Here’s what Fronius is debuting at Solar Power International this year

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At Solar Power International, string inverter manufacturer Fronius (booth #3943) will present its first inverter that is ready for the new SunSpec Communication Signal for Rapid Shutdown on the module level. Other new offerings include next-generation Rapid Shutdown Boxes and an upgrade of the Fronius Service Provider network known as FSP.

In addition to all of the new offerings, visitors can take their chance at the Fronius Lucky Snappy slot machine to win several prizes, including a grand prize of an inflatable Fronius branded stand-up paddleboard.

Product details

One of the highlights at the Fronius booth is the new Fronius Symo Advanced, which is the first inverter with an integrated Power Line Communication (PLC) transmitter based on the recently published SunSpec Communication Signal for Rapid Shutdown. This industry standard is a multi-vendor and multi-device communication specification for inverters, modules, and string combiners to support NEC 2014, NEC 2017, and UL 1741 module-level rapid shutdown requirements.

“Fronius strongly believes in industry standards and innovation to drive down cost and allow customer choice. We strive to provide our customers state-of-the-art open systems that offer freedom of choice in components. There will be a lot of SunSpec based smart modules in the future,” says Michael Mendik, Head of Solution Management USA.

Another highlight at the Fronius booth is the all-new, low-profile Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box, which is a convenient solution for NEC 2014 (690.12) and NEC 2017 (Array Disconnect) compliance. The new generation includes two versions, the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box Duo for up to two strings and Quattro for up to four strings, and comes with many features, such as a new low-profile design, installer-friendly mounting options, and MC4 connectors.

2017 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide

The Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box is a part of the Fronius Smart Solution, a solar system solution that satisfies crucial needs for residential and commercial systems, including flexible system design, shade mitigation, NEC compliance, best performance, and state-of-the art monitoring. The Fronius Smart Solution also offers the lowest number of components and the easiest installation on the market. The solution includes the Fronius SnapINverter line, the Fronius Smart Meter for consumption tracking and the Fronius Solar.web monitoring portal.

While Fronius develops technologies and solutions that will make a world of 24 hours of sun possible, this vision also takes people who believe, work, and invest in solar energy. Therefore, Fronius is expanding its installer network, formerly known as Fronius Service Provider program, and turning it into the Fronius Solutions Provider program, an upgraded loyalty and training program ideal for engaged and qualified Fronius installers nationwide. The program will include the service network of an FSP as it is today, with added loyalty benefits and training opportunities not offered to standard installers.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fronius inverters now California Rule 21 compliant

Fronius USA received UL certification for California’s Rule 21 inverter requirements, which are required in California for new Net Energy Metering (NEM) applications from September 8.

Fronius summer promotion

What’s Rule 21 again?

Rule 21 refers to the generator interconnection requirements of each California Investor-Owned Utility (IOU). A years-long process has been underway to update Rule 21 with “smart inverter” requirements. Rule 21 requires inverters to have new grid support functions and a new certification under UL 1741 SA. Each new inverter also gets a new nameplate label that identifies it as a “Grid Support Utility Interactive Inverter.”

How California’s Rule 21 inverter requirements expand grid capacity, limit energy (revenue) generation

New smart functions, such as voltage and frequency ride-through or soft start ramp rate, will pave the way for further solar penetration into the California grid and help to better manage the fluctuations caused by distributed energy resources (DER). These new functions have a stabilizing effect on the grid as more DER is added to it. Fronius has always been a driving force when it comes to inverters’ Grid Support Functions and has years of experience from highly solar-penetrated markets such as Germany or Italy.

The proper Rule 21 settings on Fronius inverters are easy to apply for installers, who simply select the “CAL” setup upon commissioning. “While adding more and more functionalities to the inverter, we want to make the adoption of Rule 21 as easy as possible for our installers”, says Michael Mendik, Head of Solution Management at Fronius USA.

Fronius has received certification for the Fronius Primo 3.8 – 8.2 kW residential inverters, and Fronius Symo 10.0 – 24.0 480V commercial inverters. These inverters are available with Rule 21 compliant software as of August 14th. The Fronius Primo 10 – 15 kW inverters as well as the 208V version of the Fronius Symo will be certified in Q4. Fronius will announce these dates as soon as possible.

— Solar Builder magazine

Intersolar North America Showcase: Here’s what to see at this year’s trade show

APsystems: True three-phrase microinverters

APsystems YC1000

APsystems boasts an industry best-selling 3-phase solar microinverter and the industry’s first true 3-phase (phase-balanced & phase-monitored) unit, the YC1000-3. This model handles 208V or 277Y/480V grid voltages with 900 watts maximum output, 95 percent peak efficiency and comes with ZigBee communication and integrated ground. At 480V up to 11 units (44 modules total, 60- or 72-cell) can be linked in a single 15A circuit, and up to 14 solar modules (7x YC500s) in a string with a 20A breaker. Designed to operate from -40 F to 149 F degrees. Ten and 25-year warranties are available. Booth 9245.

Boviet Solar: Debuting two new solar modules

Boviet Solar

A new 290-W, 60-cell polycrystalline diamond-cut PERC solar module is one of the newest products from Boviet Solar’s full PERC production line completed in 2016. Also on display will be the new 300-W monocrystalline PERC Smart Module designed to harvest 25 percent more energy. In addition to free, 24-hour monitoring per module, the Smart Module also has module-level voltage shutdown to offer greater installer and firefighter safety. Booth 8317.

Ciel et Terre: Making floating PV happen in the U.S.

hydrelio floating solar

Ciel et Terre has completed large-scale floating PV systems in various market applications and countries, showcasing FPV as a real alternative to traditional PV in roof-top and ground-mounted systems. In the past year, the organization increased its U.S. reach with its first public utility project in Orlando, alongside its local Florida representative D3 Energy and in partnership with the Orlando Utilities Commission. Ciel et Terre installed a 31.5-kWp floating solar system on the OUC’s storm water storage reservoir, a dead water space at the facility, and is expected to generate up to 51,000 kWh per year. Booths 9744 and 9745.

Eaton: Control system to simplify microgrid deployment

Eaton microgrid system

Designed for critical applications requiring secure, efficient and reliable power, Eaton’s newest solution is engineered to deploy stand-alone power systems using existing and new assets with the adaptability to easily meet future needs. The system incorporates Eaton’s new Power Xpert energy optimizer controller and provides a modular, scalable approach to microgrid control, as well as accompanying services, such as microgrid feasibility studies, total system design, control system deployment, integration with existing third-party generation assets and critical loads, project implementation, commissioning and system start-up, and ongoing maintenance. Booth 8310.

EcoFasten Solar: New standing seam metal roofing application

EcoFasten

EcoFasten Solar has launched its newest product, SimpleBlock, a solution designed specifically for standing seam metal roofing applications. The versatile SimpleBlock provides a variety of options through compatibility with any rack manufacturer’s connection points (L-feet, posts), and will fit any double-lock standing seam. When used in conjunction with EcoFasten’s Mid-Clamp, SimpleBlock becomes a rail-free racking system featuring integrated bonding. The system meets and exceeds all known building codes and is UL 2703 listed, with product compliance determined through rigorous, uncompromised testing per UL 2703: First Edition. Due to such an overwhelming response to this innovative system, EcoFasten Solar is gearing up for high volume manufacturing to meet industry demand and will also be unveiling additional configurations for more seam options soon. Booth 9433.

Fronius: Offering its next generation solar solution

Fronius

Fronius introduces its next generation of solar systems to the industry, the Fronius Smart Solution. This satisfies all needs for residential and commercial systems: flexible system design, shade mitigation, NEC compliance, high performance and state-of-the art monitoring while keeping the number of components low and installation easy. The Fronius Smart Solution combines the benefits of traditional MLPE such as microinverters or DC optimizers with the ease of installation and cost-effectiveness of string inverters. The Fronius Smart Solution is the combination of cell-string optimized modules, the Fronius Rapid Shutdown Box, a Fronius SnapINverter, the optional Fronius Smart Meter and the Fronius Solar.web online monitoring portal. Check it out for yourself at the Fortune Energy booth. Booth 8519.

Heyco: A solution for every cable need

Heyco solar clips

Heyco’s new Edge Clips are ideal for use where holes cannot be used and adhesives are not acceptable due to temperature issues. If these won’t work, check out Heyco’s new SunRunner Vidrios, which are designed to mount directly onto the glass panel with compression force only — perfect for frameless PV modules. If neither of those pique your interest, check out Heyco’s SunBundler. Though not new to Heyco’s offering, the Heyco SunBundler has been receiving a lot of attention due to its 20 year warranty and unique design. Check them out at the CED Greentech booth. Booth 8311.

Ideal Power: The latest in power conversion innovation

Ideal Power

Ideal Power’s newest Stabiliti Series power conversion system is a grid-resilient 30-kW advanced power conversion system for system integrators and project developers who need to efficiently connect distributed energy resources to the grid. Stabiliti is the next generation of Ideal Power’s patented Power Packet Switching Architecture (PPSA) technology and incorporates numerous new features and benefits for commercial and industrial customers. The Stabiliti Series is available in two versions: dual port AC-DC bi-directional and multi-port AC-DC-DC bi-directional. Ideal Power’s John Merritt will be speaking on July 10 from 12-12.30 p.m. at the ‘‘Islands, Mini-Grids, Microgrids & Energy Storage’’ session. His talk will explain how solar-plus-storage systems can become microgrid-enabled with multi-port conversion technologies, creating energy resilience and reducing reliance on backup generators. Booth 8110.

JLM Energy: Patent-pending ‘microstorage’ technology

JLM Energy Phazr

Phazr, the first in JLM’s MicroStorage family of products, is mounted seamlessly behind the solar panel. Phazr is designed for large-scale, solar-plus-storage applications and is also perfectly suited for smaller residential and commercial installs. The simultaneous nature of electron flow is unique to JLM’s patent-pending technology. This is included in JLM’s energy technology bundle and is operated by Measurz software, which continually observes energy usage patterns and utilizes a variety of strategies to maintain a pre-set budget determined by the customer. Booth 8134.

Pika Energy: Partnership with Panasonic on solar smart battery

Pika_MAY17_006_web

Panasonic Eco Solutions North America and U.S.-based inverter manufacturer Pika Energy Inc. are partnering to offer a DC-coupled solar smart battery — Harbor 10P/15P — that will begin shipping in late 2017 and is available for pre-order today. The solar-ready Harbor Smart Battery combines Panasonic’s Lithium-Ion battery modules and Pika Energy’s power electronics in a slim, floor-standing, wall-mounted enclosure to provides 10 kWh or 15 kWh of usable energy and up to 6.7 kW of continuous power. Booth 8318.

Preformed Line Products: Speeding up rail-less mounting

Preformed Line Products

Maneuvering mounting rails can be the most demanding part of installing rooftop solar modules. But now installers can avoid that — and mount modules faster and easier — with the POWER DISK rail-less mounting system from Preformed Line Products. POWER DISK is a unique roof attachment that can go anywhere on residential rooftops. It does not need to be secured to rafters. Install solar modules in four simple steps: 1. Snap chalk lines. 2. Mount POWER DISK bases anywhere on the roof deck. 3. Set solar modules in place. 4. Spin the disks to vertically adjust height to roof undulations. Booth 9449.

Quick Mount: New series for comp/asphalt shingle roofs

Quick Mount

Quick Mount PV engineered its patented Elevated Water Seal Technology into an integrated L-foot and flashing for cost-effective, super-fast, single-bolt installation with unparalleled waterproofing. The L-Mount Series comes in single- and double-slot options for maximum versatility and works with all leading racks. L-Mounts are designed for simple lag-bolt installation onto existing composition/asphalt shingle roofs. The L-Mount features a 9-in. by 12-in. aluminum flashing with alignment notches and rounded corners to easily slide under shingles and speed installation. No shingle cutting required. Like all Quick Mount PV products, the L-Mount meets or exceeds roofing industry best practices and comes with a 25-year warranty. Available in mill or black finish. Booth 9411.

RBI Solar: Ground mount, ballasted, roof mount and canopy solutions

RBI solar Logo

RBI Solar is one of the top turn-key solar mounting solutions suppliers in the United States for ground mount, ballasted landfills, roof mounts and canopy/carport structures. As a single-source provider for commercial and utility-scale PV projects, all responsibility for the design, engineering, manufacturing and installation of the most efficient PV Racking systems in the marketplace is completed in-house by the RBI Solar Team. Committed to providing value from conception to completion, RBI Solar’s customers receive cost-effective and durable racking solutions for each project site to aide in reducing the overall project costs. Booth L9008.

SimpliPhi: Plug-and-play storage

SimpliPhi - AccESS - 300 DPI

Developed in partnership with installers, SimpliPhi Power’s AccESS has been installed in a variety of locations, including a commercial “glamping” resort, Flying Flags, and is positioned for hundreds of residential installations in partnership with Civic Solar’s SGIP projects. The AccESS provides power security that is safe, reliable, non-hazardous and efficient. The fully integrated solution includes the SimpliPhi award-winning battery technology, Schneider Electric inverter charge controller, associated power electronics and overall system management. Pre-programmed software settings and performance monitoring complete the solution. Booth 8124.

Smappee Plus: New advanced energy monitoring

Smappee Plus

Now entering the U.S. solar market, Smappee Plus is the latest innovation from Smappee’s burgeoning energy monitoring solutions which have seen widespread adoption across Europe since 2012. The product combines Smappee’s patented NILM (Non-Intrusive Load Monitoring) technology with submetering clamps to measure real-time energy use from appliances throughout a user’s home including those with variable output or similar energy consumption patterns, giving previously undetectable transparency to energy use. Head to the Impress Lounge across the street from the Moscone Center for more info.

Solar-Log: Enhanced PV monitoring portal allows for more installer services

solar log pv monitoring

Solar-Log’s new WEB Enerest is an enhanced PV monitoring portal that works in combination with Solar-Log’s data loggers to offer better monitoring and more efficient optimization of solar power usage. The new Solar-Log WEB Enerest portal is available in three different service levels and price classes to respond even more precisely to the differing needs of individual customer groups. The most advanced XL package allows installers and service providers to centrally monitor their entire fleet from one portal. This premium version provides near real-time visualization of plant error messages which can be quickly evaluated and managed. The portal allows the operator to remotely configure the Solar-Log®device, customize the portal design, and define plant owners’ access to the yield and plant information. Automated reports, integrated weather data comparison and the option to combine several plants with one account are just some of the comprehensive functions. Booth 9121.

SunModo: Debuting new solar awnings to shield windows, generate energy

sunmodo awning

The concept is simple: Replace traditional metal and fabric awnings with solar-power-generating panels that provide necessary protection from the elements while also replacing traditional electricity usage. That concept is coming to the marketplace as the SunShield awning system. It is being introduced by SunModo, a company that makes durable, easy-to-install professional racking systems. The SunShield awning system features a durable triangular aluminum frame as structural truss; and expands to a 35-degree tilt angle once installed. This compact triangle frame design easily accommodates both 60 and 72 cell solar panels. What’s more, SunShield opens the awning industry to 30 percent tax credits and provides a substantial new canvas for solar power generation. Booth 9539.

Tabuchi America: Expanded storage capacity

Tabuchi

Originally launched in the United States at Intersolar 2015, Tabuchi America is debuting the 2nd generation model of its Eco Intelligent Battery System (EIBS). Tabuchi’s all-in-one, easy-to-install system includes a 5.5-kW solar inverter and stackable 6-kWh lithium-ion batteries. The Tabuchi EIBS has the intelligence to maximize a homeowner’s savings in real time across different electricity tariffs. This DC-coupled system will meet advanced inverter requirements and will be 9540 compliant. Booth 8121.

Trojan Battery: AGM battery designed for solar installs

Trojan Battery

Trojan Battery Co. is launching a new line of maintenance-free, true deep-cycle absorbent glass mat (AGM) batteries specifically designed for solar and other renewable energy applications. The new Trojan Solar AGM line is manufactured in the U.S. Offering a three-year warranty for stationary applications, and tested to an eight-year design life under IEC 61427 standard for solar batteries, this initial release includes a wide range of Trojan Solar AGM models. With its non-spillable design, the new Trojan Solar AGM batteries enable installers to customize the use and position of the batteries in customer applications. Booth 8128.

— Solar Builder magazine

Fronius hosting solar inverter service training at headquarters in June

Servicing a Fronius inverter

String inverter manufacturer Fronius updated its hands-on installer qualification trainings, which now include system design, product applications and communications, while still covering service and onsite warranty repairs. After completing the trainings, installers are certified Fronius Service Providers (FSPs), offering high quality solar installations and field-service.

Fronius Service Providers offer high-quality installations and trusted service, with an image of quality by being Fronius certified and branded. Solar shoppers or system owners can find certified installers easily on the Fronius Solar.web Online Installer Search. As a further incentive for installers, Fronius provides FSP exclusive events and webinars throughout the year.

RELATED: Keys to inverter service: Data granularity, remote updates, customer relations

Fronius believes that field-serviceability of inverters is critical to making solar more reliable and more sustainable. The FSP program eliminates the need for inverter exchanges. Fronius Service Providers are able to service inverters on site. Troubleshooting and repair can be done in one site visit, cutting the number of truck-rolls in half and guaranteeing maximum system uptime as well as satisfied system owners.

The new FSP qualification trainings take place in June at the Fronius USA headquarters in Portage, IN. The trainings include an opportunity to meet with Fronius’ entire staff from Marketing to Technical Support. These are the dates and covered topics:

  • June 6: Fronius Residential Solutions Training
  • June 7: Fronius Installation & Best Practices Training
  • June 8: Fronius Commercial Solutions Training

Register via email at pv-training-usa@fronius.com or at the Fronius website.

Solar installers are welcome to register for either all days of training or for a specific day. Course registrants are to arrange their own travel. The cost of the course includes the training, literature, swag, meals, and a portion of this can be used as a credit towards an FSP kit. The kit is a collection of the most common inverter spare parts. This kit is highly recommended, as it allows the installer to fully utilize the benefits of the FSP program.

— Solar Builder magazine

Keys to inverter service: Data granularity, remote updates, customer relations

Service Provider Training

What support does your chosen inverter include? Fronius Service Provider training, for example, certifies installers to purchase spare parts and field-service inverters to reduce the number of truck-rolls.

Services for solar inverters are improving markedly, from commissioning through replacement, as the flow of panel and string-level data becomes more granular, fueling more sophisticated monitoring systems. From string inverters at a commercial and industrial (C&I) level, to microinverters now dominant in the residential market, manufacturers are embracing dynamic improvements in functionality based on bi-directional communications and firmware adaptability.

“As inverters become more advanced and the best companies advance the market, the distinction between awesome performance and just OK performance is finer than ever,” says Ed Heacox, the general manager of sales and marketing at Chint Power Systems (CPS) America, a commercial inverter manufacturer. “As the variance narrows in product specifications, service becomes a bigger factor than ever.”

Microinverter makers are credited for initially pushing the solar industry data collection standard to a panel-specific level and for providing enough automatic analytics to educate consumers and solve basic performance problems. Now, both micro and string manufacturers are widely including programmable chips and WiFi cards within their inverters that permit periodic upgrades of firmware. And as more frequent passive and active actions in operations and maintenance take place, the benchmarking of performance against manufacturer databases also can optimize predictive functions.

“The main technology to improve service for inverters is communication such as WiFi, which connects the system to the internet and an online monitoring portal,” observes Richard Baldinger, the head of marketing at Fronius. “Through online monitoring like the FroniusSolar.web, users can track the performance of a system and get notified if the system is not performing. Based on state codes and other values, a service truck-roll can be planned.”

RELATED: 2017 Solar Inverter Buyer’s Guide 

Firmware Updates

Two-way communications continue to provide real-time monitoring of micro systems.

“Enphase provides multiple web-based applications for both the installers and homeowners. These applications can be used to verify, in near real-time, that a given system is performing as expected,” says Ilén Zazueta-Hall, the Enphase director of product management for energy management. “Further, solar installers can receive notifications of any significant issues impacting the system, including notifications of when system performance drops below a certain [customizable] threshold.”

But now, firmware is critical to the inverter life cycle. “Firmware is constantly updated, roughly every six months. So being able to refine an inverter is valuable, but not if you have to visit it to do the update,” Heacox says. He notes that this year, CPS is launching remote firmware updates. “We can either give away or provide at a very low cost our Flex Gateway, with ethernet two-way communications. We can do updates with one card supporting dozens of inverters on a site.”

Some installers find microinverters more easily upgradable. “Microinverter monitoring for us has worked so that as the software suit enhances, we have had five or six firmware upgrades at no charge,” says Jeff Mathias, a co-owner of Synergy Solar and Electrical Systems. “I don’t get that with a string inverter company; there is a way to go into the web box to do it, but I don’t.”

SolarEdge inverter

This is a SolarEdge inverter installed on an AllEarth Renewables dual-axis tracker in Grass Valley, Calif. Photo credit: North Coast Solar, Santa Rosa.

Predictive Diagnostics

Failure response has become streamlined thanks to better communications. “If a data monitoring system detects an inverter failure, a technician could arrive on site within 24 to 48 hours with a stock of replacement parts. The repair to the inverter can be done in minimal time in one trip, and the system will resume full power production,” notes Baldinger. “Compare this to a typical scenario where a technician makes a first trip to troubleshoot and determine the exact failure, then orders a replacement. String inverters are often replaced in whole, with wait times of one week typical for the replacement unit to arrive before the technician visits the site again.”

“Microinverters and inverters with optimizers such as SolarEdge make system monitoring and problem diagnosis easier. Receiving an automatic email from Enphase when there is an inverter problem is particularly helpful,” says Brian Hines, the principal at North Coast Solar.

Heacox says that later this year CPS “will roll out remote diagnostics and problem solving, so that we can handle 95 percent of a trouble call from our national support center in Texas.”

Warranty Services Improve

Installers in the past have complained that some inverter makers were slow to replace failed units and that some even insisted on repairing the old one over replacement. That standard is no longer acceptable in the market.

“Before we went to microinverters, we had to go to a site, analyze the string inverter problem and if it was a failure, call the manufacturer and go through their on-telephone de-bugging routine to validate that the unit was bad. Then we’d take it to the shop, put it into box and wait two or three days to a week for the replacement,” Mathias relays. “Now, we just text in an app that we have a bad inverter, and a new one comes in.”

Zazueta-Hall explains: “In cases in which a product is defective, installers are guided through a streamlined return merchandise authorization (RMA) process. Installers can submit a warranty claim or check the status of a pending warranty claim online. Customer support can also authorize an RMA with one call into the support queue to perform remote diagnostics on an inverter. ”

RELATED: LCOE Heroes: How inverters drive down PV levelized cost of energy 

Training Responders

The market has realized that manufacturer training and customer service is integral for inverter maintenance and installer services.

“We offer Fronius Service Provider training, which certifies installers to purchase spare parts [such as PCB boards] and field-service inverters. It also helps reduce the number of truck-rolls in a service case,” Baldinger says.

Inverter design also plays a huge part too because even a well-trained technician working on a complex or cumbersome product is going to run into issues or slowdowns. CPS says it invested in extra engineering and cost into the wire-box and inverter body designs to make them integrated but separable so that when a service event occurs in the inverter body, it can be easily removed and replaced — just four bolts hold the inverter body (top) to the wire-box.

“It takes only 10 minutes to swap the inverter tops for quick uptime recovery,” Heacox says. “It would be several hundred dollars cheaper to make the inverter in one chassis without the separable wire-box, but we know downtime and wasted field service labor and materials can cost much more. We do our best to consider life-cycle service costs when architecting the inverter platform.”

Distributors also play a training roll. “Quality solar distributors can be counted on to provide: short lead times for order fulfillment to installers, in-depth product knowledge and training information,” suggests Jason Higginson, the senior director of marketing for APSystems. “Even if training is offered by the manufacturer, good distributors can often provide basic support and can also coordinate online or live training sessions with a manufacturer for installer customers. Finding a distributor with good relationships with their manufacturers helps to facilitate all the above.”

Microinverter vendors serving the residential market don’t necessarily know where their products are being installed and thus are at a loss to provide support until it is requested. But in the C&I segment, largely equipped with string inverters, the smaller number of devices in field permits more manufacturer-customer familiarity. “In C&I we know where every inverter is going because we go directly to the site ourselves. So we are on a first name basis,” Heacox says. “We also are on a first name basis with our guy in the site region, with the EPC or the developer. So we can directly service the relationship from design to install across full life support.”

Charles W. Thurston is a freelance writer who covers solar energy from Northern California. Reach him at chazwt@gmail.com.

— Solar Builder magazine