The Ultimate SPI Showcase: Here’s what to see at Solar Power International 2017

Big leap for microinverters

APsystems SPI

APsystems will unveil the YC600, a dual-module, smart grid and Rule 21 compliant microinverter at SPI in Las Vegas. A groundbreaking design in microinverter technology, the YC600 will offer 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.

You’ll want to get the full scoop at booth 1745.

Streamlined Shutdown


Fronius is launching a new generation of its Rapid Shutdown Box, which the company says will be the most convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 compliance, while enhancing overall rooftop and firefighter safety. The new generation includes two versions: the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo and Quattro.
“Based on customer feedback, we implemented many improvements into this new generation of our Rapid Shutdown Box,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management at Fronius USA.

Directly connected to the inverter through the same conduit as the DC homeruns and powered by the array, the Fronius solution minimizes the number of components and eliminates the need for an external power supply. The low-profile design and the multiple mounting options allow for installation underneath the modules, ensuring a clean system look. In addition, the NEMA 4X rating ensures the box is built for severe outdoor conditions. MC4 connectors, spring-loaded terminals and generous wiring space make the wiring a breeze. The Rapid Shutdown Box also acts as a combiner box, removing the need for additional hardware. Booth 3943.

Lightweight, flexible power conversion

Ideal Power

Ideal Power invented a new kind of power conversion architecture that delivers on flexibility, allowing you to enable or disable any features depending on project needs. At SPI, check out its 30-kW Stabiliti Series power converters. These multiport, compact converters are smaller, lighter and dramatically reduce installation costs while increasing return on investment. Ideal Power recently partnered with NEXTracker to implement it in various PV sites throughout North America. Booth 1433.

A top rail clip to rule them all

Heyco solar rail clips

Heyco has been busy this summer, introducing several new clips and wire management accessories for the solar market. Newest to the lineup are the SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U, which are top rail clips for various racking manufacturers such as Unirac, Ironridge, Everest, SnapNRack, Solar Mount and other similar racking profiles. The SunRunner 4-2 and SunRunner 4-2U are suitable for the new Enphase Q Cable. At the booth, you can also enter for a chance to win a Google Home. Booth 4762.

Drive down carport costs

Baja Carports InterSolar 2017 Booth Models

Baja Construction always has a standout booth, and this year its in-house construction team will be installing its signature Baja Solar Support System design, the “Braced Single Post Support,” built with high-tensile light gauge steel to support 24 solar modules (7.8 kW). Included in the structure is an EV Station for the hot red Tesla parked underneath. Meet Baja’s in-house designers, engineers and project managers and also make certain to visit Baja’s sponsored lobby lounge for food and beverages. I’m sure you’re already there. Booth 4155.

Improve your grip strength

Ace Clamp solar mount
AceClamps are factory-assembled clamps with patented design features that allow strong connections to standing-seam roof panels without the use of set screws or any other loose parts that could damage the surface of the roof panel. AceClamp designs have been vibration tested during the development stage and incorporate special locking features to ensure that the bolts do not back out when subjected to vibratory loads from wind flutter and light seismic activity. Booth 809.

OMG Roofing solar mount

OMG Roofing Products has introduced PowerGrip Universal for mounting solar racking systems on commercial roofs. PowerGrip Universal is designed to reduce or eliminate ballast in solar racking systems, so there’s less weight, material handling and labor on the roof. Made of heavy-duty cast aluminum, PowerGrip Universal offers 3,300 lbf of tensile strength, 2,500 lbf of shear strength and 2,000 lbf of compressive strength. It’s one of the strongest anchors on the market. Booth 629.

Solar Connections

The Standing Seam Power Clamp from Solar Connections can attach to virtually any standing seam profile and draws its strength from patent-pending WaveLock Technology with optional two, three and five points of attachment. The top can be custom drilled and tapped to fit any bolt configuration. Offering ease of installation, the Silver Bullet set screws include a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength while also keeping the paint finish and seam free from harm. Additionally, the Standing Seam Power Clamp is available in standard mill finish aluminum material, making it an item you can easily keep in stock when the need arises. Booth 1569.

Reinventing the ground mount

Nuance Energy

Nuance Energy’s patent-pending Osprey PowerPlatform could revolutionize ground-mounted solar projects. This earth anchor foundation system satisfies permitting requirements for virtually any site and soil type without the need for geotechnical reports or special inspections. It eliminates the need for heavy equipment or cement by enabling small, unskilled crews to install the entire platform quickly and easily using only handheld tools. Booth 2108.

Meet the 4G platform

Ginlong Solis inverter

Ginlong Technologies is now shipping its Solis 4G Platform. What you can see at SPI this year in booth 2427 is the Solis-1P(2.5-10K)-4G-US single phase string inverters, with high switching frequency; 2, 3 and 4 MPPTs designs; 97.8 percent peak efficiency (97.5 percent CEC); fan-less NEMA 4X / IP65 design, integrated AFCI; web-based and smartphone app monitoring, all under 44 lbs. The Solis 25K-66K-US three phase inverters are designed for all commercial and utility-scale installations with four MPPT designs and ultra-low start up volume that maximizes energy harvest. Booth 2427.

Five trackers to, um, track

SunLink TTD

SunLink’s TechTrack enables efficient load redistribution and allows the system to handle extreme wind with less steel, fewer foundations and lower cost. Now, TechTrack’s intelligent control system also delivers equally responsive control modes for snow, flood and O&M. The result is system level benefits, visible in SunLink’s Vertex data monitoring system. Rigorous testing to UL3703 further reduces permitting risk. Booth 3319.


SF7 is the next-generation horizontal single-axis solar PV tracker from Soltec. Soltec says the SF7 enables up to 5 percent greater MW per acre than other trackers and does that with 54 percent fewer piles-per-MW, 15 percent less parts count and 58 percent fewer screw type connections than leading competitors. SF7 standard features include short tracker site-filling options, unique steep-slope tolerance of 17 percent NS, efficient self-powering and innovative cable management solutions for combining, fusing and protecting PV source circuits more economically. Booth 3640.

Solar FlexRack TDP 2 Turnkey Solar Tracker_2017

Solar FlexRack is launching its TDP Tracker with a new BalanceTrac design to increase energy yield and reduce balance of system costs. This TDP 2.0 Solar Tracker with BalanceTrac, optimized for 1,000- and 1,500-V modules, has greater rotational range of up to 120° and enables more modules per row (up to 90). The robust design delivers autonomous tables that increase site flexibility to maximize land use. Booth 2538.

AllEarth Renewable

AllEarth Renewables is showing off its new Gen 4 tracker which will be self-powered, to guard against the grid going down and will have expanded communication options, such as Wi-Fi, cellular and SD card enabled. It will come as a complete, pre-engineered system for easy, efficient shipping. Booth 626.

Array Technologies

Array Technologies is revealing the results of a recent TÜV Rheinland-backed independent report focused on solar tracker reliability. Array’s latest single-axis tracker, the DuraTrack HZ v3, is often touted for its reliability and lower cost of ownership. Array says DuraTrack HZ v3 is proven to be 300x less likely to experience catastrophic failure during wind events than more stow-reliant, single-row competitors. Booth 2919.

Page two has new on big-time collaborations, products for boosting performance, installing on shingles and more.

— Solar Builder magazine

How to find the perfect solar + storage projects (start by looking at the rates)

solor+storageAt the heart of a solar + storage system is a battery, but that heart can’t beat without its brain — the software layer telling it how to operate. For your customers, regardless of battery manufacturer, the software brain is driven by three possible value streams.

  • Peak demand shaving. This is a commercial project value.
  • Time of use (TOU). Discharging on-peak and recharging off-peak.
  • Self-consumption. Pairing storage with solar and setting it to not export to the grid.

Deciding which value stream to choose might be easy, but determining just how much value is in that stream is complex. During a presentation led by Energy Toolbase, a software platform for modeling and analyzing the economics of solar and energy storage projects, Adam Gerza, Energy Toolbase COO, demonstrated how to pull accurate rate schedule data and load profiles of potential projects to accurately model system value. The new storage component in its software offers the same ability as its PV-only modeling and is built with an algorithm to solve for “perfect math,” based on all of the assumptions of a project — load profile, rate schedule, system characteristics and set points for the control strategy.

“It’s a math problem; there’s a best answer,” Gerza said. “So, how much is your storage project saving in dollar terms? We’re quantifying savings and trying to optimize them.”
Some examples of how crucial this value modeling is:

Hawaii solar-only

The net metering 2.0 tariffs in Hawaii are extreme but demonstrate where self-supply is a valuable option because if you export solar to the grid you get zero return for that production.

So, take two neighbors with identical load profiles (1,000 kWh a month; 12,000 kWh a year), with the only difference being time of use. A 6-kW DC rated PV system would produce a 79 percent offset for both homes. One home is peaking midday, between 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The other home peaks in the evening. Overlaying time of use profiles reveals the midday home is only exporting about 29 percent of its energy to the grid, whereas the night owl is exporting 61 percent.

“What did that just do to the value of solar? During the day it is 19.5 cents; at night, the value collapses to 10 cents,” Gerza notes.

Hawaii PV + storage

Say you have a house (10 kW DC system, producing 15,000 kWh, 87 percent offset) exporting 50 percent of its PV production to the grid, where, again, you get nothing in return for it. After specifying a 14-kWh, 7-kW, two-hour battery, that export number goes down to 24 percent.

“There’s still a lot exporting from this,” Gerza says. “This is a function of running out of capacity. So, think about what’s happening. The system stored and prevented exports but then ran out of space. So, trial and error. If we want to get to 100 percent, we have to size up.”

Rate change scare

California has some great solar + storage project profiles right now, and the state seems to want to incentivize their deployment. The just-passed SB 700 would create a 10-year rebate program designed to grow the California local storage market and make storage more affordable for consumers. The rebates would step down as more storage systems are installed and economies of scale are achieved, thereby driving down the installed cost of the systems.

But as the earlier examples showed, rate structures are the true indicator of solar + storage value right now, and there are potential changes coming to rate structures in California that could really undercut that value.

Consider Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E)’s A6 rate schedule. Right now, the summer time of use rate has a 37 cent differential between on and off peak, which makes a big case for solar + storage.

“But rates are changing, and if that differential collapses, so does the savings opportunity,” Gerza says. “When you dive into the new model, it will lead to more questions than answers. It is 37 cents today, but what about two years from now?”

The biggest proposed change is PG&E moving that summer on-peak window to much later in the evening — from noon to 6 p.m. (current) to 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. That’s a major shift. Additionally, PG&E proposes a radical flattening of TOU differentials. That 37 cent difference is looking to collapse to less than 10 cents.

Lastly, the six month TOU seasons of summer and winter would just collapse into a 12-month, one-year period.

“While a bunch of big changes are being proposed at once, having interval meter data and being able to accurately quantify the savings for your customers when a lot of these things are concurrently happening is important,” Gerza says.

One Last Example

Let’s compare one building’s load profile under PG&E’s current and proposed A6 rates. This building uses about 455,000 kWh annually and has a 200-kW DC rated system that has a 66 percent offset. Under current rates, the average blended savings is 30.5 cents per kWh. Under the proposed rates, that drops to 20 cents per kWh.

We say one last time: The examples here were extreme, but those extremes help convey the importance of using granular data to identify system economics and also to illustrate just how far we may still be from solar + storage on a wider scale. But at least we can figure out when we are there.

“These examples illustrate that accurately estimating the avoided cost of solar + storage projects can get complex,” Gerza says. “It’s important that salespeople are ethical and realistic in the savings analysis they present to customers.”

Chris Crowell is managing editor of Solar Builder.

— Solar Builder magazine

On the scene: New solar installation products we saw at the California Solar Power Expo

We attended the California Solar Expo in San Diego last week. Here’s a rundown of some of the notable new solar products we spotted around the trade show floor.

S5 standing seam

S-5! is known for its rigorous testing and compliance standards for mounting solar on standing seam metal roofs. Its latest update on the module here (which you probably can’t see) is a better wire management solution than the disc they had been using, after customer feedback indicated it wasn’t wide enough for every application. The update here completely addresses that concern.

Coming soon, you can look out for a solar installation calculator on the S-5! site.


Pegasus Solar is introducing a new tile replacement solution that they say will remove the need for cutting tile while still fitting a wide variety of tile sizes. Key to the design is the attachment sitting on the ridge of the replacement instead of the valley, which keeps it clearer from water that would be funneling through the valley.

Solar connections

Solar Connections is promoting its Solar Connection Kit. Tested to UL 2703, the kit’s cable management disc allows for cables to be top loaded and sit securely. Push-Lock Technology secures the disc to the standing seam base clamp without extra nuts and bolts. Installation is made easy with Silver Bullet set screws that have a rounded bullet tip to maximize strength without digging in and damaging paint or piercing the seam.

CED Greentech

More to come on this, because it isn’t ready yet, but be on the lookout for a new website from CED Greentech.

Snapnrack mounting

SnapNrack is all about aesthetics. Well, they do more than that, but a lot of their latest products do give a sleeker look to a rooftop array while still being functional. The look, specifically is the black skirt with no end cap required.

solar roof hooks

Solarroofhook, known for its direct attach and tile hook solutions, has an updated flashing product. Unlike its previous solution that could bend, this one is stiff, which is something its customers were asking for.


APSystems is coming out with a trunk cable version of its microinverters for those who couldn’t get into the daisy chain installation.

Energy toolbase

Energy Toolbase packed the demo stage with attendees who wanted to hear more about its new energy storage software. Energy Toolbase might be the most robust tool out there for behind the meter data and PV system modeling and proposal generation, and its new energy storage component is going to be just as robust. We will have more coverage on this posted soon.


Unirac was promoting the shorter rows and greater energy density its rooftop mounting solution makes possible. Oh, and the company recently bumped up its warranty to 25 years.

If you are looking for more product info, check out our 2017 Inverters Buyer’s Guide.

— Solar Builder magazine