vendor list

APsystems

APsystems joined the approved vendor list for Sunnova, one of the leading U.S. residential solar and energy storage service provider. The agreement brings APsystems advanced microinverter technology to Sunnova’s portfolio of  solar services. Sunnova offers an array of solar lease, lease-to-own, and power-purchase options for customers all across the United States.

“Sunnova has earned a strong reputation for easy, no-nonsense solar packages for consumers,” said Jason Higginson, Senior Director of Marketing for APsystems USA. “We’re glad to bring our solar microinverter technology to their platform, to help more homeowners nationwide enjoy energy self-sufficiency and savings.”

“Our goal is to offer our customers a brilliant choice for energizing their lives,” said John Santo Salvo, SVP of Channel Operations and Chief Procurement Officer at Sunnova. “We believe APsystems’ advanced microinverter offering is an ideal addition to our customer-empowering portfolio of solar solutions.”

APsystems is listed on Sunnova’s 2018 Approved Vendor List and is now an option in their system solution platform.

— Solar Builder magazine

Ask a Distributor: We ask distributors for their purchasing advice, products to watch in 2018

solar distributors

Solar is now the No. 1 new source of capacity being added to the grid, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, and solar installer is the fastest growing job in the country according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And what’s the reason for the rise of this new era? The impending doom of the ice caps melting? Hardly. The advancements in technology? Getting warmer.

Really, things just got cheaper.

This is to say that purchasing plays a large, perhaps outsized, role in the value proposition of the industry and your business. Given that reality, we wanted to kick off the year by polling a handful of solar distributors for their purchasing advice.

You’ll be hearing from:

purchasing

Here’s the No. 1 way to avoid purchasing problems

What are the common problems distributors see when it comes to purchasing systems to install? There are a few quick, solvable issues — stuff like reviewing the details of an order before signing off on it or avoiding last minute purchases.

“Plan ahead and inspect shipments to avoid/mitigate mix ups and ensure fast and timely solutions when needed,” McShea says. “Waiting three weeks until install to say something is missing and you need it now is not effective.”

But all of that feeds into the advice that resonated with us the most: Seeing the distributor relationship as a two-way street that adds value to your business. According to the distributors we talked to, the more often you communicate, the more the distributor knows about your business, the easier it is for them to help.

“Valuing price over loyalty and the quality of the relationship with a distributor, I think, is a mistake,” Schoder from Civic notes.

A simple step up in communication will not only solve a bunch of issues but could create additional value for your business.

“Good communication and transparency are always the best remedies for doing good business and mitigating potential errors,” Dufrenne says. “Everyone is busy and going to make mistakes, including distributors and shipping companies. When all parties pay attention to detail and plan accordingly, deliveries and installations seem to go more smoothly.”

And it’s not just an exercise in mistake avoidance. Keeping everyone on the same page, forecast-wise, can only make the ordering process smoother for everyone.

“At least one call a week to plan upcoming jobs would help avoid supply chain issues,” Kyler says. This ensures all orders and forecasting align with expectations.

There’s also the training aspect. “Manufacturers are constantly offering training, quite often through their distributors,” Bailey notes. “Yet we still see many installers deal with headaches for hours which they could have learned to avoid by going through some quick training on the product features and installation.”

Think about kits

Ordering from multiple suppliers for a given residential job can leave more room for error, such as damage during shipping, incorrect parts arriving or a delayed delivery, all of which lengthens install time and increases costs.

“The best solution I’ve seen yet for lowering soft costs is to have one to two standardized kits which the sales team and installation crew are both very familiar with,” says Leone with Civic. “This mitigates both sales and labor costs. We recommend having multiple kits to protect against upstream challenges such as availability.”

“Ordering from one supplier and having the experts kit the equipment per job before shipping to the jobsite or warehouse can reduce most mistakes that cause delays and additional labor/mobilization costs,” Dufrenne says.

Sticking with brands also avoids the hassle of resubmitting permits with different equipment types or brands.

4 soft cost reduction tips

Schoder: “Utilizing online software programs like Helioscope and Energy Toolbase to drastically reduce the amount of time and effort that goes into a respectable customer proposal.”

Bailey: “Smaller installers like to use microinverters for [lowering soft costs]. In many cases they don’t have the in-house expertise to properly design a string inverter system which can maximize production. Microinverters are flexible, and the installers can design in the field by adding modules as they see fit.”

Dufrenne: “Good operations management [from lead generation to final completion]. Use software, like ENACT.”

Kyler: “Installers should keep at least one administrator dedicated to handling all incoming and outgoing paperwork such as permits, SREC registrations and contracts. This would help reduce soft costs and avoid any confusion or dilemmas later on.”

Truck these rolls

For starters, it helps to have a mini-inventory of small accessories (L-feet, clamps, wire), but stocking extra parts for the rest of the system is always a good idea.

“A common purchasing mistake I see installers make is purchasing just enough for their project instead of calculating for inevitable adjustments when they get on the roof,” Kyler says. “Mostly when it comes to racking, I recommend keeping spare parts in each truck.”
Dufrenne laid it out like this: “Not ordering extra parts for racking and attachments ends up costing much more than you’d think, once you have to roll another truck and pay for overnight shipping charges for parts that are usually less than $10.”

When it comes to the inverter (and we will get into this more on page 28) MLPE or string inverters could each offer a route to reduced truck rolls, if handled correctly. But for now, we just note what Kyler recommends: “Select products that allow remote updates or choose manufacturers that provide service programs.”

“Carry spare parts and get your system up and communicating with your gateway and online account before leaving the site,” Bailey says. “Installers who use gateways can track performance as soon as the system lights up. They can coordinate with technical support and determine within a few minutes that all modules and inverters are performing to spec.”

Head to page 2 for advice on system purchasing

— Solar Builder magazine

PV Pointer: Minimize truck rolls by using smart software

APsystems-YC500i-EnergyMax

We’ve all heard the expression “work smarter, not harder,” but you would be surprised how often solar installers get in a truck and roll out to a jobsite to adjust or repair something that probably could have been fixed remotely back at HQ. Many software-savvy solar installers are boning up on best practices to better utilize the systems and information already available to them — most of it right at their fingertips — to save both time and money.

For solar arrays, the most critical software typically lies within the power conversion devices, gateways and interconnected online monitoring platform provided by the inverter manufacturer. The online platform not only monitors the performance of the system, but also tracks a profusion of data points simultaneously and stores that information in the cloud. By checking certain performance specs, settings, activity and historical data, installers can quickly troubleshoot and fix common hitches or, at worst, narrow down the problem.

Every inverter monitoring interface is a little different, but much of the information and tools available are typically the same. With an MLPE system like microinverters, you’re able to drill down to the PV panel level to see what each module is producing at any given time. When troubleshooting a system issue, or when you see a panel reporting low or zero watts, first try rebooting the system remotely if your monitoring platform offers that capability. With some systems, a reboot may help the interface identify the issue, or it might reset the array to its default parameters in case an unusual grid event threw a monkey wrench at it. It could also spur the system to begin downloading recent updates that may have stalled when the system encountered the issue. You may even consider rebooting more than once.

If you’re still troubleshooting the issue, check the DC side of the system. For a microinverter system, be sure each inverter is reporting at its minimal operating range (such as 16 V) incoming from the panel. Next, check your AC output. If your system shows it registering zero or 120 V, the inverter may not be sensing the grid or enough volts from the grid to register as a 240 V grid connection. Without an identified grid connection, the inverter will not convert energy, so if you see this as an issue with multiple sequential inverters, it could be a cable or connector problem. If it applies to the entire string or array, the problem could be a loose wire in the junction box or a tripped breaker.

2017 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide

With a low wattage problem, you can drill down to the panel level online and check the voltage. If it’s registering under its minimal operating range, it’s likely a panel problem and not the inverter. You may still have to visit the site, but at least you know what you’re replacing and exactly where it is on the array. At the site, unplug the suspect panel from the inverter and take a live load DC voltage and current reading. If your panel is reading below its minimum startup voltage and 0 current, then the panel is the culprit and needs replacing.

Don’t underestimate the value of historical data. Looking back over a system’s history — especially that of a single panel — may help identify recurring issues affecting that particular panel. Perhaps a chimney shadow hits the panel at the same time each day. You can look back through the production history to see if it occurs often, or if you have multiple installations in a particular area, you can check each of those to see how unusual grid activity may be affecting your other sites.

Understanding what the site metrics are telling you will give you better insight into what’s happening at a jobsite. Learning what you can do to troubleshoot an issue online can not only save you a truck roll but also significantly reduce your time identifying the problem if you do have to drive to the site.

Larry Busby is a technical services manager at APsystems.

— Solar Builder magazine

Details on APsystems’ advanced microinverter (300 VA peak output power per channel)

APsystems introduces the YC600, a dual-module, utility-interactive microinverter with Reactive Power Control (RPC) technology and Rule 21 grid support functionality at Solar Power International in Las Vegas. See at booth #1745.

APsystems-YC600-logo

The first of its kind, the YC600 was designed to accommodate today’s high output PV panels, offer enhanced capability and meet the latest grid compliance standards, including UL 1741 SA requirements for California Rule 21 as well as voltage and frequency ride through and RPC for European and Australian DER requirements.

Offering an unprecedented 300VA peak output power per channel, the YC600 works with 60 and 72-cell PV modules and offers dual, independent MPPT per panel. The unit operates within a wider MPPT voltage range than competing brands for a greater energy harvest and boasts a durable, NEMA 6/IP67, powder-coated aluminum enclosure, bucking today’s trend of plastic casings.

“Integrating smart grid-interactive capability, reactive power control and Rule 21 support functionality into a dual-module microinverter while still maintaining independent MPPT per channel is a groundbreaking achievement in microinverter technology,” said Olivier Jacques, executive vice president, USA and EMEA. “We’ve significantly raised the bar with this product.”

Vote here for the 2017 Solar Builder Project of the Year

The YC600 builds on the successful APsystems line of multi-module microinverters, simplifying installation and reducing logistics costs. The unit features both integrated ground and DC connectors for fast, hassle-free installation and maintains inherent compliance to NEC 690.12 Rapid Shutdown code requirements. An integrated ZigBee antenna offers broadband communication over a mesh network for fast, accurate data monitoring.

“The demands on today’s power conversion systems require that manufacturers not only bring cutting-edge concepts into existence, but also include the complex capabilities of successful previous generations, all while accommodating both current and new compliance standards,” said Dr. Yuhao Luo, APsystems’ chief technology officer. “The YC600 includes dozens of new and advanced features and functions that outclass competing products. And then we added free monitoring.”

The new microinverter will launch in the U.S. market mid-Q4.

— Solar Builder magazine

APsystems to debut ‘most advanced’ microinverter at SPI next week

Included in our massive SPI Preview Showcase is news that APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter.

APsystems-YC600-logo

The company says the YC600 includes groundbreaking design in microinverter technology and offers the highest peak output power, faster transmission speed and more modules allowed per string than comparable microinverters. A wider MPPT voltage range will result in a greater energy harvest for homeowners.

The first of its kind, the YC600 is designed to accommodate today’s high output PV panels, offer enhanced capability and meet the latest grid compliance standards while providing an unprecedented level of power with dual, independent MPPT per channel. The unit also builds on the successful APsystems line of multi-module microinverters, simplifying installation and reducing logistics costs.

The new microinverter will debut at the APsystems booth #1745.

— Solar Builder magazine