ABB taps Tigo for MLPE solution across its residential inverter range

ABB UNO DM

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Switzerland-headquartered power electronics firm, ABB, which is the world’s fourth-largest supplier of solar PV inverters, according to GTM Research data, has today announced a new collaboration with DC power optimizer technology provider Tigo.

Tigo has already partnered with a number of leading solar module suppliers to embed its DC power optimizers on solar panels intended for residential installations. This new collaboration means that ABB’s residential string inverter range, the UNO-DM-PLUS, now boasts operational compatibility with Tigo’s technology – a partnership that could open up a range of new market avenues and possibilities for ABB.

Specifically, Tigo’s TS4 optimizer platform can now combine with the ABB residential inverter to offer flexible and scalable solutions that bring three specific additional values for home solar arrays.

These include the ability to monitor the energy harvest at a module, rather than string level, delivering greater visibility of a system’s performance in two-second increments, thus enabling system owners to maximize the solar uptime and accurately and quickly identify performance issues.

The solar modules are also optimized at the DC level with the Tigo TS4, and thus can produce more energy per module while enabling more design flexibility on rooftops that may be partially shaded at various times during the day.

Thirdly, such module-level control also brings rapid shutdown capabilities, enabling ABB to meet the new U.S. safety regulations stipulated under the National Electric Code (NEC) 2017. As a result of this collaboration, ABB may now be able to pursue increased market share in the U.S. residential rooftop inverter space – a space so far dominated by Israeli inverter and DC optimizer provider, SolarEdge.

For ABB, compatibility with Tigo’s technology helps the company to broaden its potential market reach without the complications and expense associated with developing their own DC optimizer solution. “Our customers now have the enhanced value from MLPE while using our best-in-class string inverters,” said ABB’s global product manager Giacomo Bambi. “We are excited to welcome Tigo as a global partner.”

Cormac Gilligan, senior solar analyst at IHS Markit, told pv magazine that the partnership with Tigo is a nice complement to ABB’s existing residential portfolio. “It will allow ABB to serve its customers who need to meet more challenging grid codes globally as well as stringent regulations such as NEC 2017 in the U.S. and Rule 21 in California,” Gilligan said.

“Furthermore,” he added, “it will allow ABB to compete effectively with other suppliers who have their own existing microinverter or power optimizer solution such as Sunpower, Enphase, AP Systems, SolarEdge or Huawei, as well as suppliers who partnered with module level power electronic (MLPE) partners such as SMA.”

Gilligan added that IHS Markit is expecting competition in the MLPE landscape to intensify this year due to the growing number of suppliers that have developed such a solution, as well as those firms – like Sungrow – that are expected to follow suit.

For Tigo, the collaboration is an additional strong partnership with a ‘Tier-1 player’ in the solar inverter space.  Tigo already collaborates closely with German inverter giant SMA, having sold a 27% share in the company to SMA in 2016.