SolarEdge files lawsuit against Huawei for patent infringement

solaria solar module lawsuit

SolarEdge Technologies has filed a lawsuit for patent infringement against Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd., a Chinese entity, Huawei Technologies Düsseldorf GmbH, a German entity, and WATTKRAFT Solar GmbH, a German distributor for Huawei.

The lawsuit, filed in the Regional Court of Mannheim in Germany, one of the most pre-eminent German patent courts, asserts unauthorized use of patented technology, which is prohibited by law, and is intended to protect SolarEdge’s significant investment in its innovative DC optimized inverter technology. Seeking monetary damages, an injunction, and recall of infringing Huawei inverters from the German market, the lawsuit is intended to prevent the defendants from selling any multi-level inverters infringing upon SolarEdge’s PV inverter technology protected in the asserted patent in Germany.

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarEdge launches new web-based PV system design tool

SolarEdge

SolarEdge Technologies is launching a new Designer tool to enable faster, easier planning of solar energy system designs. The new web-based tool with an intuitive graphical interface helps installers lower PV design costs and increase conversion rates by creating compelling customer proposals. The free Designer tool is part of SolarEdge’s comprehensive vision to support the entire PV process, including design, quotation, installation, and monitoring in one, end-to-end, cloud-based platform.

What’s new?

Designer uses satellite imagery and provides instant validation of a site’s design. The tool also simplifies the electrical design process with product recommendations and a Bill of Materials report. By creating attractive and informative homeowner offers, which include intuitive 3D site modeling and monthly energy simulations, SolarEdge’s Designer supports the sales process for PV installers.

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“Software is playing a more pivotal role in the PV industry, from the local level of each residential system all the way up to the macro level of grid management,” stated Lior Handelsman, VP of Marketing and Product Strategy, founder of SolarEdge. “With the release of our new easy-to-use Designer, SolarEdge is further enhancing its software suite to provide added value to installers throughout the PV process.”

Now available around the world, Designer is hosted in the cloud with access from any Mac or PC, enables multi-user access, and offers seamless integration with the SolarEdge monitoring platform for quick creation of site layouts.

— Solar Builder magazine

Data Drivers: Inverter monitoring system trends in the residential market

data monitoring inverters

This is an excerpt from the 2018 Inverter Buyer’s Guide. Be sure to download the full free report, complete with specs on 136 inverters at the bottom of this page.

Don’t let the hard, boxy exterior fool you — today’s inverters are all about transparency. A key in inverter selection is knowing just how transparent it is: What portals are set up for you and your customer to use? What do they show? And when? Just after it’s failed or maybe just as it sees something’s wrong? How do the alerts work? Can you make adjustments? Will it make its own adjustments?

Basically: How well can you see inside that box?

We asked each inverter manufacturer to share with us how their inverter monitoring system works and what came back was a variety of strategies, from increased flexibility and visibility for the operator and homeowner to innovations in predictive analytics and automated processes. Some come standard, some are subscription-based, but all are slick, boost PV performance and improve your company’s O&M services.

Here are the trends among the manufacturer-provided inverter monitoring systems on the market.

Download the 2018 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

Apps for that

Mobile-friendly platforms are fairly common now, with differences coming in how much data is presented and what remote capabilities are offered.

APsystems provides complimentary module-level monitoring through its cloud-based EMA service for both homeowners and installers. With the EMA app, users can see the energy their system is producing at the panel level, so if the app shows that a particular PV module is underperforming, the owner knows to check for shading issues, debris, damage, etc. The online EMA portal also emails alerts to the installer if a system or unit is operating outside its standard parameters. This is particularly handy when a PV module fails or is somehow disconnected.

Some solar customers invest in a PV system because they want to fully take ownership over their energy bills. They are hands on and want insight into what’s happening and how the system is performing. There are more options than ever for providing this service.

Enphase comes with MyEnlighten for homeowners, which presents system energy production, overall health, historical performance and energy equivalents all on one mobile-friendly display. Real solar enthusiasts can take advantage of a paid upgrade to per-panel monitoring, which is available via the installer who activated the system.
The flipside for the solar installer is the Enphase Enlighten Manager, which provides: fleet management, upgrade management for existing fleets (based on production and consumption data) and simplified repeat-business generation tools to reconnect with existing customers through additional services like battery management, EV charging solutions and system upgrades.

Diagnostics and remote updates

Fronius software updates

The free Solar.web platform from Fronius offers remote diagnostics and alerts such as proactive notifications in a variety of dashboards.

At Fronius, the free Solar.web platform offers remote diagnostics and alerts such as proactive email notifications concerning performance and state codes, as just two examples, to help determine whether a truck roll is necessary or not. Remote Update via Fronius Solar.web eliminates another category of O&M complexity and cost. In just a few clicks, any Fronius SnapINverters is updated remotely from any web-enabled device.

ABB’s Aurora Vision Plant Management Platform and Plant Viewer lets homeowners get a real-time view of how much energy has been harvested along with dashboard views for fleet-wide performance management through reports, diagnostics, analytics or event alerts. ABB inverters also come standard with a wireless connection that enables system monitoring and over-the-air upgrades to ensure units are operating with the latest functions.

Satellite monitoring

Recently, SolarEdge added satellite performance ratio and mismatch reporting to its cloud-based, module-level monitoring platform (free for 25 years). The company says this satellite performance ratio service eliminates the purchasing, installation and O&M of sensors. The mismatch report helps to streamline the process of identifying underperforming modules by comparing each module’s peak power and energy production to the average of all modules in the site, and presenting each module’s mismatch as a percentage above/below the average.

Storage integration

The plus sign in a “solar + storage” system says all you need to know about the monitoring system capabilities — there are more added in.

Magnum Energy provides data monitoring through the MagWeb line of monitoring kits. The MagWeb provides live internet monitoring of the inverter, battery monitor and automatic generator start module. Using an internet connection, MagWeb makes live and historical conditions available through a web browser at data.magnumenergy.com. The MagWeb GT provides an integrated dashboard of the MicroGT system engineered for PV + storage systems. With the MagWeb GT, the production data from the array and the battery bank status of the storage system are accessed via your local network from one simple dashboard.

Tabuchi provides data monitoring via the Tabuchi Cloud. Here, customers can monitor PV generation, household consumption, the amount of power bought and sold to and from the grid and the battery charge. It also allows customers to compare data hourly, daily, monthly and yearly. The service is included with purchase of the Eco Intelligent Battery System (EIBS). Tabuchi Cloud allows installers to make sure everything is working as intended, while the simple interface allows homeowners to quickly see how they are saving on energy costs.

Automation

The next evolution in system monitoring is taking all of this data and having the system apply its own fixes. Pika Energy‘s REview Dashboard is provided to the customer with every Pika system to view performance metrics in comprehensive real-time reports, but its biggest advances come from system automation. While some inverters may notify users that grid or environmental conditions have changed, the Pika Energy Island acts automatically to meet these new conditions. When peak rate periods set in, local demand spikes or the grid goes down, the Pika Energy Island manages energy flows to keep system owners powered up and saving money.

SMA’s latest development in monitoring and alerts is SMA Smart Connected. Now available with the Sunny Boy-US residential line of inverters, SMA Smart Connected is a proactive service package integrated into Sunny Portal that automatically detects and evaluates system events and initiates remediation or repair activities. This decreases truck rolls, lengthy service calls and system downtime. Once it is operating, SMA Smart Connected will actively monitor a residential system at all times through Sunny Portal’s intelligent monitoring technology.

For more info on the newest inverters on the market download our free 2018 Inverter Buyer’s Guide

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Service 2.0: Identify new service, upsell opportunities with smart home technology

crowd

Solar inverter intelligence and monitoring has evolved mightily over the last few years, from silent rows of capacitors to today’s circuit-programmable, WiFi-enabled guardians of PV arrays. These systems sense minute changes in operation and advise system managers of options, in real time, for energy management and O&M (operations and maintenance). The capabilities of internet-based monitoring platforms also offer an ever wider variety of functionalities, from data logging of production and consumption, to energy storage coordination, to time-of-use or peak rate recommendations.

There is more than enough data for every level of user. “Different roles for installers and system owners ensure that the right amount of data and the right functionalities are available to the right people,” says Richard Baldinger, a spokesman for Fronius USA, which has been evolving not just its product line but its installer base to best use these new bells and whistles to their advantage.

Functionality proliferates

The sum of available monitoring functionalities are difficult to count in one breath. Lior Handelsman, vice president of marketing and product strategy for SolarEdge, attempts the feat:

“PV monitoring platforms now offer a wide variety of functionality such as granularity down to the module-level and entire PV fleet management, automatic alerts, comparative energy graphs [on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, also including estimated energy], analysis of a module’s power and voltage, performance ratio information, site-level reports on commissioning and maintenance, inverter performance comparison reports, system performance reports, remote operation of the inverter and much more.”

While new functions have emerged, some older functions have been refined of late. “Greater inverter automation and alerts to installers that enable improved and more efficient O&M are now common place,” suggests Stefan Grosjean, the CEO of Kortrijk, Belgium-based Smappee.

One way inverter monitoring functions have grown is with the shift to module-level power electronics. SolarEdge, a pioneer in power optimizers, offers a DC optimized solution that manages and monitors energy to maximize power generation. With such module-specific monitoring, array designers have increased flexibility with array design, including more ability to work around the problem of shading and uneven irradiance.

MPP tracking over time can also help inform O&M considerations. “Detailed data points such as voltages and current per MPP tracker help to identify potential problems in the system. With the inverter being the heart and brain of a solar system, any state or error code shown by the inverter and its monitoring platform help identify errors throughout the entire system,” Baldinger says.

The wealth of module-specific data has brought a substantial shift in the commercial and utility market for inverter monitoring. For example, the increase in information granularity permits more string inverters to be used in place of a central inverter, notes Cedric Brehaut, the executive consultant at San Francisco-based Solichamba Consulting.

“Going one step further in innovation, Huawei is now offering three-phase string inverters with built-in IV curve tracing functions,” Brehaut says. IV curve tracing, which identifies the maximum power point for captured irradiance, is the best way to measure the performance of a panel or an array. Traditionally, IV curve tracing requires on-site work that now is being built into the inverter and accessible remotely via the monitoring software.

RELATED: Strength in numbers: How solar installers can build business through third-party programs

More data more frequently

Beyond module- and chain-specific data, the frequency of data in monitoring has risen to time units of minutes in place of hours or days. This avalanche of data enables monitoring systems to consider utility peak rate or time-of-use rates to curtail the consumption of energy from the grid during higher cost periods.

“By simply visualizing the consumption in real time, the so-called Prius effect can occur, meaning that the raised awareness for energy consumption can lead to changes in behavior and, with that, a decrease of consumption,” Baldinger says. “Consumption monitoring makes energy more visible, and visualized real-time data is more tangible than the numbers on the utility bill.” Fronius recently re-designed its monitoring platform Solar.web, with improved usability and new analysis features for this very reason.

Encompassing data feeds also provide the ability to drive advanced analytics to predict component failure so that O&M can be strategically planned. Advanced analytics involve benchmarking performance against similar plants, normalized for capacity and weather, as well as against a modeled plant that is based on historical operating data and weather conditions. However, such a capability is far from mainstream adoption yet, Brehaut suggests.

“Monitoring software provider QOS Energy reports that only 10 to 20 percent of its clients currently use the benchmarking and digital twin functions built into the platform,” he says.

fronius

Fronius re-designed its Solar.web monitoring platform, improving usability and analytic features.

Customer, supplier relations

As such rich functionality developments add more value to monitoring, the relationship between the customer and the monitoring system provider changes substantially. This new possibility of customer service and interaction is the next big opportunity for the solar industry to evolve.

“Upselling strategies throughout the lifetime of a system make a solar system sale less transactional and more based on long-term relationships, creating win-win situations for both installers and system owners,” Baldinger says.

A solar monitoring platform is the key in this new frontier of customer relationship, lead management and upselling, including opportunities in solar system expansions, storage and energy efficiency.

As Handelsman puts it: “For instance, some EPCs can now offer different levels of O&M services without incurring a significant amount of increased costs.”

That transition requires preparation, though. “Clearly there is an opportunity for installers to sell monitoring and O&M services if they are up to the task,” Brehaut says. “They have to be ready to deliver, despite limited resources; the way that service calls weigh against new installs can be an issue. The ability to view status codes remotely helps a service provider to determine whether a truck roll is necessary or not.

“If we fast forward, when there is a strong economic utility incentive to manage an entire home or business, then monitoring and energy management services become very compelling, so third party operators may find ways to compete with the inverter and monitoring equipment manufacturers to provide service,” Brehaut says. He recently explored the concept in a white paper, “Solar PV Asset Management 2017-2022,” produced with GTM Research. “The advantage is that by monitoring solar, storage and total consumption, some level of automation can be done, though still limited.”

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

Smart home monitoring provider Smappee cautions that basic inverter monitoring and basic smart home management are, at least for now, largely different functions. “Internet-based inverter monitoring is not a substitute for smart energy monitoring. Likewise, today’s smart home energy monitoring systems like Smappee Plus may measure solar PV consumption, but they are also not a substitute for the manufacturer’s inverter monitoring systems. Rather, the two products should be seen as complementary,” the company explains.

Smappee’s latest innovation, Smappee Plus, acts like an energy traffic controller that can automatically steer excess solar energy production to home appliances in order of preference, further increasing a homeowner’s energy efficiency and cost savings. For example, if a consumer is simultaneously charging their EV and cooking on an electric stove, Smappee Plus can control and reduce the power that goes toward the EV until the homeowners finish cooking to avoid fuses from blowing. Afterwards, the car will receive more power again.

“By having an understanding of energy consumption at the appliance level, in tandem with solar generation and storage status, smart energy monitors can further optimize the energy flow locally at the home level, providing great value for use cases such as demand charging and load management maximizing savings,” Grosjean says. “These use cases will be very important in the future as utilities across the United States are implementing demand charging and time-of-use pricing.”

— Solar Builder magazine

SolarEdge, OMRON team up on optimized high-voltage solar inverter solution for Japanese market

Commercial Triad EU (1)

Big-time solar electronics providers, SolarEdge Technologies and OMRON Corp. are launching a new DC optimized inverter solution for Japan’s high-voltage PV market. OMRON will offer SolarEdge’s three-phase DC optimized inverter solution, consisting of inverters, power optimizers, and module-level monitoring, for the high-voltage Japanese PV market.

SolarEdge offers a DC optimized solution that manages and monitors energy at the module level in order to maximize power generation and increase string-design flexibility. These advantages open up a wide-range of new PV installation possibilities, including sites suffering from shade or uneven slopes. This means that installers no longer need to consider factors such as site location, orientation, and solar irradiance when designing PV sites.

As part of the launch, SolarEdge will supply high-voltage, three-phase inverters and power optimizers to OMRON for local distribution and sales. OMRON’s after-sales service network of 140 locations nationwide is available for the SolarEdge solution following the launch. Availability is planned for March 2018.

How OMRON reduces solar module PID potential through its inverter topology

With Japan’s energy market having experienced various transformations in recent years, its PV market has been steadily expanding following the introduction of its renewable energy feed in tariff (FIT) program that began in the summer of 2012. As such, further innovation in PV solutions is required in order to ensure efficient energy usage and to maintain a balance in the country’s energy supply and demand.

OMRON is a global leader in the field of automation based on its core technology of “Sensing & Control + Think.” Established in 1933, OMRON has about 36,000 employees worldwide, working to provide products and services in 117 countries. The company’s business fields cover a broad spectrum, ranging from industrial automation and electronic components to automotive electronics, social infrastructure systems, healthcare, and environmental solutions.

— Solar Builder magazine