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May 7th, 2014
 
PV Inverter is the strongest growth product of photovoltaic industry: but what are the manufacturing cost trends?
 
Reverse costing of power devices: a complete set of information to understand and master the production cost and objective selling price.
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Despite the slow growth of the solar energy, manufacturers of photovoltaic (PV) inverters are continuing to improve their products, either with enhanced performance or using new technologies. The efficiency is reaching a high value, often exceeding 98%, with Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) used to optimize the power according to lighting conditions.
String inverters are improved to extend their life duration, replacing electrolytic capacitors. Recently SiC diodes and transistors have started to be used in central inverters, reducing system weight. 

Micro-inverters are challenging central inverters in single-phase applications, especially on the US market. With an optimization of each cell yield according to shading, the micro-inverter harvests more energy during the lifetime of the cell. If Petaluma-based Enphase Energy remains the leader, the main PV manufacturers have launched products in this range. Niestetal-based SMA Solar Technology is promoting an hybrid solution with simplified micro-inverters tied to a common gate.

Reverse Costing analysis of PV inverters is the answer to requests from:
• Investors who want to anticipate what will be the return on a new technology,
• Manufacturers who need a good knowledge of the cost breakdown,
• Fabless companies who want to improve their purchasing costs.

System Plus Consulting has analyzed several tens of PV inverters: from micro-inverters, home 3KW to 6KW single-phase string inverters, to commercial three-phase 10KW to 30KW central inverters.
 
Several levels of results are provided in Reverse Costing reports. The full bill-of-material makes it possible to identify the main cost drivers and different breakdowns, by function, by component types, The added-value cost allows to see the influence of various parameters like the localization, the exchange rates or the manufacturing quantity.

Some recent examples:
REFUsol 020K-SCI model has enabled REFUsol to receive Plus X Award for this inverter using Silicon Carbide technology. With a nominal power of 20KW AC, the transformerless inverter, which provides one MPPT and a peak efficiency of 98.7%, has been distinguished for innovation, high quality, functionality and ecology. The system uses specific power modules with  Silicon Carbide MOSFET Transistors.

      

The Sunny Boy 240-US photovoltaic inverter is the 1st micro-inverter released by SMA Solar Energy. SMA is proposing an hybrid approach with simplified micro-inverters doing the power conversion and a “multigate” box where the grid connexion takes place, as well as the data communication. The inverter produces 240 Watts peak AC output power. The Sunny Boy 240-US offers a 96-Percent CEC efficiency. The simplified design should lead an improved reliability

   

System Plus Consulting performs on demand Reverse Costing studies of Semiconductors (from Integrated Circuits to Power Devices, from Single Chip Packages to MEMS and MultiChip Modules) & of Electronic Boards and Systems. Other current activities: training courses on the cost construction of integrated circuits & electronic boards, development of costing tools to estimate manufacturing costs of new technologies.


 
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