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Efficiency of PV cells on polymer film reaches 18.7%

efficiencyPVDübendorf, Switzerland–Fabricating thin-film photovoltaic (PV) cells on flexible plastic sheets has the advantage of light weight, portability, and much easier installation when compared to the more-usual glass panels. However, the conversion efficiency of plastic thin-film PV panels is lower than that of glass. But scientists at Empa (the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology) have narrowed the efficiency gap between flexible plastic and rigid glass thin-film PV panels.

They have boosted the energy-conversion efficiency of flexible solar cells made of copper indium gallium (di)selenide (also known as CIGS) to a new world record of 18.7% (a significant improvement over the previous record of 17.6%, which was achieved by the same team in June 2010). The measurements were independently certified by the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems (Freiburg, Germany).

“The new record value for flexible CIGS solar cells of 18.7% nearly closes the ‘efficiency gap’ to solar cells based on polycrystalline silicon (Si) wafers or CIGS thin film cells on glass, ” says Ayodhya Tiwari, the project leader.

One major advantage of flexible high-performance CIGS solar cells is the potential to lower manufacturing costs through roll-to-roll processing. The new results suggest that monolithically interconnected flexible CIGS solar modules with efficiencies above 16% should be achievable with the recently developed processes and concepts.

Working closely with scientists at FLISOM (an Empa-affiliated start-up company that is scaling up and commercializing the technology), the Empa team made progress in low-temperature growth of CIGS layers grown on polymer or metal foil. The latest improvements in cell efficiency were made possible through a reduction in recombination losses by improving the structural properties of the CIGS layer and a low-temperature deposition process for growing the layers, as well as in situ doping with sodium during the final stage. With these results, polymer films have for the first time proven to be superior to metal foils as a carrier substrate for achieving highest efficiency.

Article by John Wallace.

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Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics until 2015

Over the past decade, the photovoltaic (PV) market has experienced unprecedented growth. In particular in the last year, the photovoltaic market has reached a cumulative installed capacity of roughly 40 GW world-wide, with an annual added capacity of 16.6 GW. The photovoltaic power is well on the way to becoming a fully competitive part of the electricity system in the European Union (EU) and an increasingly important part of the energy mix around the Globe. But much of the progress in recent years has been very heterogeneous, varying from country to country, due to several factors, the most important being different national regulations and incentive schemes as well as varying availability of financing facilities.

Fuente: EPIA

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Challenges to Thin-film Manufacturers

capa finaThere have been many media reports recently which discuss what a risky industry the thin-film industry is, citing large companies who are backing out of the market. However, it is important to remember that crystalline had almost a 3-decade head start on thin film which has not had the level of sustained technology investment that crystalline photovoltaics has enjoyed. It has only been truly commercial in the latter part of the past decade, and market shares are already projected to grow to 31% by 2013 (iSuppli Corporation, 2009). Investors and customers are starting to see the potential in thin film–and believe that in just a few more years it could become the predominant technology in the photovoltaic industry. These projections show the bright future ahead for thin film–but it is not without its challenges.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA (October 26, 2010) – Thin-film technology continued to progress, focusing on niche portable and flexible applications and has recently gained greater acceptance as a viable photovoltaic technology for the mass market. This late start has made it difficult for thin-film manufacturers that are now trying to gain a foothold in the mainstream PV market. These manufacturers are faced with three basic challenges:

1. Lower efficiency. Due in part to the lack of research and development investment thin-film technologies suffer from significantly lower efficiencies than that of crystalline–requiring as much as double the space to deliver the same power. This can be a problem in space constrained installations, but also increases the relative cost of racking, wiring and installation, forcing thin-film manufacturers to sell their modules at a lower price per watt than their crystalline counterparts. While some of the technologies will likely never be on par with crystalline technology in terms of efficiency, others show promise and are likely to catch up as production volumes increase. For example, CIS technology is already delivering commercial product with efficiencies between 10-12%. Most recently, in Germany on May 4  2010, researchers at the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research created a CIS cell which was 20.1% efficient and could produce a market ready product with 15% efficiency within the next few years (Photovoltaics World, 2010).

2. Near-term cost competitiveness. Much of the recent investment in thin-film manufacturing technology was driven by the high market prices in recent years. As these new thin-film factories came online, the market dynamics had changed and module prices plummeted. With much lower margins available to support their ambitious growth plans, some thin-film companies are closing their doors. However, most are pressing on with a focus on sustainable growth supported by R&D to improve efficiency in order to be able to reach their potential.
First Solar, the thin-film success story, is the exception to this rule and has achieved production costs which are half of that of crystalline at US$0.90 with efficiencies of between 10-11%. While the characteristics of its technology certainly contributed to this achievement, First Solar has also had the benefit of steady investment into the development of its proprietary technology and its manufacturing capacity over the past decade.

3. Bankability. Although it has been around for over 20 years, thin film is seen as a ‘New‘ technology. This creates difficulty in getting project financing. Again, the dropping prices on crystalline technology, and an oversupply situation exacerbate the problem for thin film since proven alternatives are available. Thin-film manufacturers are overcoming this barrier through intensive reliability testing and through support from large insurance companies who will stand behind the warranties.

Thin-film Outperforms
However, new research results are showing thin-film modules outperforming crystalline modules in non-ideal (i.e., real-world) conditions–better performance data in lower light levels such as diffused light, as well as in direct sunlight with high temperatures. For example, in two case studies presented by Forrest Collins of juwi Solar at a recent thin-film solar conference in California, their cadmium telluride installation showed a 3.2%-5.7% higher performance than crystalline at the same location.
While this higher output relative to rated power is a clear benefit on its own, there is a deeper benefit–especially when it comes to commercial installations: The performance of thin-film modules suffers less than that of crystalline when they are not installed at the ideal orientation. This becomes a more important factor as photovoltaic systems move from highly engineered showcase installations to more practical installations where the system is treated more as a building appliance. In these cases, the goal is to keep the upfront engineering and custom design costs as low as possible. This results in a ‘structurally optimized‘ installation, meaning an installation aligned with the building structure and at relatively low tilt. The superior performance of thin film under such conditions will help the technology to establish itself in the mainstream commercial rooftop market, and will eventually lead to its dominance of BIPV applications–the ultimate ‘structurally optimized‘ installation.
(Text by Brent Harris, Vice President at Sustainable Energy Technologies (www.sustainableenergy.com)).

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Global wind capacity to reach close to 200 GW this year

Eolica mundialHusum, 23 September 2010. With around 40 GW of new capacity added this year alone, the world’s installed wind power capacity is expected to reach close to 200 GW by the end of 2010. These were the figures presented by Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of the Global Wind Energy Council, at a press conference during the Husum WindEnergy fair, of which GWEC is the international partner.

“We do expect the US market to be down this year as the low level of orders we saw during the financial crisis work their way through the system. On the other hand, stronger growth in China will make up for this, and the European market is very stable, ” said Sawyer. “Overall, wind energy continues to be a growth market, weathering the economic crisis much better than some analysts had predicted.”

In its five -year market outlook, GWEC forecasts that global wind power will double between 2010 and 2014, reaching more than 400 GW. This increase will continue to be driven by growth in China, the US and Europe, but new countries are also entering the global wind map.

“As wind power is becoming more competitive, it is rapidly expanding beyond the traditional markets in North America and Europe. In fact, around half of the growth is now happening in emerging economies and developing countries, ” said Sawyer. “We are seeing very encouraging signs from countries in Latin America, including Brazil, Mexico and Chile, as well as Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa.”

A longer term outlook for global wind power growth will be presented by GWEC in October during its China Wind Power 2010 conference in Beijing. This new edition of the ‘Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010’ will present three scenarios for the development of wind energy, showing how 1, 000 GW of installed capacity could be operating world-wide by 2020, and as much as 2, 300 GW by 2030.

“The success of Husum WindEnergy 2010, the world’s largest wind power trade fair, reflects the globalisation of the wind sector, ” said Klaus Rave, GWEC’s Chairman. “With more than 30, 000 visitors from over 70 countries, Husum, which is dubbed ‘the birthplace of wind power’, has now truly reached international acclaim and become a fixture in the sector’s calendar.”

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Chinese solar power plants for less than 1Yuan/kWh?

Lou Schwartz(September 23, 2010) — A recent round of bids for utility-scale solar plants in China broke the 1 Yuan per kWh ($0.15 per kWh) threshold, highlighting the government’s push for clean energy at all costs. Lou Schwartz, China Strategies, discusses costs and the role of renewable power in China’s plans.

The late-August round of bids for utility-scale solar power projects in China yielded a new milestone in the economics of solar power in China: a sub-Yuan/kWh price for solar power. To achieve this impressive number, the Chinese government has used the state-owned sector (and particularly enterprises under the direct control of the central government) to help subsidize the price of solar power, to the point where the economics appear to be unsustainable.

Beijing also appears to have decided — at least for the time being — that large-scale development of solar power will occur more rapidly through a coordinated effort led by a rather short list of government-controlled enterprises.

In its own way, this is China weighing in on the recent R&D vs. government funding debate featured on “Dot Earth” between Richard Rosen of the Tellus Institute and Microsoft’s Bill Gates. China is clearly arguing that marshalling the resources of the state in the form of huge government subsidies for solar power should trump market- and innovation-driven solutions to reduce its cost.

Whether there is a price point at which China’s private sector will be able to participate in utility-scale solar power development remains a question. Also in question is whether the much anticipated innovation culture that the Chinese have said that they are intent on building will contribute in a significant way to the development of solar power in China absent a meaningful incentive for that innovation to occur.

Building utility-scale plants below cost

The Chinese certainly are displaying their eagerness to scale up domestic use of solar energy, while driving down its cost. Winning bids for the 13 new projects (totaling 280 MW) ranged from US $0.10 per kWh (0.7288 Yuan/kWh, which equals $0.107/[email protected] 6.8 Yuan/$1) at the low end, to US $0.15 per kWh (0.9907 Yuan/kWh equal to $0.146/kWh) on the high end. These bids were approximately one-third lower than the bids that came in last year for the first utility-scale solar power plant, a 10-MW plant to be located in Dunhuang, Qinghai Province.

This year, more than 70% of the winning bids were won by government-controlled enterprises. The China Power Investment Group dominated the most recent round of bidding with a total of seven successful bids. The Upper Yellow River Hydropower Development Co., a subsidiary of the China Power Investment Group, submitted the lowest bid for this round of PPAs (0.7288 Yuan/kWh) and became the winning bidder for the Qinghai Gonghe 30-MW project. At 0.9907 Yuan/kWh, the Xinjiang Energy Co., Ltd., also a subsidiary of the China Power Investment Group, was the winning bidder for the 20-MW Xinjiang Hetian project.

There were a total of 135 bids submitted by 50 firms for the 13 solar power projects, which will be scattered among six provinces: Inner Mongolia (3 x 20 MW); Xinjiang (3 x 20 MW); Gansu (3 x 20 MW); Qinghai (1x 30 MW and 1 x 20 MW); Ningxia (1 x 30 MW) and Shaanxi (1 x 20 MW). The 20-MW Baotou, Inner Mongolia project attracted the most bidders at 16, yet there were at least 10 bidders for most projects. The term of each PPA is 25 years.

These 280 MW of solar power plants to be developed, though much larger than the 10 MW Dunhuang bid process in 2009, do not yet mark the initiation of a real market for scale development of solar in China. Instead this looks like the Chinese government’s attempt to explore the contours of the economics of utility-scale solar power development and to test the ability of firms to produce utility-scale solar power at steadily lower prices.

The 2009 Dunhuang solar PPA price subsequently was adjusted upward to 1.15 Yuan/kWh ($0.169/kWh) from the original successful bid of 1.09 Yuan/kWh. Based on the estimates of component, labor and financing costs for solar power development in China, it would not be surprising if the final prices per kWh for the most recent round of solar PPAs also were adjusted upward.

So, even though these prices may indicate that solar power will be produced in China for less than 1 Yuan/kWh as early as 2012, it is quite possible that the final price will not be as aggressive as the winning bids suggest.

At present the price for utility-grade solar power development in China is said to be as follows: 9-10 Yuan/watt for PV modules; 1 Yuan/watt for inverters; 1 Yuan/watt for structures; 1 Yuan/watt for electric cable; 1 Yuan/watt for labor and an estimated 6% bank interest rate. Based on these current costs, total PV system equipment and labor costs should be in the range of 15 Yuan/watt. If maintenance expenses over 25 years and an internal rate of return of 8% are also factored in, a PV system should be able to have a small profit at 16-17 Yuan/watt [US $2.35-2.50 per watt]. The present average PPA prices, however, are approximately 14 Yuan/watt [US $2.06 per watt].

And even though there are incentives for Chinese companies to bid as low as they did, including the desire to build a brand, realize required emissions reductions, gain recognition for being socially responsible and learn the economics and technology of solar power development, according to Li Junfeng, the Deputy Director of the Energy Research Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission, projects in this most recent round of PPAs are not be expected to be profitable for 17-18 years. It’s no surprise, then, that the successful bidders primarily are enterprises under the direct control of the government, because other companies would not be able to persevere over such a long period without earning a profit.

As you might expect, this second round of bids resulted in serious grumbling among private enterprises that were among the bidders, including prominent PV firms as Suntech and LDK. They complained that they are unable to compete with their state-owned counterparts. One executive remarked, “Only central government enterprises that do not have funding pressures could operate at these price levels.”

Despite soothing assurances from officials at the China Renewable Energy Institute and elsewhere that as soon as the price of solar power drops enough, there will be room for everyone to enter the market, it is not clear that the private sector will ever be able to get in, especially if they will always be up against government-controlled enterprises.

It remains unclear whether there is room for the private sector in China as it scales up solar power development. In the end, utility-scale solar power development may well remain the province of the public sector a recognition by Beijing that subsidies, not innovation, are the key to large-scale solar development in China.

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Danfoss Solar Inverters expands further – production capacity to be increased to 3.5 GW in 2011

danfoss_newsDanfoss Solar Inverters is experiencing extremely strong sales in the residential and commercial PV markets for grid-connected inverters. Therefore the company’s production capacity has been increased in 2010 and will reach 1.5 GW by the end of the year.

The strong growth is set to continue and to meet the high demand for Danfoss string inverters, the production capacity will be increased further to reach 3.5 GW in 2011. Moreover, this assembly size can be doubled within a few months when needed.

Production and logistics will be moved to facilities at Danfoss headquarters in Nordborg, Denmark, as Danfoss Solar Inverters is outgrowing its current supply chain facilities in Gråsten and Sønderborg. Assembly in the new world-class lean production facilities will start in the first quarter of 2011 and the move will be completed by the end of the year.

“We are focused on meeting the high demand from our customers and securing our position among the leading PV inverter suppliers, ” says Senior Vice President Morten Buhl Sørensen, who has just been appointed new head of Danfoss Solar Inverters.

As of October 1, Morten Buhl Sørensen will take over from Henrik Raunkjær, who has accepted a new challenge outside Danfoss. Morten Buhl Sørensen has been with Danfoss for 20 years and for the last 8 years he has headed Danfoss Power Electronics global supply chain covering both the frequency converter and solar inverter business. He has been a Danfoss Solar Inverters board member since 2007.

Source: Danfoss News

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UCLA engineer gets $4M from Dept. of Energy to convert CO2 to liquid fuel using electricity

energia co2James C. Liao, Chancellor’s Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, has been awarded $4 million over three years to develop a method for converting carbon dioxide into liquid fuel isobutanol using electricity.

The grant was awarded by the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Energy (ARPA-E), a new agency that promotes and funds projects to develop transformational technologies to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign energy, curb energy-related emissions and improve energy efficiency across all sectors of the U.S. economy.

As global climate change has heightened the need to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels,   and to fundamentally change the way in which we produce and use energy, Liao has been at the forefront of efforts to develop new methods for producing environmentally friendly biofuels.

In the last couple of years, he has received widespread attention for his work producing more efficient biofuels by genetically modifying E. coli bacteria, and recently, for modifying cyanobacterium to consume carbon dioxide or CO2 to produce isobutanol — a reaction powered by energy from sunlight, though photosynthesis.

Now, Liao and his team would like to use electricity as the energy source instead. The process would store electricity in liquid fuels that can be used as high octane gasoline substitutes.

According to Liao, direct synthesis of biofuels using photosynthetic microorganisms such as algae and cyanobacteria is promising but requires a large surface area for light capture. And though solar photovoltaic cells are more efficient for energy conversion, the electricity produced faces a storage problem.

“Our proposed process will provide one of the most feasible and economical methods to convert electricity to liquid fuel in a scalable manner, ” Liao said. “The immediate impact is that it solves the electricity storage problem by converting the electrical energy to liquid fuels that are fully compatible with the current infrastructure for distribution, storage and utilization.”

In the long run, the process can be extended to utilize solar energy via electricity or electron mediators to directly produce liquid fuel usable in internal combustion engines.

Liao’s grant was part of $106 million awarded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to 37 research projects that focus on three critical areas: electrofuels (making biofuels from electricity), better batteries for electrical energy storage in transportation, and zero-carbon coal (innovative materials and processes for advanced carbon capture technologies).

Source: UCLA Newsroom

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Grätzel Cell: A Dye-Sensitized Solar Energy Device Comes Into Its Own

A small solar cell with a great potential for the future.

A small solar cell with a great potential for the future.

Researchers in China and Switzerland are reporting the highest efficiency ever for a promising new genre of solar cells, which many scientists think offer the best hope for making the sun a mainstay source of energy in the future. The photovoltaic cells, called dye-sensitized solar cells or Grätzel cells, could expand the use of solar energy for homes, businesses, and other practical applications, the scientists say.
Chemist Michael Grätzel has developed a solar cell that, like plants, generates energy from sunlight by using a dye. The cell was patented in 1992 and is now being produced commercially at a pilot facility.
Its production costs are low thanks to the absence of expensive semiconductor materials. Another advantage is that the cell works with relatively weak, diffuse light. Grätzel has now won a prestigious award for his invention.
Report by Barbara Vonarburg

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LDK Solar Reaches 2.0 GW Wafer Production Capacity

ldk-solar-logoLDK Solar Reaches 2.0 GW Wafer Production Capacity

XINYU CITY, China and SUNNYVALE, Calif., April 19, 2010 — LDK Solar Co., Ltd. (NYSE: LDK), a leading manufacturer of multicrystalline solar wafers and PV products, today announced that it reached the milestone of 2.0 gigawatts (GW) annualized capacity at its wafer plant. Mr. Xiaofeng Peng, Founder, Chairman and CEO hosted a ceremony to celebrate the achievement at the company’s facilities in Xinyu City, China in conjunction with its previously announced Investor Day.

“I am proud of the way our team has successfully executed one of the most impressive capacity ramps in the sector, ” stated Xiaofeng Peng, Chairman and CEO of LDK Solar. “As the solar industry emerges from a challenging period, we are pleased to grow our capacity to meet the rebound in customer demand. We look forward to providing updates on our future progress as we strive to be a leader in wafer manufacturing.”

About LDK Solar (NYSE: LDK)
LDK Solar Co., Ltd. (NYSE: LDK) is a leading vertically integrated manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) products and the world’s largest producer of multicrystalline wafers. LDK Solar manufactures polysilicon, mono and multi crystalline ingots, wafers, modules, and engages in project development activities in selected segments of the PV market. Through its broad product offering of mono and multi crystalline solar wafers and modules, LDK Solar provides its customers with a full spectrum of solutions. LDK Solar’s headquarters and manufacturing facilities are located in Hi-Tech Industrial Park, Xinyu City, Jiangxi Province in the People’s Republic of China. LDK Solar’s office in the United States is located in Sunnyvale, California. For more information about our company and products, please visit www.ldksolar.com

Safe Harbor Statement – LDK Solar
This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. All statements other than statements of historical fact in this press release are forward-looking statements, including but not limited to, LDK Solar’s ability to raise additional capital to finance its operating activities, the effectiveness, profitability and marketability of its products, the future trading of its securities, the ability of LDK Solar to operate as a public company, the period of time during which its current liquidity will enable LDK Solar to fund its operations, its ability to protect its proprietary information, the general economic and business environment and conditions, the volatility of LDK Solar’s operating results and financial condition, its ability to attract and retain qualified senior management personnel and research and development staff, its ability to timely and efficiently complete its ongoing construction projects, including its polysilicon plants, and other risks and uncertainties disclosed in LDK Solar’s filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties and are based on information available to LDK Solar’s management as of the date hereof and on its current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about LDK Solar and the solar industry. Actual results may differ materially from the anticipated results because of such and other risks and uncertainties. LDK Solar undertakes no obligation to update forward-looking statements to reflect subsequent events or circumstances, or changes in its expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections except as may be required by law.

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Morrison Hershfield and Sustainable Energy To Team Up for Joint Solar PV Projects in Ontario

morrisonToronto, Ontario: March 23, 2010 – Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd (TSX V:”STG”) (“Sustainable Energy” or the “Company”) and Morrison Hershfield Limited (“Morrison Hershfield”) a leading North American engineering and management firm, today jointly announced their collaboration to provide complete project design and installation services for commercial and institutional rooftop and land based solar photovoltaic systems under the Ontario Green Energy Act and Feed-in-Tariff (“FIT”) Program.
The collaboration responds to a need on the part of building and ground mount site owners, developers and their financial supporters for a professional process to review buildings for structural integrity and to identify, develop, install and commission the best solar PV system possible for the application. The firms also provide detailed project scheduling and costing along with the necessary support and training to ensure long-term operating and financial success.
With over 700 employees across North America, Morrison Hershfield provides an integrated multidisciplinary engineering approach to roof structural analysis, determining the suitability of appropriate, sustainable and cost effective solar PV system designs. Morrison Hershfield will perform the site analysis, detailed design, engineering, and project and construction management enabling a comprehensive professional approach to solar PV system design and installation.
Sustainable Energy’s new PARALEXTM Bosch Solar system combines the patented SUNERGYTM low voltage inverter and the premium, high efficiency Bosch Solar micro-morph amorphous silicon, thin film photovoltaic modules to deliver higher energy yields, reduce installation cost and enable the industry’s first inherently safe solar PV system. A video explaining PARALEXTM and its advantages can be found at www.ParalexSolar.com.
Combining the resources of both firms, the collaboration enables the delivery of effective and comprehensive “turnkey” solutions for commercial and institutional rooftop solar power applications with the goal of enabling lowest installed cost per watt and the highest return on investment for rooftop solar PV systems in Ontario.
The collaboration and the PARALEX Bosch Solar product meet the minimum domestic content thresholds for the Ontario FIT Program.
About Morrison Hershfield Limited: Morrison Hershfield Limited (www.morrisonhershfield.com) is a multidisciplinary engineering and management firm providing engineering and design build services to clients in the transportation, building, life sciences, municipal, utilities and telecommunications sectors. Additionally, it offers land development, infrastructure planning, residential and commercial design and rehabilitation, telecom network site deployment, distribution and transmission, and demand management services. The employee-owned firm started with a single office in 1946 and has grown to fourteen offices across North
America. Their vision is to be the first call for engineering solutions that make a difference.
About Sustainable Energy Technologies Ltd: Sustainable Energy (www.sustainableenergy.com ) designs, manufactures and distributes power inverters for grid-connected solar PV systems under the SUNERGYTM trademark. Advanced power inverters are a critical enabler of all modern solar PV power systems converting the direct current (“DC”) power output of the solar PV modules into the high quality alternating current (“AC”) power required by the power grid. Advanced power inverters also optimize the performance of the solar PV modules and maintain the integrity and safety of the interconnection with the power grid.
PARALEXTM (www.paralexsolar.com) is a solar power system architecture enabling solar modules to be wired in a parallel array. Using Sustainable Energy’s patented SUNERGYTM inverter technology, the ParalexTM architecture enables each solar module to operate independently of any other module in the system delivering 5-15% increased energy yield, without the expensive hardware and continuing maintenance cost of micro-inverter products. Every module delivers its maximum power potential while eliminating the string inverter impact of shading, soiling and other real world factors.

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