ABB offers new code compliant inverters for residential solar installers

ABB Tigo

Following the new SunSpec communication protocol, ABB offers a unique configuration that ensures design flexibility and compliance with 2014 & 2017 NEC 690.12 requirements. The robust energy production of a single-phase string inverter, the rapid shutdown function and an optimizer option provides installers a stronger solution to code compliant solar installations.

“Finding inverters that can perform under the demands of challenging roof configurations and comply with the latest code requirements can be difficult,” said Mario Thomas, string inverter product manager, ABB’s Solar business in the US. “With these new code compliant options from ABB, installers have more options to choose from.”

The UNO-DM-PLUS-US family of single phase solar inverters deliver high performance with excellent power density giving end users the maximum amount of energy production. This flexible inverter comes with embedded connectivity and an efficient communication protocol, which enables the UNO-DMPLUS-US to be easily integrated within any current or future device for smart building automation, smart grid integration and with third party monitoring and control systems. The UNO-DM-PLUS-US also comes with remote Over-the-Air (OTA) firmware upgrade for inverter and components to enable remote software upgrades.

For jurisdictions that have not migrated to 2017 NEC 690.12, ABB’s string-level Rapid Shutdown 2.0 device provides a simple and cost-effective solution to implement. This product mounts directly to the PV mounting rail or PV module, and lay parallel to the roofing surface. It provides a fail-safe solution for emergency responders. Available in two configurations (single and dual), this rapid shutdown device requires no extra conduit, which minimizes additional material cost and associated labor. Shutdown occurs at the rooftop box when the utility power is lost or when the PV system’s AC disconnect switch is opened.

RELATED: Rapid Shutdown and Beyond: Inside NEC 2017 and the effort to streamline PV design

Tigo partnership

In conjunction, ABB and Tigo formed an operational compatibility between ABB’s inverter line UNO-DM-PLUS and Tigo’s TS4 optimizer platform. The combined ABB and Tigo module solution is now available. Combining ABB’s world-class inverters with Tigo’s TS4 Platform offers a flexible and scalable solution to meet all the different needs of installers and end customers. The connectivity package of the UNO-DM-PLUS allows for built-in smart grid capabilities such as dynamic feed-in control, which manages the energy fed into the grid, and uses SunSpec-compatible open communication protocols to ensure compliance with future grid codes and maintain off-the-shelf interoperability with other devices in the system.

Advantages of this system

The Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certified third-party solutions offer Rapid Shutdown and optional MLPE configuration with string inverter power generation as well as the following advantages:

• Module-level Monitoring – Predicting and conducting maintenance on solar installations is critical to ensure that they last beyond their expected 25-year lifetime. With full visibility of a system’s performance through module-level monitoring in 2 -second increments, solar fleets can maximize system up-time, identify performance issues, and control operations and maintenance (O&M) costs.

• Safety – The UL-certified module-level Rapid Shutdown Solutions provide installers, EPCs, and PV plant owners the most cost-effective response to safety regulations like the National Electric Code (NEC) 2014 & 2017 requirements. For installations unencumbered by shading, the MLPE option provides the necessary safety and monitoring services to ensure systems meet local fire regulations and performance expectations.

• Optimization of Energy Harvest – With optimized modules, more roof space can be used to max-imize energy production. This fixes module mismatch and increases design flexibility by optimiz-ing each module when shade drops their performance. It addresses system-level inefficiencies and age tolerance while also benefiting from the module-level monitoring and safety features.

Once the inverter is installed, operators can turn to a smartphone to commission the unit via a simple, built-in web user interface. This enables them to gain access to features such as advanced inverter con-figuration settings and Aurora Manager, which facilitates OTA firmware updates (remote software up-dates).

— Solar Builder magazine

Rapid Shutdown and Beyond: Inside NEC 2017 and the effort to streamline PV design

collaboration illustration

New codes and regulations are notorious for raising prices and halting innovation in industries, but the new rapid shutdown requirements facing the solar industry are having the opposite effect. Thanks to a coalition of manufacturers and interested parties across solar, the solutions being developed to meet NEC 2017 Module Level Rapid Shutdown requirements will achieve something solar technology has long needed: common language.

“The intent is to create an open protocol for any manufacturer to apply,” says Michael Mendik, head of solution management, Solar Energy Division at Fronius USA. He has been an active member of the SunSpec Alliance, the group that has developed these standards. “Inverter manufacturers can build and design their own transmitters and then the rapid shutdown boxes will also be tuned to that language and can receive the signal. There is no proprietary stuff.”

“The current systems were designed to meet the previous rapid shutdown requirements using mostly proprietary communication systems,” says Mario Thomas, product manager at ABB. “Future system design will be vendor independent, allowing a better choice for the customer and the installer.”

“The solar industry is experiencing significant growth with new requirements, so we welcome the vendor coordination efforts and the wide adoption by many vendors working to improve the safety of clean energy production,” says Danny Eizips, VP of engineering at Tigo. “This is a great opportunity for multivendor support.”

This standard protocol has ramifications beyond the context of rapid shutdown, but let’s start there.

NEC 2017 changes

The 2017 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC 2017) includes an update to section 690.12 Rapid Shutdown of PV Systems on Buildings. The update pushes the requirement to “module-level” rapid shutdown instead of the “array level” that was listed in NEC 2014. Effective Jan. 1, 2019, this requires conductors inside the array boundary to be discharged to 80 volts or less within 30 seconds of initiating a rapid shutdown event. This requirement comes in addition to the outside the array boundary voltage being limited to 30 volts or less.

At first glance, the changes didn’t require such a collaborative effort. Module-level electronics could have done the trick and piecemeal proprietary products and one-off collaborations from various manufacturers could have continued as usual. Luckily, that wasn’t the case.

The SunSpec solution

Formed in 2009, the SunSpec Alliance is a trade alliance of more than 100 solar and storage distributed energy industry participants, together pursuing information standards to enable plug-and-play system interoperability.

After nearly two years of intense technical collaboration, the Communication Signal for Rapid Shutdown Interoperability Specification was published in September 2017 as a method to comply with NEC 2017. This spec defines a communication protocol that uses the cabling of the solar array to transmit messages over the DC power lines between the PV modules and a master control device located near the inverter.

In addition, PV module manufacturers can implement the protocol on intelligent devices embedded in the junction box of each PV module. A master control device associated with the inverter communicates with the PV modules. Altogether, the specification enables plug-and-play interoperability and any-to-any rapid shutdown solutions.

“This open standard delivers multiple benefits to the distributed energy industry, most notably lower integration costs and the freedom to choose from an array of interoperable products,” saysTom Tansy, chairman of the SunSpec Alliance.

What’s this mean for me right now?

  1. If you are a big fan of installing microinverters, you’re already meeting these rapid shutdown requirements.
  2. As mentioned earlier, the implementation date for NEC 2017 is Jan. 1, 2019. Depending on the Authority Having Jurisdiction where you do business, you may not even be held to the NEC 2014 requirement right now, let alone NEC 2017 when it arrives. The Northeast portion of the country will be the earliest adopters, followed by California.
  3. If you are going to be held to NEC 2017 — or just generally would like to comply on your own — sit back and wait for these SunSpec-certified products to hit the market and design systems the way you always have.

“The complexity here is not on the installer end,” Mendik says. Manufacturers had to develop a transmitter that’s hooked to the DC line and puts in the signal.

Some of these solutions are already available, like the Fronius Symo. Other companies announcing immediate plans to incorporate the technology into their product lines include ABB, Maxim Integrated, Omron, Outback, SMA and Tigo. You can expect to see most of these around Q2 this year. There is no UL testing protocol yet to certify these products, but UL is part of the SunSpec Alliance, and you can expect this to happen soon.

Why else is this a big deal?

Not to be flippant about the importance of safety, but this protocol opens the door for way more impactful product developments. There’s an opportunity here to make your life even easier and bring the costs of a system down even more.

1. Proprietary boundaries will come down.

For starters, the array-to-rapid-shutdown-box-to-inverter architecture is more flexible. Prior to any updates, you had to procure the rapid shutdown box and the inverter from the same manufacturer. No more.

“The installer can install the systems as before and doesn’t have to worry about matching inverters of rapid shutdown boxes,” Mendik says.
So, that’s cool, but that flexibility goes way beyond the rapid shutdown, inverter pairing. “There’s no specific [module-level electronics] on the roof,” Mendik continues. “If there are different panels, they will be working with different rapid shutdown boxes. If one type of inverter in a system breaks, it can be replaced with another, and it will still work. A distributor can have different inverter types in stock for replacement, and everything will still be in line with the protocol.”

2. System designs will be streamlined.

Today, that rapid shutdown box is just an added expense, even now, after the protocol. This is why many installers prefer module-level electronics like microinverters, which meet rapid shutdown module-level requirements while also adding optimization, monitoring and design flexibility.

In the not-too-distant future though, this rapid shutdown box will be gone completely, even in a string inverter design. Soon, using this common language, module manufacturers will be including supped up junction boxes or chips from a company like Maxim instead of diodes. These will meet NEC 2017 and provide MLE performance with a string inverter design. This will keep costs and industry part counts down.

“An integrated module in the future, where the installer doesn’t have to buy and wire a specific rapid shutdown box … it’ll be like going back in time to when he didn’t have to worry about that,” Mendik says. “This also means you won’t have complex electronics on the roof. The standard forces you into more complexity for rapid shutdown, but the solution we’re looking at is simple electronics, not power electronics and doesn’t convert power from DC to AC.”

Thomas sums it up: “The customer in the end has a choice. I think that’s a big benefit. Customers don’t want to get stuck with one vendor and want the right to choose between different manufacturers. Having this choice and competition will reduce costs in the end.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Tigo debuts its most cost-effective rapid shutdown solution yet

Tigo TS4 rapidshut down

Tigo released its new TS4-F (Fire Safety) to join the current TS4 Platform of integrated and retrofit/add-on junction box covers. As the most cost-effective rapid shutdown solution in the TS4 Platform, the TS4-F will accompany the family of products in the form of integrated PV modules by manufacturers worldwide. Consult your preferred PV module supplier or visit Tigo’s website for the new “integrated TS4-F” or “retrofit/add-on TS4-R-F,” available in Q1 2018.

As part of the TS4 Platform, the TS4-F utilizes the Ultra-High Definition Core (UHD-Core) and supports any PV module up to 475W with voltage up to 90V and current up to 12A. Furthermore, TS4-F uniquely supports the SunSpec Alliance signaling specification with powerline communication (PLC) and will work with any SunSpec-compliant rapid shutdown initiator. Tigo tested compatibility with multiple inverter suppliers – including SMA – and will continue to expand its compliant inverter portfolio .

The highlights of TS4-F include:

• NEC 690.12 2017 Rapid Shutdown solution
• Compatible with all modules up to 475W
• Supports SunSpec Alliance rapid shutdown specifications
• Compatible with all SunSpec initiators
• Module-level deactivation
• Automatic or manual shutdown
• Over-temperature and over-voltage protection
• Patent protected
• Easy installation
• Ultra-High Definition Core (UHD-Core) technology for superior performance
• UL-certified pending
• Available as a PV module integrated and retrofit/add-solution

“TS4-F was developed to offer our customers the first patent-protected MLPE in the market that supports SunSpec Alliance signaling specifications,” says Zvi Alon, CEO at Tigo. “For PV system owners who wish to address only the mandatory shutdown needs and do not require optimization or monitoring, the TS4-F provides a certified, cost-effective rapid shutdown solution with all the safety features of the TS4 Platform.”

What’s the difference between TS4-F and TS4-S?

Tigo’s TS4-F and TS4-S are both rapid shutdown devices, however TS4-F is a PLC SunSpec-compliant signaling while TS4-S uses wireless signaling. TS4-F requires an initiator to comply with the rapid shutdown requirements while TS4-S uses Tigo’s CCA and Gateway to transmit a rapid shutdown signal. TS4-F cost-effectively targets rapid shutdown while TS4-S includes module-level monitoring with rapid shutdown. Both TS4-F and TS4-S are patent-protected.

Tigo’s TS4-F is ready to ship as an integrated solution with module manufacturers worldwide. For price and delivery call +1.408.402.0802 ext. 1, email sales@tigoenergy.com, or visit www.tigoenergy.com.

— Solar Builder magazine

Modules and integration: Four reasons why AC, smart modules are on the rise

The LG NeON 2 ACe

The LG NeON 2 ACe debuts at Intersolar 2017.

At Intersolar 2017, the industry’s newest power couple made its engagement announcement: LG and Enphase have teamed up on an AC module. Known as LG’s NeON 2 ACe, the new product combines LG’s NeON 2 technology with Enphase’s IQ6+ microinverter.

“This changes the basic architecture of an install — the goal is to see the inverter go away and to go plug-and-play,” LG noted at the press event. “This also makes warehousing easier by reducing part count.”

But wait, there is more. Also around Intersolar, Boviet Solar Technology finalized an agreement with SolarEdge Technologies to include SolarEdge power optimizers with its 60-cell mono smart solar modules. Boviet is just one example in a growing list of manufacturers to setup such an arrangement with SolarEdge.

“This new arrangement with SolarEdge gives our customers a single source for both solar panels and power optimizers, which means less equipment to stock and transport to the jobsite,” says John Bereckis, president of the Boviet Solar USA Module Division.

These are just the two most public announcements of MLPE and module marriages — putting faces on a trend that’s been evolving the last few years, whether it is a power optimizer-embedded smart module, a microinverter-embedded AC module, or maybe just a souped-up junction box. Here are some reasons to consider an integrated module, MLPE solution:

1. Streamline purchasing and installation

LG PresentationSolar installers commonly source their solar modules from one vendor and match solar power optimizers supplied by another. By bundling the power optimizer with the module, installers only have to work with a single supplier, which results in savings in both product sourcing and installation. In addition, purchasing solar modules with MLPE pre-installed ensures turnkey functionality and shortens installation time.

“By incorporating MLPE in the module, we eliminate the need to install separate boxes on modules, reducing labor costs,” says Gautam Ghose, senior product marketing manager at Trina Solar. “This enables efficient design and also reduces shipping, inventory tracking and storage costs.”

Trina Solar is currently working with Maxim and Tigo, but says it is pursuing other partnerships as we speak. The integrations are available in the company’s Trinasmart, Trinaswitch and Trinapeak models.

System owners receive the same type of design and efficiency benefits with smart modules that have embedded power optimizers as with the add-on power optimizers. The power optimizers offer MPPT per module, which allows for flexible installation design with multiple orientations, tilts and module types in the same string.

2. Safety

No fretting about meeting any Rapid Shutdown requirements. A smart or AC module is ready to comply right off the bat.

Module Evolution: What big-time PV improvements will boost panel efficiency?

3. More monitoring, less mismatch

Incorporating MLPE into the module at the outset ensures module-level monitoring in each system to help pinpoint system performance issues, resolve those issues and minimize downtime over the life of the system.

“Using smart modules offers a variety of benefits, such as faster installation for labor savings, simplified purchasing and inventory, and easier site logistics,” says Lior Handelsman, VP of marketing and product strategy at SolarEdge.

“With the optimization in Trinasmart and Trinapeak, you increase the energy produced by your PV system by minimizing mismatch losses caused by partial system shading or the varying degradation rates of individual modules,” says Parjanya Rijal, product marketing manager at Trina.

If problems are discovered, each manufacturer notes the simpler serviceability for field replacement in addition to the more granular degree of optimization. The strategy here is to maximize the energy produced from each cell in a module and increase durability by eliminating hotspots.

For example, the NeON ACe provides an integrated web-based solution. Monitor power generation through the internet, anywhere and anytime and utilize an automatic problem diagnosis function. With the LG AC Module mobile app, it’s possible to set up all monitoring configuration steps.

4. Install flexibility

Tigo seems to work with every company on both the module and inverter side to ensure smooth integration of its Flex MLPE TS4 Platform. Tigo emphasizes the importance of selective deployment with its Flex MLPE TS4 platform because different functionalities can be used together in the same system by using different TS4 covers.

“Diodes, monitoring and safety (TS4-D, TS4-M and TS4-S) can be selectively deployed on any size system,” the company notes. “Predictive IV is a feature of the TS4-O and TS4-L, which uses analytical data about the module itself to predict optimal performance conditions. This data is used in conjunction with Tigo’s impedance matching technology, allowing for selective placement only on shaded modules.”

Optimization also enables wiring flexibility: Longer strings, uneven string lengths, layouts and orientations, shade mitigation and so on.

“For example, a residential customer might combine strings of modules of different lengths or tilts. Customers can also have modules at different orientations on the same string,” Rijal says.

In addition to fitting more modules into tight spaces, one can easily add additional panels in the future as power needs increase. These features boost the aesthetic and technical advantages of rooftop solar.

When working with SolarEdge inverters, SolarEdge power optimizers automatically maintain a fixed string voltage, allowing installers even greater flexibility with longer strings and strings of different lengths in order to design optimal PV systems. This means more modules can be installed on the roof for increased system size and longer strings for decreased BoS costs.

This article appeared in the Sept./Oct. issue of Solar Builder magazine. Not a subscriber? It’s free! Get on the list today.

— Solar Builder magazine

Tigo releases SMART app to streamline PV design, commissioning, monitoring

Tigo just streamlined the install and servicing possibilities of its PV systems with Tigo SMART, a mobile application that integrates with its online monitoring portal. Using the SMART app, Tigo’s solar installer partners can design, lay out, register, configure, commission and monitor customers’ PV systems from the field. The app provides the PV system owners with insight into energy generation as well as the PV system installers with the ultimate set of asset management features – all at their fingertips from a mobile phone.

tigo smart app

The new Tigo SMART 3.0 app is downloadable for iOS and Android through Apple’s App Store or Google Play. Notifications will be pushed to existing Tigo app users once the next generation updates are automatically completed. Learn more about the SMART App features on Tigo’s Resource Center.

Tigo SMART app features

• Intuitive Commissioning – In five minutes, select the solar equipment, design the system, scan the components, and complete end-to-end commission all on the SMART App.

• Barcode Scanning – Scan the PV system components’ codes directly into the design with a mobile phone camera.

• Bluetooth (BLE) 4.0 Connection – The SMART App automatically detects and communicates with Tigo’s Cloud Connect Advanced (CCA) (the universal datalogger); connects without changing the Mobile phone settings; and eliminates the need to manually switch to Wi-Fi.

• Prompted Configuration Steps – The installation time for installers is minimized thanks to the SMART App’s prompted configuration steps during the layout process.

• Production Tracking – With the highest granularity and visibility in the market, users monitor the module-level production in real-time, day, week, month, year, and lifetime.

• Intelligent Alerts – Review detailed alerts at the touch of a button, and receive recommended correct actions.

• Localized Weather Conditions – Daily weather displays help define production errors due to clouds, snow, etc.

• Personalized Imagery – Customize a system’s portal with photos of the PV installation.

Keep Watch: How the PV monitoring landscape is evolving

— Solar Builder magazine