Last year was a banner year for solar installations in the United States. According to the “U.S. Solar Market Insight Report,” produced by the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research, the United States installed 1,855MW of photovoltaic (PV) solar systems last year — a 109% annual growth over 2010. Installations in the fourth quarter alone were nearly double the value of those posted in the third quarter, which also came in at a record high.
A quick review of the capacity added last year per market segment shows utility-scale installations led the charge — up 185%. Non-residential installations grew 127%, and residential was up 11%. And although the Section 1603 Treasury Program expired at the end of 2011, the Report goes on to forecast that U.S. market share will increase steadily over the next five years as the European markets continue to slow down.
The explosive growth in the PV industry in recent years, coupled with generous Department of Energy funding initiatives, has allowed researchers and manufacturers an opportunity to drive down product costs through use of new materials/technologies, greater efficiency levels, and improved production processes. New products are being introduced at a feverish pace, as manufacturers look to capitalize on this hot market.
In an effort to help you keep up with this growing market segment, we’ve tracked down the specs on 48 solar products and presented them in this special section. This diverse group of products includes clips, grounding connectors, inverters, combiner boxes, meters, analyzers, modules, connectors, mounting systems, and more. Whether you’re a newcomer to this market segment or a seasoned designer/installer, we’re confident you’ll find value in the diversity of the PV products presented in this roundup.
Suitable for cars, bikes, scooters, carts, and motorcycles, these solar-powered charging stations are scaled to the size of the project and the charging needs involved. The stations feature a canopy of solar panels engineered with continuous components that are completely sealed against rain and snow. In addition, the products are net-zero energy structures, producing power that can be used and stored.
Grid-Tied solar inverters integrate a combiner box, AC/DC disconnects, and wire raceway. According to the company, the design simplifies service on the unit through a 2-piece modular configuration that allows the wiring box to remain connected and mounted in the event the power module needs to be replaced. Offered with 3,800W, 4,000W, 5,000W, 6,000W, and 7,000W power ratings, the inverters feature an operating range of 105VDC to 500VDC. Other features include field-selectable voltage output of 208VAC/240VAC/277VAC, an LCD display with nighttime monitoring capabilities, and a NEMA 3R enclosure.
Solar Power Analyzer
The SOLAR-500 solar power analyzer is designed to determine the proper inverter size and optimum power output position of panels and to identify broken or worn-out cells. Features include an I-V curve test for solar cell, maximum solar power search (Pmax) by autoscan (60V, 6A), maximum voltage (Vmaxp) at Pmax, maximum current (Imaxp) at Pmax, voltage at open circuit, and current at short circuit. The product also comes with 1.2V AA rechargeable batteries, an AC adapter, RS232C cable, software CD, and Kelvin clips (6A max).
This line of solar installation labels is manufactured based on the parameters outlined in Art. 690 of the NEC, using ultraviolet (UV)-resistant ink, permanent acrylic adhesive, and a base material intended to endure harsh environmental elements. Available in preprinted reflective, rating, continuous vinyl, and reflective rooftop versions, an optional hand-applied acrylic laminate is offered for additional long-term protection to printed text.
HEYClip SunRunner cable clips fit module frames up to 0.125 in. (3.2 mm) thick and feature a double-compression design that accommodates from one 12-gauge USE-2 to two 10-gauge PV-1000 solar wires. The clips are designed for use with other cables from 0.20 in. (5.0 mm) to 0.30 in. (7.6 mm) in diameter or wherever single or multiple cable management is needed. Manufactured of corrosion-resistant 304 stainless steel, the product features smooth edges that prevent damage to cable insulation and locking tabs to securely fasten it to module extensions or other panels. Additionally, the device features a generous lead-in for installation without tools and a screwdriver slot for easy removal or repositioning.
The Intelligrated Power CommercialAC is a 3-phase grid-ready AC solar module and inverter combination designed for commercial installations. According to the company, the plug-and-play module simplifies system design by eliminating the need for central/string inverter or module/string sizing. The inverter features hot spot suppression technology that eliminates diodes. In addition, the product eliminates high-voltage DC and arc faulting.
Able to accommodate 4AWG to 12AWG bare copper wire, the HelioLug grounding lug is designed for grounding solar modules in residential, commercial, and electric utility applications. The lug includes stainless steel mounting hardware that is UL 2703 certified, allowing it to be used to ground the rack as well as the PV module. Made from tin-plated copper, the product provides low contact resistance and high conductivity. In addition, its open-face design allows simple, quick lay-in without breaking or cutting the conductor. An included star washer penetrates aluminum annodization of the module frame and racks.
These tracking applications are available in two versions. The track_app basic is an iPhone-based application for residential customers, while the track_app expert is designed for iPads, catering to large-scale installations. Track_app expert allows users to monitor the inverter output and weather data as well as motor currents, position angles, and other data, which is pictured in real time on an easy-to-read display. The one-finger_touch allows the operator to manually drive the tracker into any desire position, and an integrated webcam allows users to view the entire system in real time.
The SXDC Series of non-fused switches is IEC-rated for 1,000VDC and 750VDC. Offered in 3-pole and 4-pole configurations, the switches are front operated, feature double break silver-plated contacts, ON/OFF operation, and flexible terminal barriers. In addition, the products are listed to UL98 at 600VDC for service entrance applications and include mounting feet that swivel to accommodate design variations.
These solar panel grounding connectors are designed to prevent galvanic reactions and enhance conductivity. The connector’s body features extruded serrations for breaking the anodized finish on PV modules and frames. The serrations in the wire binding break corrosion on the grounding wire, eliminating the need to prepare the surfaces of the PV module, the frame, or the ground wire. In addition, the product’s clamp-on design eliminates the need for mounting holes. Featuring stainless steel hardware, the units are
UL 467-listed and accommodate aluminum or copper 4 AWG to 14 AWG.
The Survey 100 irradiance meter uses a precision PV cell sensor for highly accurate irradiance measurement, displaying results in either Wm-2 or BTU/h/ft2 and making it suitable for both solar PV and solar thermal site installations. The device also incorporates a digital compass, digital tilt meter, and dual-channel precision thermometer. These features allow users to quickly identify the location where maximum levels of solar power can be collected and accurately measure irradiance, roof pitch, orientation, and ambient air/PV module temperature. Battery-powered, the instrument incorporates a display hold feature that enables site readings to be captured in difficult locations.
The Solarlok is a 5-string input, plug-and-play combiner box for residential PV systems. Offering a simple 4-step installation process, positive and negative PV input string connectors plug in on the outside of the box. Internally, the box is prewired so that each input string can be fused up to 15A and combined in parallel to a single output. Four ¾-in. knockouts allow output conduit to exit in any direction. Additionally, each input string can handle a PV short circuit current up to 9.6A.
Designed for solar junction boxes, field installations, and photovoltaic (PV) grid wiring, SolarSpec DC connectors are IP67-sealed. The connectors feature an internal locking mechanism that prevents accidental or unauthorized decoupling of the connector during service in the field. With contact resistance of less than 0.5 mΩ, the contact can handle 30A and accommodates 2.5-mm2 and 4-mm2 to 6-mm2
(14 AWG and 12 AWG to 10 AWG) cable. In addition, the products remain fully sealed when mated and feature an enhanced strain relief design.
The PV Box is a customizable pre-wired device designed to meet the growing demand of a large-scale grid-tied solar farms and large commercial installations in the harshest environments. The contents of a box include Xantrex solar inverters, DC combiner boxes, step-up transformers, and a medium-voltage switch housed in a prefabricated building. All equipment is housed in one building to allow quick field wiring from both the solar arrays and the electric utility grid connection point. Optional items include climate controls, security equipment, array string monitoring, SCADA monitoring equipment, and power metering
The CB Series combiner box is customized to fit the needs of a user’s array with up to 36 PV string circuit capacity, 8A to 15A fuse options, and disconnects to fit small or large arrays. The box is rated 1,000VDC and is UL 1741-listed. The components are enclosed in a NEMA 4X-rated steel cabinet that features rounded corners with a polyester, light grey, powder-coated finish. The reversible door includes a poured-in-place polyurethane seamless gasket that makes the cabinet weatherproof.
AE String inverters are suitable for residential and small commercial rooftop installations. Featuring a 97% California Energy Commission (CEC) efficiency, the inverters offer power ranges from 3.8kW to 7kW and are the industry’s first such product to offer standard ZigBee wireless monitoring, according to the company.
Advance Energy Industries
Suitable for medium-sized photovoltaic (PV) systems from 10kW up to the megawatt range, Sinvert PVM 3-phase inverters achieve peak efficiency of 98% and more, according to the company. Compact and wall-mounted, the transformerless string inverters can be remotely monitored and controlled by means of a visualization system via an Ethernet interface of the PV system. Available power ratings include 10kW, 13kW, 17kW, and 20kW.
The KD 315 is a 315W, 80-cell module designed for large-scale solar installations. Features of the UL-certified module include a UV-stabilized black anodized frame, easily accessible ground points, junction box technology with 12 AWG PV wire to work with transformerless inverters, and locking plug-in connectors for quick connections.
The IPV-30kW-480 photovoltaic inverter is suitable for 480V commercial rooftop installations. Weighing 94 lb and measuring 36.5 in. tall, the inverter fits into a building’s existing mechanical room and can be easily mounted onto a wall by two technicians, according to the company. Features include high string voltage, the absence of any low-voltage drop-out, and very low GFDI trip points.
Ideal Power Converters
With a power range of 3.3kW to 8kW, PVS300 solar inverters feature an intuitive control unit equipped with a user-friendly graphical display that provides sun meter, solar energy production information, and help/settings menus. A built-in data logger displays and stores the exact daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly production up to
24 yr. In addition, the display can be detached from the inverter and mounted on a wall to monitor inverter performance from outside the installation room. An in-built microprocessor monitors internal protection devices and immediately transmits error messages or information to the inverter display and optionally over the Internet as an email in the event of a problem.
Designed for commercial and large-scale electric utility applications, the Quasi-mono solar module line now includes 21 additional models. Available in 60-cell and 72-cell designs, the modules offer power ratings ranging from 230W to 320W. In addition, the products are UL-certified.
The M215 solar microinverter offers a weighted power conversion efficiency of 96% (CEC), according to the company. Featuring an output 13% higher than previous versions, the microinverter is compatible with 60-cell modules. Standalone and AC module (ACM) models feature CSA certification. The ACM model speeds installation by eliminating the need for rack mounting, a separate system ground wire, and DC cable management.
The C2000 Solar Developer’s kit is a high-voltage, string-ready isolated MCU-controlled product comprised of two development boards. This kit provides a dual-controller design, allowing users to work with high-voltage power stages and inter-processor communications systems. The primary board features a 300VDC compatible input stage supporting up to 500W. The secondary board features a full bridge DC-AC inverter supporting 120/220VAC output. The C2000 Solar Explorer low-voltage kit supports the company’s Piccolo and Concerto C2000 MCUs. This kit includes multiple DC-DC conversions as well as a DC-AC state that supports 12VDC/100W input stage. Other features include a single-switch DC-DC boost for MPPT, DC-DC SEPIC for battery charging and a full bridge DC-AC inverter capable of driving 24VAC.
Solar SPEC Pak multi-pin connectors meet the requirements specified in UL 6703A. The connectors offer power handling capabilities up to 1,000V and feature a locking latch that complies with 2008 NEC section 690.33(C) requirements. Designed for wire-to-wire applications, the products are capable of handling up to four individual lines, which reduces the number of traditional connectors needed in solar applications.
Anderson Power Products
The Hoffman solar combiner box is available in Polypro and 14-gauge mild steel models. Non-metallic Polypro material is non-glass-filled polyester that offers a combination of corrosion, impact, chemical, and UV resistance, and protects against wind and moisture. Polypro boxes provide an overlapping tongue-and-groove raised cover and gasket for a secure seal and are Type 4X-rated. Mild steel models feature continuous hinges, oil-resistant gaskets, and a Type 4 rating. Both versions are available in 6-string and 12-string configurations and include touch-safe fuse holders with a non-load break rating to 30A max.
Pentair Technical Products
The Evolution FR flat roof system features fiberglass baskets and rails as well as tool-less pivot clamps constructed of 16-gauge 304 stainless steel. According to the company, the fiberglass components are corrosion-resistant, and there is no thermal expansion. Featuring a universal design, the product requires no roof penetrations.
The SGB-4 and GBL-4SS connectors for solar panel grounding prevent galvanic reactions and enhance conductivity. The SGB-4 connector body features a clamp-on design as well as extruded serrations for breaking the anodized finish on photovoltaic (PV) modules and frames. The serrations in the wire binding break corrosion on the grounding wire, eliminating surface preparation for the PV module, frame, or ground wire. The UL 467-listed and CSA-certified aluminum connectors accommodate 4 AWG to 14 AWG and are dual-rated for copper or aluminum conductor. In addition, they are electro-tin plated for low contact resistance, and a lay-in feature facilitates installation.
Approved for portrait orientation use with the company’s Arista Monolithic commercial rooftop racking system, these module clamps with integrated grounding feature Weeb washers that use “teeth” designed to break the anodized layer of the module frame and provide a gas-tight connection. According to the company, this eliminates oxidation and provides a reliable bond to ground the racking system and PV module. The clamps also eliminate the need to use separate ground lugs and copper wire between each module and are ETL-listed to UL 467.
The Enphase Energized AC Module (ACM) combines the company’s solar modules with Enphase microinverters. The microinverters easily attach to the frame of the 60-cell module to generate grid-compliant alternating current (AC) power directly at the module-level. Constructed of ethylene-vinyl-acetate, the modules feature a weather-resistant frame and durable glass surface that is field tested to support more than 300 kg (660 lb) of load per square meter (10.7 ft2).
Made of 100% recycled material, the Ecofoot solar flat roof mounting system uses a green industrial-grade polymer to eliminate the need for grounding and the potential for corrosion. The universal design adapts to all PV modules and challenging roofs without the need for customization or roof penetrations, according to the company. An optional deflector reduces total install weight and is engineered for high wind zones.
These disconnect switches are available in 40A, 80A, and 125A models. DIN-rail mounted, the switches feature a pad-lockable mechanism as well as a shaft extension and rotating handle that can be ordered separately. In addition, the products are UL508-, UL98-, and KEMA-certified.
Automation Systems Interconnect
The E-Force 1MW, air-cooled solar inverter has received ETL certification to UL 1741-2010 and CSA C22.2 No. 107.1 standards. Designed for grid-tied large solar applications, the unit integrates two 500kW inverters in a single enclosure, which the company says can reduce the skid footprint by as much as 30% compared with independent 500kW competitive inverters. In addition, the units achieve peak and CEC efficiencies of 97.9% and 97%, respectively, with total current harmonic distortion of less than 5%.
Shade Analysis Tool
The SunEye 210 shade analysis tool features a fisheye camera and dedicated onboard processor to perform digital image processing and analysis to compute shading and solar access percentages. The tool includes an electronic compass and inclinometer to measure roof pitch and azimuth. Designed for one-handed operation, the tool includes an edit mode to add or remove instructions, live survey mode to allow users to view annual sun paths live as they scan a site, and desktop PC software.
The 1500TL-US, 2000TL-US, and 3000TL-US inverters offer a maximum efficiency of 97.8% and wide input voltage range, according to the company. Features include an internal DC switch; transformerless GT topology; MTL-string; Bluetooth technology; sound control; quiet operation, and an LCD display. In addition, the inverters measure
360 mm × 465 mm × 165 mm and include AC connection terminals.
Instant Connect plug-and-play solar panels are designed to eliminate panel-to-panel wiring in residential AC systems and commercial DC systems. The panels feature a set of UL-approved electrical connectors that are integrated directly into the sides of each solar panel, allowing the panels to automatically plug together when mounted on a roof. According to the company, the frames of the solar panels and splices used to connect the solar panels together provide precision alignment of the electrical connectors, eliminating the need to manually wire panels or the need for custom cabling.
Based on the design concepts of aerodynamics, the SolarFamulus Air mounting system allows PV installations on weight-limited roofs. According to the company, the system reduces the ballast requirement for the entire array, and the need for roof penetrations is completely eliminated or significantly reduced. Features include venting windows that allow wind and convection to cool the back of the modules, a fast and easy installation process consisting of only five steps and six components, and a stackable rail profile.
The AP250 is a DC-DC converter designed to be installed with new or existing photovoltaic (PV) systems. Compatible with leading-brand solar panels and string inverters, the converter also works with standard series panel wiring methods. Features include 98% peak efficiency, 97.6% CEC efficiency, solar panel and racking installation options, and a NEMA 4-rated enclosure.
These solar inverters offer 98% weighted average efficiency, according to the company. Featuring an extended operating temperature range of -40°F to 140°F (-40°C to 60°C), the inverters work with the company’s power optimizers. To enhance design flexibility and grid compatibility, the product line includes 3kW, 3.8kW, 5kW, 6kW, and 7kW single-phase models with grid support for 208VAC, 240VAC, and 277VAC.
Suitable for residential applications, these monocrystalline modules feature 6-in. cells and are available in 60-cell and 72-cell models with wattage levels of 255Wp and 310Wp, respectively. Compliant with IEC and UL standards, users can adjust wattage levels in 5Wp increments. Both modules feature either white or black backsheets.
The EZ Solar Mount Clamp-On is designed for roof-mount applications. Using under-the-hem clamping and bolting, the system is constructed of 3/16 in. steel and offers allowable load uplift of 300 lb to
500 lb, depending on the panel clip spacing. Zinc-plated for UV and rust protection, the product features a threaded hole that allows for top-down mounting of rails or solar panels. Other highlights include a carriage bolt design to prevent thread slipping and four or more pressure points, which the company says reduces twisting and pulling.
Hardware and Software Products
The Clarity system includes optimization and monitoring hardware products and wireless communications and infrastructure products that enable scaling to the largest electric utility sites. The product offering also includes a suite of cloud-based software management tools that deliver information by analyzing array performance, diagnosing impairments, and identifying remedial action to improve financial performance of solar assets. In addition, the optimizers and monitors can be interchanged within an array and scaled from full array coverage down to the string level or selective coverage.
Solar Power Technologies
The Polar Bear FR Gen II 10° ballast mounting system for commercial flat roofs features a 3-component design and factory-integrated features to facilitate installation. With a universal, module-independent design, the system offers increased inter-row spacing flexibility, additional mounting holes for wavy roof installation, recycled rubber roof protection pad, multipurpose tab for wire management, PEM studs, and a stainless steel fastener kit. Available in aluminum or G90 steel, a mechanical attachment option is offered.
The Brilliance 700kW solar inverter includes grid-friendly features that offer power generation similar to a conventional power plant, according to the company. The inverter offers 2-stage power conversion that provides 480VAC output voltage, eliminating the need for an intermediate transformer. Equipped with an outdoor-rated enclosure, the unit is UL- and CSA-certified.
The Radian Series inverter/charger simplifies the design and installation of grid-interactive and standalone power systems. Featuring 8,000W of continuous power and 120/240Vsplit-phase power, the unit includes dual AC inputs, a flexible design for systems between 8kW and 80kW, and the company’s core FX FET board technology. The product also provides the ability to connect to the grid and recharge the batteries from a generator, offering a continuous power supply even if emergency conditions last a week or more. The 120/240V output integrates directly into standard home wiring, while the modular parallel architecture combined with a HUB Communication Manager offers the ability to build a system to power almost any load.
Outback Power Technologies
Designed for commercial and industrial rooftops, PowerFLEX BIPV modules offer 12.6% aperture efficiency, according to the company. The flexible module features a large format
(5.75 m × 0.5 m) and a 300W power density, providing 50% more energy and power than the current amorphous silicon standard. With a weight of
0.7 lb/ft2, the units can be applied directly to a roofing surface, require no mounting hardware or roof penetrations, and create no additional wind load.
Global Solar Energy
Designed for large commercial and electric utility-scale photovoltaic systems, these recombiners are listed to
UL 1741 for up to 1,000VDC and 2,560A. The recombiners can be specified with disconnects or contactors that meet the fuse servicing requirements of the 2011 NEC [690.16.(B)] and with a ground-fault interruption (GFI) solution. By using a differential current sensor(s) to detect leakage current in the array wiring, the units can be set to automatically disconnect the ungrounded conductors as soon as a single-sided ground fault is detected.
When used with Ampt module-level converters, these electric utility-scale inverters offer a two-thirds increase in output power over the company’s standard inverter platform. With the inverters in Ampt Mode, users can achieve an inverter cost reduction of up to 40% for the same power level. By operating at a higher and narrower voltage range, the optimized inverters increase operating efficiency and reliability.
SunPower E18/225 AC solar panels offer panel-level DC-AC power conversion. Suitable for use on complex or shaded roofs, the panels offer up to 50% more energy density and reduce installation time by 20% or more, according to the company. In addition, the products feature an operating temperature range of -45°C to +85°C, an anodized aluminum alloy black frame, and an IP65-rated junction box with three bypass diodes.