Already installed in 150 countries, Red Herring magazine honors Israeli company that can squeeze more power out of the sun.
By Rivka Borochov
Supposedly identical solar panels, when they emerge from the factory, are not exactly alike. And tiny differences make a big difference when the panels are matched up to produce solar power in the field. Throw in some cloudy days, a sprinkle of dust, and less-than-optimal functioning, and solar panels – which put out only as much power as their weakest panel – become seriously inefficient.
With high overhead costs in manufacturing and installation, solar panels need to make financial sense if they are to be competitive with fossil fuels. Israel’s SolarEdge has built a hardware and software solution to boost solar panel performance up to 25 percent.
In recognition of its outstanding market growth, the company has just won the coveted Red Herring business award for the year 2010. Among the Red Herring 100 award-winners in Europe, SolarEdge joins the ranks of the most promising private technology ventures from the European business region, of which Israel is a part. It was picked from a poll of hundreds of candidates.
Boosting the sun’s rays
Why SolarEdge? "Because it’s a great idea," says Lior Handelsman, VP of business development and product strategy. "In a not-so-simple way, we’ve developed hardware, software and chips, and have seen amazing growth, considering that the company was started in the middle of 2006." After initial financing in 2007, "we hit the market with a globally certified project two years later and started mass production in January 2010, shipping 15 megawatts of products," he continues. "With a growth rate of multimillion-dollar sales within one year, that is very impressive in my view, and to our investors."
SolarEdge innovates distributed solar power harvesting and PV monitoring solutions, and provides online monitoring that can ensure that a solar panel farm, or panels installed on a homeowner’s roof, are working optimally.
The heart of the SolarEdge system is the PowerBox connected to each photovoltaic (PV) panel. The PowerBox system includes a per-module power optimizer, a solar inverter and solar monitoring software. The system is able to provide more power from any given PV installation, eliminating design constraints while reducing the cost of producing green, clean energy.
"Even if every solar panel is optimized, each new clean panel will not be exactly the same," explains Handelsman. And the weaker ones affect the efficiency of the system overall: "This is losing some of your potential and not living up to the sum of the maximum power [that a panel can deliver]."
Since the voltage of each PV panel is quite low, they must be arranged in a string to supply high voltages to a grid-like system. With a distributed solar array, the power out to the grid depends on the amount of sun, temperature and specific panel performance. And with elements like sunshine and temperature constantly changing, SolarEdge’s system, built into existing solar panels, can change to find the right current. In effect, SolarEdge allows for monitoring the efficiency of every panel and controlling every panel, along with other safety features in case of fire or theft.
SolarEdge’s hardware and software solution can boost the performance of solar panels
by up to 25 percent.
A little more to the left
At the services level, which SolarEdge provides free to users, is an online monitoring tool that lets a system operator detect faults and control the system remotely. The company also provides advanced fee-based services. Panel companies and integrators buy the SolarEdge hardware and install it as part of a package. In residential buildings, the company claims its product can increase solar panel efficiency from 10-25%; in commercial installations from 5-15% and utilities-scale installations from 1-5%.
SolarEdge systems are installed in 150 countries, and are sold in more than 25 countries including the United States, China, Israel, France, Italy, Germany and Japan. Large corporations like BP and AEE Solar work with SolarEdge.
With several production facilities worldwide, and a major one in Israel’s Migdal HaEmek, where 220 people are outsourced to build the product, the company has manufacturing capabilities in China, Europe, and soon in Ontario, Canada. It is headquartered in Hod Hasharon, with major investors including ORR Partners, Opus, Genesis, Walden International, Vertex, GE Energy Financial Services, JP Asia Capital Partners and Lightspeed Venture Partners.