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A 'Safe AC' Solar System is Superior

Dec 23, 2019

Enphase Energized™ AC Modules or ACM’s are the next evolution of solar systems; they further simplify and optimize the installation process by combining microinverter and solar panel into a single product; an installation using AC Modules can take up to 40% less time to install versus a conventional solar system.  Introduced in 2017, Enphase AC Modules are immune from high-voltage DC arc-fault hazards; they have now been installed by over 700 solar professionals and represent the safest solar system on the planet.

With Enphase AC Modules, the solar panel and microinverter are combined at the factory where they are tested; this provides for an even higher-quality product.  By eliminating the installation step of connecting the two solar panel wire leads to the microinverter, the chance for electrical issues is even further minimized.  As an installer, I’ve seen panels become inoperable over time due to poor electrical connections made between the solar panel and the microinverter.  With Enphase AC Modules, the potential for this kind of problem is no longer even possible.

Some AC Modules previously used permanently-fixed microinverters; this presented the potential for heating-cooling issues which could cause damage to the panel. Enphase AC Modules use a patented bracket assembly which secures the microinverter on the back of the solar panel.  When the AC Module is shipped, the microinverter is positioned flush with the panel. Installation of the AC Module is completed by simply pulling the microinverter held by the bracket outward until it clicks into place; this creates an approximate 15mm or 5/8” gap between the solar panel and the microinverter which provides necessary cooling capability and ensures the safety of the components.  In addition, Enphase makes sure installers can never forget to perform this installation step of pulling the microinverter outward, for if they do, they won’t be able to connect the Q-cable to the microinverter AC output port which connects the ACM with the rest of the solar PV system.

Because the AC Module’s microinverter is detachable from the solar panel, this makes any future service repair issue involving microinverter or solar panel much easier since the components can be separated. The ACM engineering is pure brilliance.  A video showing the complete installation of an AC Module solar system by Enphase installers offers great insight into the simplicity and ease of installation offered by this product.

Enphase has three major “Tier-1” partners producing AC Modules with integrated IQ microinverters — Solaria with their Power XT®, SunPower with their Equinox®, and Panasonic with their HIT® AC series.  Other partners with ACM products will be forthcoming.

Partner #1 Panasonic

When the Enphase-Panasonic partnership was announced, it was estimated that AC Modules would “account for approximately 4-GW of global installs by 2020, up from less than 400-MW in 2017”. Panasonic already has a national installer network of more than 250 installers. They are selling the N330E HIT® 330-Watt AC Module with an integrated IQ 7X microinverter and a 19.7% module efficiency.  Panasonic HIT® panels have a best-in-class temperature coefficient of -0.258%/°C, which means their panels turn the most sunlight into electric power regardless of hot outside temperatures.

In summary, the Panasonic AC module has a comprehensive 25-year warranty that covers parts and labor on the product including both panel and microinverter.  Panasonic handles the complete service repair, so offering a single-service vendor solution makes the product that much more attractive to customers.

Partner #2 Solaria

According to Solaria CEO Suvi Sharma, their PowerXT® AC Module has experienced “tremendous reception” by installers, and they “envision more installers switching to the product this coming year".  With Solaria’s recently announced doubling of production capacity to almost 500 Megawatts, their CEO says they’re also planning on “doubling  AC module production”. Solaria is Enphase’s only 60-cell AC Module available on the market.  Erez Dolev, director at solar distributor, states they will “be selling the Solaria AC Modules strong in the new year”.  Solaria’s latest, 2nd generation PowerXT-AC module is 365-Watts and has 20.2% module efficiency.  Mr. Sharma states that “for installers, the PowerXT-AC delivers simplified deployment, improved capital management, lowered labor costs, and faster installation”.

Partner #3 Sunpower

SunPower currently has AC Modules available in E-, X-and A-series panels, and claim their panels will deliver 35% more energy over 25 years than conventional panel technology; they use 96- and 66-cell panels (E- and X-series are 96-cell, A-series is 66-cell), offering efficiencies of up to ~23%. 

SunPower believes AC modules are the future and has been selling them since 2014; from 2016-17, their AC Module product went from 67% to 90% of the company’s residential portfolio in just 4 successive quarters; clearly, this demonstrated the superiority of the AC Module product. In 2018, SunPower started using Enphase IQ microinverters in their AC Modules giving an immediate 3% CEC efficiency boost over the previous microinverters they had been using.

Damon Egglefield, president of Mirasol Solar in Sarasota, Florida, says his company as a Sunpower dealer has installed hundreds of panels in the past year and experienced no problems; he especially likes the Q-cabling used with Enphase’s IQ microinverters because it “allows for much more flexibility on the roof versus older Enphase Trunk cabling”.

SunPower now has a residential solar product portfolio consisting of A-series A-400, A-415, A-425 (21.5-22.8% panel efficiency),  E-series E-327 (19.9% efficiency), X-Series — X-22-360, X22-370 (22.2-22.7% panel efficiency) AC Modules; Sunpower’s E- and X-series models use an Enphase IQ 7XS-96 microinverter with 315-Watts AC output; Sunpower’s newest A-series panels use Enphase’s cutting-edge IQ 7AS microinverter capable of ~350-Watts AC output; this provides a perfect pairing for those high-wattage panels with a DC-to-AC power ratio between 1.15 and 1.22.

(AC Module Comparison Chart shown below:)

  Panasonic Solaria SunPower
Model N330E HIT® Power XT - AC A -, E - and X - series
# Cells 96 60 66/96
Wattage 325-330 355-365 327-425
Microinverter IQ 7X IQ 7+ IQ 7AS, IQ 7XS
Efficiency 19.4-19.7% 19.6-20.2% 20.4-22.8%
Warranty 25-Year 25-Year 25-Year

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